First Introduction of Islam to China
Chinese Muslims have been present in China for the past 1400 years, legend has it that Sa'ad ibn abi Waqqas was first to bring Islam to China. With the opening of the Silk Road and continuous trade and many travelers brought not only their commodities for trade but also their religion. According to legend Sa'ad ibn abi Waqqas traveled to Guangzhou and Chang'an (present day Xi'an), after is death in Guangzhou a tomb was built in his memory, this tomb is now known as the Tomb of Muslim Sage. Thabit ibn Qays was also believed by Chinese Muslims to have traveled to China and died on his journey home, his tomb is located in Hami of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region. The practice of Islam was officially agreed in 651 AD after Emperor Gaozong of the Dynasty met with Sa'ad ibn abi Waqqas and Thabit ibn Qays. The construction of Mosques in cities where Arabian traders lived was common in major cities such as Xi'an, Guangzhou, Quanzhou and Yangzhou.
Mosques in China
Guangzhou's Huaisheng mosque (also known as Guangta mosque) is believed to be the earliest mosque built in China it was constructed in the Tang Dynasty (518-907AD). Huaisheng in Chinese can be understood as "Devoted to the Prophet" or "Devoted to the Sage".
The Great Mosque in Xi'an is another famous mosque in China. It is said that the mosque was built in the Ming Dynasty, however the discovery of a stone tablet within in mosque suggests that its construction can be dated back to the Tang Dynasty 742 AD. The architectural design of the mosque is completely Chinese, it does not possess any domes or towers seen in traditional Middle Eastern mosques.
Built during the Song Dynasty in 1009, the Qingjing mosque (also known as Ashab mosque) is the oldest Arab architectural style mosque in China. Located in Quanzhou, Fujian this mosque has been renovated during the Yuan and Ming Dynasty.
The Four Key Mosques in China
During the Yuan Dynasty, Arab traders built Hangzhou's Phoenix mosque and Yangzhou's Xianhe mosque. Over the course of time, Huaisheng mosque of Guangzhou, Ashab mosque of Quanzhou, Phoenix mosque of Hangzhou and Xianhe mosque of Yangzhou are recognized by Chinese Muslims as the four most famous mosques in southeast China.
Current Mosques in China
Currently there are over 30,000 mosques all over China: 23,00 mosques in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; 2800 mosques in Northwest China's Gansu Province; 2580 mosques in Ningxia Hui (Muslim) Autonomous Region; 929 Mosques in Qinghai Province; 620 Mosques in central China's Henan Province; 600 Mosques in Southwest China's Yunnan province; 506 mosques in East China's Shandong province. Even on the roof of the World, Tibet, there are three mosques for about 2000 Tibetan Muslims to perform their daily prayers.