Chinese Orthodox Church
The Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church (Chinese: 中华东正教会; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Dōngzhèngjiàohuì) is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church in China. It was granted autonomy by its mother church, the Russian Orthodox Church in 1956.
Christianity is believed to have been founded in China by the apostle Thomas around the year 68 AD. There is also evidence to suggest the missionary of a few Church of the East Aramean Christians during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD). Some Christians attribute Isaiah 49:12 to be a prophecy of the foundation of Christianity in China. After the East-West Schism, the church in China was divided into two groups, Roman Catholicism and Chinese Orthodoxy, both present in significant amounts.
Nestorian Christianity (not to be confused with Chinese Orthodoxy) was introduced to China in the 7th century by an Aramean Nestorian missionary, but was suppressed in the 9th century. The Nestorian Christianity of that period is commemorated by the Nestorian Stele and Daqin Pagoda of Xi'an. Christianity was again introduced in the 13th century via the Mongol Empire during the Yuan Dynasty but declined rapidly with the coming of the native Chinese Ming Dynasty in the 14th century.
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 government conceded to the Russians the right to build an Orthodox chapel at the ambassadorial quarters of Beijing. The mission published four volumes of research in Chinese studies in the 1850s and 1960s. 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
- Father Maxim Leontieff, 1685-1712.
- Archimandrite Hilarion (Lezhaysky), 1715—1728.
- Archimandrite Anthony (Platkovsky), 1729—1735.
- Archimandrite Hilarion (Trusov), 1736—1743.
- Archimandrite Gervasius (Lentsovsky), 1744—1755
- Archimandrite Ambrose (Yumatoff), 1755-1771.
- Archimandrite Nicholas (Tsvet), 1771—1781
- Archimandrite Joachim (Shishkovskу), 1781—1794
- Archimandrite Sophronius (Gribovsky), 1794—1807
- Archimandrite Hyacinth (Bichurin), 1806-1821.
- Archimandrite Peter (Kamensky), 1821-1830.
- Archimandrite Benjamin (Morachevich), 1830—1840
- Archimandrite Polycarp (Tougarinoff), 1840-1849.
- Archimandrite Palladius (Kafarov), 1849–1859 and 1864-1878.
- Archimandrite Gurias (Karpoff), 1858-1864.
- Archimandrite Flavian (Gorodetsky), 1878-1884.
- Archimandrite Amphilochius (Loutovinoff), 1883-1896.
- Metropolitan Innocent (Figourovsky). Archimandrite 1897-1901, Bishop of Beijing 1902-1921, Archbishop of Beijing and All-China 1922-1928, Metropolitan 1928-1931.
- Archbishop Simon (Vinogradov), 1928-1933.
- Archbishop Victor (Svjatin), 1933—1956
Boxer Rebellion and the Cultural Revolution
The Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900 targeted foreign missionaries and Chinese converts to Christianity. Orthodox Chinese were among those killed. The rebels also burned the mission's library at Beijing. The Orthodox liturgical calendar for June 24 remembers 222 Chinese Orthodox Christians, including Father Mitrophan, who were slaughtered in 1900, as the Holy Martyrs of China. 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. Parishioners included Russian refugees and approximately 10,000 Chinese converts. Many churches were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (St Nicholas' Orthodox church in Harbin, for example).
Although the People's Republic of China 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 Russia—could achieve influence within China.
At present, there are only two communities in Mainland China with regular weekly services and resident clergy. The Beijing community meets at the restored Church of the Dormition in the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Dongzhimen, and the Shanghai community at the Russian Consulate. Elsewhere, priestless congregations continue to meet in Northeast China (in Heilongjiang and elsewhere) and in Western China (Xinjiang - Ürümqi and Ghulja) with, apparently, the tacit consent of the government. There are also Orthodox parishes in Shanghai, Province of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
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.
The Orthodox Church operates relatively freely in Hong Kong, where there are two parishes: St Luke's Greek Orthodox Cathedral (under the Ecumenical Patriarchate) and the Russian Orthodox parish of Saints Peter and Paul under the Moscow Patriarchate. There is also a presence in Taiwan (where Archimandrite Jonah George Mourtos leads a mission church).
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. There are also around 3,000 Evenks in neighbouring Heilongjiang Province.
- Christianity in China
- Protestantism in China
- Catholicism in China
- Albazin Cossacks
- Harbin Russians
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in China
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- Recent article on Russians & Russian culture in China
- Orthodoxy in China
- Article on Chinese Orthodox Church on the CNEWA website