Located in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, China is the Great Mosque, the country’s oldest and most renowned mosque. The mosque dates back to 742 AD.
From all outward appearances, it looks like a Chinese temple and not a mosque; pagodas have replaced minarets. Look closely though and you will see the Arabic lettering that tells you that this is an Islamic mosque through and through. If you happen to be visiting in the afternoon, you might even catch the call to prayer.
The start of the Muslim Quarter begins at Beiyuanmen Islamic Street, which is located just around the corner from Xi’an’s Drum Tower. The mosque itself is tucked inside a neighborhood street and while there are signs that point you in the right direction, the signs can be hard to spot so you will likely have to ask for help.
If you decide to visit the mosque, remember to dress appropriately before you go and if you’re a woman, make sure you bring along a scarf to cover your head.
Only about 2% of China’s population is Muslim so it is rare to see a mosque. The Hui people are the predominant race of Muslims in China and their lifestyle is very different from that of the dominant Han race. If you have never had a taste of Chinese Islamic life, spend some time visiting the mosque and walking Beiyuanmen Islam Street. Try sampling some of the Chinese Islamic food specialties.