SHAFAQNA- Asian Inspirations: The Xi’an mosque is located near the Drum Tower – on 30 Huajue Lane of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China. It is one of the oldest standing Mosques in China, built around 700 AD. It was further expanded during the 14th century, particularly under the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty.
Image Courtesy: Isaac Torrontera used under the Creative Commons Licence
The history of Asia suggests that this tranquil mosque was first built on its site by the Naval Commander Cheng Ho, born in a Muslim family, who chased pirates away from the China Sea. At the time, the mosque was just outside the city walls of Ming city. Over time, the city enveloped the mosque and grew around it.
Unlike most mosques around the world, the Xi’an mosque doesn’t sport a dome, and that is the most striking part of this mosque. The site occupied by the mosque is narrow (48 meters x 248 meters). This mosque is oriented on the east-west axis facing Mecca. It has five courtyards in total, which is standard Chinese temple-style architecture. The courtyards lead to the innermost complex, the prayer hall, which is off-limits for non-Muslims. Every courtyard is marked by a monumental gate or pavillion.
The third courtyard – Qing Xiu Dian (Place of Meditation), houses the tallest tower in the complex – Sheng Xin Lou (Tower of the Visiting Heart). This octagonal block is more than 10 meters tall, and has three floors separated by eaves and wooden balconies to envelope the whole structure. The earlier mosques incorporated a separate minaret and a moon-viewing pavillion, whereas the “Tower of the Visiting Heart” is used as both. The tower has glazed blue tiles and dragon heads as external ornamentation and the inside ceiling is carved and painted with a bright lotus flower.
The fourth courtyard that faces the prayer hall is flanked by lecture halls and features the Feng Hua Ting (Phoenix Pavilion), which is named after its resemblance to a phoenix with its wings stretched. The Islamic-style wooden cupola is concealed by the Chinese-style roof-line.
The prayer hall occupies an area of 1270 sq. m. The total area is divided into three parts – a porch, great hall, and projecting Qibla bay, all with separate roofs. The bas-relief woodwork and Quranic inscriptions used to decorate the prayer hall make the place even more beautiful and serene.
Behind the prayer hall is a fifth courtyard, which has two round moon gates for access. Here, the ceremonial viewing of the new moon takes place with the two man-made hills.