One of Xian’s most fascinating sights, the Great Mosque has a history dating back to the eighth century. It blends classically Chinese architecture with Islamic tropes to great effect. Rocky gardens decked with upturned roofs surround the 1,000-capacity prayer hall, which is open only to male worshippers. A pagoda does duty as a minaret.
Tucked away in Xian’s vibrant Muslim Quarter, in the heart of the walled city, the Great Mosque is free to Muslims, with a moderate charge (higher in summer than in winter) for non-Muslim travelers. Visit as part of a guided or self-guided walking tour of the Muslim Quarter, perhaps alongside other central sights such as the Xian City Wall, the Bell Tower, and the Drum Tower. Alternatively, visit on a Xian city tour that covers attractions such as Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Shaanxi History Museum, and the Temple of the Eight Immortals along with the nearby Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum.Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- The Great Mosque is a must for history buffs, culture vultures, and anyone with an interest in religion.
- As non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the prayer hall, there’s no need for women travelers to cover their hair.
- Accessing the Great Mosque requires ascending a few steps, while the paths in the garden are uneven.
The Great Mosque of Xian stands within the city’s Muslim Quarter, about a 0.5-mile (800-meter) walk west of the Bell Tower, inside the city walls. Ride the metro to Zhonglou (Bell Tower) station on line 2, catch any of a wealth of buses to West Street, or join an organized tour that includes transport.When to Get There
Xian’s Great Mosque is open from morning to evening in high season (March through November) but closes in late afternoon in the winter (December to February). Avoid visiting during Friday prayers, which fall during the middle of the day, unless you are Muslim and plan to worship.The Story Behind the Great Mosque of Xian
Xian was a key staging point on the Silk Road, a network of trade routes that linked the Middle East, Africa, and Eurasia for around 1,500 years. The Great Mosque was founded as early as 742—not long after Islam itself. But the 20-odd buildings you see today were built much more recently. Some claim it was the celebrated Chinese Muslim admiral Zheng He (1371–143?) who gave the mosque its current form.