Altun Mosque
Shache, China
The Altun Mosque in Yarkand is said to have been established as early as the tenth century during early Qarakhanid rule in Turkestan, although the current structures were probably built much later. The prayer hall itself, which closely resembles that of the Great Mosque of Yarkand, may have been built as late as the nineteenth century. The mosque complex includes a main gateway leading from the court in front of the palace and the prayer hall. Located in the center of Yarkand beside the palace, the Altun Mosque, or Golden Mosque, is accompanied by the royal burial grounds.

The entry portal of the mosque is typical of Central Asian style, with the entryway through a niche receding from the imposing yellow brick square edifice flanked by engaged columns. The prayer hall is also representative of the traditional mosque architecture of Xinjiang and West Turkestan; it is a wide, flat-roofed hypostyle building, with a highly decorative outer portico encasing an inner hall, both spaces used for prayer. Such a relationship between an inner and an outer prayer hall is common south of the Tianshan Mountains for use alternately in colder and warmer seasons. Two engaged yellow brick minarets at the ends of the portico resemble those of the mosque gateway. The outer portico of the mosque is highly decorative in its woodwork, with muqarnas carved column capitals leading the eye to the ceiling defined by complex beam patterning. The ceiling is decorated in colorful floral and geometric patterns complimenting the flourishes of the cornice line and the delicate flowers painted into the muqarnas soffits of the capitals. Bands of red, blue, green and yellow rim the lower portions of the columns. A painted Arabic inscription hangs on a plaque from the cornice line, which further along also bears a pectoral representation of the Ka'ba in Mecca. This outer portico is only three bays deep, though quite wide, and in the center of the width an outer mihrab is embellished with a red frame containing Arabic inscription.


"Yarkand Cemetery: Report about a Journey from Beijing to Xinjiang." Accessed November 29, 2004; inaccessible October 21, 2013.

Frishman, Martin, Hasan-Uddin Khan, and Mohammad Al-Asad. The mosque: history, architectural development & regional diversity, edited by Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan, 128. London : Thames and Hudson, 1994.

Silk Road Seattle Project. "Description of Kashgar: Selections from the Tarikh-i-Rashidi by Mirza Muhammad Haidar, Dughlat." Accessed November 29, 2004.
Shache, China
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10th c./4th c. AH; 19th c./13th c. AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Golden Mosque
Altyn Mosque
Building Usages