Atikar Mosque
Kashi, China

Located in the heart of Kashi, on the west side of the city's main square, the Aitika Mosque is the largest mosque south of the Tianshan Mountains. The complex covers 16,800 square meters, 120 meters long from east to west and 140 meters wide from north to south. The Aitika or Id Kah Meschit, which means "Festival Square Mosque" in Uyghur is said to be able to hold between 6,000 and 10,000 worshippers at a time. Although the mosque was probably first built in the 1440's when Islam was introduced to Kashi under the Ming Dynasty, the layout and most of the built fabric date to the nineteenth century.

Not unlike other mosques in Xinjiang, the Aitika Mosque complex has an irregularly shaped plan centered on a garden courtyard. The non-orthogonal courtyard is bisected by an east-west walkway from the entry portal to the prayer hall entrance. Parallel to the long prayer hall, another walkway divides the courtyard into quadrants, connecting the two side entrances. The imam's quarters, lecture halls and a student dormitory enclose the courtyard to the north and south. Shops outside the courtyard walls of the mosque have helped to pay for its upkeep, following the waqf tradition.

The gateway to the complex is located at the southeastern corner of the complex and faces the town square. The square edifice of the gate frames a recessed doorway crowned by an arch, which is framed by a band of arched niches that adorn the side piers and pediment of the gate. A lower wall flanking the gateway also bears shallow arched niches. These side walls attach to two asymmetrically situated minarets, one raised and appearing shorter and squatter than the other, although both reach eighteen meters. The minarets resemble the Poi Minaret at the Kalyan Mosque in Bukhara with their unique lantern crowns ribbed cupolas. Yellow brick with white gypsum pointing cover this entry facade, and bands of colorful and diversely patterned tiles ring the minarets, the entry arch and door frame. Behind the portal is an ablution area that opens into the large courtyard.

The spacious courtyard is filled with four large garden plots lined with canals and trees. The two larger segments to the north have pools. The raised prayer hall occupies the western side of the courtyard, and as is typical of mosques to the south of the Tianshan Mountains, comprises an outer prayer hall open on one side with an enclosed room at its center, around the mihrab. The ensemble is thirty-eight bays long from north to south and four bays deep from east to west, of which the inner hall occupies a square area nine bays at the center. The brick mihrab niche projects outward from the western qibla wall. The prayer hall is accessed by seven sets of stairways from the garden and has a narrow, four-bay wide terrace meeting the central steps.

One hundred and forty slender octagonal timber columns painted blue or green support the flat roof of this hypostyle hall. The beams of the roof are exposed and set in elegant patterns. They are mostly painted white, except for the particularly intricate caisson ceiling set above the central mihrab of the outer hall. This mihrab, which is carved into the wall of the inner hall, is meticulously decorated with colorful tile work. The bands of patterns range from arabesque floral to linear geometric in bright green, yellow, blue and red tiles surrounding the niche. The mihrab niche of the inner hall, beside which sits a minbar, is simply set in brick.


Chang, Jing Qi. "Islamic Architecture in China." In The Changing Rural Habitat. Volume II: Background Papers, edited by Brian Brace Taylor, 74. Singapore: Concept Media, for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1982.

Loubes, Jean-Paul. Architecture et Urbanisme de Turfan: Une Oasis du Turkestan Chinois, 159-160. Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998.

O’Kane, Bernard. “Iran and Central Asia.” In The mosque: history, architectural development & regional diversity, edited by Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan, 126-128. London : Thames and Hudson, 1994.

Qiu, Yulan. Ancient Chinese Architecture: Islamic Buildings, edited by Sun Dazhang, 131, 146. Vienna: Springer-Verlag, 2003.

Main square, Kashi, China
Images & Videos
Associated Names
expanded 19th c./13th c. AH
1440s/843-853 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Aitika Mosque
Id Gah Meschit
Building Usages