One of the least known pages of the history of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China is the insurrection of the Yihetuan. The year 1900 was a turning point in the historical fate of China — it became a borderline also for the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission. This year is known as the time of the most brutal attacks of the Yihetuan — in essence a religious movement, which in Europe, thanks to an unfortunate English translation, became known as the "Boxer Rebellion". It was directed against foreigners, whose influence in the life of the Chinese empire in many respects grew stronger with the penetration of Western missionaries. The ideology of the insurrection was anti-Christian. The son of the first Chinese Hieromartyr Mitrophan Jichong, killed by the Yihetuan. Archpriest Sergei Chang, who was miraculously saved, later wrote about the Yihetuan: This was an association with a common organization (a common table) which lured the people with its teaching about supernatural powers with the aims of the elevation of China and the destruction of the foreigners. The foreigners were called devils, baptized Chinese were called their offspring and non-baptized Chinese who had contact with foreigners were called secondary devils; they looked on the Boxers as a heavenly army.
The Yihetuan erected their temples everywhere and performed sacrifices. Until the spring of 1900 the official powers of China protected the foreign missions, but by summer, the Empress Dowager Cixi had ordered the army to support the rebels in the capital. Bureaucrats, suspected of ties with foreigners, were punished. Foreigners from the provinces fled to Beijing, and sought salvation in the Legation Quarter in the Southern part of the city. When the rebellion had seized the capital, the head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, Archimandrite Innokenty (Figurovsky) and his co-workers, left Beiguan and moved to the Russian Legation. With them they took only the ancient icon of St. Nicholas of Myra, brought from Albazin by Fr. Maksim Leontev 1685, and some valuable church utensils.
The Chinese government sent ten guards to protect the Mission, but by June 11th the Mission had been burned to the ground. The library, archive and sacristy were destroyed. The Yihetuan tortured to death 222 Chinese Orthodox. They became the first Chinese Martyr-Saints. Among them was a hieromartyr, the first Chinese priest, ordained in Japan by St. Nicholas, Enlightener of Japan. In response to the petition of the Head of the Mission, the commemoration of the New-Martyrs was authorized by a decree of the Holy Synod, №2874 of April 22, 1902.
Their relics were interred in the burial vault of the church dedicated to their memory. Many of the relics were found incorrupt. The accompanying description of the destruction of Beiguan is taken from the article Materials for the Acts of the Chinese Martyrs, which forms a part of a report by Archpriest Sergey Chang, a witness to these troubling days. In the middle of May the Boxers burned the Orthodox Church and school in Dongding'an before the eyes of Fr. Sergey, who succeeded in escaping and reaching Beijing. Arriving at Beiguan on May 26th, Fr. Sergey reported these events to the Head of the Mission.
"After listening attentively, Fr. Archimandrite at once sent a letter about these events to the Southern dependency (Nanguan) addressed to the Russian Minister. The next day the Minster himself came to Beiguan (to the Northern dependency) to convince all the Russian missionaries to move to the legation quarter under the protection of the landing force. The Minister considered it his duty to insist on not subjecting the lives of the missionaries to risk. Concerning the property, the Chinese government guaranteed its safety and so, preparing to leave, the missionaries only checked everything according to the inventory, but did not take anything with them other than the ancient icon of St. Nicholas.
At six o'clock in the evening the head of the Mission, Archimandrite Innokenty, Hieromonk Abraham and Deacon Basil Skrizhalin drove off to the Legation Quarter, to the Church of the Meeting of the Lord. After this our Christians living around the Mission gradually began to depart. Some moved to relatives in the Southern city, others to different apartments. Rumors began to circulate that the Mission would be burned today or tomorrow.
During these days, from the 13th to the 27th of May, rumors about the Boxers became closer and closer. In the streets a great sense of excitement was noticeable, groups of newly arrived strangers and poor people appeared. Boxers with red bands on their arms and legs began to appear boldly on the streets; they passed by in crowds, in military formation. Some tried to steal into the Legation quarter on a cart. One was detained in the German Legation. In the evening of May 17th or by the Russian count, the 31st, the arson of the Mission buildings began. Beginning from the Southern city throughout Beijing and beyond the city, the rebels set fire to not only the dwellings of the Europeans, but also the areas where Chinese Christians lived. The entire region of the valley where Beijing is located, was illuminated by the glow of the fires. Horror reigned everywhere, cries and groans were heard.
The same night hundreds of Boxers accompanied by crowds from the village, as well as the poor approached Beiguan. The leaders, that is the real Boxers according to their level of [Boxer] knowledge or rather according to their ability to fall into ecstasies, were divided into their classes. According to popular superstition, which was shared in China by everyone from the sovereign and grand princes to the common people, Boxers of the three highest degrees were invulnerable to the sword and gun. They did not need to use fire to burn buildings — all that was necessary was for someone to point at the building and it would catch fire itself. They called on everyone to shout "sha" — "kill" (that is, Christians) and at the time it seemed there was not one person who could not cry "sha".
At nine o'clock in the morning there was a report from the Southern city that the Boxers would soon be there. I sent this information to the Christian homes. When they heard this many Christians returned to their own home, but others on the contrary, left their homes. Fear caused people to gather together. More than thirty people followed me, and we went passed the Northeast corner of the city wall to the South. Soon we saw many people moving towards the dependency from the South holding lanterns and torches in their hand. Before the arrival of the Boxers, the Chinese soldier-guards walked around the Mission, firing their guns, but then went to pillage the dependency, together with the people who had come there. After which the smoke and flame of a fire was visible. Neighbors said that there were not more than twenty people present at the burning of the church. We reached Dongzhimen Street, and the soldiers on guard comforted us by saying that they regretted the destruction of the Christians, that the Christians came here, to Beijing, not according to their own will but that they were taken into captivity at the beginning of the Manchu dynasty. From eight to eleven o'clock at night we heard shouts, calling for the murder of Christians. By twelve o'clock everything had quieted down and we returned to our homes near the dependency. The fire from the site of the arson still rose high [in the sky] and an especially high column of flame stood over the church, as if the church was surrounded by a glow. We were horrified at seeing this and prayed, thinking that God had permitted the burning of the church because of our sins. We stayed together and only went to our own rooms when it started to get light." However, the main day for the martyrdom of the Orthodox Chinese became June 11, 1900. Here is the testimony of the Head of the Mission to their martyrdom:
"Already the day before, proclamations were posted on every street calling the pagans to murder the Christians and threatening death to everyone who tried to hide them. On the night of 11-12th of June, Boxers with burning torches appeared in all parts of Beijing, attacking Christian dwellings, seizing innocent Christians and torturing them, trying to force them to renounce Christ. Many, in terror, before torture and death renounced Orthodoxy in order to save their lives and offered incense before idols. But others, not fearing torture, courageously confessed Christ. Their fate was horrible. Their stomachs were ripped open, their heads were cut off and they were burned to death in their homes. The search for Christians and their destruction continued throughout the following days of the rebellion. After the burning of their homes, the Christians themselves were led beyond the city gates to the pagan temples of the Boxers where they were subjected to interrogation and incineration on bon fires. According to testimony of the pagan eyewitnesses themselves, some of the Orthodox Chinese met death with amazing selflessness. The Orthodox catechist died a martyr's death with a prayer on his lips. The school teacher Iya Wen suffered twice. The first time the Boxers hacked her up, then threw dirt over her leaving her half alive. When she recovered consciousness her groans were heard by a watchman, a pagan, who brought her to his own watchman's hut. After some time the Boxers seized her again and this time tortured her to death. Both time Iya Wen joyfully confessed Christ before her torturers.
Among those who suffered for Christ were Albazins, descendants of those famous Albazins who brought the Orthodox faith to the capital of China (Beijing) in 1685. Many Christians hiding from danger gathered together at the home of Fr. Mitrophan. Among those who gathered were former adversaries of Fr. Mitrophan, but he did not drive them away. Seeing that some were losing heart, he strengthened them saying that a time of calamity had come which would be hard to escape. He himself went several times a day to look at the church which had been burned down. During the evening of the 10th of June around ten o'clock, soldiers and Boxers surrounded the home of Fr. Mitrophan. At this time there were about seventy Christians there, but the stronger ones had fled. Fr. Mitrophan and many others, primarily women and children remained and were tortured. Fr. Mitrophan sat outside his home. The Boxers stabbed him in his chest, and he fell before a date tree. His neighbors dragged his body to the place where the alms house of the Mission was. Later, Hieromonk Abraham collected the body of Fr. Mitrophan and in 1903 when the feast in honor of the Martyrs was first celebrated; it was placed under the altar in the Church of the Martyrs with the other bodies. Fr. Mitrophan's family included his wife Tatiana, surnamed Li, and three sons: the eldest Isaiah, the second Sergei, [he is now an Archpriest] and the third Ivan. In the evening of the 10th of June, Tatiana was saved from the Boxers with the help of the wife of her son John, but the next day, the 11th, she, together wit the others 19 in all was executed through decapitation. Isaiah, 23 years old served in the artillery and on June 11th, the Boxers executed him by decapitation on the large street near the Pingzemen Gate since it was known earlier that he was a Christian. When Maria, Isaiah's finance, came to Fr. Mitrophan's home three days before the massacre saying that she wanted to die with her fiancÚ's family, Sergei, Fr. Mitrophan's son three times tried to convince her to hide, but she replied "I was born near the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos, and I will die here" and she remained in the place where the church was. Soon soldiers and Boxers came there and she died a martyr, considering her death to be a departure to eternal rest. At that time Ivan was eight years old. On the evening of June 10th when his father was killed the Boxers split his shoulder apart and cut off his toes, his nose and an ear was severed. His brother Isaiah's fiancÚ managed to save him from death and hid him in the latrines. When he was asked if he was in pain he replied that it was not painful to suffer for Christ. Boys mocked him and when Ivan asked his neighbors for water, not only would they not give him any, but they drove him away.
Protasy Chang and Herodion Xu, not yet baptized at this time, testified that they saw Ivan, wounded in his shoulders and feet, these wounds were almost two inches deep but he felt no pain, and when he was seized by the Boxers again, showed no fear and went with them peacefully. One old man expressed sympathy for him saying "How is it the boy is guilty; it's his parents fault that they became followers of the devil." Others made him a laughing stock and reviled him or simply grinned at him with contempt. Thus he was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
In the 8th issue of the "Bulletin of the Brotherhood of the Orthodox Church in China" from June 1, 1905 we find deeply moving and inspiring lives dedicated to the Orthodox victims of the ill-fated Boxer Rebellion in China under the title "Praise to those who were killed".
"Radiant in the beginning of eternal joy receive from us the unworthy a wreath of praise plaited from the memories of your holy lives and glorious death."
But this list is only a small part of the number of Orthodox Chinese who suffered in 1900. The Head of the Beijing Ecclesiastical Mission presented to the Holy Synod on October 11, 1901 a list of the names of 222 Orthodox Chinese killed for their faith and together with this petition to do the following in memory of the Chinese martyrs for the faith:
Having discussed the proposal and not seeing any objection to satisfying the request of the head of the Beijing Ecclesiastical Mission, the Holy Synod, by Ukaze №2874 of 1902 has decided to give our blessing to carrying out of the proposals of Archimandrite Innokenty in regard to the commemoration of the Orthodox Chinese who suffered as martyrs for the faith during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, to erect in Beijing a church in honor of all Holy Martyrs of the Orthodox Church, with the crypt for burying the bones of the murdered Orthodox Chinese and to designate June 10th and 11th for their commemoration with the order of service mentioned above, with (if local circumstances permit) a procession to the sites where the Orthodox Chinese were killed, or around the church.
These events are described by Archimandrite Abraham in his brochure The Orthodox Chinese Mission published in Moscow in 1903.
"The day before, June 10th beginning around noon, there was a small procession with the singing of the irmosi of the funeral canon. The remains of the martyred Christians were transferred from their temporary resting place to the crypt under the church of the All Holy Martyrs. This was preceded by several days work for opening the graves and removing the precious remains from the earth and the well. The blessed hands which were able to touch the remains put together the dismembered limbs, laid out the bones and wrapped them in silk clothe and oil cloth. Four corpses were so well preserved that they were recognized as those of the choir director Innocent and members of his household. By six o'clock in the evening the remains were transferred to the crypt and placed on an oblong table. When Bishop Innokenty arrived, the singing of a parastas (vigil for the departed) alternately in Slavonic and Chinese, began. All the members of the mission present participated in the services in two choirs the Russian brotherhood and the Chinese with child students.
The crypt could not hold all the worshippers, so many stood outside. In the list of names each one recognized the name of a father, mother or brother. It was touching to pray in this place, where people had gathered for prayer for centuries, to remember one's acquaintances, family names and to hear Chinese singing, then Russians. For the litany the young deacon Sergei Ji came out, a Chinese who among the murdered has lost his father (an Orthodox priest), his mother and his brother. Tears were visible on many people's eyes.
After the service in the crypt began the reading of the Psalter by Russians and Chinese, the brotherhood of the monastery which continued without pause until morning. In the quiet of the night the rhythmical drawn out reading of the words of the Psalmist were heard. "For thou has delivered my soul from death" (Ps 56:13) indeed, this quiet night is a symbol of the rest of the grave after which comes the general Resurrection.
In the morning of the 10th, a memorial Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Innokenty and at three o'clock in the crypt of the Church of All Martyrs Little Vespers was served and at seven o'clock the festal all-night Vigil began in the Dormition refectory church, according to the monastic order with a litiya, Old testament readings, and a magnification to the Holy Martyrs. During the Vigil the entire exterior of the refectory church, the bishop's house, the crypt, all the alleys, of the garden and the shores of the lake shone with the flames of Paschal illumination. Whoever succeeded in entering the Mission compound and seeing all this will long remember these moments. Three years ago in this very place one heard the roar of a crowd of thousands and the whole area was lit by the flames of fire. The hearts of all contracted at the horror of death, it was truly St. Bartholomew's night. It is interesting that the massacre of Christians in 1900 occurred on the night of June 11th, which the church dedicates to the memory of Saints Bartholomew and Barnabas. Now indeed, the crowd strives to get closer to our feast. And those who are the cause of this feast? How close they are to us. Their souls rejoice within us in heaven, and their bodies lie peacefully decorated with flowers and the crypt is decorated with greenery and lanterns: the reading of the Psalter continued through the whole night but the event reminds us of the Paschal service; the dead will rise and those in the tombs will stand.
In the morning a prayer services for the sanctification of water was served in the crypt, and in the cross church took place the preparations for the baptism of sixteen Chinese who had received the names of the main Chinese martyrs: Paul, Innocent, Peter, Barbara, Matrona, John, Antonina and others. All of the newly baptized partook of the Holy Gifts at the Liturgy at which the 70 year old elder Innocent, a Manchurian by descent, spoke in Chinese on the text "do not fear, little flock". At the end of the Liturgy a procession, with the singing of "By the Waves of the Sea" took place. Preceded to the crypt of the All Holy Martyrs by the banners and icons, the cross, the Holy Gospel and part of the relics of Saint Innocent, Wonderworker of Irkutsk went first in procession. The procession stopped at the entrance to the crypt, the tolling of the bells grew quiet, and our Most Holy Master entered the crypt and triumphantly read the prayer of absolution over the bodies of those interred, the graves were blessed with holy water and to the singing of "Do not lament me, O Mother" the bodies of the martyrs were lowered into the marble tombs with the singing of "Memory Eternal" to all who had suffered for the faith. From the crypt the procession moved to the places where the Christians were tortured: here a Litiya was served. Then the procession went beyond the Mission compound, along the streets of Beijing to the Andingmen Gate, beyond which, at a distance of 426 meters, is the place of the torture of a few Christian families, surrounded by a brick wall in the shape of a triangle, at a major crossroads. At the graves a Litiya was sung and the procession moved further along the Kalgan Road of the missionaries, by whom the cemetery, barbarically desecrated by the Boxers, was restored to its earlier dignity and honor. At two o'clock in the afternoon the procession returned and reached the Refectory Dormition Church where not far from the crypt, in the place of the previous quarters of the head of the Mission, a tent of three sections made of Chinese mats was set up, where a memorial meal was offered during which "Memory Eternal" was sung in memory of the new martyrs worthy of the first ages of Christianity."
After the rebellion of the Yihetuan, the Chinese were certain that once and for all they had put an end to foreign influence in the country and so celebrated their victory, but after the passage of a little time, foreigners returned to China as conquerors and the whole political and economic life of the state was subjected to their control and influence. The European natives received the right of extraterritoriality and richer concessions.
The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission did not exploit China's difficult position and flourished over the course of seventeen years after the rebellion of the Yihetuan due only to the activity of the head of the Mission, The Right Reverend Innokenty, Bishop of Pereyaslav. It is to him only that the rebirth and flourishing of missionary activity that the Mission is indebted.
Innokenty (Figurovsky) was appointed head of the 18th Mission in 1897 with the rank of Archimandrite. Before setting out for Beijing Archimandrite Innokenty journeyed through Europe to acquaint himself with missionary activity and upon his arrival in China carried out a whole series of reforms, directed towards the betterment of the material position of the Mission and towards giving the activities of the Mission a more missionary character. A special concern of the new head of the Mission was preaching Orthodoxy in the interior regions of China. The Mission consciously set the goal for itself of spreading Christianity in China and in practice strove to achieve its apostolic calling. Schools of Russian and Church Slavonic for Chinese were opened, a typography, an alms house and a church named for the Transfiguration of the Lord was opened in Beitaihei. The Mission had five churches: the Dormition Church in Beiguan; the Church of the Meeting at the diplomatic Mission; a church in the name of St. Innocent of Irkutsk, (after rebuilding it was consecrated in the name of St. John the Theologian) in Dongding'an; the Alexander Nevsky church in Hankou; Holy Trinity Church in Kalgan. There was a 458 person Chinese flock, primarily in Beijing. In addition to this, a prayer house was built at the Russian cemetery in Beijing in 1897 and in October 1898 a small stone prayer house was built in Jinshangzu, on the banks of Pichili Bay (Beizhili, today's Bohai). Also under the Mission jurisdiction was the consular church in Urga (Mongolia) built in the 60s of the 19th century.
After the tragic events of the summer of 1900 the question was raised in Petersburg about moving the Mission to Port Arthur or even closing it altogether. It was proposed to send the head of the Mission to direct the Urmyskoi Mission. The idea of closing the Mission in China was promoted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the officials of which were often complete unbelievers, who thought that in China the Mission was only a source of hostility and unrest for the accomplishment of Russian policy in the Far East. All the same, they forgot that in Mission in the course of 150 years had fulfilled diplomatic functions and was able to keep Russian-Chinese relations friendly.
After the Boxer uprising at the order of the Imperial ambassador, the members of the Mission were removed from Beijing to Tianjin. In the meantime the question of the fate of the Mission was being decided in Petersburg. One of the telegrams received ordered the Mission to move to Siberia or Port Arthur. This however, was impossible. Under the care of the members of the Mission then were seventy Chinese Christians without any means of existence. It was decided to base the Mission in a neutral zone. The most suitable was Shanghai.
In October 1900 the head of the Mission went to Shanghai with Chinese orphan boys. After much searching they managed to obtain a piece of land, on which the first Orthodox Church was later built. Together with the land a two storey brick building for a school was also purchased. After this Archimandrite Innokenty went to the Russian capital where he was able to defend the Mission and collect donations for it.
By Ukaze №1348 of March 26, 1901, it was decided to have a bishop as the head of the Ecclesiastical Mission in China. On the Day of the Holy Spirit, June 3, 1902 in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra Archimandrite Innokenty was ordained bishop of Pereyaslav in honor of St. Innocent of Irkutsk. In the gramota given to Bishop Innokenty he was ordered to care for the Orthodox of China, Mongolia and Tibet.
In October 1901 the Chinese government in compensation for the damage brought about by the rebellion, assigned to the Mission a piece of land measuring 34 acres from the estate Siyefu, the palace of a prince of the fourth Qing dynasty, and with several private pieces of land in Beiguan. The private pieces of land were redeemed; for the palace 5,000 silver lan were given to the heirs and above that eight square yards of land in the Southern city, and 80 more of arable land in the district of Shun-yi-xian (belonging to the Mission since 1733 according to the testimony of priest Larion). The former palace of Prince Siyefu was turned into a church named after the heavenly protector of China — St. Innocent of Irkutsk, and the right side of the palace were constructed rooms for the head of the Mission. Beiguan was encircled with a stone wall.
Also in 1901, thirty six homes with farms were built around Beiguan with money from donations.
In Tianjin a dependency of the Mission with a domestic church was built in a rented half-ruined building. (This is where the Mission moved, in accordance with an imperial order, after the capture of Beijing by the Europeans.) Another part of the Mission was established in Beidahe. Upon his return from Petersburg, Bishop Innokenty erected a row of buildings in Beijing, above the Church of the All Holy Martyrs over the common grave of the massacred Orthodox Chinese, on the seat of the former Dormition Church, destroyed by the Boxers. The Dormition Cathedral, with a magnificent bell tower, 425 meters high, in the Russian style of the 17th century, with seven bells and a building for the brotherhood was built with donations from Russia. In addition the school and a typography, which during the course of its existence published 100,000 books, including 20,000 copies of the New Testament, were rebuilt. There were also a steam-powered mill, an iconography workshop and electric power station, a dairy far, apiary, candle factory and much more. The Mission was enriched with several plots of land, and its staff rose to 34. On the territory of the Mission was the first class Dormition monastery. Soon after its opening the monastery followed its own course. The brotherhood (in 1903) consisted of four hieromonks, two hierodeacons, twenty novices and one priest. In addition to duties in church during the daily services in the bishop's church and study of the Chinese language, the brotherhood took part in the building of Beiguan and the management of the Mission. The community of women with a school for girls, established in 1902, was directed by the Nun Eupraksiya.
The imperial representatives in Beijing did not sympathize with the reforms and slowed down the work. The civil authorities often dealt with the head of the Mission with hostility, but did not hinder its growth. Many Russian families in China were strangers not only to Orthodoxy, but to everything Russian. Often children were not baptized and homeowners did not want anything to do with priests and even refused to receive even bishops who came to visit their homes. The diplomats in the circle of the Russian ambassador were often hostile to the person of Bishop Innokenty, "being convinced that the bishop would hold himself independently from the civil authorities." Meanwhile, missionary work continued. The constantly growing need of Russians and Orthodox Chinese for spiritual comfort served as the basis of sending members of the brotherhood to various places outside of Beijing. Already in 1901 a piece of land with a small house in the north part of the American concession, in Zhabei was obtained in Shanghai with Mission funds. In the beginning of November 1902 by the time of Bishop Innokenty's trip to Shanghai, five Chinese were ready to accept Orthodoxy and on November 16, 1902, Bishop Innokenty celebrated the first baptism. On November 17th, a service for the blessing of water was held and the room in which the table of oblation and the altar were situated was sprinkled with holy water and the first Divine Liturgy was served. On February 13, 1903 Bishop Innocent laid the first stone in the foundation of the future church in honor of the Theophany of the Lord. This church was the Mission's dependency church in Shanghai. The consecration of the church took place after the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The head of the Mission performed the consecration. Archimandrite Simon (Vinogradov) was appointed rector of the church. Later he became head of the Mission. In 1908 and in 1909 the rector of the church was Archpriest Paul Figurovsky and after him it was Hieromonk Eustaphius. The latter organized a church choir of Chinese boys, the school for which was located in the building constructed next to the church. A missionary church, Annunciation, was opened in Harbin. Hieromonk Leonty served there.
Missionary journeys in the Beidahe region were undertaken, as a result of which a small church consisting of four families in Tayne was established. In this location another fifty people wanted to study the truths of Orthodoxy. Hieromonk George served in the missionary church at Manchuria station and Hieromonk Simon (Vinogradov) served in Shanghai.
From 1905 to 1913 missionary journeys were undertaken to distant provinces of the country to baptize Chinese. To the seminary belonged the merit for the opening of many missionary stations in the interior regions of China, although it was more comfortable for the missionaries in China to preach to their own countrymen. Knowing about the lack of sufficient resources and considering that the number of catechists and missionaries who wanted to bear the word of Christ was minimal, their labors were truly heroic exploits.
Among those who did so much for the preaching of the Gospel in China, one must mention Father Michael Tang. Guiding the flock in the Yongpingfu region, (where a church was consecrated in honor of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John) he cared for about six hundred Orthodox Chinese in forty inhabited regions. Father Michael Ming heroically ministered like Father Michael Tang. He managed the station in the village of Dongding'an and surrounding villages.
Orthodox missionaries in China traditionally looked with skepticism on the possibility of converting a large number of the population of the Celestial Empire to Orthodoxy. They also learned this from the experience of Catholic preachers. One of the heads of the Mission, Archimandrite Palladius (Kafarov) saw the greatest hindrance to Chinese people accepting Orthodoxy was deeply rooted in Confucianism. In his words, it creates "… A cold, mechanical theory of the cosmos and a materialistic philosophy, and also falls into the crudest superstition."
The preaching of the Gospel was directed to a large degree to the peasants, rather than to the Chinese aristocracy. Bishop Innokenty, secured help in his missionary labors sometimes not at all, and sometimes with great difficulty. His proposal to open mission stations in the main cities of China did not find support in Russian society. The bishop wrote "It is as if no one recognized the great meaning China has for Orthodoxy and that only at increased spread of Orthodoxy in the depths of China can in the future save Russia from a new threat of Mongol invasion."
Russian society did not think of distant China, and the contributions to the Mission were quite meager and could not support the full scope of missionary activity.
Since the Mission did not have sufficient material resources, mission stations were opened in those regions where the population itself could ensure their existence. So for example, the mission school in the Mianyang district existed on the means of the Orthodox merchants, Eugene and Kapiton Chen. The reason for the willingness of the population of Chinese villages to support Orthodox missionaries was the geographical proximity of Russian Orthodox communities. For example, this was the case in Hankou. The community of St. Alexander Nevsky numbered 700 people. Near Hankou, a mission station was established in Fengkou. The mission schools offered the possibility of free education and later the possibility of employment at the Mission. Education was one of the main goals of the Mission. The illiteracy of the population hindered successful preaching. By 1915, 423 students were studying in all the schools of the Mission. The teachers were mostly Chinese.
Sometimes the peasants were dissatisfied by oppression from Catholic or Protestant missionaries, but since they met a totally different attitude from the Orthodox they often asked them to baptize them according to the Orthodox rite. Some wished to receive Russian citizenship. When one considers that the Mission was truly lacking in means and could not help the poor peasants it becomes clear that people did not accept Orthodoxy in remote Chinese villages out of materialistic considerations. Among the Orthodox Chinese there was a minimum of those called "rice Christians".
Protestants often hindered the preaching of Orthodoxy. For example, in 1903 in Yuanjiakou peasants burned an Orthodox church at their instigation and the deacon who was preaching in that region, Sergei Chang, left the mission station.
The greatest difficult on the path of preaching Orthodoxy was the lack of a sufficient number of clergy and missionaries. The religious life of the stations with which they could not maintain regular ties for a long time began to weaken. For example, the mission school in Fengkou opened in 1907 was closed by 1912. The great interest in Orthodoxy which arose among the Chinese at first did not receive sufficient support in time. In a report of a missionary journey in 1907, Archimandrite Simon (Vinogradov) wrote: "During the long absence of a priest some people forgot how to cross themselves… Some, instead of kissing the cross, smelled it."
In 1907 in the province of Zhili 400 people, not waiting for an Orthodoxy priest, received Protestant baptism.
Sometimes Chinese women refused to be baptized, because they were embarrassed by the priest, and in some mission stations even refused to pray together with men during the service.
On the path of preaching the word of Christ there, many Chinese superstitions at times were stubbornly maintained along with Orthodoxy in some newly converted families. Some Chinese Christians for along time could not refuse to venerate Confucius, and kept in their homes images of Taoist and Buddhist saints. Sometimes they burned Buddhist incense before Orthodox icons.
In the province of Harbin, besides Fengkou in 1917 there were seventeen mission stations (in the villages of Dafujie, Luguanmiao, Louzui, Xinkou, Yuanjiakou, Tangjiawan, Zhangtangkou and others). At the Mission station, prayer houses and schools were often opened. Orthodox missionaries gave much attention to the fight against opium smoking. For example, In Kaifeng the catechist Matthew Huang founded a brotherhood for fighting opium smoking. His son, Theodore Huang, taught in the school at the Mission station. In the province of Henan the Mission stations were most often built along the Weihuifu - Beijing rail line. Sometimes Chinese converted to Orthodoxy through a special providence of God. For example, the foundation of an Orthodox school in Ninielingxiang was connected to the miraculous birth of a son to the childless local teacher, Se Yucheng. He was baptized and founded a school. It operated from 1909 to 1912.
In the Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces in Southern China the center of missionary activity in the beginning of the century was Shanghai. The brother of Bishop Innocent, Fr. Paul Figurovsky, labored much in the preaching of the faith in these regions. Schools and stations were opened along the banks of the Yangtze in the area of Taizhou, Hangzhou, Shipu, Ningbo. In 1916 around 1000 Orthodox Chinese lived in the region near Shanghai. In the same year in the Southern provinces, 578 people accepted Orthodoxy.
By 1905 the Mission had the following churches: the Dormition Monastery in Beiguan (at the monastery were the refectory Dormition Church, the bishop's domestic church of St. Innocent, the Church of the all Holy Martyrs and the cemetery church of St. Seraphim, the prayer house at the brick factory, the embassy's Church of the Meeting, the church in Dongding'an village, the Hankou church, the Kalgan church, the church of the Transfiguration in Beidahe, the Tianjin branch of the Mission with the domestic church of the Protection of the Virgin, the Shanghai branch of the Mission with a church and school, the Yongpingfu branch of the Mission with a church and school, the Taiying branch of the Mission, the chapel in Yuanjiakou, the missionary Annunciation church in Harbin, the Innocent missionary church at Manzhouli station.
The Mission also had a representation church in St. Petersburg on Voronezhskol Street. In 1910 a church and skeet dedicated to the Elevation of the Cross was built near Beijing in the Xishan hills on a piece of land of 162 acres, 8 miles from the western wall of Beijing.
In 1913 a representation church of the Mission was built in Moscow on the corner of Pokrovsky and Irinskoi Streets, in a neighborhood where many Chinese lived. It was founded by an Ukaze of the Synod, №1031, of April 1, 1908, and the land and the building were obtained for the representation church in accordance with the ukase of the Synod, №12080 of August 1, 1913. The means for obtaining the land and opening the representation church came partly from the ready cash of the Mission. The former head of the Mission, Metropolitan of Kiev Flavian (Gorodetsky) also contributed means for opening the representation church. The area of the representation church was 2,600 square meters of land, including two palaces with eleven wings, five stores, sixteen apartments and 77 separate rooms. In November 1913 the representation church was consecrated in honor of the Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands. The first rector of the Mission was Hieromonk Dothiseus (Korolev). The singers were Chinese seminarians.
In accordance with the authorization №4004 for building a temporary church, given by Makarius, Metropolitan of Moscow, June 31, 1913, construction began on the church. It was consecrated October 18, 1914 and the antimension was given with the blessing of Metropolitan Makarius (resolution 4008 of Oct 11, 1911) to a member of the Beijing mission, Archimandrite Abraham (Chasovnikov). The latter worked hard in Moscow to prepare missionaries for work in China. Convinced that Russia would certainly be subject to an influx of Chinese, he pointed to the necessity of missionaries to work amid the Chinese living in Moscow. Archimandrite Abraham worked hard to interest society in the capital in the fate of the Beijing mission and in particular its Moscow representation church. With the blessing of Bishop Innokenty Figurovsky a "Chinese Brotherhood" was founded in Moscow. It was a missionary society, called together to help the spread of Orthodoxy in China. The Holy Hierarch, Patriarch Yermogenes was chosen as its heavenly patron. By 1915 a small church dedicated to the Nativity of John the Forerunner was erected on the property of the representation church.
The Representation church had an income of 10,000 rubles, but more importantly, it served as a place of probationary work for Chinese seminarians from the Beijing mission.
By 1909, on the staff of the Mission were 39, among them there were Chinese, 3 priests, 2 deacons, 6 monks, 1 novice. Under the supervision of the Mission (in addition to those named above) were 141 mission stations, 1 church in Dalian, 1 church in Port Arthur, 2 chapels, 5 cemeteries, 15 schools. In 1909 three mission stations were opened, 733 Chinese were baptized (the total by the end of 1909 was 1304 Orthodox Chinese). Services were celebrated in the Chinese language.
Prior to the beginning of 1907 all the churches in the Russian zone of the Chinese Eastern Railway were under the authority of the head of the Mission. These churches were built in very special circumstances, as in Harbin, so on its periphery, the Russian zone and outside it, Russian influence was felt with the beginning of construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1887 when many Russians came to Manchuria. In the Russian zone of the Railway villages and cities - Harbin, Dalian, Port Arthur - were built. Churches were built and cemeteries laid down. The special conditions and circumstances in Northeast China were reflected in the building of churches. The parishioners were mostly emigrants from Russia, and in the churches, although subject to the head of the Mission prior to 1907, these were not Mission churches, but parish churches. They were built and maintained with the resources of the Chinese Eastern Railway. Every individual church had its own history of its development, had its own life. Together with this, by a ukase of the Synod, the Russian Orthodox mission in Manchuria, which had its own churches in Northeast China. The first Russian Orthodox Church in Harbin — a hut made of mats — was built in Old Harbin in February 1898. At the end of that it was transferred to an already equipped special location and consecrated March 12, 1899. The rector of this first church dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was Father Alexander Zhuravsky. In the spring of 1899 a new church was built in New Harbin (in the Sungari settlement) on the highest piece of land in the new city. On December 18, 1900 the church was festally consecrated and on the next day the partronal feast was celebrated. In 1902 the management of the society of the Chinese Eastern Railway for cavalry and infantry units of the trans-Amur region built the Transfiguration of the Savior Church in the city of Hailar. The manager of the Chinese Eastern Railway built the St. Alexander Church at Bohetu station in 1902.
By November 6, 1902 the same management built the St. Seraphim's Church at Manzhouli Station. In Qiqihar the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul was consecrated on November 1, 1903. In 1900 the Kazan Theotokos Church was built at Ercengdianzi Station. At Yimianpo Station the St. Sergius church was consecrated on December 19, 1901 and on December 1, 1901 the church with school of St. Nicholas was consecrated, at Suifenhe (Border) Station. On November 11, 1903 in Hengdaohezi the Church of the Meeting of the Lord was consecrated. In 1904 a church was built in Shuangchengbao. In the first years of the Chinese Eastern Railway the following churches were built along the Southern line: St. Michael the Archangel in Dalian, the Entrance of the Theotokos, consecrated in 1901, churches in the cities of Teliya, Liaoyang (December 14, 1903) Wafadian, Yingkou, Gongzhuling (November 9, 1903). The last five were closed in accordance with the Treaty of Portsmouth — in all, eighteen churches.
The preaching of Bishop Innokenty about the decline of morals among Russians in Manchuria and about the war with Japan as a punishment for sin was the cause of dissatisfaction of the authorities. The entire region of the Chinese Eastern Railway, the largest part of the flock, the richest part of the diocese and the almost Russian city of Harbin were taken away from Bishop Innokenty and transferred to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Vladivostok. The primary instigator of this was said to be the head of the military forces of the railway.
In 1909 the translation of the Acts of the Apostles and the Psalter were completed and in the typography the translation of the most important places in the Pentateuch, a full Chinese-Russian dictionary, and a catechism were printed.
An Orthodox calendar (in Russian, Chinese and English) was published in 1909. One-hundred lithographs by G. Dore of the Bible, the second part of the Octoechos, an annotated prayer book and a part of a new translation of the Psalter were printed.
The charitable activity of the Mission consisted of support for a home for the elderly and crippled (24 people). The educational activity of the Mission was concentrated on the schools. In the elementary school in Beijing there were 47 people and the total number of students studying in the Mission schools throughout China reached 3,000 people. The special role which the Mission gave to education is shown well, for example, by the activity of the Shanghai school. For example by February 1902, twenty-four people were studying in the school. They were being taught Russian and Church Slavonic. The study of the Law of God was conducted in Chinese — this course included the prayer book, sacred history and the Sacred Scripture of the New Testament. Many of those who had come to this school only to learn Russian were later baptized. Since the atmosphere in this school was Orthodox, the teachers were priests and the rhythm of the school was connected with the daily, weekly and yearly cycles of services, activities began and ended with a prayer, and on feast days all had to pray together in Church.
The library of the Mission, which had burned down in 1900, by 1915 had been partially rebuilt and consisted of 3500 volumes, mostly Russian journals. The library was located in a small room. In 1914 building began on a new structure, a complex of museum, library and sacristy.
By 1916 the number of Orthodox Chinese reached 5587 people. They live in 670 populated areas. There were 32 mission stations, in which churches were built and priests assigned a teacher. The Mission had under its supervision in churches, 5 representation churches (Petersburg, Moscow, Harbin, Manchuria and Dalian), 20 schools, the churches in Manchuria were under the supervision of the Vladivistok diocese. Under Bishop Innokenty the translation of all service books into Chinese was completely accomplished.
One special page of the period was the Russo-Japanese War. In 1904-1905 Russia lost tens of thousands of soldiers killed and they were buried in 18 Russian military cemeteries in Northeast China. On February 23, 1904 in Harbin at the initiative of the head of the Mission, a meeting of a group of people was convened to discuss the difficult position of the wounded and the material lack of those families left without support. To organize help for them it was decided to establish "The Brotherhood of the Orthodox Church in China" and committee "to care for the sick, wounded soldiers and their families." In the charter of the Brotherhood it was written "the fight with the moral vices of the local population, the formation of church/parish life on strong church principles, the giving of alms to the families of the population in all forms" — these are the goals and tasks of the newly formed Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was headed by Bishop Innokenty. A building committee for the construction of barracks and hospitals was established and it was decided to publish a magazine "Proceedings of the Orthodox Brotherhood in China." In 1907 the magazine was published in Beijing under the title "Chinese Messenger". The publishing activities of the Mission were connected with this Journal until it was closed. The statutes of the Brotherhood were confirmed on March 11, 1904. Talking about the period 1900-1918 it is important to notice that these years were memorable for church building, missionary activity and education of Chinese. The primary work of the Mission became the missionary activity itself. Together with this in the border regions of China — in Manchuria and Xinjiang — Russian influence grew stronger. Perhaps the flowering of the Mission was 1917 — its capital was approximately 100 million rubles. The Mission owned land and buildings in Beijing and surrounding areas (this arable land alone was 950 mu; in the western mountains near Mentoucun; in Tongzhou, in Beidahe, Yongpingfu (the church of St. John the Forerunner in the center of the city; in the same province of Zhili in the city of Mentoucun farmsteads with 38 rooms were purchased; in Henan province about five acres of arable land, a church and farmstead with 35 rooms; in Shandong province, in Hubei province (here already in 1886 a stone church was consecrated to St. Alexander Nevsky). Up the Yangtze (Changjiang) the Mission had three parcels of land, with healing mineral springs. There was also land In Manchuria, in the Kwantung (Guandong) Peninsula; in the the province of Jiangsu, in the province of Jiangxi, a building in the Liuling mountains was purchased in 1896), and in Mongolia. The first bishop in China, Innokenty (Figurovsky) built the Chinese church on the Blood of the Martyrs. The Yihetuan rebellion, just as the foundation of the early church was the relics of the saints.