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Great Mosque of Xi'an
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Great Mosque of Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province of China is one of the earliest Islamic mosques built in the world and marks the beginning of the spread of Islam in the Far East. The overwhelming Chinese architectural influence in the construction of the mosque and the pagoda style of construction makes it unique among the other earliest mosques. For a visitor, the mosque is stunningly different from the concept of what a mosque would look like.
HistoryIn 651, Sa’ad bin Waqqas , Prophet Mohammad’s maternal uncle and a trader, who had been to China twice before, was sent as an envoy to China by Caliph Uthma’an. He is largely credited for building the Huangsheng Mosque (Light House Mosque) in the present-day Guangzhou.
Islam spread to central China, and the foundation for the Great Mosque of Xi’an was first laid in 742 during the reign of Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. The mosque was built and renovated during the rule of Emperor Hongwu of Ming Dynasty. It was expanded further during the reign of the Qing Dynasty.
Construction and ArchitectureBuilt entirely in the architectural Chinese style, the compound of the Great Mosque of Xi’an spreads over 12,000 square meters. In a well-arranged layout there are four courtyards, each 1,200 square meter in area with gardens all around. The first courtyard is approached through a nine-meter high wooden arch, adorned with glazed tiles. The second has a stone arch with two stone slabs on either side, inscribed by Chinese calligraphers. The third courtyard has a hall and the Xingxin Tower (Tower of the Visiting Hearts) where the Muslims congregate to pray. The fourth courtyard has a Phoenix pavilion, a building resembling the phoenix with outstretched wings. It also has a prayer hall where prayers are held five times a day. The hall is decorated with floral patterns and with beautiful Arabic calligraphy.
Visiting the mosqueThe Great Mosque of Xi’an is open to visitors from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Non-Muslims are, however, not allowed entry when prayers are being said. A visitor to the mosque should alight at Zhonglou (Bell Tower). The mosque is close to the Drum tower and the entrance is on the Huajue Lane just northwest of the tower.
Xi'an has been in existence for more than 3,000 years and was the capital of many dynasties for more than 1,000 years. It is an important city in the central north-west of China. Xiang is well connected by air to most of the major cities in China and to international cities like Bangkok, Seoul, Macau, Helsinki, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Niigata, and Paris.
Though taxis are available to reach the town, the bus rides are much cheaper and go through several routes to reach the city. Taxis could cost as much as six times the bus fare. Buses are quite frequent and there is at least one bus that leaves after the arrival of every flight. Buses also cover almost all the important site of interest to tourists in the city.
The city is well connected to other cities by road and by high speed trains. Traveling by train is economical and fast, but tickets may have to be booked in advance, particularly on holidays. The railway station is on the same route as the airport and riding a bus is convenient.
Eating in Xi’anThe cuisine in Xi’an is delectable. Yangrou Paomo (crumbled flat-bread in mutton stew), Rou Jia Mo (Shaanxi sandwich) and Liang Pi (cold noodles) are some of the local delicacies. Exotic dishes from the Guangdong, Sichuan cuisines as also from other places in China are also served.
Other places of interestXi’an is a popular tourist destination because of the famed Terracotta Army, discovered by some peasants in 1974. They are believed to date back to the early third century when the Qin Dynasty ruled.
The City Wall of Xi’an is the largest city wall in the world and has been restored recently. The wall, 15 meters wide at the top and is 13.7 kilometers long, makes a good walk. Rented bikes are available for rides and there are cafes in most of the towers.
The Drum Tower affords a beautiful view of the city. Located close to the mosque, visitors can reach the top if they reach the tower at 5.00 p.m.
The Shaanxi Historic Museum, The Goose Pagodas, the Wolong Temple, the Bell Tower, and the Drum Dower close to the mosque, are all worth visiting. The bell tower is located in the center of the city. In earlier times, the peoples of the city used to follow the time of the day by its chimes.
The Big Goose Pagoda and the Little Goose pagoda are both centuries old Buddhist places of worship. A trip to the Muslim Quarter too is good use of time for a visitor.
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Author: jackmartis. Last updated: Oct 20, 2014