The Huaisheng Mosque, also known as the Lighthouse Mosque, is the main mosque of Guangzhou
. Rebuilt many times over its history, it is traditionally thought to have been originally built over 1,300 years ago, which would make it one of the oldest mosques in the World
. It was named in memory of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The most unusual (in the Chinese context) feature of the mosque is its "calling tower" (minaret). The round tower is 36 meters tall with a pointed tip. The minaret may have served as a beacon for boats, which may explain its name (Guangta, i.e. literally "Tower of Light"). Guangta may also be translated as "Smooth Tower", referring to the unadorned surface of the minaret. From the tower, the mosque itself got its alternative name (Guangta Si, i.e. literally either "Smooth Tower Mosque" or "Lighthouse Mosque"). Somewhat similar "minimalist" minarets can be seen outside of China
, e.g. at the Khan's Mosque in Kasimov, Russia
Old Chinese Muslim manuscripts state that the mosque was built in 627AD by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas who was an uncle of Muhammad, and supposedly came on his first Muslim mission to China in the 620s. Although modern secular scholars don't find any historical evidence that Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas actually visited China, they agree that the first Muslims must have arrived to China within the 7th century, and that the major trade centers, such as Guangzhou, Quanzhou
, and Yangzhou
probably already had their first mosques built during the Tang Dynasty, even though no reliable sources attesting to their actual existence has been found so far.