Dongguan Mosque, also named Dongguan Great Mosque, Dongguan Muslim Grand Mosque, is the largest mosque in Xining and Qinghai. It’s the most important Islamic shrine in Xining. Besides, the mosque is honored as one of the four greatest mosques in northwest China (the other three are Great Mosque of Xian, Xiguan Mosque of Lanzhou and Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang) and it has the largest number of worshipers. As an over 600-year-old mosque, it is comprised of many typical Islamic buildings and a few Chinese traditional architectures. During Juma (Friday Prayers) and grand Islamic holidays, you can see massive Muslims worshiping. When traveling to Xining, Dongguan Mosque is worth visiting for viewing the nice constructs and exploring Islamic culture.
As the two extant ancient tablets recorded, the history of Dongguan Mosque dates back to the early Ming Dynasty, more than 600 years ago. The mosque was first built in 1380, period of Emperor Hongwu of Ming Dynasty to protect the religious observances of the Muslims. The early mosque covered an area of 28,000 square meters with some simple architectures only, including a huge main hall, two pagodas, one tablet courtyard and some auxiliary buildings. However, it was ruined in 1781 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty and suffered several times demolition afterwards. A new and complete mosque took shape until 1914. More halls, rooms and living quarters have been built by this time. It is the prototype of the current existing architectures. In the following 1946, 1979 and 1997, the mosque got huge reconstructions and expansions, adding more gates, towers, ponds and dining halls, etc. The brand-new look and systematic building functions was completed in 1999 by the Xining government, as you see today.
Dongguan Mosque consists of one yard encompassed by high towers, walls and different halls and covers an area of 13,602 square meters totally. Usually, tourists take 1 hour to view the iconic facade and interior components. The perfect blend of Islamic architectural style and traditional Chinese building elements as well as the strong Islamic atmosphere are the essences you shall get down to appreciate and feel.
The main entrance of Dongguan Mosque, often called Front Three Gates, is so beautiful and impressive that almost all visitors can’t help sighing with emotion. There stands a three-storey building with a green dome above and two tall multistory minarets by each side. The minarets are 45 meters high. You can see many green glass windows, triangular decoration patterns and artistic arches. The combination of light yellow and green colors, wonderful design of neat buildings are truly eye-pleasing. Nine gilded Chinese characters - 西宁市东关清真大寺 are inlaid on the frontage. When walk closer, you will feel its grandness and beauty more deeply. There are one big wooden entrance and two smaller gates for entry. The facade buildings are also beautiful when the night colored lights on.
After walk about dozens of meters from the entrance, you will visit the “Middle Five Gates” and see the vast Pray Hall. Looking back, you can see two special towers with azury base and wooden roofs. The flying eaves are commonly used in many ancient architectures, like the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven in Beijing.The collision of yellow wooden top and refreshing stone polyhedral body gives an unique sense of beauty. It’s an example of architectural fusion of traditional Chinese style and Islamic features. Between them are the five arched doors and inscribed yellow Hui nationality words. The flat square is 4,490 square meters large and has rows of green trees and quadrate buildings symmetrically Most nice pictures are taken from here. Walking around, you will see two old wooden buildings laid at both sides, the north one is the reception room, meeting room and Sutra mansion and the south is the classroom, dormitory and teaching and research office.
With a huge size of 1,136 square meters, the Pray Hall is the main building and the most sacred site in Dongguan Mosque which can holds 3,000 worshipers at one time. The hall is located at the west of Pray Square and faces east, unlike traditional Chinese architectures facing south, indicating the Muslims worship the west Kaaba as the superior. The most surprising part must be its traditional Chinese architectural construction and look. The hall belongs to a Chinese hall style building adopting classic red columns, upturned eaves, hip-and-gable roofs, brackets and cornices. The overhang looks like a flying phoenix stretching its wing. And many gazed tiles and grey tiles cover the top. The central ridge towers three gold-plated bottles presented by Labrang Monastery of Gansu, the only gift among all the mosques in China.
The front porch has lots of delicate-carved patterns, so does the screens next to the door. These elaborate and elegant carvings are remarkable art treasures. The doorway and inside ground are all paved wood floor, giving a sense of solemnness and simplicity. The lining prat mats and wood colonnades, said to be donated by Youning Monastery of Huzhu, Haidong, divide the space into an impressive order. The front wall hangs tablets written by former celebrities. Though visitors can not enter the Pray Hall, you can still view the solid and rigorous structure, grandiose appearance and feel peaceful atmosphere.
Before leaving, you can visit a small but interesting museum - Xining Dongguan Hui Folk Culture Museum in a corner to take a brief insight of the traditional culture, religious taboos of the Hui people.
Dongguan Mosque is situated on No.34 Dongguan Avenue, Chengdong District, Downtown Xining, Qinghai, China. (中国青海省西宁市城东区东关大街34号). You can easily get to the mosque by private transfer or by local taxi and city bus.Xining Dongguan Mosque Location Map (Click to Enlarge)
●Xining Caojiabao International Airport (XMN) to Dongguan Mosque: about 27 km, 40 minutes’ drive; around 1 hour 50 minutes if you take an airport bus and an extra bus transfer
● Xining Railway Station to Dongguan Mosque: just 2 km, 10 minutes by driving; 30 minutes by walk; half an hour by Xining city bus (like Bus Tourist Line 1, Bus 3, 20, 7, 103, 17, 33)
● Xining Downtown to Dongguan Mosque: about 3 km, 20 minutes by car; nearly 30 minutes by bus
● Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Monastery) - Dongguan Mosque: nearly 30 km, 40 minutes ~ 1hour’s drive; more than 1 hour 40 minutes by Xining city bus (Bus 909 is the fastest bus)
● Tibetan Medicine & Tibet Culture Museum - Dongguan Mosque: about 12 km, 30 minutes’ drive; about 1 hour ~ 1 hour 20 minutes by Xining City bus (Bus 1 with 1 hour’s ride is the fastest one)
● Qinghai Lake to Dongguan Mosque: about 160 km, 2.5 hours by driving
● Chaka Salt Lake to Dongguan Mosque: about 300 km, 4 hours by driving
Tips: If you plan to visit Xining Dongguan Mosque from Qinghai Lake and Chaka Salt Lake by public transport, you need to firstly transfer to the bus station near the scenic area and then take a long-distance bus to bus station in Xining, usually several hours. Dongguan Mosque is 6 km southeast of Xining Xinninglu Bus Station (西宁新宁路客运站). After arrival, it takes around 25 minutes by taxi and 45 minutes by city bus. Thus, the public transport is time-wasting and complicated, not recommended for travelers while our private transfer is more efficient and convenient.
How to Get to Xining: You can fly to Xining from Beijing (2.5h), Shanghai (3h), Guangzhou (3h15min), Lhasa (2-3.5h), Xian (1.5h), etc. or take a bullet train to Xining from Xian (4-5h), Lanzhou (1h10min-1.5h), Zhangye (2h), Jiayuguan (3.3.5h), Dunhuang (6h), etc.
Best Time to Visit Xining: Months from May to October are the best because the temperature is moderate and comfortable.
Where to Stay in Xining: Xining downtown is most recommended. If you are going to visit Qinghai Lake or Chaka Salt Lake, you can also choose the hotels nearby.
Xining is the starting point and transfer center for a Qinghai tour. It’s suitable to spend 1 day discovering the top attractions in Xining, including the Kumbum Monastery, Dongguan Mosque, Tibetan Medicine & Tibet Culture Museum. The vast and beautiful Qinghai Lake, about 2.5 hours’ drive from Xining is the No.1 must-visit attraction. You can spend one day here appreciating the water scenery, hiking or biking along the lake or taking a Qinghai Lake cruise (cruise is only available from May to October). With one more day, you can expand trip to the Chaka Salt Lake, known as Mirror of the Sky for its stunning reflected natural landscape on the salt lake. Another day is needed. Usually, people take 3~4 days to visit the three destinations together to explore the cultural and natural highlights of Qinghai.
With short driving distance, there are a few less-known but incredible destinations you can visit, such as the Tongren with authentic Amdo Tibetan Buddhist culture and famous Regong Arts, Kanbula National Forest Park with magnificent Yellow River and Danxia landform. If you’re interested and have more time, you can continue the Buddhist cultural trip to Xiahe (Labrang Monastery) and Linxia (Bingling Temple) in southern Gansu.
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