Shengyou Mosque
Quanzhou, China
One of the earliest mosques in China, the Great Mosque of Quanzhou is called many names including Shengyou Mosque (Mosque of the Holy Friend), Qingjing Mosque (Mosque of Purity) and Ashab Mosque (Mosque of the Prophet's Companions). An inscription on the northern wall of its portal dates the mosque to 1009, although most of what remains today dates from the 1310 reconstruction by Ibn Muhammed al-Quds of Shiraz, under Emperor Zhida of the Yuan Dynasty. It is the oldest surviving stone mosque in China, and the only one remaining of the seven historic mosques that once stood in the city of Quanzhou. It is built on Tumen Street abutting the old city wall, at the edge of a large fan-fang, or, foreign quarter. The mosque today consists of a large, partially ruined, rectangular prayer hall beside a grand entry vestibule, with a smaller timber mosque added recently to the northwest of the complex.

More abrupt even than the bent axis of the Great Mosque in Hangzhou, the 1310 gateway on Tumen street is aligned along a traditionally Chinese north-south axis and stands perpendicular to the axis of the prayer hall, which is aligned with qibla. This imposing stone gateway, which is about twelve meters high and six meters wide, is topped by a terrace with a crenelated parapet. Its multiple, nestled archways recede away from the street, creating an entry vestibule that resembles an iwan. The carvings of the arches and corbels of the vestibule resemble decorative styles from India and Central Asia. The semi-dome linking the first and second arches has a ribbed pattern, while the second and lower semi-dome is carved with a muqarnas pattern. The grey-green stone of these domes is known as black granite and is rare in the architecture of this area. The innermost arch opens into a fully-domed chamber. The roof of the entry vestibule was used to announce the call to prayer and also served as a moon-watching pavilion.

The prayer hall, or the "Fengtian Altar," is constructed of locally quarried granite blocks. Entered from the east, the prayer hall is five bays wide and four bays deep, with a qibla niche one bay wide projecting westward. Only the walls of this prayer hall, which are simply adorned on the interior with large ogee-arched recesses, remain today. The tallest recess in the rectangular qibla niche demarcates the mihrab. These recesses are lined with bands of Arabic calligraphy and an inscriptive stone band wraps around the qibla wall below the level of the ceiling. The roof, which probably consisted of domes, has not survived. Only the stone bases remain of the twelve columns that held up the roof. The southern wall, facing Tumen Street, allows light into the sanctuary through eight large windows, and also acts as the street wall, adjoining the complex gate. This arched stone prayer hall, quite unlike the local architecture, exemplifies the importation of Central Asian styles into Hui mosque building.

Perhaps due to the change of axis between the entry vestibule and the prayer hall, the traditional Chinese hierarchy of successive courtyards is not found at the Great Mosque of Quanzhou. A smaller prayer-hall, the Mingshan Chamber, is sequestered behind the Fengtian Altar at the northwest corner of the complex. This smaller prayer hall is also entered separately from a street to the north, and has its own courtyard that contains an ablution well. It is built entirely in the local timber and tile style. It has been renovated, and is open for prayer.

According to the Islamic Association of Quanzhou, "plans are now underway to build a magnificent new mosque beside the remains of the ancient Qingjing mosque," that will be built in the hybrid Mediterranean-Mughal style that is popular globally today.


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, 209-212, 216. 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, 119, 125, 142. Vienna: Springer-Verlag, 2003.

Zhang, Jing-qui. "Mosques of Northern China". In MIMAR 3: Architecture in Development, 58. Singapore: Concept Media Ltd, 1982.
On Tumen Street, Quanzhou, China
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1009/399-400 AH, reconstructed 1310/709-710 AH
Variant Names
Sheng Yu Mosque
Building Usages