The Great Mosque
Located in the Muslim district along Huajue Lane in Xi'an, the Great Mosque is a short walk from the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower found in the centre of town. The mosque is still an active place of worship and was established by the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) in 742 AD for Muslim traders from Central Asia who settled in Xi'an.
Inside the Great Mosque compound it's hard to tell that the buildings are Islamic as the building takes on architectural forms symbolic to China and many of the Islamic symbols are sinicized. Unlike typical Chinese temples, which are built on a north-south axis, the mosque is built east-west with the prayer hall at the far west end in accordance to the Islamic regulation of facing Mecca for prayer. Although originally built during the Tang dynasty, it has been extensively renovated with many of the present buildings hailing from the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD). The mosque and the surrounding buildings take up an area of 13,000 square metres, though not all areas, such as the prayer hall, are accessible to non-Muslims.
The Great Mosque grounds are quiet, giving it an aura of religious sanctity and there's a large wooden gateway dating from the reign of the emperor of the Qing dynasty, Kangxi, who reigned from 1662 to 1723 AD. The gateway features the calligraphy by Mi Fu, a famous Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD) calligrapher and painter. The Introspection Minaret, which doesn't resemble a typical Arabic minaret, is where the cleric preaches to his congregation on a raised platform.
The area surrounding the mosque is called Huifang and has a distinct Muslim atmosphere, with small tree lined lanes crowded with restaurants and shops that are alive with activity.