The history of Islam in China is more than 14 centuries old. The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty describes a landmark visit to China by Saad ibn Abi Waqqas maternal uncle of the Prophet, inviting the Chinese emperor to embrace Islam eighteen years after the Prophet's death. The Chinese Emperor Gaozong of Tang (628-683) respected the teachings of Islam and considered it to be compatible with the teachings of Confucius. To show his admiration for Islam, the Emperor Gaozong Of Tang ordered the establishment of China's first mosque. The magnificent Guangzhou city mosque known to this day as the 'Memorial Mosque' still stands today, after fourteen centuries. 

Even before this, the Arab traders during the time of the Prophet had already brought Islam to China, although this was not an organized effort, but merely as an offshoot of their journey along the Silk Route, like in the great city of Xi’an.

Islam in China is not well known, although there is more than 40 millions Muslims divided in 10 ethnic groups among the 56 minorities now in modern China, they reside all over the country mainly close to the main axis of communication : Guangzhou, Gansu, Xi’an, Yunnan, Xinjiang. Must of the Chinese Muslims are Sunni and the majority are members of the old school (Qadim), others are members of the new school (Ikhawan), Salafi or Sufi. Chinese Muslims can be found at all levels of the Chinese society, such as Chinese Congress deputies, directors of top level companies, shopkeepers, teachers, writers…

For more than two years, I have been traveling in the different regions of China, meeting and taking pictures of the Muslims, focusing on their everyday life, in order to share my experience and make discover these barely known Chinese communities.
Kunming, Yunnan Province

Kunming, Yunnan Province

(Yunnan province)

Yunnan is located in the far South-est of the country with a population of 45.7 million (2009).
The province has nearly 800000 Hui population which are distributed around the whole province, becoming China second largest Hui ethnic community after northwest region of China.
Islam was introduced to Yunnan in 1253 when Kublai, the fifth emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, pacified Dali. Later, Kublai sent Sayyid All Omer Shams al-Din to Yunnan to be the Prime Minister (now called governor) to take charge of the state affairs (1274-1279). Sayyid All Omer Shans al-Din, during his reign, established 12 mosques in Kunming, two of which are the Nancheng Mosque (Kunming South Mosque) in Zhengyi Road and the Yongning Mosque (The Mosque of Everlasting Peace) at the Dongsi Street (East Temple Street) corner. Now, Islam has spread all over Yunnan Province, mainly in Kunming, Yuxi, Honghe, Wenshan, Dali, Baoshan, Zhaotong, Chuxiong, Simao, and Qujing prefectures and municipalities. It is believed by the Hui, some Dais, Bais, Tibetans and Zhuangs. There were 717 mosques in service, 11 qubbahs (domed buildings) and Yunnan Branch of the Islam Association of China was founded in 1984 and its office is set in the Shunchen Mosque in Kunming. Capital of Yunnan province, Kunming is home of four mosques, three Qadeem (Old Sect) and one Sufis.

Shadian, Yunnan Province

Shadian, Yunnan Province

(Yunnan Province)

Shadian lies two hours south-est Kunming. Is home to the wealthiest Muslims in China, with many involved in the luxury trade of minerals within the mining industry. Approximately 60,000 tons of minerals are being exported out of the area annually and are a part of China's main trade. 
Shadian town is an exclusive Muslim zone with more than 20,000 Muslims staying in the vicinity. There are about 11 main Mosques here and just like in any Muslim country, the Athan (call to prayer) can be heard in almost every part of Shadian. The Shadian Great Mosque, biggest mosque in South-West-Asia can hold 20 000 people.

(Shaanxi Province)

Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province, officially part of the Northwest China région, and one of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history and one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. Xi'an was also the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and is home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
The ancient Chinese city of Xi'an is home to 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims and boasts 1,300 years of Islamic history. Formerly the capital of China, the city was the first to be introduced to Islam. Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty officially allowed the practice of Islam in 651 AD. 
The Great Mosque of Xian is the largest and best preserved (Ming dynasty) of the early mosques of China. Schools of islamic thought such as Qadeem, Ikhwani and Salafi are present in the city.
Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

NANJING : ZHENG HE the explorer

Zheng He (1371–1433) served as commander of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China.
He was a Hui-Chinese court eunuch, mariner, explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral, who commanded expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. He apparently never found time for a pilgrimage to Mecca but did send sailors there on his last voyage. He played an important part in developing relations between China and Islamic countries. In 1985 a Muslim-style tomb was built in Nanjing.

(Guangdong Province)

Guangzhou is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in the South-East China.
The Great Mosque of Guangzhou, known also as Huaisheng Mosque (Memorial of the Holy Prophet) or the Guangta Mosque (Light Tower Mosque), is thought to be the earliest surviving mosque in China Manuscripts from 1206 claim that the mosque was built by an uncle of the Prophet, Abi Waqqas, on the first Muslim mission to China in the 630s.

Langzhong, Sichuan Province

Langzhong, Sichuan Province

(Sichuan Province)

Langzhong is located in the northeast of the Sichuan province.
Today, Langzhong Old City is one of the largest and best-preserved cities of ancient "courtyard houses”.
Langzhong has two mosques, one adeem (Old Sect) and one Sufis. The Sufis Baba Mosque is one of the famous mosques in China. It is also called the Jiuzhao Pavilion, the Baoning Mosque, Panlong Mountain Qubbah. It is located on Panlong Mountain. It was originally the graveyard of a famous Islamic leader and scholar, Khawja Abdullah. His followers built a series of buildings here and a Gongbei was built on his tomb which is named Jiuzhaoting Gongbei, one of the three holy places of Qadiriyya Sufi in China.

Kashgar, Xinjiang Province

Kashgar, Xinjiang Province


Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China in the northwest of the country.
It borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
It's also home to a number of ethnic groups including the Uyghur, Han, Kazakh, Tajiks, Hui, Kyrgyz, and Mongol, with a majority of the population adhering to Islam.
The Uyghur converted to Islam in the tenth century and was not completed until the 17th century. Their language is related to Turkish and are between 11-15 million.
Lanzhou, Gansu Province

Lanzhou, Gansu Province

(Gansu Province)

Gansu has a population of 26 million (2009) lies on the Western Corridor, part of the ancient Silk Road that connected China with Central Asia and the Middle East in the northwest of China.
Gansu is a centre of Sufism in China, where it was originally introduced in the late 17th century, by preachers from Arabia or Central Asia and by Chinese pilgrims returning from the Haj.
Besides Sufism, some other schools of Islamic thought are also present in Lanzhou, such as Qadeem and Ikhwani.

(page under construction)

Lanzhou, Gansu Province

Lanzhou, Gansu Province


Women's mosques proliferate in China's central plains, mainly in the provinces of Henan, Hebei, Shandong and Anhui. In the northwestern provinces of Qinghai and Gansu and the Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions.

In some part of China like in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province there are 19 women mosques and in Sangpo about two hours from the capital is home to about 5,000 people and six mosques are run by women.

Role of female imams (nu ahong) varies greatly from mosque to mosque, school to school and region to region, depending on the needs of her community.


(Kunming, Yunnan Province)

The Panthay Rebellion (1856–1873), known in Chinese sources as the Du Wenxiu Rebellion was a rebellion of the Muslim Hui people and other (non-Muslim) ethnic minorities against the Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty in southwestern Yunnan Province.

30 years after the end of the rebellion, two prominent imams of Kunming asked to engrave on wooden boards the Quran. The order was placed with non-Muslim artisans of Sichuan, the neighboring province, which were every morning before starting their work do their ablutions.

Today are locked at the top of one of the mosques in the capital of Yunnan's, 153 remaining wooden shelves. On these tablets, divided into two parts, the Quran is engraved in Chinese and Arabic.

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