There seems to be quite a bit of photography out there showing the interiors of Chinese churches, but – so far as I’ve been able to tell – very little photography showing the interiors of Chinese mosques. So, in pursuit of some balance, I offer the image, below, of the prayer hall at the Great Mosque in Guangzhou. It was taken in the late afternoon, the other day, just as people were beginning to arrive for the Maghrib prayer [click to enlarge].
Some sources claim that the Great Mosque dates back to the first Muslim mission to China, in 630. However, according to this site – the best of the very few that I’ve been able to find – it was likely built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) or Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). That’s a wide date range, so I’ll stick to the absolutely certain: the Great Mosque is likely the oldest mosque in China. Of course, it doesn’t take an expert in Islamic architecture to judge – on the basis of the above photo – that the prayer hall is a bit more recent. In fact, parts of it have been rebuilt several times, and the current prayer hall dates to 1935 (a 1990 photo of the prayer hall shows it in a more haggard state).
To be fair, on an architectural basis, at least, what’s most interesting and historically significant at the Mosque is the Light Tower/Minaret – rebuilt in 1350, with much earlier origins. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in China. A few photos after the jump.
Click the images to enlarge.