The Dungan Mosque – Karakol

June 14th, 2011 Sections: Issyk Kul, Religion

In the Karakol city centre, on the corner of a crossroads, there is small, tranquil courtyard which sees a number of visitors descend upon it throughout the week. Many of these of tourists coming to see a remarkable building, probably one of the most photographed buildings in Kyrgyzstan – the Dungan Mosque.

The Dungans are ethnic Chinese Muslims – in China they are known as Hui.  It is said that they are descendants of Chinese Arabs.  Like the Uighurs – the original Dungan community arrived in Kyrgyzstan as refugees from persecution in 1882 after a series of failed Muslim rebellions.

One of the Dungan communities settled in the area around Karakol.  In 1904 they set about building a mosque.  An architect was sent from China along with twenty master craftsmen.  The architect included several oriental elements in his design, including dragons, and some Buddhist elements, and it is painted in a variety of colours, each of these elements giving it a unique and distinctive style and character.

Local materials, wood and stone, were used – but despite the fact that it was basically a wooden building, it was constructed without any nails being used.

In the courtyard outside the mosque there is a square wooden tower that serves as a minaret.


During the Soviet period, when religious buildings were taken over by the state, the mosque was put to use as a both a storehouse and also a dance club.

The mosque is currently undergoing reconstruction.

Although they have, on the whole, assimilated into the local community, (for example, only a few of them still speak their native Chinese and they write using the Cyrillic script), the Dungan community in Kyrgyzstan has maintained certain features of their traditional culture and identity, (for example, they have their own newspaper – Huiming Bo = Muslim People), and their cuisine remains a striking feature and Dungan restaurants and cafes are popular.


Here is a 3D spherical panorama of the interior of the mosque … if you scan upwards, then  in the roof rafters there is some Chinese writing, and this is apparently a list of those who participated in the construction of the mosque.







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