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Niujie Street (Ox Street), Beijing

Niujie Mosque - Ox Street Beijing

Niu Jie Street (牛街; niú jiē) or Ox Street is a neighbourhood southwest of Xuanwumen that has long been home to the city’s largest population of the Hui ethnic minority, who are traditionally Muslim [1].

牛(niú)  means cow or ox and 街 (jiē) means street. The name originated from its first name which was  榴 街 (liú jiē; Pomegranate Street) because there was a garden of pomegranates there. Later, because the beef sold by the Hui people tasted so good and became renowned, they added “liú ” (榴; pomegranate) and “niú” (牛; Ox) which sounded similar then renaming it to “niú jiē” (牛街; Ox Street) [2]

Niujie Street is a must visit for a Muslim traveller in Beijing. Inside this neighbourhood is Niujie Mosque which is the oldest mosque in Beijing. There are also a plenty of halal food choices and halal supermarket along this street. We visited Niujie Street on our first day in Beijing after spending the day in the Forbidden City and we came again on a different day for dinner and to buy food souvenirs. 

1. Niujie Mosque (牛街礼拜寺; niújiē lǐbàisì)

Opening Hours: 08:00-16:00

Address: 18, Niujie Middle Road, Xicheng District (near Guanganmen); 西城区牛街中路18号(近广安门内)

Location: Google Map | Baidu Map

Entrance Fee: CNY 5 for Chinese, CNY 10 for foreingers; free for Muslims

Niujie Mosque ( 牛街礼拜寺; Niújiē lǐbàisì) is located at the Niujie  Street (Ox Street) in Xicheng District and it is the oldest mosque in Beijing [3]. The mosque was build in 996 during Liao Dynasty was reconstructed and enlarged under the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722) of the Qing Dynasty [4].

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 meters in area, and can hold more than 1,000 worshipers. 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 [4].

Outside of the Prayer Hall, two pavilions sit either side of the hall. In each of them stands a stone tablet detailing the history of it. To the southeast of the hall, two black-brick graves of Shaykhs lie under a dense collection of cypress trees. Although hundreds of years old, the epigraphs on the gravestones remain clearly readable and are of great importance to research into the history of Islam in China [2].

Inside the women prayer hall of Niujie Mosque, Ox Street, Beijing
Women's Prayer Hall at Niujie Mosque

During congregational (jamaah) prayers, Muslim are required to stand in line during the prayers. Hence, the carpet in a mosque usually has rows of line to mark the standing spot. Inside Niujie Mosque’s women prayer hall, we found a hand-written signage in Malay language at one of the pillar which reads “Jangan Pijak Kain Putih” which means “Do not step on the white fabric”. This means that Malaysian are among the top visitors at this mosque and we often step onto the white fabric which is meant for as the mat for the head during prostration. 

Let me explain the most probable reason of the confusion. The carpet inside the prayer halls in Malaysia usually have lines which marks the standing spot. Aside from this, it is quote common in Malaysia to lay another sheet of prayer mat called, sejadah, on top of the carpet during prayer. After we had completed our prayer, we will fold the mat and store it at the shelves.

During the month of Ramadhan, the musolla at my neighbourhood would install the white fabric (similar to above picture) for the prostration spot for the head instead of using the praying mat. This is because during the month of Ramadhan there will be an increase number of Muslim worshippers going to mosque/musolla every night to perform congregational and tarawikh prayer. Hence,  installing prayer mats for each row (saf) every night then having to fold it back every night after the prayer could be cumbersome. Hence, the white fabrics (which is a light weight cotton fabric, removable and washable) are installed instead of laying the prayer mat.

However, the usage of white fabric is not a nation-wide practice in Malaysia as it is not a requirement in our religion. It is only a measure to maintain the hygiene for the prayer area.  Hence, that could be the reason of the confusion for Malaysians who is used to standing on the line. Therefore my fellow Malaysians, if you happen to visit Niujie Mosque, please do not step on the white fabric.   

Tips

  • Muslim men and women dress modestly according to the teaching of Islam. A Muslim men are required to cover his body from the navel to the knees. Muslim women are required to cover their whole body and heads except for the face and palms.  Therefore, wear a proper dress (long pants; and long sleeves & head scarf for women) during your visit as you won’t be allowed admittance if you are wearing body-revealing attire like shorts or mini skirt.
  • Admittance to the Prayer Hall is limited to Muslims only.
  • Some areas in it are not open to the public. Please refer to the information on the ticket.
  • Don’t forget to offer sadaqah when visiting here

2. Jubaoyuan Hot Pot Restaurant (聚宝源火锅城; Jùbǎo yuán huǒguō chéng)

Opening hours:  11:00-22:00

Price: ¥112.0 (average spending/pax)

Address: 5-2 Niujie Street, Xicheng District, Beijing (北京市西城区牛街5-2号)

Location:  Google Map | Baidu Map

This is a popular hot pot restaurant in the area. It is quite crowded during dinner time with people queuing outside of the restaurant while sitting on the chairs waiting for their turn. So get here early to grab the ticket and take a stroll around the area to kill some time. You may explore Niujie Halal Supermarket located at the same row or wander to the side of the same building on Niujiesitiao to see the big brass pots being fired up with coal.[1]

We passed by this restaurant on our first day at Beijing when visiting Niujie street around 6:45 PM on Sunday evening when there weren’t so many people. We intended to come back to try the hotpot the other day but when we came the queue is so long so we just ate at Hongji Snack Bar which located at the opposite side of the street.

Since opening in 1946, Jubaoyuan has had a strong reputation among hotpot lovers in Beijing, who flock here from all corners of the city to experience its heat. Famed for its halal produce and sizzling brass cauldrons, Jubaoyuan’s hotpot is literally spitting as it arrives at your table, ready for ‘lamb-swishing’ (shuan yangrou), as Beijing hotpot is sometimes called [1].

All the classics you would expect from traditional hotpot are on the menu (Chinese only), with a few twists and turns. To experience the real deal, go for one of the coal-heated cauldrons known as tàn guō (炭锅) and order the hand-carved fresh lamb (shǒu qiè yángròu; 手切羊肉), which is leaner than at most restaurants and offers a thicker bite than the usual machine-sliced meat. But the real treat for first-timers (and one reason why Beijingers are hopping-mad for Jubaoyuan) is the restaurant’s version of the old Beijing pastry, baked sesame bread (shāobǐng; 烧饼). [1]
 
While it may look like all the other shaobing around town, one bite will change your perception. Inside, a savoury concoction of cumin and exotic spices layered deep inside the dough makes Jubaoyuan’s bing one of the most delectable snacks in town.[1]
 

Tips

  • The restaurant does not take credit card. The payment is either by cash, WeChat or Alipay.
  • The menu is in Chinese. If you don’t read Chinese, show the staff the photos from Baidu Map or Trip Advisor to order. 

2. Mu Yixuan Lamb Scorpion (穆益轩羊蝎子; Mù yì xuān yáng xiēzi)

Opening Hours: 10:30-23:00

Address: 4 Niujie Street, North China Post; 牛街4号中国邮政北侧

Location: Google Map | Baidu Map

This restaurant’s best selling dish is lamb scorpion. Lamb scorpion is actually a lamb spine which looks like a scorpion, hence the name Lamb Scorpion. Lamb scorpion is of low fat, high protein and rich calcium. It’s commonly seen in clear soup hot pot. Lamb spine hot spot is the most favourite food for Beijing people in winter [5].

Lamb scorpion hot pot can be dated back to the Qing Dynasty. A new cook in the Prince Naiman’s mansions stewed lamb spines and the aroma attracted the Prince. Prince raised praise on this dish and named it Lamb Scorpion as the lamb spines look very much like scorpions. Later on, this cuisine spread to common people [5].

Lamb spines are crowned as King of Calcium. It’s beneficial to the health for ageing people, middle-aged group and young people to eat stewed lamb spines. It’s also suitable for all seasons to eat [5].

Among the food on the menu found, as found in Baidu Map:

  • Lamb Scorpion Cauldron (羊蝎子大锅; yáng xiēzi dà guō) : Cost: ¥129
  • High-calcium sheet noodle (高钙面片; gāo gài miàn piàn). Cost: ¥15
  • Vegetable platter (蔬菜拼盘; shūcài pīnpán). Cost: ¥28
  • Lamb Scorpion Pot (羊蝎子小锅/yáng xiēzi xiǎo guō). Cost: ¥98
  • Family Hot Pot (Small). 全家福锅(小)/Quánjiāfú guō (xiǎo). Cost: ¥139
  • Sheep Tail Sheep Scorpion Small Pot . (羊蝎子小锅/yáng wěi yáng xiēzi xiǎo guō). Cost ¥168
  • Thick Lamb Scorpion Soup. Cost ¥169
  • Lamb Skewer (Yángròu chuàn). Cost ¥6
  • Fried Potato Roll (香炸山芋卷 / Xiāng zhà shānyù juǎn). Cost: ¥18

We didn’t get the chance to try this during our visit. If you happen to dine here, share the experience with us by leaving a comment.

3. Hongji Snack Bar (洪记小吃店; Hóng jì xiǎochī diàn )

Opening Hours: 05:30-21:30

Location: Google Map | Baidu Map

The shop opens as early as 5:30 am. If you happen to stay in this area, you can drop by Hongji Snack Bar for breakfast. Inside the premise there are plenty of food stalls.

Among the food on the menu: 

  • Fried cake (炸糕; Zhà gāo). Cost: ¥3
  • Toothpick meat (牙签肉; ). Cost: ¥50
  • Steamed bun stuffed with meat (包子; bāozi). Cost: ¥2. We’re starving and bought this as a snack on our way to Niujie Mosque. 
  • Mochi ( 年糕; niángāo). Cost: ¥10
  • Donkey rolls ( 驴打滚; lǘ dǎgǔn). Cost: ¥7. Don’t worry, there’s no donkey involved in making this roll. Rolling donkey is made from millet flour or sticky rice stuffed with red bean paste. Read the history and the reason behind the name of Donkey Roll: here
  • Yellow Pea Cake. Cost: ¥20

Aside from the snack, the restaurant also has a dine in area at the inside. We had our dinner here because the queue was so long for Jubaoyuan Hot Pot.

4. Xi'an Palace Crispy and Tasty Beef Pancake (西安宫廷香酥牛肉饼/Xī'ān gōngtíng xiāng sū niúròu bǐng)

Opens  10:00-22:00

Location:  Google Map | Baidu Map

The name of the restaurant already gives a mouth watering sensation. This restaurant sells Xi’an crispy and tasty beef pancake.  Among the food on their menu:

  •  Signature beef steak pancake (招牌牛肉饼/zhāopái niúròu bǐng). Cost: ¥6 (It was ¥5 during our visit in 2017) . This is our favourite pick as the skin is crispy and the meat is delicious.
  • Roasted meat bun ( 肉夹馍; Ròu jiā mó). Cost: ¥10 during our visit in 2017
  • Beef scallion bun (牛肉大葱包子; niúròu dàcōng bāozi)  . Cost: ¥3
  • Toasted rolls (烤花卷; Kǎo huājuǎn). Cost: ¥3
  • Fried Cake (炸糕; zhà gāo). Cost: ¥3.5
  • Beef with sesame sauce & sesame bread (麻酱烧饼牛肉/Májiàng shāobǐng niúròu).
  • Donkey rolls ( 驴打滚/lǘ dǎgǔn). Cost: ¥9.5. Don’t worry, there’s no donkey involved in making this roll. Rolling donkey is made from millet flour or sticky rice stuffed with red bean paste. Read the history and the reason behind the name of Donkey Roll: here

We spent the day at the Forbidden City and it was only at 5:00 PM we reach Niujie Street and we can only think of food but we have to perform our prayer first. We passed by this shop and rush to the counter in starvation to buy the food. Looking at us being so hungry, the staff generously offer free meat pie to the three of us. Alhamdulillah

6. Niujie Halal Supermarket (牛街清真超市/ Niú jiē qīngzhēn chāoshì)

Opening hours:  08:00-21:00 

Address: 5 Niujie, Xicheng District, Beijing; 北京市西城区牛街5号

Location: Google Map | Baidu Map

You may also dropped at a halal supermarket to buy halal food supplies, groceries and food souvenirs to brought back home. Enter the supermarket at the gate with sign 入口 (Rùkǒu; entrance) and exit at the sign 出口 (chūkǒu; exit). It was so funny when we tried to get in via the exit. 

We are astonished at the size of the produce of China, the fruits and the vegetable. The size its produce are big, twice as big as those sold in Malaysia. A bulb of onion is as big as our palm. There’s also fresh kelp (so large!) which I secretly wish I can bring it home. We bought glutinous rice cake  with different kind of filling which comes in a small packet as souvenirs. 

By the way, you may need to bring your own shopping bag as there is a charge for usage of plastic bag.

5. Niujie Qingzhen Supermarket Food City (牛街清真超市美食城/niú jiē qīngzhēn chāoshì měishí chéng)

Opening hours: 07:00-20:30

Location: Google Map | Baidu Map

There is a halal food court located at the same row as Nujie Halal Supermarket but you will need to take the stairs or elevator to the top floor. We came here around 7PM for dinner and had to ask for direction. Since I can speak basic Chinese it is not a problem.

You will need to purchase a pre-loaded card at the cashier to buy the food at the stalls. Once you have completed your purchase, you may ask for refund of your balance at the cashier. 

We tried:

  • Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱面; zhá jiàng miàn) which is Beijing’s signature noodles. The noodle is served with meat fried with soy bean paste and other seasoning and vegetables. 
  • Braised beef noodle (红烧牛肉面; hóngshāo niúròu miàn). 
  • Noodle with dishes. Apparently Chinese eat their noodles with dishes. This is a totally new experience to us as Malaysian eat the dishes with rice. 
  • Porridge

I am not too sure if Niujie Halal Supermarket Food City is actually a part of Niujie Halal Supermarket or not. We took a video of the food with receipt but since it is the wording are too small, I can’t really read it. If you know better, leave a comment.

How to Get Here

Subway

  • Line 7 Guang’anmen Inner (广安门内 /Guǎng’ān mén nèi) . Exit via C2. Walk along the Guang’anmennei Street towards east for 520m . At the intersection, turn right into Niujie Street.
  • Line 4/7 Caishikou (菜市口/càishì kǒu). Exit via G. Walk along the Guang’anmennei Street towards the west for 750 m. At the intersection, turn left into Niujie Street.

Bus

  • Bus 10, 48, 88, or 717 and get off at Niujie Libaisi (Niujie Mosque) Station.
  • Bus Special Line 13 and get off at Niujie Station.

We came to Niujie Street in the late afternoon after touring the Forbidden City.  Check out our post on how to travel from The Forbidden City to Niujie Street/Mosque using Baidu map. 

Location

Baidu Map: Click here

Tips

  1. There are many more halal restaurant along the street aside from listed above. You may walk and explore it on your own. 
  2. Check out our post (coming soon) on a guide to halal food in Beijing. 

Author's Note

On our first day, we arrived in Beijing early in the morning and only eat simple breakfast which we brought from Malaysia. After spending the day walking and exploring the massive palace of Forbidden City, all our energy had drawn out. We hadn’t had lunch and it was only at 5PM we reached Niujie Street for prayer and dinner. 

Upon arriving at Niujie Street we started seeing people queuing to buy snack and we couldn’t hold it anymore. We rushed to buy steamed bun, baozi, and ate in hurry due to our hunger. Indeed, everything taste delicious when in hunger and we really enjoy Chinese food. At that moment, I just realized that this might be the feeling of those who live in poverty and can’t afford to buy sufficient and nutritious food. 

We keep walking and dropped by at Xi’an Palace Crispy and Tasty Beef Pancake to buy other snacks. Seeing our faces in great hunger, the staff was so kind to treat us with the crispy meat pies. Alhamdulillah

On our way to Niujie Mosque we encountered a number of beggars asking for donation. Since there were a few of them we thought we should refrain ourselves from giving alms to avoid many more to come and asking us for money. 

Later on when we had our dinner at the halal food court. I ordered Zha Jang Mian and the porridge.  I was struggling to finish the porridge as it taste bland. Then I saw the same man who begged earlier bought a bowl of porridge. It was the cheapest meal at the food court, without any meat or side dish. My heart shattered. I was wrong, I was greedy. I was ashamed of my doubtfulness and stingy-self. Therefore, I forced myself to finish my meal because I felt guilty for not giving alms to that man. That’s a lesson learned for me.

You’ll only know the value of food when you’ve been starving the whole day unable to find food to eat. Some have a lot of money, but they can’t find halal food to eat. Some can only watch others eat because they can’t afford to buy the food. Yet there are some who find themselves abundant with money and food, they went extravagant but then they waste it.

As much as you are hungry and eager to try Beijing’s food, be moderate and remember those who are less fortunate than us. Be the one who lend a helping hand to one another.  Buy food for others and offer sadaqah for the needy people. It will not deduct you in your wealth but Allah will multiple your sustenance, as mentioned in Al-Baqarah, Chapter 2, Verse 261 :

“The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing”

On other note, our hotel does not provide halal meal and we normally go out as early as 7 am in the morning and travel far during the day. Hence got no time to go for breakfast at a restaurant and there won’t be any halal lunch for us at the place that we will be travelling too. Therefore during dinner time, we normally buy extra food for a big breakfast and for snacking during the day. Make sure you eat enough carbohydrate during breakfast to give you sufficient energy to walk the whole day long. We have tried eating protein and veggies for breakfast and then we didn’t have enough energy to last until dinner time. Some time we bought milk and fruits from the local groceries stores. 

Based on our observation, most of the time the Beijingers only eat dishes for dinner. We were the only one who asked for a bowl of white rice, also known as báifàn (白饭) or mǐfàn (米饭). 

Let us know your experience when visiting Niujie Street. If there’s any latest update or changes so we can update it here. 

Date of Visit: 7 May 2017

References

  1. Timeout Beijing, A beginner’s guide to Beijing’s Niujie area [online]. Retrieved 16 February 2020 
  2. Chinese Culture Tour, Niu Jie Street  [online]. Retrieved 16 February 2020
  3. Travel China Guide, Niujie Mosque,  [online]. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  4. Wikipedia, Niujie Mosque, [online]. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  5. Beijing Tourism, Lamb Spine Hot Pot, Beijingers’ Favorite in Winter (1) [Online]. Retrieved 17 February 2020. 
  6.  
  7. Baidu Map
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