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Huasheng ("Remember the sage" in indication to Mohammed) Mosque is the oldest in China. Another name for the Mosque is The Great Mosque of Guangzhou and Guangta (Beacon Tower) Mosque.

China was already known by Arabs before the advent of Islam. Trade relations already existed before 500 AD through two Persian Gulf ports, Basra and Qays, with end destinations to south eastern Chinese ports of Quanzho and Guangzhou, called by Arabs Khanfu.

Guangzhou is the oldest international seaport in China. Simultaneously, China was being unified and Mohammed was unifying Arabia. Early Chinese chronicles mentioned Islam as Yisilan Jiao (pure religion). One Chinese official mentioned Makkah as the birth place of Buddha Ma Hia Wu (Chinese transliteration of Mohammed).

Two versions exist as to the first arrival of Islam in China. The first claims that Islam reached China after Muslims immigrated out of Makkah during persecution by Quraish tribe to the Christian nation of Ethiopia, ruled by king Atsmaha Negus who welcomed Muslim in his capital Axum in 615.

Some Muslims may have sailed out of Ethiopia led by Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqas towards China and spread Islam during Sui Dynasty (581 – 618). Certainly, Sa'ad returned to China 21 years later during the reign of Uthman Ibn Ufan, coinciding with Liu Chih accounts who wrote "The Life of the Prophet".

The universality of Islam was appealing to Chinese, "We have not sent thee but as a messenger to all mankind" (Quran 34:28). And Mohammed was sent as a mercy from god to all peoples (21:107). Islam was introduced to China during its golden period of Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Uthman sent a delegation to China led by Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqas, who was a maternal uncle of Mohammed. Sa'ad had architectural knowledge borrowed from Persians, to converge with Chinese architecture, resulting in the foundation of the first Mosque in China.

As per historical records of Tang Dynasty, Sa'ad and his delegation brought presents and were cordially received by Emperor Gaozong (Kao Tsung) (650-683) in 651 despite pleas of support against Arabs sent in the same year to the Emperor by Shah Peroz of Sasanid Persia. Similar plea was refused by former emperor Tai Tsung (627 – 649) who knew of Islam through Persian and Byzantium embassies.

Kao Tsung, after enquiring about Islam, approved of this religion and considered it compatible with teachings of Confucius. However, Kao Tsung considered the five daily prayers and month of fasting during Ramadhan as too strict to adhere too, consequently he did not convert. Kao Tsung permitted Sa'ad and his delegation to freely propagate Islam and continued his admiration for Islam.

Sa'ad later built Huaisheng Mosque after settling in Guangzhou. The Mosque still stands in excellent condition after 1300 years with routine repairs and restorations. Da Qingzhen Si (Great Mosque) of Chang'an was built in 742 and is considered the largest with an area of 12,000 square meters after routine expansions. The present layout was constructed by the Ming Dynasty in 1392.

According to Al-Tabari (839-923), in 714 there was a tense encounter with a delegation which brought gifts to Emperor Xuanzong. The Muslim ambassador refused to do the traditional bow to the emperor. When the puzzled emperor asked why, the reply was, "In my country we only bow to God." The emperor was angered and wanted to kill the delegation but one of the imperial ministers may have reminded the Emperor of a proverb, "Exchange of jade and silk is better than swords in war."

Sheng You Si (Holy Friend Mosque) aka Qingjing Si (Mosque of Purity) was built with granite in 1009 during Song Dynasty (960-1127). Architectural design of Sheng You Si was based on the Great Mosque of Damascus (709) in Syria making both pairs the oldest Mosques to survive in their original forms into the 21st century.

Zhen Jiao Si (Mosque of the True Religion) aka Feng Huang Si (Phoenix Mosque) in Hangzhou, is thought to date to the Tang Dynasty. Another Mosque in Yangzhou built during the Song Dynasty is known as Xian He Si (Mosque of Immortal Crane). It is the oldest and largest in the city and was built in 1275 by Pu Ha Din, a Muslim preacher who was a 16th generation descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.

Chinese historians assert that Saad Ibn Abi Waqas died in Guangzhou and was buried there. On the other hand, Arab historians state that Sa'ad died and was buried in Medina with other companions. The grave in Medina is real, while the one Guangzhou is symbolic. Islam reached China peacefully, and Muslim communities today are present over a large geographical area.

Today, Muslims number at a low of 20 million and a high of 200 million according to unofficial counts. There are ten distinct ethnic Muslim groups, The Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Tatar, Ozbek, Tajik, Dongxiang, Salar, and Bonan.



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