The world’s most popular religion has been under relentless attack by right wingers across the western world, and the ongoing rhetoric shamefully sullies a way of life lived by over a billion people who want nothing of the types of Daesh (ISIS) or Al Quaeda. For those interested in learning about Islam, the Great Mosque of Xi’an offers a different perspective of a religion that has long had a strong foothold in at least three continents, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

The grounds of the Great Mosque date back to the 8th century, when Islam first arrived in China. Located adjacent to Xi’an’s famous Muslim district, this mosque stands out for its similarity in appearance to Chinese Taoist and Buddhist temples. Look a little closer, however, and you will see elements of Islamic architecture dispersed amongst buildings constructed over time during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Unlike other Chinese temples, this one faces not south, but west, towards Mecca. A soaring pagoda in the middle of the complex is actually a minaret. Rock formations and archways are clearly Chinese, but Arabic inscriptions are also found everywhere. After walking through several courtyards, you arrive at the stunning turquoise-colored tile roofed prayer hall, where you will see Muslims from the surrounding neighborhood, and from around the world, pray after they completed their ablution at a nearby courtyard.

Entrance to the Great Mosque is free to Muslims; a small fee is required of visitors. At the time I visited, there was no restrictions on what could be worn upon entrance, a stark contrast from other mosques including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Nevertheless, show some respect: everyone should wear pants or long shorts that drop far below the knee, and women should keep their shoulders covered. The locals will appreciate it. And you will have an even more enriching experience in Xi'an during your travel within and around this incredible city.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

China, Xian, Islam, Great Mosque, architecture, travel, Leon Kaye

The Great Mosque offers a different perspective of life in China

China, Xian, Islam, Great Mosque, architecture, travel, Leon Kaye

Arches like this are all over the mosque's grounds

China, Xian, Islam, Great Mosque, architecture, travel, Leon Kaye

Textures and patterns are a feast for the eyes and calm the soul

China, Xian, Islam, Great Mosque, architecture, travel, Leon Kaye

The main prayer hall

China, Xian, Islam, Great Mosque, architecture, travel, Leon Kaye

Stately gardens and magnificent architecture await

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.