The Great Mosque of Xi'an, one of the oldest mosques in China

Chinese Islamic architecture, Sino-Islamic architecture, or Islamic architecture of China are terms used to indicate the architectural tradition and cultural heritage of the Muslim populations in China, both of mainland and outer China, which has existed since the 8th century CE to the present.[1] With the acculturation of the Islamic religion within the predominant Han-Chinese culture, a unique architectural style emerged among Chinese Muslims.[1] It became standard for them to incorporate traditional Chinese and Islamic architectural elements together for mosques, prayer halls, mausoleums, and other buildings.[1][2]

Islam has been practiced in Chinese society for 1,300 years.[1][3] Currently, Chinese Muslims are a minority group in China, representing between 0.45% to 1.8% of the total population according to the latest estimates.[4] Although Hui Muslims are the most numerous group,[5] the greatest concentration of Chinese Muslims are located in Northwestern China, mostly in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, which holds a significant Uyghur population.[1] Lesser but significant Chinese Muslim populations reside in the regions of Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai.[6] Of China's 55 officially recognized minority peoples, ten groups are predominantly Sunnī Muslim.[6]


Main article: History of Islam in China

Mapping of Islam by province of China according to the latest Government Census (2011); Muslims account for 1.45% of the total population.[note 1][7][8]

The history of Islam in China goes back to the earliest years of Islam.[1] According to Chinese Muslims' traditional legendary accounts, Muslim missionaries reached China through an embassy sent by ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān (644–656), the third rāshidūn caliph, in 651 CE, less than twenty years after the death of Muhammad (632 CE). Saʿd ibn Abī Waḳḳāṣ, the maternal uncle and second cousin of Muhammad, was sent with a delegation to meet the Chinese Gaozong Emperor. The construction of Huaisheng Mosque in Guangzhou, the first mosque in the country, is attributed to him.[9]

According to traditional Chinese Muslim legendary accounts, Islam was first introduced to China in 616–618 CE by some of Muhammad's closest companions (ṣaḥāba): Saʿd ibn Abī Waḳḳāṣ, Sayid, Wahb Abu Kabcha, and another one.[10] Wahb Abu Kabcha may have been be a son of al-Ḥārth ibn ʿAbdul al-ʿUzzā (also known as Abu Kabsha).[10] It is reported in other accounts that Wahb Abu Kabcha reached Guangzhou by sea in 629 CE.[10]

While modern historians state that there is no evidence for Waḳḳāṣ himself ever coming to China,[9] they do believe that Muslim diplomats and merchants arrived to Tang China within a few decades from the beginning of the Muslim era.[9] The Tang dynasty's cosmopolitan culture, with its intensive contacts spread across Central Asia and its significant communities of (originally Non-Muslim) Central and West Asian merchants resident in Chinese cities, which helped the introduction of Islam.[9] The first major Muslim settlements in China consisted of Arab and Persian merchants.[11]

During and after the Arab Muslim invasion of Transoxiana, the Umayyad Caliphate deposed Ikhshid, king of the Fergana Valley, in 715 CE, and installed a new king on the throne, Alutar. The deposed king fled to Kucha (seat of Anxi Protectorate), and sought Chinese intervention. The Chinese sent 10,000 troops under Zhang Xiaosong to Ferghana. He defeated Alutar and the Arab Muslim occupation forces at Namangan, reinstalling Ikhshid on the throne.[12] Arab sources also report that Qutayba ibn Muslim briefly took Kashgar from China towards 714 CE and withdrew after an agreement,[13] but modern historians entirely dismiss this claim.[14][15][16]

Tang dynasty

Main article: Islam during the Tang dynasty

Minaret of the Daxuexi Alley Mosque in Xi'an
Niujie Mosque in Beijing

The earliest extant religious structures that display features of Chinese Islamic architecture are the Great Mosque of Xi'an, built in 742 (according to an engraving on a stone tablet preserved inside the building), and the Daxuexi Alley Mosque in Xi'an. The latter was built in 705, according to one inscription attributed to the Emperor Jiajing of the Ming dynasty.[17][18]

Multiple other mosques were established during the Tang, including the Shengyou Mosque in Quanzhou, the Phoenix Mosque in Hangzhou, the Taiyuan Old Mosque in Shanxi, and more.[19] Around 13 mosques were recorded to exist by the late Tang period.[20]

Liao and Song dynasties

Main article: Islam during the Song dynasty

A gongbei in Linxia City

There are many examples of Chinese Islamic structures built under the Song and Liao dynasties, such as the Niujie Mosque (simplified Chinese: 牛街礼拜寺; traditional Chinese: 牛街禮拜寺; pinyin: Niújiē lǐbàisì; Wade–Giles: Niu-chieh Li-pai-ssu "Oxen Street House of Worship" or Chinese: 牛街清真寺; pinyin: Niújiē Qīngzhēnsì; Wade–Giles: Niu-chieh Ch'ing-chen-ssu "Oxen Street Mosque"), who is the oldest mosque in Beijing. It was first built in 996 under the Liao dynasty, and was subsequently reconstructed as well as enlarged under the Chenghua Emperor of the Ming dynasty, who granted the mosque financial support in 1474,[18] and the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722) of the Qing dynasty.[21] Another notable Chinese Islamic building is the Huaisheng Mosque in Guangzhou.[17] By the late Song dynasty, 28 mosques were recorded in China, with 15 of those being constructed during the Song period.[20]

Yuan dynasty

The Yuan period has been considered a golden age for Islamic architecture in China, with many mosques being established during this period.[19][20] Mosques were centered around north China plain, the northwest, and the Yunnan region.[20] Under the Yuan dynasty, Chinese Muslims began referring to their mosques as qingzhensi ("temple of purity and truth").[22] There are many examples of Chinese Islamic architecture built during the Yuan period, such as the Dongsi Mosque (北京东四清真寺) in Beijing, which was enlarged under the Ming dynasty;[18] the Tongzhou Mosque (北京通州清真寺) in Beijing; the Qingjing Mosque (泉州清净寺) in Quanzhou, which is the only structure that features stone entrances; and the Hangzhou Fenghuang Mosque (杭州风凰寺).[17] This period was characterized by an increased and widespread use of Islamic architectural elements, such as high entrances, domes, transition zones, use of bricks and stones.[23][17]

Ming and Qing dynasties

In the early Ming period, an increasing amount of mosques and other Islamic institutions adopted strongly Chinese styles of architecture. The additions of pagodas to mosques and their distribution between regular homes made them blend well within the Chinese environment. Tablets and other monuments on mosques written in Chinese became the norm during this period as well.[24]

Later in the Ming dynasty, construction of lecture halls within mosques began in Shaanxi and later spread throughout China.[2] The late Ming and early Qing period saw a rapid growth of construction of mosques.[25]

Modern times

After 1945 and until the 1980s, Islam was tightly controlled by the state. During the Cultural Revolution a large number of mosques and religious structures were destroyed or damaged. Serious strife occurred such as the Shadian incident in 1975. The opening instituted under Deng Xiaoping relaxed the controls. Traditional Islamic architectural influences started coming in stronger, with many rebuilt and renovated mosques having Islamic-style domes and minarets.[26] Shadian's Great Mosque (大清真寺 Da qingzhensi) was constructed with a design inspired from the Middle East.[27]

Starting in 2018 the government instituted a sinicization policy "to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism and implement measures to sinicise the religion".[28] The campaign is also called the three sanhua (三化), or "the three -izations", to implement "de-Arabization", "de-Saudization" and "de-halalization".[29][30][31][32] This included removing domes and minarets.[33][34] This policy has led to public unrest such as in August 2018 at the Weizhou Grand Mosque in Ningxia and in June 2023 in Najiaying, Yunnan.[35][36] Shadian's Great Mosque's architecture is also slated for renovation to remove the dome and remodel the minaret with Chinese traditional architecture.[37]

See also


  1. ^ CFPS 2014 surveyed predominantly people of Han ethnicity. This may have resulted in an underestimation of Muslims. CGSS 2006–2010 surveys found an average 2–3% of the population of China declaring to be Muslim.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Steinhardt, Nancy (2015). "Islamic architecture in China". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett K. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Vol. 4. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_26219. ISBN 9789004282131. ISSN 1873-9830. Islamic architecture in China most likely dates from the eighth century and flourished from the time of the Song dynasty (r. 960–1279). It is characterised by its adaptability to the Chinese building system. The oldest Muslim buildings in China today (cenotaphs, mausoleums, and prayer halls, an entry gate, and a minaret) survive in locations across the country and date to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Shrines of holy men (Ar. qubba) date primarily from the Qing dynasty (r. 1644–1911) and are located in western China.
  2. ^ a b Yanxin, Cai (2011). Chinese Architecture. Cambridge University Press. pp. 94–96. ISBN 978-0-521-18644-5.
  3. ^ Gladney, Dru C. (2003). "The China Quarterly - Islam in China: Accommodation or Separatism? - Cambridge Journals Online". The China Quarterly. 174: 451–467. doi:10.1017/S0009443903000275. S2CID 154306318.
  4. ^ For China Family Panel Studies 2017 survey results see release #1 (archived) and release #2 Archived 2017-02-25 at the Wayback Machine(). The tables also contain the results of CFPS 2012 (sample 20,035) and Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) results for 2006, 2008 and 2010 (samples ≈10.000/11,000). Also see, for comparison CFPS 2012 data in Lu 卢, Yunfeng 云峰 (2014). "卢云峰:当代中国宗教状况报告——基于CFPS(2012)调查数据" [Report on Religions in Contemporary China – Based on CFPS (2012) Survey Data] (PDF). World Religious Cultures (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2019. p. 13, reporting the results of the CGSS 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011, and their average (fifth column of the first table).
  5. ^ "China halts mosque demolition due to protest". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2018-08-11. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  6. ^ a b Armijo 2006
  7. ^ For China Family Panel Studies 2017 survey results see release #1 (archived) and release #2 (archived). The tables also contain the results of CFPS 2012 (sample 20,035) and Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) results for 2006, 2008 and 2010 (samples ≈10.000/11,000). Also see, for comparison CFPS 2012 data in Lu 卢, Yunfeng 云峰 (2014). "卢云峰:当代中国宗教状况报告——基于CFPS(2012)调查数据" [Report on Religions in Contemporary China – Based on CFPS (2012) Survey Data] (PDF). World Religious Cultures (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2014. p. 13, reporting the results of the CGSS 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011, and their average (fifth column of the first table).
  8. ^ Data from: Yang Zongde, Study on Current Muslim Population in China, Jinan Muslim, 2, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d Lipman 1997, p. 25
  10. ^ a b c Gladney, Dru C. (August 1987). "Muslim Tombs and Ethnic Folklore: Charters for Hui Identity". The Journal of Asian Studies. 46 (3). Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Association for Asian Studies: 495–532. doi:10.2307/2056897. ISSN 1752-0401. JSTOR 2056897. S2CID 163809196.
  11. ^ Israeli, Raphael (2002). Islam in China. United States of America: Lexington Books, page 291, ISBN 0-7391-0375-X.
  12. ^ Bai, Shouyi et al. (2003). A History of Chinese Muslim (Vol.2). Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company. ISBN 7-101-02890-X., pp. 235-236.
  13. ^ Muhamad S. Olimat (2015). China and Central Asia in the Post-Soviet Era: A Bilateral Approach. Lexington Books. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-1-4985-1805-5.
  14. ^ Litvinsky, B. A.; Jalilov, A. H.; Kolesnikov, A. I. (1996). "The Arab Conquest". In Litvinsky, B. A. (ed.). History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III: The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750. Paris: UNESCO Publishing. pp. 449–472. ISBN 978-92-3-103211-0.
  15. ^ Bosworth, C. E. (1986). "Ḳutayba b. Muslim". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Lewis, B. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Volume V: Khe–Mahi. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 541–542. ISBN 978-90-04-07819-2.
  16. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1923). The Arab Conquests in Central Asia. London: The Royal Asiatic Society. pp. 48–51. OCLC 685253133.
  17. ^ a b c d Hagras, Hamada (2019). "Xi'an Daxuexi Alley Mosque: Historical and Architectural Study". Egyptian Journal of Archaeological and Restoration Studies "EJARS". 1: 97–113. Archived from the original on 2019-12-13. Retrieved 2019-07-10.
  18. ^ a b c Hagras, Hamada (2019-12-20). "The Ming Court as Patron of the Chinese Islamic Architecture: The Case Study of the Daxuexi Mosque in Xi'an". SHEDET (6): 134–158. doi:10.36816/shedet.006.08.
  19. ^ a b Steinhardt, Nancy (2017). "Islamic Architecture and Ornament in China". A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture. pp. 616–635.
  20. ^ a b c d Ryavec, Karl E.; Henderson, Mark (2015). "A Core-Periphery GIS Model of the Historical Growth and Spread of Islam in China". Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History. 48 (2): 103–111. doi:10.1080/01615440.2014.996273. ISSN 0161-5440. S2CID 131419328.
  21. ^ "Restorations: Olympic Torch Or Rural Touch?". China Heritage Quarterly. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  22. ^ Maria, Jaschok; Jingjun, Shui (2005). "Islamic Mosques". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture. Taylor & Francis. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-415-77716-2.
  23. ^ Hagras, Hamada Muhammed (2017-06-20). "An Ancient Mosque In Ningbo, China "Historical And Architectural Study"". Journal of Islamic Architecture. 4 (3): 102. doi:10.18860/jia.v4i3.3851. ISSN 2356-4644.
  24. ^ Israeli, Raphael (1978). "Established Islam and Marginal Islam in China From Eclecticism To Syncretism". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 21 (1): 99–109. doi:10.1163/156852078x00044. ISSN 0022-4995.
  25. ^ Zhang, Shaodan (2022). "Islam in the Chinese Religious Landscape: Secularization of Mosque Leadership in Late Imperial China, 1600–1900". International Journal of Islam in Asia. 2 (1): 44–69. doi:10.1163/25899996-20221027. ISSN 2589-9988. S2CID 253132362.
  26. ^ 星島日報. "中國觀察|清真寺拆圓頂 高調秀整改". (in Chinese). Retrieved 2023-06-09.
  27. ^ Yusupov, Ruslan (2023-05-30). "Chinese Muslims and police clash over partial demolition of historic mosque". The China Project. Retrieved 2023-06-09.
  28. ^ "China passes five-year plan to sinicise Islam, as Beijing tightens grip on major faiths in China". The Straits Times. 2019-01-09. ISSN 0585-3923. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  29. ^ "China's new campaign to make Muslims devoted to the state rather than Islam". Los Angeles Times. 2020-11-20. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  30. ^ "Planting the Flag in Mosques and Monasteries". ChinaFile. 2022-12-13. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  31. ^ "Hui Muslims and police clash in China's Yunnan over mosque dome demolition". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  32. ^ "China: Situation of Hui Muslims and their treatment by society and authorities; state protection (2020–September 2022) [CHN201172.E]". 2022-10-14. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  33. ^ Stroup, david R. (2021-10-01). "Sinicization erasing 'Arab-style' mosques in China". Asia Times. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  34. ^ "The de-Islamification of Public Space and Sinicization of Ethnic Politics in Xi's China". Middle East Institute. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  35. ^ "China mosque demolition sparks standoff in Ningxia". BBC News. 2018-08-10. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  36. ^ Chang, Nectar Gan,Wayne (2023-05-30). "Thousands of ethnic minority Muslims defy Chinese authorities in defense of mosque". CNN. Retrieved 2023-06-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  37. ^ Yusupov, Ruslan (2023-05-30). "Chinese Muslims and police clash over partial demolition of historic mosque". The China Project. Retrieved 2023-07-14.

Works cited