Xi'an Great Mosque is located in a peaceful oasis in the heart of Muslim Quarter. Constructed in 742, it is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved mosques in China that frequented by the tourists worldwide. The mosque as a spiritual home for the local Moslems brings an air of sanctity and tranquility, whose perfect blend of classical Chinese and Islamic architecture is quite a spectacle to behold.
- Absorb the Islamic Architecture built in Chinese style
- Encounter local Muslim men come worship
- Admire the antiques treasured in the mosque
Originally built in Tang dynasty (618-907), Xi'an Great Mosque had been successively renovated and expanded into the largest complexes of Islamic architectures. The mosque, 13,000 sq meters in size, rectangle in shape, boasts four exquisite courtyards and the holy Prayer Hall. What makes it inimitable is exactly the traditional Chinese-style Islamic mosque. Without gorgeous domes, the upturned eaves hold great aesthetic appeal to the architecture lovers. But one of the peculiarities is that Xi'an Great Mosque is set to face in the direction of Mecca from east to west.
In the first courtyard, the wooden memorial arch without a single nail can be traced back to the 17th century. It stands nine meters high, featured with upturned eaves and blue glazed tiles. On the opposite side is a brick-carving screen wall decorated with exquisite Arabic paintings. The yard is flanked by three chambers, where some furniture and rubbings well preserved from Ming and Qing dynasties are on display.
In the center of the second yard erects an intact stone arch with two tablets carved with dragons on both sides. One tablet was marked with the inscription by Mi Fu, a great calligrapher of Song dynasty (960-1279); the other was inscribed by Ming calligrapher Dong Qichang, celebrated for their forceful and vigorous handwriting. Southwest to the stone arch is the Ritual Cleansing Room, where Muslims baptize themselves before the services.
Inside the third courtyard there lies a quaint Chici Hall. It is the oldest hall that houses a crescent tablet relating to the calculation of Hui calendar. An octagonal building with triple eaves named the Retrospection Tower serves as a minaret for muezzin who calls Muslims to prayer. For Arabic mosques, there should be 4 minarets around each corner, but only one left in Xi'an Great Mosque, which manifest the adaption of Islam to Chinese culture in the central Shaanxi plain.
Yizhen Pavilion, fringed by two smaller pavilions, stands in the center of the fourth courtyard. Its roof with upturned hexagonal eaves resembles a phoenix, hence also called Phoenix Pavilion. Across the spacious balcony is the largest Prayer Hall. It is the holy place for over 1,000 worshippers to attend their services at a time. At the entrance to the hall are six clocks hanging on the wall. The biggest clock tells the time while the others are the reminder of the fixed time for believers to worship. It stands as a superb Islamic art of architecture, garnished with caisson ceilings, blue glazed tiles and wooden carvings of Koran.
A visit to Great Mosque offers travelers a chance to experience the worship of the local Hui people. It is the spiritual center for Muslim Believers who conduct prayer five times a day at dawn, noon, afternoon, dusk and night respectively. The Main Prayer Hall is enormous enough to accommodate more than 1,000 followers of Islam to worship at the same time, which is a sight not to be missed. And inside the Prayer Hall, there are inscriptions of Koran on the walls in Arabic.
As a hidden gem, Xi'an Great Mosque houses a wealth of cultural relics except the ancient architectural complexes. Not-to-be-missed sights are the calligraphic works engraved on the stone tablets that scatter amid the landscaped mosques. The manuscripts of Koran and the map of Mecca are worthwhile as well. The exhibits like china, paintings and tables that best preserved in the chambers and halls can be dated back to Ming and Qing dynasties. The walls marked with Arabic letters and decorations come into the sights at each step forward, which is rarely seen in Chinese traditions.
CNY 25 (March to November)
CNY 15 (December to next February)
1. Take the metro Line 2 and get off at Zhonglou (Bell Tower) Station. Take the Exit C and 6 minutes' walk to the west is Drum Tower. Then walk northwest along the Huajue Lane for about 5 minutes to arrive at Great Mosque.
2. Take bus No. 7, 15, 32, 205, 215, 218, 221, 222, 251, 612, 618 etc. to Zhonglou Xi (Bell Tower West) Station directly. Follow the route as specified above.
- Please respect the local Muslim's customs.
- Shorts, short skirts, slippers are not allowed.
- Please keep your voices down while visiting the mosque.