Built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty, the Great Mosque in Xian is one of China’s oldest and largest mosques. As it stands today, most of the mosque structures date back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties and display an interesting mix of Islamic and Chinese architectural influences. The central minaret, for example, resembles a pagoda, and while the Great Mosque has the layout of a traditional Chinese Buddhist temple, it’s adorned with Arabic calligraphy and sits on an east-west axis in order to face Mecca.
While non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the main prayer hall, they are free to explore the first four courtyards and their gardens, archways and monumental gates. Surrounding the Great Mosque, which can be a bit tricky to find, is a bustling Muslim Quarter filled with souvenir stores and food vendors selling kebabs and other Chinese Muslim specialties.
Access to the Great Mosque is often restricted on Fridays, so plan to visit another day.