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Home : China Guide : Shaanxi : Xian

Great Mosque
When you come to the Moslem residential area, you would find a large complex of the old and huge architecture - Great Mosque.

Great Mosque in XianAccording to the historical records carved in the stone tablets which are still preserved in it, the mosque was set up in 742 AD during the Tang Dynasty. So it has already had a history of over 1,250 years. The mosque was restored and widened in the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Especially after the founding of New China, and owing to the correct religious policies for the minority nationalities by the Communist Party and the People's Government, the authorities concerned allocates special funds for the renovations of the mosque every year. So that, the mosque has gradually become such a large and brilliant complex of the historical architecture. With many beautiful storied buildings, platforms, pavilions and halls, it is looks very solemn and respectful.

The Great Mosque which is located at Huajue Lane is the major spot for the religious activities of over 60,000 Moslems in Xi'an. It is also an important historic monument in Shaanxi Province. Unlike Arabic mosques which have splendid domes, minarets reaching into the clouds, and colorful engraved sketches with dazzling patterns, the mosque in Xi'an possesses much Chinese tradition in both its design and its artistic outlook. Different from the style peculiar to Islamic mosques, this mosque also has characteristics of Chinese pavilions, with painted beams and engraved ridgepoles.

With a total area of more that 13,000 square meters and the buildings covering over 6,000 square meters, the Great Mosque was built in the shape of a rectangle from the east to the west, and is divided into four courtyards.

In the first courtyards, there is an old wooden archway standing opposite a huge screen wall decorated with the clay- brick- carvings. It has special upturned eaves, many layers of brackets, and glazed rooftiles, so that it is very magnificent. The archway was built at the beginning of the 17th century, dating back to over 360 years. On both sides of the archway, there is some old furniture on display made in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Through the Five-Room Hall, in the middle of the second courtyard, there stand three connected stone mimorial gateways supported with the four pillars. On the top of the main gate, there is a title inscribed in Chinese calligraphy. It says:" The Court of The Heaven". There are stone carved fences around the gateways with the two passages on both sides. This stone complex was built in the Ming Dynasty. Behind it, two stone tables are erected there with the decorations of carved dragons. Both of them are carved with the inscriptions about the repairing of the mosque at the imperial orders in the Ming and Qing dynasties. At the backs of them are also inscribed with some big Chinese characters written respectively by the two famous calligraphers. These writings are regarded today as some of the best works in China.

The Imperial Hall in the third courtyard is the oldest building in the mosque. There is a piece of stone, called " The Moon Tablet", in it with and inscription in Arabic. It was written by a late famous imam, and was about the way of the calculation of the Moslem Calendar. Now this stone tables is a very valuable historical record about the development of Islamism in Shaanxi Province.

In the middle of the courtyard, " The Introspection Tower" serves as the minaret, which is the tallest building in the whole mosque for calling Moslems to pray. With two stories, three layers of eaves, and an octagonal roof, it stands high and solid so that it is very impressive. On the southern side of the minaret is the Official Reception Hall , in which the hand-written copy of " The Koran " of the Ming Dynasty are well preserved. To the east of the Official Reception Hall, there is a bath house for Moslems to wash before they pray.

Through the three connected doorways decorated with the fine brick carvings, that is the last courtyard. What visitors would view first is " The One God Pavilion". It is a very special building with a combination of the Chinese traditional archway and pavilion. The pavilion as the main body in the middle is shaped in a hexagon with its eaves upturned and its top protruded. While, both of its side parts are shaped in triangles and are upturned like archways. The whole architecture seems to a phoenix which is opening its wings and is about to fly. As it is very lifelike, that is why it is also named " The Phoenix Pavilion". Under the eave of it, a small board with the decoration of carved dragons is hung over there. Its inscriptions, " One God", were written by a high ranking official in the Ming Dynasty. There are some side houses on both sides of the pavilion too. The southern ones were build specially for receiving those officials and generals who came to announce the edicts from the emperors in the successive dynasties. Today in these houses, there are many historical and cultural relics of the Miming and Qing dynasties on display, such as a beautiful fishbone-inlaid screen made of the 12 pieces of boxwood, some old tables, chairs, porcelains, paintings and so on. In the northern houses, there is now preserved an old stone sundial and several stone tablets with the important inscriptions about the mosque of the Tang and other dynasties.

When you walk further and take the stairways to the big and wide platform, the lofty and magnificent hall for worship would appear in your sight. With the huge eaves and brackets, its roofs are all covered with the blue glazed rooftiles, while its ceilings are carved with over 600 classical scriptures, in which all the letters are shaped in the colourful decorative patterns of grass and flowers, Around the hall inside, all the pages of " The Koran" are carved in the 600 pieces of huge wooden boards, 30 of them are in Chinese, the others are in Arabic. They are really marvelous carvings of art, and are rarely seen in the other mosques of the world. The hall can hold a thousand believers to do their religious services at the same time.

In 1956, the mosque was decreed to be an important historical and cultural site under the protection of the Shaanxi Provincial Government. In 1988, it was further promoted to be one of the most important sites in China. Since we opened we opened the gates of China to the world in 1978, this mosque has received over 600,000 visitors, and ,Moslem brothers, whom came from over 100 countries and areas of the world. It has also received many heads of the states and governments. After your visit, you would surely have the better understanding of this old mosque and the religious life of the local Moslems in Xi'an.

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Great Mosque which is located at Huajue Lane is the major spot for the religious activities of over 60,000 Moslems in Xi'

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