Xi'an Great Mosque
China’s largest mosque, the Great Mosque of Xi’an (西安大清真寺), dates back to the Middle Ages, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is still an active place of worship. It covers an area of over 12,000 square meters (39,370 square feet), and is divided into 4 courtyards with landscaped gardens, arches, and towers.
The Great Mosque of Xi’an
Facts about Xi'an Great Mosque
- Entrance Fee: March to November: 25 CNY, December to February: 15 CNY; Free entry for practicing Muslims
- Hours of Operation: 08:00-19:00. Sometimes open until 20:00 during the Summer
- Recommended Time for a Visit: 1-2 Hours
- Location: 30 Huajue Lane, near the city center. Near Bell Tower Station (Zhonglou Zhang, 钟楼站)
History: When was the Great Mosque of Xi’an built?
Construction and Additions
The mosque’s construction was a result of Islam being introduced to Northwestern China via Arab merchants from the Middle East and Central Asia- travelers along the Silk Road.
The Great Mosque began construction in 742 CE, during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). A majority of the modern-day complex however, was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with some additions being constructed by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
A Chinese Hui Muslim man is reading.
- After the Chinese Civil War, the Chinese Communist Party shut down the mosque and converted it to a steel factory.
- In 1956 it was declared an Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the Shaanxi Province level. By 1988 it was protected at the national level.
- Currently, it serves not only as a touristic and cultural attraction, but still functions as a place of worship for Chinese Hui Muslims, albeit with attendance much smaller than its capacity of 1000 people.
What to See at the Great Mosque
The First Courtyard
A nine-meter tall arch sits over the first courtyard, and dates back to the 1600s, during the time of the Ming Dynasty. Rooms on either side of the arch display Ming and Qing Dynasty era artifacts and furniture.
The Second Courtyard
Ancient calligraphy adorns two large stele (tall, thin towers of stone) which sit on either side of a stone arch. The calligraphy comes from artists active during the Ming and Song (960-1127) Dynasties.
The Third Courtyard
Numerous steles from ancient and medieval times are contained within the third Courtyard. Additionally, practicing Muslims can come to Xingxin Tower for prayer services. Preserved here are Islamic/Chinese calligraphy.
The Fourth Courtyard
The main prayer hall at the Great Mosque of Xi’an
A representation of a Phoenix, as well as a hexagonal gazebo are in the fourth couryard. This innermost courtyard is the main pavilion of the Great Mosque, and contains the main prayer hall where Muslims attend prayer services 5 times daily, and can accommodate one thousand people. Its walls are decorated with hundreds of colored paintings.
How to get There?
1) Take Subway Line 2 and get off at Zhonglou (Bell Tower Station, 钟楼站).
2) From the metro exit, walk west about 5 minutes (400 meters) until you can see the Drum Tower.
3) Then head northwest for another 5 minutes along Huajue Lane (化觉巷) to get to the Great Mosque.
1) Bus Numbers: 7, 15, 32, 205, 215, 222, 251, 252, 612, 618, Tourist line 8 (No. 610), get off at Zhonglou Xi (Bell Tower West Station, 钟楼西站).
2) From Bell Tower West Station, walk to the Drum Tower (next to the Metro Line 2 Bell Tower Station)
3) Walk northwest along Huajue Lane 5 to find the mosque.
From the airport, there is a shuttle bus Bell Tower line. It costs 25 CNY and takes about 1 hour.
1. Entry for Non-Muslims: Non-Muslims are not allowed in the prayer halls during prayer times.
2. Nearby Attractions:
- Wild Goose Pagoda – An ancient collection of Buddhist scriptures and sculptures compiled by Xuanzang in medieval times.
- Terracotta Warriors – The biggest archeological find of the 20th century.
- Xi’an Ancient City Wall – One of China’s earliest walls, it is hikeable and you can cycle on it as well.