Fenghuang Mosque
Hangzhou, China
This mosque is one of the oldest mosques in China, predated only by the Great Mosque of Guangzhou and the Great Mosque at Quanzhou. It was, like the other two, probably first erected sometime in the seventh century under the Tang Dynasty. It was rebuilt between 1314 and 1320 by a Persian missionary named Aladin during the Yuan Dynasty, and rebuilt again during the second half of the fifteenth century under the Ming Dynasty. Located on Zhongshan Road in the heart of Hangzhou, this mosque, like its precedents, is illustrative of the changing attitudes towards the synthesis of local Chinese and imported Islamic styles throughout the centuries.

The mosque consists of a prayer hall joined to a monumental gateway via a two-storied open pavilion, all clustered within a dense urban complex. The oldest remaining segment of the mosque is the qibla of the prayer hall, which consists of three bays with brick corbelled domes that open into each other with double archways. The central dome is the largest and measures 8.8 meters in diameter. It is flanked to the north and south by lower domes measuring 6.8 and 7.2 meters across.

These three domes, which are visible only from the inside, are covered with distinctly Han-style hipped roofs on the exterior, each with curved surfaces culminating at a finial at the dome apex and covered with convex and concave green tiles. The central octagonal roof is slightly taller than the two hexagonal roofs to either side. The eaves are exquisitely carved, giving the roofline a silhouette resembling the partially outstretched wings of a mythical phoenix bird ready for flight; hence, the popular name, "Phoenix Mosque." Lantern-like box finials in the roof act as skylights for the interior. Brick domes concealed by a temple style roof is representative of the transitional period in Chinese Islamic architecture.

Inside the original three bays of the mosque are covered in black and white tiles, much like a typical home in southeast China. The stark color contrast enhances the boldness of the high domed, beamless space. The wooden mihrab is decorated with delicately carved and more colorful religious inscriptions.

This original prayer hall was expanded during the Ming Dynasty using the local timber construction techniques. A grandiose portal was joined at this time to the enlarged prayer hall. The portal has a high, multifoliate archway from which wooden frame doors with stained glass insets are inset. It is crowned by an Arabic inscription. The entry façade has crenellations at top, flanked by cylindrical finials that resemble Arabic style minarets. The prayer hall extension has a second story encircling a courtyard-like space in the center. Adorned with balconies in the traditional Chinese fashion and accessible via two staircases, this second story also serves as a minaret for the mosque.

The widening of the adjoining Zhongshang Road in the mid-twentieth century has lead to the partial demolition of the prayer hall extension. Presently, the entry to the mosque is a doorway on the west side of the complex.

Sources:

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.

Luo, Xiaowei. “China”. In The mosque: history, architectural development & regional diversity, edited by Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan, 211, 217-218. London : Thames and Hudson, 1994.

Michell, George. Architecture of the Islamic world: its history and social meaning, 280. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.

Petersen, Andrew. "China". In Dictionary of Islamic Architecture, 52-54. London: Routledge, 1996.

Qiu, Yulan. Ancient Chinese Architecture: Islamic Buildings, edited by Sun Dazhang, 125-126, 143. Vienna: Springer-Verlag, 2003.

Zhang, Jing-qui. "Mosques of Northern China". In MIMAR 3: Architecture in Development, 58. Singapore: Concept Media Ltd, 1982.
Location
Zhongshan Road, Hangzhou, China
Images & Videos
Events
7th c./1st c. AH, rebuilt 1314-1320/713-720, rebuilt again second half of 15th c./9th c. AH
Variant Names
Fenghuang Mosque
Phoenix Mosque
Variant
Feng-Huan Mosque
Variant
Feng Huan Mosque
Variant
Zhenjiao Mosque
Variant
Building Usages
mosque
religious