The Great Mosque of Xian is nestled in the Huajue lane in Xian, Shaanxi Province. The Great Mosque of Xian is the biggest and most preserved complete Chinese existent mosque. First built at the Tianbao first year (742 years) during Tang Dynasty, it was rebuilt by Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing, and has formed present scales. The whole mosque has more than 12,000 square meters, the floor space more than 4,000 square meters, keeps the construction mostly in the Ming Dynasty style. So the Mosque here in Xi'an has much Chinese traditional touch in both its design and artistic outlook; besides the style peculiar to Islamic mosques, this Mosque also holds characteristics of Chinese pavilions with painted beams and engraved ridgepoles.The mosque has gradually become such a large and brilliant complex of the historical architecture. With many beautiful storied buildings, platforms, pavilions and halls, it is looks very solemn and respectful.
The Great Mosque was built to honor the founding of Islam in China. The religion was brought to the country by an Arab ambassador to the Tang emperor in the 7th century, less than 20 years after the death of prophet Muhammad. Located in the heart of the Muslim Quater, the mosque was visited by descendants of the Silk Road merchants who came to China from Persia, Central Asia and the Middle East. However, the number of Arab traders operating in China was relatively small. It was not until the 13th century, when Kublai Khan expanded the Chinese empire westward, that the large numbers of Muslims were forcibly resettled in China as soldiers and artisans. Although most of these Muslims maintained their cultural heritage, they gradually mingled with the Chinese, creating a distinct minority known as the “Hui people”.
The mosque is a walled complex of five courtyards, with the prayer hall located in the fourth courtyard. Each courtyard contains a central monument, such as a gate, and is lined with greenery as well as subsidiary buildings. The first courtyard, for instance, contains a Qing dynasty monumental gate, while the fourth courtyard houses the Phoenix Pavilion, a hexagonal gazebo. Many walls throughout the complex are filled with inscriptions of birds, plants, objects, and text, both in Chinese and Arabic. Stone steles record repairs to the mosque and feature calligraphic works.
Overall, the mosque's architecture combines a traditional Chinese architectural form with Islamic functionality. For example, whereas traditional Chinese buildings align along a north-south axis in accordance with feng shui, the mosque is directed west towards Mecca, while still conforming to the axes of the imperial city. Furthermore, calligraphy in both Chinese and Arabic writing appears throughout the complex, sometimes exhibiting a fusion of styles called Sini, referring to Arabic text written in Chinese-influenced script. Some scholars also speculate that the three-story, octagonal pagoda in the third courtyard, called the Shengxinlou or “Examining the Heart Tower,” originally served as the mosque's minaret, used for the call to prayer.
The prayer hall is a monumentally sized timber building with a turquoise hip roof, painted dougong (wooden brackets), a six-pillared portico, and five doors. It is raised upon a large stone platform lined with balustrades. The expansive prayer hall consists of three conjoined buildings, set one behind the other. Interior ornamentation is centered on the rear qibla wall, which has wooden carvings of floral and calligraphic designs.