October 2009 • Canon 40D camera
18 Niujie Street, Xicheng District,
(Walking distance south west from Caishikou Station,
Niujie Mosque is the largest and oldest mosque in Beijing. It was first built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty (916–1125). It was rebuilt again in 1443 in the Ming Dynasty, after it was destroyed by armies of Gengis Khan. In 1696 under the Qing Dynasty it was expanded again.
To my surprise, like the Great Mosque in Xi'an, the architecture is very Chinese but with more of an Islamic feel—the decorations with a lot of Arabic calligraphy around the place. We arrived at the Mosque around 8 am when it is first opened. You had to buy tickets to get in 10 ¥. As you walk in you arrive at a courtyard with a series of buildings. We were the first visitors here so know one was around. Remarkably, it was really quiet, considering it was in a busy capital city.
This small building was built in 1496, with a stele set in it for “Record for the Emperor Named Mosque”, inscribed both in Chinese and Persian. The underside of the roof was brightly painted, like it was new.
On the end of the roof eave, I was surprised to see figures just like in the forbidden city. The Mosque must have held great importance to the Emperor.
Directly opposed the South Stele, was the North Stele. Housed in the same architecture, it was built in the same year as the South Stele building, in 1496.
The stele set inside was for “Re–Construction Record for the Emperor Named mosque” entitled with “Long lasting Virtue” in 1613.
The minaret sits between both the North and South stele buildings, facing the Worship Hall. With a very similar architectural style, the building is used to call worshippers to prayer.
Originally named “Zunjingge” and built between 1068–1077, it was reconstructed again and finished in 1496, after the Mongols had destroyed the whole Mosque.
The worship hall is opposite the minaret. It was smaller than I had expected and seemed to be shut (we arrived early in the morning). Again, as with the other buildings, it's decorated with bright colours, especially a rich dark red. Taking off my shoes, I walked into the Hall—the bright colours were more prominent everywhere. Ceiling, walls, carpets. A lot of floral patterns together with Arabic calligraphy. As I walked further into the second section of the hall, it became dark to see, as the windows were closed with outside shutters. But you could still make out the colourfully decorated surroundings. Shame it was so dark, as my camera did not do a good job in such low light (Canon 40D).
I guessed I walked to the center of the hall, before turning back towards the entrance. Just before I put my shoes on, an old man approached me and beckoned me to follow him. Intrigued, I followed him though the hall in the dark. He stopped ahead of me and switched on a light to reveal the rear Mirhab Hall. It was the section of the hall were the Imam would lead the prayers and was exquisitely decorated in Arabic calligraphy. This hall was male only. There was another building for female worshipers, the Women's Hall 清真女寺
Beijing has a large Muslim population that consists mainly of the Chinese ethnic groups of Hui 回族 and Uygur 维吾尔
牛街清真寺 王友三王浩然述德碑 光绪二十九年
The stele was established on July 6th in 1903.
It is calligraphed by Xu Qi with an Arabic title.
Built in 1702 and rebuilt in 1739, the Copper Caldron is made from copper and tin alloy.
It is used to prepare meat congee in the night of the 27th day of the Islam month of Fast and other ceremonies such as Mawlid al-Nabiy.
The tombs are built for two Shaykhs (respected teachers) from overseas around 1270.
Working as tutors of the Niujie Mosque, one passed away in 1280, the other in 1283.
Being the main gateway and symbolic building of Niujie mosque, the octagonal building was built during 1162–1722. It is also called Moon Watching Tower “Wangyuelou”, since Imam and Elders observe the moon phase here to settle the beginning and the end dates for the month of fasting.
Unfortuantly we could not enter the Tower as the doors were shut. From here, we made our way out of the Mosque complex to continue our journey seeing more of Beijing.
A unique Mosque designed and built like a Chinese temple
Visiting the oldest Mosque in China with a unique minaret
Walking through the Emperor's residence in the Forbidden City