Hangzhou Phoenix Mosque

5/16/2018 Eliza_A Sights Hangzhou 113

The Phoenix mosque, also called the Zhenjiao mosque, is an Islamic icon in Hangzhou and a historical testament to the rise of Islam in China. Built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Phoenix mosque is the second oldest mosque after the Huaisheng mosque in Guangzhou city, which was built when Islam was introduced to China for the first time. Located on Zhongshan Road of Hangzhou City, the mosque has a long history but stood the test of time. It has been rebuilt and renovated on a number of occasions over the centuries since the Song dynasty (960-1279) when it was destroyed by fire. 


In 1281, during Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), an Arab clergyman in China, Ala’ al-Din began to rebuild the mosque for the growing Muslim community, mainly Persians, and built a new 570 square meters prayer hall. Subsequently, the mosque was destroyed and rebuilt again a few times.  In 1646, the Qing government ordered to reconstruct it, and it became one of the China's largest mosques at that time. Though it has been rebuilt several times, many of the cultural relics and artworks are still well-preserved in a specially built annex in the mosque complex itself. Even the ‘Ala’ al-Din’s tombstone is housed within the mosque. 

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Today, the mosque covers an area of about 2600 square meters. The name Phoenix mosque derived from the exterior of its domes, which resembles the partially outstretched wings of a mythical phoenix bird ready for flight. The structure of the main building combined the architectural design of traditional Chinese architecture and Islamic architecture. The mosque's brick domes concealed by a temple style roof are representative of the transitional period in Chinese Islamic architecture. The central dome is the largest and measures 8.8 meters in diameter. It is bordered to the north and south by lower domes measuring 6.8 and 7.2 meters across. At present, the entry to the mosque is a doorway on the west side of the complex. 


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 mosque's mihrab, which is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the Qibla,  is made of wood and decorated with delicately carved and more colorful religious inscriptions. The Qibla area of the mosque contained the original Islamic calligraphy that was not destroyed during refurbishments. The Phoenix Mosque, also known as Feng Huang mosque has a multi-storied portal, serving as a minaret and a platform for observing the moon.

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Phoenix Mosque is a significant and historical landscape of Hangzhou. On 15th April, 1961, the mosque was listed as a provincial level major historical and cultural site by the provincial government, and later on in 2001, the mosque was listed as a national level major historical and cultural site. The mosque is well maintained and currently serves as the center for Islamic religious festivals and activities Hangzhou.

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