The Oxen street mosque is a hidden gem nestled in a city of 23 million people. It was built in 996 AD, making it the oldest mosque in Beijing. Just for reference, the Blue Mosque in Turkey opened in 1616 AD. This blew my mind and I had to go check this place out.
Muslims have lived in China since 650 AD and there are now a population of about 21 million across the country. The Niujie Mosque, as it is locally referred to, is surrounded by a Muslim community of 10,000 people, and this is the place to find halal stores in Beijing.
The Niujie Mosque is around 10,000 square meters. The mosque’s architecture is a mix of Islamic and Han Chinese cultural influences. From the outside, it doesn’t look anything like any mosque I’d seen before. In fact, it looked more like a traditional temple than a mosque.
Here’s the link to the Niujie Mosque on Google Maps
So it’s 4:30 in the morning I’m standing in front of this Chinese style pagoda, wondering if I’m at the right place. I see an old Chinese man (who reminded me of Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda) shuffling along. He’s wearing a prayer cap. I approach him and say “As Salaam Alaikum”, half expecting him to yell at me in Chinese – something I was getting used to.
“Walaikum Salaam”, he says with a smile.
“Qingzhensi. Qingzhensi.” I proclaim while gesturing to my mobile phone opened to the Google Translate page with the word mosque translated into Chinese.
He smiles grabs my arm, and guides me to the entrance to its majestic courtyard, where I see a sign with the prayer times posted.
Inside, I find a dozen Master Shifu’s getting ready for Fajr (sunrise prayer). I was apprehensive to take photos with them, thinking they’d be offended and obliterate me with a simple flick of a finger.
According to its Wikipedia page, the Niujie mosque’s main prayer hall is 600 square meters in area, and can hold more than 1,000 people. The mosque, built out of timber, is home to some important cultural relics and tablets such as the upright tablet of an emperor’s decree proclaimed in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty.
I had a very peaceful experience and ended up spending about an hour walking through the courtyard. It gave me the chance to have a quiet moment to reflect on my hectic day ahead and re-align my work goals for my trip.