As the eastern terminus of the former Silk Road, Changan (now Xian) of the Tang Dynasty was a melting pot of different cultures and religions. A number of Middle Eastern and Central Asian religions entered China during that time, some of which had survived and remained strong even today. Dated back to many centuries, Xian’s Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque revealed an interesting cultural fusion that is not commonly seen in other parts of China. Xian’s Great Mosque is the largest mosque in China. The buildings in the traditional courtyard complex were mainly constructed in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644). Earlier religious complexes, Tanmingsi and Huihui Wanshansi, were established on the same site dated as far back as the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Our taxi dropped us off at one end of the Muslim Quarter, where we began our brief meandering through the crowded Muslim market streets and alleyways before reaching the Great Mosque. From the first glance, the mosque looked very similar to a traditional Chinese courtyard complex, consisting of houses, pavilions, pagodas, gardens, and courtyards. We took our time to wander around the courtyards. As we looked closely at the building decorations, we could find Islam functions and design elements incorporated in the traditional Chinese architecture, with the most obvious being the Arabic inscriptions on walls. The entire complex faces west towards Mecca. Artefacts related to Chinese Islam were on displayed in some of the buildings that were open to visitors. However, the largest prayer hall at the far end of the complex was restricted for Muslims only. We could only peek through the doors to have a glimpse of the colourful carpets and delicate wooden screens in the hall, where worshipers would have prayers sessions. It was interesting to see the fusion of Islam and Chinese design elements combined into one single complex. Before sunset, we left the Great Mosque behind for our last designation in Xian, the Ming city walls.
We entered the Muslim Quarter from the main market street.
There is still a significant population of Muslims in Xian.
Cars, motorcycles, and people packed the main market street.
The market street of Xian’s Muslim Quarter is a good place for people watching.
An awfully tall steamer in front of a local eatery.
A street vendor put different topping on a local dessert called “jing gao” which is a steamed glutinous rice cake.
A wonton vendor managing her charcoal stove.
Lamb skewers vendors could be seen everywhere.
The entrance gate of Xian’s Great Mosque.
The interior of an old study room looks very much like a traditional Chinese house, but all the paintings and calligraphy on displayed were Islam related.
Islamic components were incorporated in the Chinese architecture.
The mosque complex is made up of a series of courtyards.
“Examining the Heart Tower” in the third courtyard.
The main prayer hall at the far end of the complex.
Richly decorated pendant lamps at the veranda of the main prayer hall.
Peeking inside the main prayer hall.
Wooden clock and timber screens of the main prayer hall.
Leaving the Great Mosque behind, we exited the Muslim Quarter from another end of the market street.
It was approaching supper time when we left the Muslim Quarter, and the food vendors were all geared up for their night of business.
Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:
DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China