Beijing Mosque – Being a Singaporean and living in a multi-racial/cultural society, I have many friends of different races and religions. And of course, I have friends who are of the Islamic faith.
And when they visit me in Beijing, I would bring them to one of the most famous places of worship in Beijing for Muslims – Niujie (Ox Street) Mosque.
In addition to being a place of worship, it is also now part of the must-visit tour itinerary in Beijing. One of the key reasons being – the Ox Street Mosque is one ofthe oldest and largest of the 80-odd mosques in Beijing.
The Ox Street Mosque is located at the Guang An Men Nei area in the Southwestern section of Beijing City.
Beijing Niu Jie
When I first step into the Ox Street Beijing Mosque (an area of approximately 6,000 square meters) with my Muslim friends from Singapore, it reminded us more of a typical Chinese temple, as compared to the traditional Arabic-styled mosques we have visited in Singapore.
It was only when we walked in further that we saw some semblance of the traditional Arabic mosque. There were Arabic characters inscribed on the wall and the dome on the roof.
However, some of these walls were also surrounded by the usual guardian animal carvings. And to my friends, this was a little unusual as the mosques in Singapore or in Southeast Asia (if I am correct), does not promote drawings or carvings of animals or human forms in the mosque.
As we walked further in, we were overwhelmed.
As compared to traditional mosques in Singapore and Malaysia, the Ox Street Mosque’s architecture and interior was a blend of ancient Chinese palaces style and Arabian mosques. It was really strikingly different and breathtaking!
My Muslim friends commented that if his father was here, he would have not known that this is a mosque that they were entering. However, he did say that he thought the Beijing Mosque was really exotic and beautiful – a distinct Arabic-Chinese character!
We later found out that the Mosque was first built some thousand years ago, and back then the former architecture of theOx Street Beijing Mosque was in pure Arabic style.
However, during its many phases of reconstruction and renovation, elements of Chinese traditional architecture were adopted – which explains the eclectic look of the Ox Street Mosque!
As my friend said, as long as the tenets of the Islamic faith are practiced here, he was not too bothered about the facade of the Mosque. And he promised to bring his dad here for a visit as it was really an eye-opener for him.
Okay, let me describe the interior of the Ox Street Mosque for you.
Beijing Niu Jie
Anyway, I have included a nice video clip showing you the insides of the Mosque.
Within the Mosque, there stands a hexagonal structure known as the Moon-Watching tower. Beyond it is the main hall where the congregation comes to pray.
Well, for your information, a devout Muslim must kneel down and prostrate himself in the direction of Mecca (in Beijing, to the west) when praying.
At the back of the main hall, there is a group of small religious halls and pavilions which are specifically designed in true Arabic & Islamic style meaning – the designs and patterns in all of the decorations must only be composed ofArabic letters and geometrical patterns.
This is because in the teaching of the Quran (the Bible for the Muslims) does not allow the portrayal of human or animal forms as I have stated earlier on.
In the center of this section les the minaret and this is where the muezzin calls the faithful for prayers five times aday, starting from dawn.
And apart from these building, there are more rooms which act as classrooms for religion classes (like catechism).
My friends were very happy that I brought them here. They also went to talk to one of the worship leaders in the mosque. And surprisingly, they were able to communicate in simple Arabic.
After our interesting visit to the Beijing Mosque, we went out to the nearby stalls selling BBQ kebabs of mutton and lamb. In addition to the BBQ sticks, we had beef dumplings and had a nice chat with the stall-holders who were also Muslims.
In conclusion, my Muslim friends said that it was nice to know that his Islamic religion is respected in China and that he added, would encourage more Muslims to visit this wonderful country, China!