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The Huaisheng Mosque is the oldest mosque in Guangzhou. It may be one of the oldest mosques in China because there is manuscript evidence that a mosque was on the site during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The mosques is subsequentlyrenovated many times with its minaret of 36 feet tall. The minaret has been calledGuangta Si or Light Tower Mosque since the tower once had a beacon light on topfor ships. Light Tower Mosque since the tower once had a beacon light on top for ships. The minaret is smooth and unadorned. It is thought by many to be the oldest mosque in China, and some say it was founded by one of Muhammad's companions though there is no documentation of the legend. For Muslims, it is one of the major attractions in Guangzhou, and it is a Guangzhou architectural highlight because of the long history and distinct culture.
Precise details about the founding of the mosque and its episodes of renovation and expansion are probably lacking. Chinese Muslim manuscripts state that the mosque was built by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas who was an companion of Muhammad. If this is so, then he he went to China during the 7th century. However, there is no direct evidence of this. It is possible that a mosque was built on the site in Guangzhou during the Tang Dynasty (619-907) because Guangzhou was a trading center in the Tang Empire that had a lot of foreign merchants visiting the city, and it is known that Arab traders stayed there.
The mosque was rebuilt in 1350 and again in 1695 after being destroyed in a fire. It was probably renovated or rebuilt other times also. Now, it is an active mosque where a lot of foreign Muslims attend. Guangzhou is again a foreign merchants center. Many African merchants go to Guangzhou to do trade and buy merchandise. It is interesting that a lot of foreign business people are coming from the same regions of the world in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Arab countries from which traders once came during the Tang Empire era.
Many Muslims also visit a tomb that many say is that of an companion of Mohammad named Saad Abi Waqqas who founded the mosque and introduced Islam. So this mosque is also called the Masjid Saad Abi Waqas in Arabic. However, there are conflicting stories about his life. Most Muslims believe that he isn’t buried there but in Medina. Sometimes, people can be heard chanting near the tomb. So many foreign Muslims go there that sometimes it doesn't look or sound like a Chinese mosque except for the Chinese buildings and decorations.
There are 6 main buildingsin the mosque, including the Light Tower Minaret, the Imam Hall, the Storehouseof Islamic Scriptures, the Covered Corridor and the Stone Stele Pavilion. There is a red wall facing the street. Inside, you can see Arabic calligraphy on the walls and pillars. Some of the Arabic writings look like Chinese characters because they are square-shaped Arabic writings that are positioned and spaced on pillars and signs in the same way that Chinese characters would be inscribed on signs and pillars in a Chinese temple.
The minaret is smooth and white. Inside, the court is paved with simple white or grey stonework that looks austere, but some red pillars and white pillars highlight the inner court area as do evergreens and flowering trees. There is a red brick building with an arched doorway, and on both sides of the door, there are green signs that have Arabic words that are written like Chinese characters. An interesting and unusual touch is the roof that is made of blue-green tiles that gives a warmer color to the mosque area. Inside the building, there is a green rug, and stylish calligraphicworks in big artistic letters hang on one wall. People have to take off their shoes to enter the building.
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