The Mosque is located in Beijing's Xicheng District, the spiritual centre for the 10,000 Muslims living in the vicinity and it is the biggest and oldest one in Beijing. Niujie in Xuanwu District, where the mosque is located, is the largest area inhabited by Muslims in Beijing.
The Niujie Mosque covers an area of approximately 10,000 square meters. The mosque reflects a mixture of Islamic and Han Chinese cultural and architectural influences. From the outside, its architecture shows traditional Chinese influence and the inside has blend of Islamic Calligraphy and Chinese design. The main prayer hall is 600 square meter wide, which can hold more than 1000 worshipers, in exception non-believers cannot enter this hall. The mosque, built out of timber, is home to some important cultural relics and tablets such as the upright tablet of an emperor's decree proclaimed in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty.
The Niujie Mosque, the largest of all the mosques in Beijing, was first built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty (916-1125). The local Muslim community constructed the mosque using traditional Chinese architecture, with the exception that the use of Arabic calligraphy in the interior. It was originally designed by Nazaruddin, the son of an imam. After it was destroyed by armies of Genghis Khan in 1215, the Mosque was rebuilt in 1443 in the Ming Dynasty and significantly expanded in 1696 under the Qing Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty, the neighbouring markets were known for Halal beef and mutton, even until today, the presence is still quite strong with Muslim grocery stores with Arabic sign along the road. The actual name of the Mosque is Lǐbàisì, which is given by The Emperor in 1474, since it is located in Cow Street (Niú means Cow and jiē means street) this Mosque is simply called Niujie. It is now one of the major mosques in north China.
The mosque has undergone three renovations since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, respectively in 1955, 1979 and 1996.
^Dealing with Urban Ethnic Differences: A Comparative Analysis of Chinese and Canadian Strategies, Reza Hasmath, Ethnic Minorities and Regional Development in Asia: Reality and Challenges, ed. Huhua Cao, (Amsterdam University Press, 2009), 103.