The Chinese Recorder (a Protestant Missionary Journal published in China), October 1916, pp 678-685
This internet edition is modified to use pinyin, and was scanned and OCRed from a photocopy courtesy of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. They copied the article from a microfilm in the possession of the Harvard Yen Ching Library. The Library was kind enough to let the Monastery do some research there in 1990 when trying to put together the "Historical Background" article on the Martyrs for publication in the True Vine.
The Russian Orthodox Mission in China

THE beginning of the Russian Orthodox Mission in China dates as far back as the end of the seventeenth century. During the reign of the Emperor, Kangxi, the Chinese conquered Albasin, a fortress on the Amur river, taking forty-five Russians prisoners. Among this number was a priest, father Maximus Leontieff. He reached Beijing near the end of the year, 1685, bringing with him the thaumaturgical image of St. Nicolas, Bishop of Mirlikysk. Thus the first missionary of the Russian Orthodoxy, contrary to his own will, settled himself at the north-eastern corner of the Manchu City where he lived for twenty years, serving the spiritual needs of his little flock. The services were conducted in a small chapel, transformed from a Chinese temple. After the expiration of ten years a holy communion cloth and a letter of credence were received from the Metropolitan of Tobolsk, and the little chapel was consecrated as the Church of St. Sofia - the wisdom of God. In his letters, the Metropolitan ordered that prayer be made for the Chinese emperor and that preaching to the Chinese be begun. In 1712, twenty-seven years after his arrival in Beijing, Father Maximus died. The place of his burial remains unknown. He was a good pastor, who willingly shared the fate of his flock, and at the request of the Chinese government accompanied the Chinese soldiers to war.

The history of the Russian Orthodox Mission in China may be divided into three periods. The first extending from the death of Father Maximus Leontieff to 1860. During this period the members of the Mission acted as official representatives of the Russian government. They were, to speak more correctly, the recognized negotiators between Russia and China. The second period extended from 1860 to 1902. During these years the diplomatic members of the Mission, whose activities solely concerned political affairs, separated themselves from the other members who devoted themselves entirely to the spreading of the Gospel. The third period extends from 1902 to the present time, and is marked by the establishment of the episcopal cathedral in Beijing.

The first period may be called "preparative." The committee of the Mission was changed every ten years. It was composed usually of four ecclessiastical members and six laymen. The latter were students whose chief duty was to learn the Chinese and Manchu languages, and thus act as interpreters for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and afterwards as Russian Consuls. The finances for the Mission were provided by the Russian government, instructions were received from the government, and it was well understood that it was the government's wish that its own political interests be promoted through the missionary. Guided by such considerations, frequent official orders were issued and received advising caution with reference to the preaching of Christianity, and at times strictly forbidding any evangelism among the heathen. The relations of the Mission with the Chinese government were clearly set forth in official instructions, and the work of each member of the Mission definitely stated. Under such unfavourable conditions the Word of the Lord was hindered, and the number of the baptized insignificant.

The number of Missions during this first period (1712-1860) was thirteen. Communications with Russia were infrequent, being from two to four a year. The Mission was kept in continual fear for its existence because of the difficulty and uncertainty of getting money from Russia to China, because of the absence of a regular post and the dependence upon caravans as the chief means of communication. These were sent periodically to Beijing for the exchange of goods.

Innocent Kulchitsky was appointed head of the second Mission. He received his education in the Academy of Kieff, and was ordained a Bishop before being sent to China, on March 5th, 1721. In the following year he arrived at the boundaries of China. Upon being refused admittance into Beijing he returned to Irkutsk where for ten years he preached to the natives of Siberia, suffering numerous hardships. His glorious death followed in 1731 at Irkutsk, where his incorruptible relics still remain in the Monastery of the Ascension. He has been canonized together with the Saints, and has become the protector of all the Missions in the Far East.

Other important members of the Missions of the first period were the archimandrites, Ambrose Umatoff (1755-1771), Peter Kamensky (1820-1830), and Policarp Tougarinoff (1840-1849). These experienced considerable success, especially in maintaining friendly diplomatic relations with both of the neighboring empires. The following sinologs because of personal talents obtained considerable reputation among Europeans: Archimandrite Ioakinf Bichorin (1806-1821), who left many compositions and translations from the Chinese, together with valuable ethnographical and statistical information on China; Priest Daniel Siviloff (1820-1830), who began work on a Chinese dictionary and gave the first impressions of Chinese history; Priest Avvakum Chestnoy (1830-1840) who was for a long time, Critic of scientific works in the Asiatic Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a member of various diplomatic commissions in the Far East. He compiled a China-Russian Dictionary which, however, was never published.

On the whole the hard-working people of the first period did much in the way of bringing China and Europe into closer relations with each other and into better mutual understanding. They introduced into Europe a knowledge of the Chinese language and literature, Chinese customs and manners of living, Chinese flora and fauna, Chinese ethnography and medicine. There were 155 Russian missionaries all told during this first period. Each tried to contribute something to the treasury of knowledge on China. Their works consisted mostly of translations. These were sent to the various government departments concerned, where they were received and reviewed, after which the author was rewarded according to his rank. If this first period of the Russian Orthodox Mission, extending over 150 years, were to be judged solely by its success in propagating Christianity, the judgement would not be favourable. In 1860 Beijing was the only important missionary centre, and here the Mission numbered less than two hundred Christians, including the descendants of the Albasin prisoners.

The first period in the history of the Russian Orthodox Mission was brought to a close by the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858. This treaty admitted to China the representatives of Foreign Courts, and gave the right of residence to Christian Missionaries. From that year the second period of the Mission's history, lasting for over forty years, began. It was a period in which the translations of the Holy Books appeared. These were the work of the following members of the Mission:

  1. Archimandrite Gury Karpoff (1858-1864). He took an active part in the famous Beijing Treaty of 1860 by which Russia obtained the Country of the Amur. During his stay in Beijing, the diplomatic and religious activities of the Mission were separated. He translated and printed the New Testament in Chinese and this translation later became the foundation of the code of the holy orthodox books. Because of his long study of the Chinese language, Father Gury possessed a wide knowledge of Chinese Literature. He looked through and corrected all the Orthodox books, written by his predecessors, many of which had been published in Beijing, having been printed from wooden blocks. He stayed at Beijing, spoke Chinese well and did a great deal of preaching and lecturing in church and in school. His lectures were exegetical in character, being based on various texts in the Bible. During his time, the preaching of the Gospel extended beyond Beijing. In Dongdingan, where thirty heathen were baptized, a church was built by money contributed by Russians. The chief helper of Father Gury was a priest, Isaih Polikin by name. He was the first to use the Chinese spoken language in the translations of the Holy Books. He organized a Boarding School where various handicrafts were taught. On his return to Russia, Father Gury preached for eighteen years among sects in the South, and died as Archbishop of Simferopol in 1882.

  2. Archimandrite Pallady Kaffaroff. He lived thirty-three years in China and was the head of two Missions (1849-1859 and 1864-1878). He was a tireless student of the Chinese language, which he knew better than all his predecessors. Many of his literary works were later translated into European languages. Among the Holy Books translated by Father Pallady into Chinese were the Book of Psalms and the Book of Services. His chief interest and study were Buddhism and Chinese History. The titles of his writings were: "The Life of Buddha Shaki-muni," "Historical Description of Ancient Buddhism," "Mongolian Prediction of Gengis Khan," "Foot-steps of Christianity in China," "Commercial Ways," "About the Mohammedans in China," "Reports of Travel in the Ussury Country" (to which place he had been sent by the Geographical Society), "Short Historical Description of the Ussury Country," and "The Diary of Intercourses" (done before the signing of the Beijing Treaty in 1860). Most of these works were collected and placed in "The Works of the Members of the Orthodox Mission," Vol. I-IV, and in "Elucidations of Marco Polo's Travels in North China" (Journal of the North China Branch of the R. A. S. Vol. X (1876).

    The chief work of Father Pallady was the Chinese-Russian Phonetic Dictionary, containing the explanations of 11,868 characters and published after his death in 1889. It is obvious from all that has already been written on the literary activities of Father Pallady, that he must have lived a sedentary life, devoting comparatively little time to preaching. During his life time, one new station for the preaching of the Gospel was opened at Urga in Mongolia.

  3. The successor and assistant of Father Pallady was Father Flavian (1878-1884). He collected and edited in Chinese everything that had been written by his predecessors, about forty books in all. He successfully conducted church services in Chinese, which previously had been, conducted in Slavonic, and also organized a choir. The assistants of Father Flavian were two priests, Nicolas Adoratsky and Alex Vinogradoff. About this time a Chinese priest, Father Mitrofan Ji was ordained in Japan. Father Flavian died in 1915, after he had been made the Metropolitan of Kieff.

  4. Archimandrite Amfilohy Loutovinoff (1883-1896). During these thirteen years little real progress was made in the Mission. The ten ecclesiastical assistants who were provided each year found the work unsuited to them in many instances and were changed. The reasons for the slight progress of these years are: (1) Sufficient money to enable the Head of the Mission and his assistants to preach in places outside of Beijing and thus extend the work of the Mission, was not provided. (2) The missionaries sent to China came without any knowledge of the language and were, therefore, obliged to devote much of the time to acquiring the language, and had little left for educational and evangelistic work. At the close of the second period in the History of the Russian Orthodox Mission the number of the baptized was not more than five hundred. Two new churches had been opened, one in Hankou and the other in Kalgan [Zhangjiakou], but neither of these was of any great missionary significance.

In March, 1897, Archimandrite Innocent arrived in Beijing. Seeing everything badly crippled, he immediately initiated a work of reform. These reforms were (a) The introduction of a monastery together with social regulations for the missionaries, (b) Daily Services (Liturgies) in Chinese, (c) The establishment of a business in order to support some of the poor Albasins with business ability, (d) The sending of preachers out from Beijing to spread the Gospel, (e) The organization of Parish activities, (f) The establishment of local works of charity.

The year 1900 brought its troubles to the Russian Orthodox Mission as well as to all Missions in China. The buildings in Beijing, Dongdingan and Kalgan [Zhangjiakou] were destroyed by the Boxers. The valuable library, established by the Archimandrite Peter and filled with the rarest articles on Buddhism, written by Father Pallady, was burned. More than two hundred communicants were killed by the Boxers. And when there seemed to be no hope of restoration, a blessing was sent from Heaven in the form of a newly-established Mission. In 1900 a church in Russian style and a school were built in Shanghai. The following year Archimandrite Innocent was called to Petrograd. While there he made a report to the holy Synod on the Mission in China, and received the support of the Metropolitan Anthony. As a result the Mission and its rights were restored and Archimandrite Innocent (Figourovsky) returned as Bishop to Beijing. Thus the Mission received the rights of canon and from this time on we have the third period in its history.

Bishop INNOCENT returned to Beijing in August 1902 accompanied by an assembly of ecclesiastical persons. His jurisdiction extended over all the churches built along the Chinese-Eastern Railway (a distance of about 3,000 miles). In reality all Chinese territory was under his control, for at that time the Russians were not only in Manchuria but in Mongolia also. The territory to be covered was large, the work great, and in Beijing, where the Mission was all in ruins, the work was urgent. However, with money paid over by the Chinese government for damages caused during the Boxer Uprising, the work of restoring the Mission in Beijing was soon under way.

Since 1900 it has seemed that the special blessing of God is upon the work of the Mission. Places for preaching have been opened through nearly all China. In central Yongpingfu, in the province of Zhili, property with some buildings was bought, and a church and school erected. In the same province a Chinese priest opened about twenty new places for the preaching of the Gospel. In the province of Henan, an official of the fourth rank, Fang by name, who had received a security from the Russians in 1900, out of gratitude of heart and in response to the will of God, presented the Mission with a piece of land in the city of Weihuifu. He erected buildings to meet the needs of the Mission, and a church and a school were opened. This has been the center from which the Gospel has spread further in the province. The Russo-Japanese war hindered missionary work in the interior of China, although it stimulated the work of the Mission in Beijing.

At the present time the Russian Orthodox Mission in China is composed of the following establishments: Monastery of Assumption in Beijing; Hermitage of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the Western Hills [Xishan] near Beijing; Nunnery in Beijing; five conventual churches in Petrograd, Moscow, Harbin, Dalny [Dalian] and in Manchuria which support the Mission in China; nineteen churches, four of them in Beijing, one in the suburbs of Petrograd and the rest in the conventual and missionary districts. The total number of mission churches is thirty-two. Of these, fourteen are in the province of Zhili, twelve in Hebei, four in Henan, one in Xi'anfu and one in Mongolia. The Mission supports three chapels and five church-yards. It is in possession of forty-six pieces of property which have been either bought by the Mission or presented to it. There are seventeen schools for boys and three for girls under the control of the Mission, also one Theological Seminary in Beijing. Other establishrnents maintained by the Mission are: meteorological station, library (recently built), printing office (with more than a hundred volumes of Chinese publications), lithographic works, galvanoplastical establishment, type foundery, book binder's shop, paint shop, carpenter's shop, casting foundery, steam flour mill, candle factory, soap factory, weaver's workshop, bee-hive, dairy house and brick-kiln.

The Mission has thirty-three male teachers in its schools, four of whom are Russians, and five lady teachers, one of whom is Russian. The total enrollment of boys and girls exceeds 680. During 1915, 583 Chinese were baptized. The total number of baptized Chinese is 5,587.

The Translation Commission is continuing its work of publishing books in Chinese for the Mission. Thirty-five volumes in all have been written in the Russian language and new translations of the Holy Books in Chinese are now printed. The most important work of the Commission is the completion of the Russo-Chinese Dictionary, composed of the material of Father Pallady's Dictionary with additions and corrections from Giles' Dictionary, Couvrer's and others. Each year the Mission publishes a Mission Calendar in three styles, Russian, English and Chinese, and a Mission magazine "Chinese Good News", now in its twelfth year.