Niujie Mosque in Beijing gets facelift
Repair work on a 1,000-year-old mosque in the heart of the Muslim-dominated Niujie area of Beijing started last week.
Built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), Niujie Mosque is the oldest and largest Islamic place of worship in Beijing.
The renovation project, with an investment of nearly 20 million yuan (US$2.4 million), includes repairs not only on the current 5,000-square-metre mosque, but also on two nearby buildings.
These were originally part of the mosque, but were later occupied by other work units.
The organizations that took over the two buildings, including a primary school and several other institutions and businesses, have found new homes and have moved out.
The two buildings, covering more than 4,000 square metres, will be given back to the mosque after renovation work that is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, according to Yu Ping, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage.
Yu said one of the buildings would resume its original function as a site for female Muslims. The second building might be turned into the office of the Islam Association of Xuanwu District.
Muslim Lu Chaoliang, 71, who has lived in the Niujie area all his life, was very happy to hear of the renovation project.
"The mosque is the spiritual centre for the 10,000-plus Muslims living in the vicinity. I'm glad to know it will be expanded and returned to its original layout.
"The mosque's size will almost double with the completion of the renovation and female Muslims will have their own place of worship," said Lu.
"I hope workers will follow Islam's rules during the work," he added.
Wei Chunjie, deputy head of the administrative office of the mosque, said the renovation work would not only include repairs to ancient buildings, such as the Prayer Hall and the Watching Moon Tower, but also cover water, electricity and heating supply systems.
Wei said since the mosque could not be used for religious services during the renovation period, the district's Islam association has chosen a building 200 metres away as a temporary home.
"It is very convenient for me to go to the new place and pray every day. Otherwise, I would have to walk a long distance to other mosques in the city.
"The building is also owned by local Muslims and was returned to us recently. I am grateful for the government's religious policy," said Lu.
Islam was introduced into China in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
At present, there are about 250,000 Muslims in Beijing, according to official statistics.
The Niujie quarter has the most Muslims in the capital.
The Niujie mosque has undergone three renovations since 1949 -in 1955, 1979 and 1996. The municipal government has also repaired many other mosques in recent years, such as Tongzhou Mosque and Dongsi Mosque.
(China Daily 04/26/2005 page3)