As becomes quickly evident to even the most casual observer, about one-third of Xining’s population is Muslim, and although the city's biggest mosque may not be the prettiest, it’s one of the largest mosques in China and is certainly an imposing sight. Friday lunchtime prayers regularly attract 50,000 worshippers, who spill out onto the streets before and afterwards. And, during Ramadan (斋月), as many as 300,000 come here to pray, with police closing off the streets to traffic.
There has been a mosque here since the 11th century: it was rebuilt in the late 14th century and again restored during the Republic and yet again in the mid-20th century, when it adopted its current form. It’s worth visiting in early evening when the whole building is lit up with flashing neon lights. Non-Muslims can’t enter the main prayer hall but can stroll around the grounds.