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Niu Jie - Ox Street - The Muslim Quarter

Ox Street Beijing - Niu Jie
Ox Street – halal meat, kufi and great kebabs

by Luke Hambleton

Visitors with more time in Beijing may wish to explore some of the less frequented tourist spots. One of the most interesting and yet least visited of these places is Niu jie (Ox street) the focal point of Beijing’s venerable and long standing Muslim community.

One of the oldest and best integrated of all of Beijing’s ethnic and religious minorities, Muslims have been concentrated around the Green Mosque at Ox Street (Niu Jie) since the 10th century. The mosque is one of 12 that were recorded in the 18th century.

Keen to be viewed as the rightful rulers of a multi-cultural empire, two of the greatest Qing emperors, Yongzheng and Qianlong, both conferred friendship on China’s Muslims.

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They even built a school of Islamic studies inside the Imperial City so that the imperial household could better understand the strange foreign customs of their Muslim subjects.

Muslims marked themselves out from the Chinese inhabitants of Beijing by their strict prayer habits, dress code and Arabic script on shop signs. As Muslims do not eat pork, (a staple meat among the Chinese), many set up businesses as Halal butchers and restaurateurs.

A visit to Ox street (Niu Jie) today is a vivid reminder of Beijing’s flourishing Muslim community. The restaurants with Arabic signage are still to be found in great numbers selling specialities such as yangrou chuar (lamb kebabs), rou jiamo (meat in a bun), shala (lit. salad) and other dishes of a distinctly Central Asian flavour.

The Beijing equivalent of popping out for a curry, these Muslim eateries are popular with non-Muslims alike, and can be found all over the city, some more authentic than others. However, to guarantee that you get the real thing, try one of the many around Niu jie.

Getting to Ox Street

To get to Niu Jie go to Chanchun Lu subway and exit onto Changchun Jie. Walk south for 10-15 mins down Changchun jie which until you get to the top of Niu Jie, which runs south from here.

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