Huaisheng Mosque: One of the Oldest Masjid in China
It’s been drizzling on and off since morning. The clouds are thick and the sky overcast, the spring breeze cool. The taxi takes us to Guangta Road. We are in Guangzhou for the Canton Fair, and both of us wanted to visit Huaisheng Mosque, one of the oldest masjid in China.
The road leading up to the mosque is narrow, tree-lined, and crowded by bicycles. A few halal restaurants and a halal meat shop are located right across the mosque. Fragrant smoke from a BBQ grill wafts in the air. It’s a cozy, old neighbourhood.
Huaisheng Mosque was established to commemorate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Thus, it was given the name, Huaisheng, which means, “remember the sage.”
The mosque is also known as the “light tower mosque” due to its 1300-year old minaret. This minaret was used as a beacon for boats on the Zhujiang river.
It is said that whenever the sailors and merchants would see the tower, they would know that they have arrived at the “silk road”, an important place for trade. The tower was also used by the muezzin to raise the call to prayer, and a means to check the weather conditions.
Islam was first introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty in 627. Huaisheng Mosque was built during this time. However, there are reports about this mosque being rebuilt twice since its construction.
Huaisheng Mosque was rebuilt in 1350 during the Yuan dynasty and, the second time in 1965 under the Qing dynasty, after being destroyed in a fire.
The 1300 year old minaret, however, was left the same ever since it was first built. It is believed to be the oldest existing Islamic architecture in China and symbolises how Islam was present in China long enough to be considered part of both Islamic and Chinese history.
Did you know that a study done in 2009 revealed that there are 21 million Muslims in China? While this may seem like a huge number, it actually only accounts for 1.6% of the country’s total population.
Huaisheng mosque’s Chinese architectural style along with the Arabic-minaret-mosque style is most specifically from the Tang dynasty. The blend of both Arabic culture and Chinese culture gives the mosque its unique appearance.
While the mosque and the road outside is said to be crowded and busy every Friday—when Muslims from all over the city come for the Jumah prayers—it is quiet and serene on a week day.
Past the main gate, one passes through two other doors. Beyond this a larger courtyard appears. Covered corridors are located on both sides of the courtyard where some Islamic texts are posted. Right in front of the courtyard stands the main prayer hall, the center of Huaisheng Mosque. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter into the prayer hall.
Admission: Only open to the Muslims and tour groups.
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:00