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Mosques in China: Architecture & Aesthetics

One of the oldest Mosques in the world, from the 7th century is in China. Chinese Mosques are often built in a pagoda style with a combination of both Chinese & Islamic aesthetics, unlike the familiar architecture of Mosques with domes & minarets.

In China, mosques are called Qīng Zhēn Sì (清真寺, Temples of the Pure Truth). Other names include Huí Huí Sì (回回寺 Hui people's temple), Lǐ Bài Sì (礼拜寺 Temple of worship), Zhēn Jiào Sì (真教寺 Temple of the True Teaching) or Qīng Jìng Sì (清净寺 "Pure and clean temple")

Chinese Islamic architecture reflects the local architecture in its style. It is a combination of Chinese & Islamic styles. However, in western China mosques resemble those of Iran & Central Asia, with tall, slender minarets, curvy arches & dome shaped roofs Xiaopiyuan Mosque.

Historical record shows that Xiaopiyuan Mosque in Xi'an, Shaanxi was built in the late Tang Dynasty (618-907); it was one of the four mosques in Xian in 1107. Xiaopiyuan Mosque is one of the earliest Islamic buildings in Xian. Interior view of Xiaopiyuan Mosque.

Xiaopiyuan Mosque is in traditional Chinese palace architectural style combined with Islamic elements with four courtyards. A female prayer room is in the first courtyard. A true hidden gem of Hui Muslim art & architecture Ceiling details of Xiaopiyuan Mosque.

Interior of the prayer hall in Xiaopiyuan Mosque. Traditionally, Hui Muslims speak Chinese & use Chinese characters. However, when it comes to mosques, Chinese calligraphy usually appears outside the prayer hall, the inside with Quranic verses in Arabic.

The Great Mosque of Xi'an (Chinese: 西安大清真寺) is one of the largest premodern mosques in China.  Although the mosque was first built in the year 742 AD, its current form was largely constructed in 1384 AD during Emperor Hongwu's reign of the Ming dynasty.

Like the majority of Chinese mosques built between the Ming & Qing periods, the Great Mosque of Xi'an combines a traditional Chinese architectural form with Islamic functionality. The mosque is oriented toward west, the direction of Mecca Arabic written in a Chinese aesthetic.

One of its notable features of the Great Mosque of Xi'an is the carving of the entire Quran on wooden panels. The interior of the Mosque is decorated in a traditional Chinese style.