In total there are over 60 historical sites to be visited and enjoyed in Yinchuan and its vicinity.
The Yinchuan Report
The Nanguan mosque can be found in the southeast corner of the old city proper where its conspicuous appearance, set near the South Gate and Square, put a thoroughly Islamic stamp on everyday life in Yinchuan. Centered around the current mosque are the Islamic Market Street, the Hui Restaurant Street and various shops run exclusively by Hui traders. Several shops offer traditionally Hui items, such as traditional dress, headscarfs, jade, pointy handcrafted Hui Knives and imported Arabian-styled knives, handmade carpets, local delicacies and herbs, and of course religious necessities. There are audio CD's and DVDs of religious sermons from the Great Mosque in Xi'An, the Mosque in Hangzhou and even from Mecca and Medina. Altogether a browse inside the Mosque and in the streets
Map of Old City Center, the Drum Tower, Yuhuang pavilion and nearby site of the (new) Ningxia Provincial Museum.
surrounding it offers the best chance to get in touch with the Hui Style of Live, that is within the boundaries of the Urban City Districts of Yinchuan. Although modernity has taken over and shines with
The Exterior Front & Gate of the current Nanguan Mosque at Jiefang Road in Yinchuan.
Look inside the Main Prayer Hall the Nanguan Mosque in Yinchuan.
Arranged around this central dome are four more domes on each of the four corners. These four domes honour the Hanafiyah, Malikiyah, Shafiiyah, and Hanabilah schools of Islam respectively and are slightly smaller to contrast with the Central Dome.
On the summit of the central vault, there is a lamp of moon, just looking like a rising crescent.
To complete the structure, in the 1990's two minarets (or 'Bangke' Towers in Chinese) were added, standing seperatly from the Main Hall at a height of 30 meters. Behind them wide winding corridors lead away into the complex. The main courtyard holds a large pond and fountains 15 meters in diameter.
The lower courtyard in the temple has spacious and bright bathrooms
for men and women, and small service hall and bedrooms for imams, linking with each other with winding corridor. In the hall, many double-leaved and curved wall niches in the form of multiple centers of circles are inlaid on all sides for worshippers to pay respect. On them, Koran is carved, simple and exquisite. The whole construction is elegantly modeled with clear-cut outline and bright color. There is a seperate prayer Hall for women, as is customary in Islam.
The mosque's lower floor has a small museum of Muslim activities in China, model replicas of Mecca's holy sites and training videos for potential pilgrims. Whenever there are few visitors one may be able to view upstairs in the main prayer Hall. Warning: do not sneek in, enter without permission or take photographs.
Most of the historic information available on the South Gate Mosque dates from after the year 1900 AD. According to some sources, the first Mosque on this exact location was built in 1915 AD in the confusing period when the First Chinese Revolution failed and subsequently Yuan Shikai, the former Qing Dynasty General and political backer of the Revolution, had himself declared Emperor. It was the beginning of the Warlord Era in which Ningxia would fall under the Rule of Ma Clan. Nothing is known about the Mosque during the Warlord Era, nor during the existance of the Communist Base Area in the regions after late 1935 AD.
Although there is no information on the Nanguan Mosque proper, it can be noted that in 1936 AD, the situation for religious affairs must have changed
A view inside the interior courtyard and garden inside the Nanguan Mosque.
dramatically in Ningxia. Although the Ningxia Campaign of 1935 AD-1936 AD saw the victory of the Muslim Ma Clan of Warlords over the 4Th Red Army of the Communist Party, the bulk of the 'Long March' Army had reached the Ningxia-Shaanxi Border Area and there had joined up with the renegade Communist Base Area run by Liu Zhidan. As is wellknown today, in the ensuing period this Communist Base Area was then gradually extended, first to include Ningxia and gradually to cover the entire Nation.
In the early years of the Peoples Republic the relations between Ethnic Groups and the Central Government was fine. That is, it is known that in 1949 - 50 AD, during and after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China the Mosque of the time was being repaired but later activities were halted possibly due to lack of funds, or in order to first negotiate the proper authority lines. From 1949 to 1954 the province was subject to the authority of the Northwest Military Administrative Committee. Not much later 1953 AD the Mosque was expanded to some 3000 square meters.
Not much advertised locally or anywhere else, the Mosque was one of the prime victims of rigid Communist Policies.
There is a seperate prayer hall for the women behind the central Hall at Nanguan Mosque.
The present Nanguan Mosque was rebuilt in 1980 AD after a sweeping review of Government policies, one of the initial measures designed to 'open' China to the outside world and dispense some hard-needed basic rights to its own people. Along with this mosque, temples and churches across China were repaired and reopened. Since, the Nanguan Mosque has literally been at the center of religious life for the Hui people within Yinchuan City. Due to its tumultuous recent history todays mosque is a completely modern structure rebuilt with funds donated by local Muslims. There are no historic religious or cultural treasures kept within the mosque.
Covering 10.100 square meters of park-like grounds with 2074 square meters of Halls and annex structures, it
The Main City Mosque of Yinchuan City, the South Gate Mosque - Nanguan Qingzhen Si is introduced below.
Hui Men chatting in front of the Main Prayer Hall (Munanai) of the Nanguan Mosque.
the Nanguan Mosque was torn down on Government orders.The reason given for this action is under research, but nothing is certain at this time. As described in the book 'China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects' by Michael Dillon, in the aftermath the local Muslim Community had to make do with a make-shift Prayer Hall made out of bundles and straw mats. According to the book photos of the destruction of the Mosque and the use of the ruined site there after, as well as the rebuilding of the Mosque were on display inside the courtyard of the Mosque. However, in the summer of 2010 there was no sign of these interesting historical images to be found. It should be noted that according to Michael Dillon the Mosque was torn down 'somewhere in the 1960 's.
No religious services were (officially) held in Yinchuan thereafter until 'things' changed with the Death of Mao Zedong in 1976 AD. At this time there is no information on what happened to the religious and cultural artifacts of the original mosque that was torn down in 1960. Since 1991 it is home to a functioning Madrasa, a Islamic Boys seminary. The second historic Mosque within Yinchuan, the Xi Guan is home to a women's school.
bears a distinct Islamic style of architecture and modern Hui ethnical features. That is, the mosque clearly does not resemble a Chinese Temple as is common with ancient Chinese Mosques. The main Mosque of the Hui for instance, the grand mosque in Xi'An in Shaanxi Province is entirely constructed alike a Chinese Temple. Instead, the new Nanguan Mosque has strong arabic features as are currently popular throughout Ningxia. Tradionally Hui features such a stone carved adornments and wall pieces which are more befitting for a Chinese Temple athmosphere are entirely absent.
The Main Hall designated as 'munanai' or 'Wangyue Hall' has a pear shaped dome functioning as main gate and caries a green vault on top of the main hall, which has a diameter of 9.5 meters and is dedicated to Mohammed, the Founding Prophet of Islamism. The Main Prayer Hall is 22 meters high, has two storeys and covers 945 square-meters. Naturally the Hall is alligned facing West in the direction of Mecca and the Ka'Aba.
Apart from the Mosque itself, the true monument of the Yinchuan of course is the spirit of the Hui People. Although the Hui live all around Yinchuan and throughout Ningxia this spirit is most expressed in and near the Nanguan Mosque. To try and get a feel for the Hui way of life, browse around the Mosque Area and experience what could be dubbed the 'Islamic Quarter' of Yinchuan.
First of all there is the street North of and around the corner from the Nanguan Mosque. This street is not marked on google or other maps but it is the main islamic restaurant street within the old city district. Secondly, at the end of this eating street one comes to Yong'An Alley, which runs behind and south of the Nanguan Mosque. The Yong'An Alley is also known as the Islamic Market street among travelers and is a lenghty passage comfortably shaded by leafy trees where a variety of goods are sold throughout the day. Apart from the standard watermelons, fruit and vegetables here one can also come across household goods such as pots and pans, small electric appliances, various sorts of tea, herbs and spices, and a multitude of other handy items. From the back of Nanguan Mosque in the west one can stroll up quite a way northerward until the Yong'An Alley terminates onto Nanxun
A view down Yong'An Alley, Yinchuan's 'Islamic Market' Street.
East Street at a building called Yinchuan Shopping World. This is where the modern stores begin. And the Islamic accent on things disappears further into the background.
As for the Islamic Restaurant Street, it is well-hidden north of and adjacent the large Nanguan Mosque. During daytime the street usually abandoned, hence it might easily be overlooked. However, after siesta time has gone and the worst heat of the day has passed, the small restaurants one by one open up for business. Soon the first guest arrive and come nightfall the street will be filled with crowds, both Han and Hui, enjoying music, kebabs and often a large dosage of the local beer. If you are looking to try some of the Hui Kitchen, perhaps this is a good location to start off on your culinary journey. At any rate, one can enjoy the lively atmosphere and observe the local people at their leisure business. Most restaurants are family businesses run strictly by the Hui ethnic group. While enjoying dinner one can sit back and study the various Hui at work or make compliments at their cooking style. Although its an Islamic street there is no problem at having a beer there neither. Within the Hui community the attitude is simple and friendly; let everyone get along without too much hair splitting.
Be warned however, although the Hui certainly will not drink the alcohol they serve, others will ingest considerable amounts. Not everyone can hold their liquor. Han drunks regularly stir trouble in public in this particular street. Stay away from them and do not go into any discussions. Luckily the Police and restaurant owners are all aware of this problem and do not sympathize, hence most intoxicated drinkers are removed within a small space of time.
This is however the one location where Police patrol most, especially and mainly in the evenings and late at night.
A lively athmosphere is enjoyed by everyone during an evening in the Hui Islamic Quarter of Yinchuan. Apart from traditional Hui foods there is plenty of alcohol served.
Within the Islamic Corner of the Old City, in the vicinity of the Mosque all economic life is dominated by the Hui. As is social and public life.
strong, with the Nanguan Mosque as its visible center. The Mosque is brightly lit in the evenings.
Although Yinchuan is by no means the most clearly planned Chinese city, the Old City District of Xingching where the mosque is located is the most easily navigable part. The Mosque is fairly easy to find, even for first timers.
In Essence, the South Gate Mosque lies a few blocks south of the Yuhuang Pavilion and its Jade Garden, which is central spot in town. From there, just walk south and one cannot miss it.
As the name of the Mosque suggests, it is lies very near the original south gate of what was then still a walled city.
Locate the South Gate Square (also known as Peoples Square) , the official center of Cultural Activities from where it is only a few streets walking to the Mosque. Nanguan Mosque stands due to the South-West of South Gate Square. There are two ways to walk there. Either leave the North End of the Square heading west, then trun down south on the first street named Yuhuangge South Street. Keep walking south and you cannot miss. The outer way is west off the south end of the Square.
Local Hui arriving at Nanguan Mosque for prayers.
History of Nanguan Mosque:
As for the historic significance of the Mosque, there are two sides to its story. One the hand not very much is publicly known about the history of the South Gate Mosque itself. According to historic records a Mosque was first built on or near this location in the last few decennia of the Ming Era (1368 AD - 1644 AD). Eversince it was destroyed many times over, either by earthquakes or during the several ethnic mutinies and wars that swept the region during the Ming Dynasty Era (1368 AD - 1644 AD) and the Ching Dynasty Era 1644 AD - 1911 AD). However not much is known and published about the
Regardless, Nanguan mosque is the Main functional Mosque in Yinchuan and is the Center of Religious Celebrations during the local Islamic Festival of Id-al-Fitr (Sugar Fest), Corban, and Mawlid alnabi. As muslims must pray five times a day, the Mosque is open all daytime hours. Do not disturb prayer services.
How to Get There: Take a Taxi to your destination, or if you are staying in the Old City walk down. The Islamic School of Economics, another islamic architectural landmark is nearby. Adjacent the Mosque is the Islamic Restaurant Street and behind the Mosque is the Islamic Market Street. It's pretty easy tolocate once you're near.
Address: Jiefang Road, Yinchuan.
Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 18:00 PM Daily.
Admission Fee: None for Muslims. For tourists there is a 30 RMB per person charge.
General Rules for Visiting a Mosque:
1) The Prophet Mohammad himself forbade the reciting of Poetry inside a Mosque, and forbade the selling and trading of items within a Mosque as this distracts from Prayers and spiritual activities.
2) Do not enter the Mosque when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is considered 'unclean' and is also disrespectful.
3) Do not talk loudly, shout or argue within a Mosque. It disturbs the atmosphere for praying.
4) Dress apropriately when visiting a Mosque. For women this means no see-through outfits or sexy miniskirts. Cover your legs at least. The same goes for Men. No Shorts!
Although policy at Nanguan Mosque is not very strict on this point due to the daily flow of tourists.
Evening lights of the Nanguan Si, South Gate Mosque in Yinchuan.
The solid Twin Minarets, Bangke Towers, towering above the fountain and Mosque garden.
Initially the Communist Policies towards the Hui Ethnic Group were outright positive and the Party generally succeeded in winning over the hearts of the Ningxia Peasants with a combination of land-reforms and promises of religious and ethnic autonomy. Lower taxes, equally distributed lands and a right to live their lives as they saw fit was a very tempting offer for any ethnic group at that time. The Religious practices of the Hui however did not conform much to general communist viewpoints, as communism in based on a scientific theory that excludes religion. The differences in political theories have created a tension between the Hui People and the official Communist Party-led Government that has lingered ever since. Although the differences were initially worked out by means of lenient policies inspired by
Mao Zedong, who thereby ignored Politburo wishes for more drastic reform and a progress of China along Stalinist lines. However temporarily fixed the overall problem would come to haunt the Hui People not much later. That is, as soon as the Stalinist thinkers inside the upper layers of the communist party and state administration system gained in power, there could be no more such things as exceptions for such unimportant things as the ethnic groups and their various old ways and superstitions.
In essence, the theorists within the party were not exactly known for their skill in putting theory into a working practical organization on the ground. The one person who had a talent for estimating the practical situation on the ground and making it work or look good at the top was Mao Zedong. When Mao's influence within the party ranks temporarily waned the Government aparatchniks could finally have their way and streamline all of China into a stalinist mold. Hence, basicly the needs or wishes of the Hui and others were doomed to be sacrificed for the more important greater good of a well run modern and scientific based society. Anyone who dared isagree was usually branded as anti-communist, or a foreign agent and was likely to die.