Ox Street Mosque


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Of the 80-odd mosques in Beijing, this one, right in the center of the city’s Moslem district, is the largest and oldest-it was built in AD 996 by Nazruddin, son of an Arab priest. The mosque is open daily from 5.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.

The exterior gives very little hint that it is other than a temple, but inside the gate there is a hexagonal Tower for Viewing the Moon, serving an Islamic purpose. This structure enables the imam to determine the beginning and end of Ramadan according to sightings of the moon. Grouped round courtyards behind the tower are the main prayer hall with its entrance facing west towards Mecca, a stele pavilion: the minaret from which the muezzin calls believers to prayer, a bath-house and some classrooms. The prayer hall is decorated in bright red and gold, with a section reserved for women behind a screen.

Islam was introduced to China in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and today the religion is embraced by several racial minorities in the country as well as the Hui, amore widespread community of Moslems often distinguishable from the ethnic Chinese only by the faith they profess.

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