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The Chinese Orthodox Church is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church in Chinamarker, which, prior to the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1966, was estimated to have as many as twenty thousand members. It was granted autonomy by its mother church, the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid 1950s. Nowadays, Orthodox Christianity is practiced primarily by the ethnic Russian minority in China.

Medieval period

An early medieval mission of the Assyrian Church of the East brought Christianity to China but it was suppressed in the 9th century. The Christianity of that period is commemorated by the Nestorian Stele and Daqin Pagoda of Xi'anmarker. Assyrian Christianity was again introduced during the Yuan Dynastymarker but declined rapidly with the coming of the Ming Dynastymarker.

Russian Mission

Eastern Orthodoxy arrived in Chinamarker via Siberiamarker in 1685. In that year, the Kangxi Emperor resettled 31 inhabitants from the captured fort of Albazinmarker on the Amur Rivermarker. Maxim Leontiev, the priest who led the 30 others, dedicated the first Eastern Orthodox church in Beijing. Their descendants, or Albazinians, though thoroughly Sinicized in other respects, still adhere to Eastern Orthodoxy.

The first mission establishment was begun in 1715 at Beijing by an Orthodox Archimandrite, Hilarion. This mission is first recorded in the Russo-Chinese Treaty of Kyakhta (1727). Under Sava Vladislavich's pressure, the Chinese conceded to the Russians the right to build an Orthodox chapel at the ambassadorial quarters of Beijing. The intention of the mission was not to evangelize among the Chinese but merely to serve as chaplains to the original mission and, later, to the Russian diplomatic mission staff as well.

In the first 150 years of its presence in China, the church did not attract a large following. In 1860 there it was estimated that there were no more than 200 Orthodox Christians in Beijing, including the descendants of naturalized Russians. There was, however, a resurgence in membership after 1860. The mission published four volumes of research in Chinese studies in the 1850s and 60s. Two clerics became well-known for scholarship in the subject, Father Iakinf Bichurin, and the Archimandrite Palladius Kafarov, who also compiled a "very valuable" dictionary. During the Boxer Rebellion, the mission suffered greatly, including the destruction of its library.

Leaders of the Russian Mission



The Boxer Rebellion and the Cultural Revolution

The Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900 saw violent attacks on Chinese converts to Christianity. Some Orthodox Chinese were among those killed, and in June every year the 222 Chinese Orthodox, including Father Mitrophan, who died in 1900 are commemorated as remembered on the icon of the Holy Martyrs of China. The mission's library at Beijing was also burned down. In spite of the uprising, by 1902 there were 32 Orthodox churches in China with close to 6,000 adherents. The church also ran schools and orphanages.

106 Orthodox churches were opened in China by 1949. In general the parishioners of these churches were Russian refugees, and the Chinese part was composed of about 10,000 people. The Cultural Revolution obliterated or nearly obliterated the Chinese Orthodox Church. Many churches where destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (St Nicholas' Orthodox church in Harbin, for example).

Today

Although the People's Republic of Chinamarker extends official recognition to some religious communities (Protestantism, Islam, Taoism and Buddhism), Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism are not among them (though with the latter, the Chinese government had formed a "Patriotic Catholic Church" or "Patriotic Catholic Association" which is not in communion with Rome). The officially declared reason for the government's non-recognition of the Orthodox Church is the government's fear that external political forces from outside nations—in this case, primarily Russiamarker—could achieve influence within China. This places Orthodoxy at the legal status of religio illicita.

Several Orthodox congregations continue to meet in Beijing, in northeast China (in Heilongjiangmarker and elsewhere) and in western China (Xinjiang - Urumqi and Ghulja) with, apparently, the tacit consent of the government. There are also Orthodox parishes in Shanghai, Province of Guangdong, Hong Kongmarker and Taiwanmarker. As of 2005 there were only five priests; however, a number of Chinese nationals are currently studying in Orthodox seminaries in Russia with the intention of returning to China to serve as priests.

Two former Orthodox churches in Shanghai are currently in a process of being returned to the church but no activities are currently held inside them.

Meanwhile, as from the early 21st century, Orthodoxy operates relatively freely in Hong Kongmarker (where the Ecumenical Patriarch has sent a metropolitan. Bishop Nikitas and the Russian Orthodox parish of Saint Peter and Saint Paul resumed its operation) and Taiwanmarker (where archimandrite Jonah George Mourtos leads a mission church).

Orthodox Evenkis

Although many of them have adopted Lamaism — which is the mainstream form of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism — the Evenks of both the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are a nominally Orthodox Christian people. Along with their Evenks cousins and a few other tribes in Siberia or in China, they are some of the only Asiatic peoples who nominally practice Orthodox Christianity, which they had voluntarily (as opposed to being coerced to do so) adopted during contacts from Russian expansion into Siberia. There are also around 3,000 Evenks in neighbouring Heilongjiangmarker Province.

Further reading



References



External links

  • http://www.orthodox.cn/
  • http://www.theology.cn/
  • http://www.etheology.cn/
  • http://www.chinese.orthodoxy.ru/main.htm
  • http://www.saintjonah.org/services/chinese.htm
  • http://www.usbaltic.org/Goble/Goble42.htm
  • http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MayerChina.shtml
  • http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20041027-035919-6014r.htm
  • http://www.cs.ust.hk/faculty/dimitris/metro/orth_china.html
  • http://www.orthodox-christian-comment.co.uk/news-orthodoxy_in_china.htm
  • http://aggreen.net/autocephaly/russia.html
  • http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/bookrev_woerl.aspx
  • http://www.orthodoxnews.netfirms.com/134/Beijing.htm
  • http://www.stvladimiraami.org/clergyupdate.asp
  • http://prologue.orthodox.cn/
  • http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/christ/east/occhi.html
  • http://www.cs.ust.hk/faculty/dimitris/metro/hkmetropolis.html
  • Recent article on Russians & Russian culture in China
  • Orthodoxy in China



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