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Niujie Mosque

Updated:2008-06-06 09:59 | Source:

  The Niujie (Ox Street) Mosque in Beijing's

  Xuanwu District, the spiritual centre for the 10,000

  Muslims living in the vicinity, is the biggest and

  oldest in Beijing.

  The mosque is a mixture of Islamic and Chinese

  cultures. The outside shows the Chinese influence

  while the inside decoration is rich in Islamic

  flavour. Founded in 996 during the Song Dynasty

  (960-1279), the mosque was rebuilt in 1442 in the

  Ming Dynasty and expanded in 1696 under the Qing

  Dynasty. It consists of an observation tower, prayer

  hall, and minaret with a pavilion on each side. The

  observation tower is just behind the entrance. It

  was built and originally used for astronomical

  observations needed for drawing up the Islamic

  calendar. The hexagonal wooden structure is also

  Chinese outside but Islamic inside, with Arabic

  designs on the ceiling and the beams.

  The prayer hall, with its courtyard to the east,

  consists of five major areas. The three central

  areas, running lengthwise, are divided into five

  bays, some narrow with coffered ceilings, and some

  wide with high-beam ceilings. The two side wings

  have plain ceilings with beams laid lengthwise. At

  the entrance of the hall, the ceiling bears the

  Arabic names of noted imams around the world.

  Farther in, Chinese flower and cloud paintings

  mingle with Arabic inscriptions and patterns on the

  coffered ceilings, and the chandeliers are slightly

  reminiscent of Venetian glass. There is an arch

  between each pair of pillars, gleaming with gold

  patterns.

  The minaret (calling tower), a two-storey obelisk in

  the centre of the courtyard, was originally built as

  a script depository. Later imams used it as a

  calling tower. When prayer time came, they ascended

  the tower and recited the Koran, and Muslims living

  in the vicinity came to listen. On the ground floor

  is a large copper cauldron, which was used to

  prepare communal meals.

  To the southeast of the tower lie the tombs of two

  Muslims who came from the Middle East and preached

  in the Mosque. The tomb for Ahmad Burdani was built

  in 1320, and the one for Ali in 1283. Both came from

  ancient Persia. The tombstones bear Arabic

  inscriptions and have been set into a nearby wall.

  In the imam's library, there are Koran manuscripts

  and old wooden printing blocks. The mosque used to

  be a printing house as well.

  At the south of the courtyard are the men's and

  women's prayer-preparation bathrooms.

  There are long-beaked kettles for the devout to use

  to wash their nostrils, ears, and mouths. It is

  considered sacrilegious to enter the mosque without

  cleaning oneself.

  Muslims must wash their whole bodies on Friday, the

  major prayer day. They only need to wash their

  heads, hands and feet on other days.

  Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day - at

  dawn, at mid-day, in the afternoon, at dusk, and in

  the evening. Adults who have no time to pray during

  their working hours come in the early morning before

  work and in the evening after work.

  Non-Muslim visitors are also welcome, but they have

  to make arrangements in advance. They may have a

  look around and hear explanations from the imams or

  staff of the Islamic Society. But when prayer is

  going on, they may not enter the prayer hall.

  (Source:

  http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/Tour/ScenicSpots/)

Editor : Zhu Jia

Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics