So I came across this article on something called the Ahlulbayt News Agency website (no idea who they are I’m afraid). Anyway, it did attract my attention as it raised the issue that most mosques in China (not including predominantly, or once predominantly anyway, Muslim areas such as Xinjiang) have a Chinese architectural style reminiscent of traditional Chinese temple architecture. This is not surprising of course as the builders of these mosques knew how to build Chinese temples so that’s what they did. Similarly you can see Christian churches in cities like Istanbul built like mosques (the Haggia Sophia for instance) as that’s what Turkish builders knew how to do. That’s why China’s most famous mosque, the Niujie in Beijing (below) which dates back to 996AD, looks more like a temple than a traditional middle eastern mosque with trademark minarets, domes etc.we can all tink of other examples in cities around China – there is a busy mosque in Chengdu for instance which is also Chinese temple like in design and quite beautiful.
But apparently that is changing and now new mosques in China are more likely (70% likely actually, according to the article) to be middle eastern in style and design. Apparently it’s a combination of skills, costs and taste – Muslims and Muslim converts now think mosques should look like minarets etc, presumably not what Muslims in China thought in 996AD?
While on the subject I must recommend Michael Aldrich’s well researched and beautifully designed book The Perfumed Palace: Islam’s Journey from Mecca to Peking.