Do you know the Qinghai Province? It is a province near to Tibet. When travel in China or make a tour to Tibet by train you should not miss out the city Xining in Qinghai province as you can find here a mix of population between Muslims, Tibetans and Han Chinese.

Xining is the capital of Qinghai province and the largest city on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The city was a commercial center point along the Northern Silk Road for over 2000 years and was also a stronghold of the Han, Sui, Tang and Song dynasties resistance against nomadic attacks from the west. Today the city is connected by rail to Lanzhou and Lhasa and therefore a start point for many tourists travelling to Tibet by train.

About one third of Xining’s population is Muslim. Therefore there are a lot of mosques across the city, actually more than 80. Among them is one of the four largest mosques in China -the Great Mosque- also called Dongguan Masjid. In the province Qinghai it is the largest and most important Mosque. It is located in the eastern side of the city alongside the Muslim Hui neighborhood.

The Mosque was built in 1380, and now has a history of more than 600 years. It is build on a grand scale covering an area of around 30’000 square meters. The prayer hall is the main building and covers an area of 1’136 square meters. The hall is magnificent and can hold more than 3’000 people at the same time. However non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the prayer hall.

Very special is the Mosque’s architecture. It is not of particularly Muslim architecture, but more a combination of typical Chinese folk style and Islamic architectural features. For example each base is divided into four horizontal segments filled with grass, flower and book motifs. This style of brick carving is a common feature of Hui mosques and is also found on the screen walls, steps and archways of Chinese temples.

But the Mosque is not only famous for its magnificent architecture but also as a religious education center and as the highest learning institution of Islam.

One of the best times to visit the Great Mosque is at night when the whole building is lift up with neon lights. Another time is when Islam’s important festivals come round. Tens of thousands of the Prophet’s followers from every quarter come to participate in ceremonies and religious activities. On such occasions, the Mosque wears a festival mood. During Ramadan around 300’000 people come here to pray. If you can’t make it for a festival you can come over on a Friday during lunchtime. Then around 50’000 worshippers spill out onto the streets before and after the prayers.

Should you travel in Qinghai Province, don’t miss to pay the Great Mosque a visit. Otherwise plan your own trip now and come to visit Xining and the Great Mosque.

Jack Li

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