In the case of starting off at the White Cloud Temple on the Yellow River south bank, also head south, only on what looks like the ramp of a highway overpass. This is the extension that connects Baiyin Road (白银路) on the Yellow River south bank, also head south, only on what looks like the ramp of a highway overpass. This is the extension that connects Baiyin Road and the West Gate Mosque with the G109 Road that leads along the River Bank. In both cases, follow the directions and be confident. The Mosque will come into view only at the last Moment, regardless its considerable size.
This page was last updated on: July 24, 2017
Welcome to China Report's Digital Introduction to Lanzhou Cities' Xi Guan Mosque or West Gate Mosque, located on Baiyin Road on the western end of the Chengguan or Old City District of Lanzhou, Capital of Gansu Province.
Lanzhou Xi Guan - West Gate Mosque
(1) Introduction to the Hui Main Mosque of Lanzhou
Google Map of Lanzhou, Chengguan focussed on West Gate Mosque.
As the main Mosque of the Islamic Community the XiGuan is also the largest, most visited, most extravagant and most visible in the City. See the XiGuan Mosque visible along the South Bank of the River in the old city district, brightly illuminated by colored lights in the evenings.
Short Introduction to the Xi Guan - West Gate Mosque in Lanzhou
Xi Guan - West Gate Mosque, How to get There:
Although the XiGuan Mosque is clearly the largest and most visible Mosque in Lanzhou, it is still not always easy to locate, mainly due to the abundant highrises clogging up the horizon on this city of millions built along a narrow strip of riverside inside an otherwise deep gorge.
To start out with the basics, as one of the oldest Mosques in the City, naturally the West Gate Mosque is part of the Oldest City of Lanzhou. The oldest parts of the City of Lanzhou were located in what is today the Chengguan District, which is largely located on the eastern end of the miles long surban sprawl along the Yellow River. Have a look at the Map of Lanzhou to get clear what this implies. The Yellow River, China's second largest river, runs from West to East
City scape of Baiyin Road in Western Chengguan District in Lanzhou. Although the Mosque stands further down this road, it cannot be seen.
This Schematic overview Map shows the two most important and interesting Districts of Lanzhou, the Chengguan District and the neighboring Qilihe District, West and upstream.TheChengguan,astheoriginalcityofLanzhouholdsmostofthehistoricremnantsandalthoughfullofmodernbuildingsandtoweringhighrises,todayisstillthemainculturalcenteroftheCity. Qilihe is home a more modern section of Town fully integrated with Chengguan and including the Western Railway Station.
Map - Chengguan + QiliheDistricts ofLanzhou
through the Old City, which was built on the widest strip of land available around the easiest crossing points on the Yellow River. At this point, the south bank leaves the most available land space for construction and thus, from meager beginnings it soon became a Town known as Chengguan. The Mosque, as its name suggests, was built
Gritty and dilapidated buildings just up Baiyin Road from the Mosque. There are virtually no signs of islamic Art Styles, let alone architecture. Plenty of Hui live in the area though.
near the Western Gate of the City Walls of that Old City. There a several good reasons for its historical location. Most important of these is that in the historical City the Western Side of the City was the part designated for the economicly less succesful, the lower classes, the village poor and the Islamic and other Nationalities. This was a regular arrangement found in cities throughout the West, and in fact the whole of China.
In the Capital of Beijing a similar situation existed, with the Niu Jie - Ox Street Mosque and Islamic Town located outside of the main city wall, but inside of the Xuanwu District, which was later walled in by itself. The Inner-City of Beijing (Dongcheng and Xicheng) was reserved for the higher classes of society such as Generals, Literati and Scholars, Nobles and their extended families and perhaps a few traders and scientists. This separation is derived from Confucian ideas, which in the past held strong sway over society as a whole and Government thinking in particular. In essence, when everything is assigned its own place and order, society will be more balanced and harmonious. Thus, everyone lived and kept to their own place, as was pious and expected. Whole cities were arranged in this way.
Although, those were arrangements common in the far past, interestingly, even today this situation remains, as the district up the Hill and to the South-West of the West Gate is a collection of slums and hutong, which are overwhelmingly populated by the Hui Minority People. Perched along the Hill lies the Fúlóng Píng (伏龙坪 ), a worthwile area to have a browse around in. It is extensive and has many valleys and levels.
A second reason why the Xiguan Mosque stands in the West of Town is of a more simple and practical nature. The Xiguan Mosque stands but a few blocks to the South of the Zhongshan Bridge. The Zhongshan Bridge stands at the location of what has for 1000s of years been the main crossing point of the main artery of the Silk Road path across the Yellow River in both
A section of the Fúlóng Píng (伏龙坪 ), a poor but scenic resedential area of the Hui within Lanzhou City as visible from Baiyin Road.
directions. The Mosque is thus ideally located to serve the weary travelers and rich merchants from Central Asia, who had just arrived in Town from the West, which lay across the Bridge. Once in town, all Muslims had to make regular visits to the Mosque which served as the religious, cultural but also trading center. Naturally, those whom had come from afar and made it into Lanzhou, would be greatful to their God Allah for helping them through.
At any rate, thus today the Xiguan can be found in the West of the Main City District of Chengguan. It stands just one block up from the South River bank of the Yellow River in a rather chaotically constructed part of Town. Although with the location clear finding it on foot can still be a problem.
In principle there are two ways to navigate efficiently to the Mosque. The First route leads from the River up.
Start off by heading to the south bank of the river and finding the
View of the West Gate Mosque surrounded by various higher buildings at the very North-Western end of Baiyin Road in Lanzhou.
History of the Xi Guan - West Gate Mosque in Lanzhou
Today Lanzhou is a city with a large Hui Islamic Population and so the city counts a variety of Mosques, among
which the Shuishan (Waterside) Mosque on the North Bank of the River underneath Baita Shan, the large Xiguan Mosque in the center, and the Lingmingtang Mosque in the extreme South of the
Chengguan District are the most well-known. But there are many more, often smaller Mosques, to be found in Lanzhou. Interesting examples can especially be found in surrounding suburbs (or slums) which are overwhelmingly inhabited by the Hui Minority group.
The Oldest and first Mosque to be built in Lanzhou was not the West Gate Mosque but another known as the Xiuheyan Mosque. Although the preaching of Islam had been allowed in China since the year 651 AD in the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD), at the Time Buddhism held sway over the Chinese Empire and the routes of the Silk Road were generally well under control of the Tang Empire. Thus, Buddhism was the majority religion in these regions.
As late as during the rule of the Tangut Dynasty (1038 AD - 1227 AD), which was entirely Buddhist, lands as far away as
Pedestrians scatter from the bus stop at Xiguan Mosque (Nov. 2007).
Eastern Xinjiang were ruled by Buddhist Tribes and Kings. It was during the Tangut Rule in the 11th Century that Islam
arrived in the Chinese West via Kashgar (Xinjiang-Uighur AR) and later the conquered Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan. It was only with the defeat of the Tanguts by the arising Mongol Empire that the stop-gap was removed and, making allegiance with the Mongols, Muslims and their faith swept into (North-West) China.
During previous period of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD) had been especially prosperous for Muslims, many of whom migrated to these very regions. This was the first time that a need for a Mosque in Lanzhou was felt. Thus, after a change of Dynasty, the first Mosque to be constructed in the city in History became the Xiuheyan mosque which opened during the first year of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) in 1368 AD (Hongwu Reign). Not much later, during the ongoing campaigns to get rid of the Mongols and drive them out of China's North-West, a second Mosque was built in Lanzhou to facilitate the needs of Muslim soldiers and workers in the Ming Army that had arrived in the City. This is the Qiaomen Mosque constructed in 1372 AD.
The Xiguan Mosque was built in the year 1398 AD, when no less than three additional mosques were built in Lanzhou. These were the Lanzhou Dongguan Mosque, the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque and Lanzhou Nanguan Mosque. Since the funds used to construct the Xiguan Mosque in particular were derived mainly from donations by Silk Road Traders, the Xiguan Mosque is also known locally as Guest Mosque.
This occured in 1684 AD during the Reign of the Kangxi Emperor and again in 1733 AD under the Yongzheng Emperor. More mosques were built in Lanzhou during the Qing Dynasty and it is known that there were 14 mosques in Lanzhou, at least until the advent of the Peoples Republic of China in the year 1949 AD.
Unfortunatly, as with so many Mosques in the region and throughout China, the historical Xiguan - West Gate mosque was torn down in its entirety during the first year of the Cultural Revolution (1966 AD - 1976 AD), when war was declared on the 'four olds', which included religion. After the zealous Red Guards were through destroying the delicate architecture, parts of the Mosque were re-used as construction materials for the construction of White Pagoda park
The completely modern and strongly Islamic Inspired architecture of the West Gate Mosque in Lanzhou with 4 minarets arranged around a central circular Hall carrying a dome atop.
on the side of the Mountain across the River. Along with the Xiguan Mosque all other Mosques in the city and region were destroyed, with only one exception.
For reasons relating to the history of the Communist Party itself, the Tongxin Mosque, situated at quite some distance from Lanzhou across the provincial border in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was the only Mosque to be spared the wholesale destruction of religion, teachings and artifacts.
The current Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque was constructed on its original site in 1983, its architecture intended to mimic and echo the style of Al-Aqas Mosque of Jerusalem.
It is reported that in the past the Mosque was painted green and did not have its outer ring of concrete arches. At that time, the central Hall and Dome were surrounded by small shops, as is today still the case at the Nanguan - South Gate Mosque in Yinchuan, Ningxia AR and to a lesser degree the Great Mosque if Xi'an in Shaanxi Province. The shops have since been demolished to make way for both the ring of concrete arches and the four minarets, which have been added to expand the well used complex. Inside the ring of concrete arches is small garden with playgorund equipment for children.
Today the exterior of the Mosque is nearly all bright and white.
In the year 2008 the large white dome riding atop the circular shaped Mosque saw its roof replaced.
Have a look around inside the Mosque, which is allowed when there is no ongoing religious festival or special prayer
Architecture of the Xi Guan - West Gate Mosque in Lanzhou
day. Inside the main prayer hall one has a great view of the span of the dome, as well as various Arabic details. Large chandeliers provide enough illumination at all times. Usually, there are plenty of visitors, most are Muslims who come to worship at their Temple but tourist infrequently dwell inside.
When visiting this Mosque or any other, dress appropriately and honor the atmosphere of the surroundings. Don't make loud noises, switch of your cell-
A full view of the Xiguan Mosque with its large white dome and impressively tall four minarets or banke towers.
The Xiguan Mosque and even its large Minarets are dwarfed by surrounding appartment highrise buildings.
Apart from woreshippers the building also serves large groups of Chinese students who are affiliated with the Mosques madrasa, where they study Islamic fiqh, secular education and arabic language. The monastery of Xiguan has trained a large number of classics Islamic scholars.
Schematic Map of the many sub-pathways of the Silk Road in China clearly showing the one-unavoidable pathway over Lanzhou and into the Hexi Corridor.
Qilian Mt Range
either the Zhongshan Bridge or the White Cloud Taoist Temple. From the Zhongshan Bridge walk south and away from the river along Zhongshan Road to its intersection (a commercial center and roundabout) with Zhangye Road. At the intersection, turn right (west) into Linxia Road, which is one of the main shopping streets in Chengguan. Walk through the long Linxia Road shopping zone and at its very end turn left and south again on Baiyin Road. Baiyin Road looks like a highway overpass system, but just a bit further south the situation changes. Here is a wide space that houses the West Gate Mosque.