Русский |
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski

Temple of Christ the Savior in Mukden (China)
as a reflection of the traditions of memory in Orthodoxy

(Report at the conference "The religious activities of the Russian emigre"
(November 9-10, 2005))

Svetlana S. Levoshko

In the Orthodox tradition, a truly national monument to national or other historical events and people has always been a temple-monument [1]. The Orthodox tradition of memorial church construction has not only being interrupted in the 18th century that has seen rooting on Russian soil, of monumental commemorative sculptures, but also received a further spread by switching over to the events of modern history - writes A.V. Svyatoslavsky, who has spent his research on the role of memory in the Orthodox Church and sustainable forms of Orthodox actions of perpetuation [2]. In the Russian foreign countries, this tradition lived and evolved throughout the twentieth century.

The author of the article selected and analyzed a group of temple-monuments, erected in Manchuria (northeast China) in honor of the fallen Russian soldiers in the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905. [3] Manchuria of 1900 - 1910's actually, is not "Russian foreign country" in the conventional sense. Nevertheless, the construction of the traditional Russian Orthodox Memorial chapels, churches and commemorative crosses in Manchuria could perhaps be regarded as the prologue of the large-scale religious activities of the Russian diaspora in the Far Abroad, which flourished in 1920's.

This study is dedicated to one of many memorable works, but who was regarded as the crown of the whole of Russia works to perpetuate the memory of the Russian-Japanese war in China - Memorial Church of Christ the Savior in Mukden (now Shenyang). The first time to the work were involved little available sources [4]: Brochure "The Forgotten graves", published in Harbin by the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China [5] and the religious-patriotic magazine "Bread of Heaven", published also in Harbin. In 1928 it published the first article that generalized the Russian military graves in China [6]. For the first time it used an iconographic source of fund IIMK RAS [7] and materials of full-scale site survey in the spring of 2005 [8]. They were using materials from the magazine "Chinese Evangelist" - an organ of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China. This reliable source though is kept in libraries in Moscow and St. Petersburg earlier in the claimed aspects was not published.

In 1908, Nicholas II issued a decree on sending to the Far East to the former battlefields of Russian-Japanese War, a special commission to settle the military cemeteries of Russia in Manchuria. The implication was to build monuments that would be worthy to the feats. The decree stated: "Thousands and thousands of our obscure heroes who died a heroic death, found a peace in faraway China, and to leave about them the memory to our descendants, we felt it best to send a special commission on the F.E. to build the monuments to our heroes' (I quote from memory - V. Gerasimov) [9].

For this purpose, in St. Petersburg under the chairmanship of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna a committee was established to perpetuate the memory of Russian soldiers who died in the war of 1904-1905. The first real steps - full scale screening and selection of sites for burial - were taken in autumn of 1909. All cemeteries were divided into three categories. The first included those, which had stone fence, chapels and temple-monuments with memorial plaques and martyrs engraved on the stone and guard huts.. For the enforcement of decisions of the Committee was set up a special body, headed by appointed Major-General S.A. Dobronravov. Projects of chapels, monuments, fences, and crosses were made by order of the Committee in St. Petersburg and handed over to specialists for details of their development on the site. [10] In Dobronravov's Commission, except for civil engineers, was an experienced civil engineer Wels V.K. known as the first builder of KVZhD and of Harbin, who probably was engaged in detailed work of approved designs and conducted supervision.

It should be noted that prior to the activities of the state commission in China at the initiative of the local military and civilian population had been built several memorial churches in honor of the fallen Russian soldiers. For example, in the cities of Tianjin and Harbin.

The scope and difficulties of the company planned to perpetuate the memory of Russian soldiers say the instructions of the Committee, detailing the entire process of regulating the complex, morally hard work on the transfer of coffins and the remains, and the organization of production work on the construction of fences, crosses, chapels, monuments and memorial church in Mukden. Especially since she was paired on one hand, with an enormous correspondence about the sending of experts, getting drawings, sketches, church utensils and books out of Russia, but on the other hand - the need for detailed reports-accounts to the chairman Duchess Olga to get the sanctions of the Committee residing at thousands of kilometers away [11]. The practical work of Dobronravov's Commission in Manchuria continued four years, until early 1914, but was not finished completely. In the cities of Port Arthur, Mukden, Dalian there appeared chapel-monuments and the memorial church. Total for this period there were erected 18 military memorials at 16 locations [12]. Treasury has spent over 30,000 gold rubles, large donations were made by other persons of the royal family [13].


In Mukden the memorial church in the name of Christ the Savior was laid on Sept. 8, 1911 in the middle of a large Russian military cemetery, located to the north-east of the station of the South Manchurian Railway [14]. Permission for the construction of the temple was given by Archbishop Innocent, the head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China. At the foundation of the temple or in the wall by Orthodox tradition of XIX-XX centuries was to be laid construction (bond)board with the memorial plaque inscription, but this fact in the analyzed sources is not recorded. When laying the first stone church there were no Orthodox priest (or Bishop), otherwise there would necessarily be an indication of the fact. At the same time, there is a special act in the Chinese and Mongolian languages, signed by those present at the celebration of beginning of temple construction by governor-general of the three eastern provinces Zhao Aire Syunem and other dignitaries, from Russian, and Chinese sides. Construction of the temple was completed in 1912, but in 1914 it was not consecrated [15]. Many individuals have donated icons, church utensils, vestments, etc. to the temple. The funds donated by a known businessman of Harbin Chistyakov the belfry with 7 bells was built in the northern part of the cemetery.

Dedication of military memorial church of Christ the Savior is not only symbolic, but typical for its time: a correlation with a feat of heroism of soldiers to the feat of Christ permeates all military memorial churches of XIX - early XX century [16]. No exception for Orthodox churches-monuments erected in China and Japan.

In all the published sources from 1928 ("Bread of Heaven"), and recent studies of 2000s devoted to the Orthodox Church in the Far East, is stated that the project Mukden temple was made by a plan of the Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich, although this statement has no documentary evidence [17]. But it is likely that this plan was put into practice by the committee member Dobronravov - engineer V.K. Wels.


Architecture of Mukden Memorial Church refers to that branch of modernity, which was free from appeals of the ancient Russian architectural heritage as such. For a basis of creating forms and artistic image in this area, in a stylized form were used historically emblematic forms associated with the national Orthodox symbols: a bell, the belfry, dome tent, cross, canopy, the crown, "Monomach's hat",etc. This line of architecture suggests that memorial church construction in the early twentieth century is reflected beyond the Orthodox tradition by the symbolic forms of creativity, although to a lesser extent than the monumental art, - said A.V. Svyatoslavsky [18].

Memorial Church of Christ the Savior in Mukden is an eight-centric volume of gray granite on a powerful stepped plinth. He was crowned with the head in a graceful cut-glass helmet on the podium with a cross, the roof of the temple - in the form of "soft hanging" on the verge of octagon scaly "armor" - all together create a memorable bright artistic image - the image of warrior-hero, a Russian knight. The semicircular apse is covered by Conch, western aisle - by the semicircular arch. The theme is ancient military apparel - helmets, armor and armor - pervades the artistic structure of the temple, from the architectural forms to decorative details, which are discussed below. This conclusion led to the discovered in 2005, 20 photos of exterior and interior of the temple. Pictures were taken at one time, manufactured in the same format, matted and form a single set (the album), specially executed after the completion of construction, possibly for presentation to the Committee. Until this discovery, we had a very rough idea, even on the external appearance of the temple, not to mention the interior and even more about details. On the latter, as a rule, we know very little, and basically they were judged by textual sources, as historical photographs of interiors of churches, especially long belonging to China, almost did not survive. The more valuable therefore were the found pictures. Using this source, we can provide a more accurate idea of the architectural features and interior decoration.


Four more narrow faces of octagonal shape are decorated with two tiers of medallions in the form of the military shields, in the centre of which are engraved the Christian and awarded military crosses of various forms (Russian, Greek, St. George, St. Andrew's) with along the rim memorial inscriptions: "God with us", "With this we won" . The windows on the north and south facades, the apse in the form of four-pointed Latin cross. In the form of the St George cross, award decorations of soldiers and noncommissioned officers of the Russian army, crowning the head-helmet cross, to the west, the entrance annex is crowned with the traditional Orthodox eight-sided cross.

Iconostasis of the church is original, in whose form is also stylized old military Russian vestments. Its central part is completed by the helmet form and the side flanks are decorated with surface armor and shields with medallions. In the right-medallion - icon of Christ, in the left - painting on the Biblical subject of baptism, in the center - "The Last Supper" in the arch frame. Religious subjects of paintings are imbued with the military theme (blessing the soldiers before the decisive battle), the holy images of the Archangel Michael, St. George at the Royal gates and walls. Everything, down to the smallest detail, thought and works on an artistic image: candlesticks, chandeliers, metal casing of the Royal Gates, pictures and icons with a decorative trim rivets (associated with "forged" military attire, ancient ships, arms), drawing of grilles, decor using known shapes and symbols - St. Andrew's bows and St. George's cross etc. But despite the full symbols and allegories of artistic conception of the architect, he does not need any authors comments and is easily "read".


Acts of Church memoralization in exterior and interior of the church is consistently represented in various forms. First by Russian traditional way of erecting the temple icon of the Christ (not made by hands) at the right choir. Secondly, verbal means of expression - writing on the walls, above the entrances on the special wall boards. On the marble slab, located below the window-cross on the southern facade of the chapel is engraved: "Christ the Savior Church was built by order of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich to perpetuate the memory of brave soldiers who gave their lives for the Faith, Tsar and Fatherland in the Russian-Japanese War of 1904 -1905 years." Five large marble slabs with a list of the units of the Russian army who took part in the battles of Liaoyang, in Shaho, close to Jiuliancheng, Sandepu and Mukden, located in the interior on both sides of the windows-crosses on the south and north walls [19].

Another form of memorial - martyrdom description on the stone was used to provide information on total losses for the Tsar and the Fatherland in these operations. Thirdly, an inscription was not only done on parts of buildings, large objects, but also on items of church utensils, images and on small crosses. At the temple icon was a commemorative inscription: "This icon of the Christ (not made by hands) was erected in the Church of Christ the Savior in the city of Mukden on Russian mass grave in memory of brave soldiers who gave their lives for the Faith, Tsar and Fatherland in the war of 1904-1905.." [20] On the copy of the icon of Kazan Mother of God, donated by the Emperor and installed in the altar, too, was an inscription: "Blessing of His Imperial Majesty". In the temple were also kept two silver wreaths put at the time on the mass grave from the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, and then later transferred to the temple [21].

Mukden's church was a united whole with the cemetery, which, at least in 1928, was considered central in Manchuria [22]. There rested about 60 thousand Russian soldiers who perished in the war 1900-1901 and in the war of 1904-1905 [23]. The church with a stone cemetery fence, gravestones, uniform memorial crosses and garden can be regarded as a war memorial.


The tragic events in Russia of 1904-1905 were immortalized on the Manchurian land in the traditional Orthodox way: construction of temple-monuments. Church memorialization events expressed not so much in three-dimensional arrangement of temples, though in it also, but in the artistic style of the symbolic decorations, epitaphs, an abundance of commemorative inscriptions. Architecture of Mukden Memorial Church of Jesus Christ and others, implemented and not implemented projects under Dobronravov's Commission, suggests modernist artistic movements as an uncommon phenomenon in the Orthodox Memorial culture in the beginning of the twentieth century.

The building of the temple-monument was preserved, administered by Shenyang government and is in a satisfactory condition, used as a warehouse. All free approaches to it are blocked by closely built adjacent modern buildings, despite the fact that the building is included in the list of 70 monuments of history and culture of Shenyang. Ordinary citizens of Shenyang do not have a clue about the appointment of the former

"Strange" for them building, while in a local newspaper a known Chinese local historian Zhan Hongge has reported as the discovery that it is a monument to fallen soldiers in the Russian-Japanese War, where "ritual sacrifice" have occurred, rather than being an Orthodox Church [24]. Leaving aside the comments of contemporary and enlightened Chinese - Zhan Hongge, about the Russian Orthodox tradition, we only note that in recent years in China, the public attention was turned to the Russian historical and cultural heritage as tourism resources in China.


[1] "The monuments are the churches, chapels and monasteries that were erected in honor of the victories and in thanksgiving to the Almighty for mercy, sent down from above" (Dolgov A. Monuments erected to commemorate memorable events, and in honor of outstanding individuals. St.Peterburg, 1868. pg 30). Citation by: A.V. Svyatoslavskij. The tradition of memory in Orthodoxy. M.: Ancient Archive of, 2004. pg 15.

[2] Svyatoslavsky A.V. Tradition of memory ... Ordinance. cit. pg 33.

[3] S. Levoshko: Orthodox churches-monuments to Russian soldiers in China: the ideological content and architectural symbolism / / Russia and China on the Far Eastern borders. Blagoveshchensk: ASU Publishing, 2003. 5th edition. pg 415-420; There also - Churches in Manchuria and the South-Ussuri region in the memory of Russian soldiers who died in the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905. / / O.B. Stratievsky, N.G. Miz, G.P. Turmov . Forever in the memory. Vladivostok: edition DVGGU 2004. pg 6-41. (Coauthor N.G, Miz. 50% authorship).

[4] are stored in the library of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu (provided in the form of copies of P. Palansky).

[5] Neglected graves. Harbin: Publishing by M.V. Zaitsev, 1938. 51 pp + 22 illustrations.

[6] V. Gerasimov. On Russian graves / / Bread of heaven. Harbin, 1928. In 2 numbers № 10. pg 24-25; № 11. pages 29-31

[7] Institute of History of Material Culture (IIMK), RAN. Scientific archive. F-102.4. Number A-3592. , Ibid. F -102.5. № 3593.

[8] The location shooting of Memorial Church. China, Shenyang. April 2005. All photos by AI Koval.

[9] V. Gerasimov. On Russian graves / / Bread of Heaven. 1928. № 10. pg 25.

[10] Neglected graves. Harbin: Publishing M.V. Zaitsev, 1938. pg 20.

[11] Decree. cit. pg 22. Project materials were stored in the archive at Mukden Memorial Church, which is considered lost.

[12] Koval, AI Military memorials of Russia Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905. China / / Third Yelagin readings. St.Pb., 2005. February 11. Report.

[13] Neglected graves. Order cit. pg 22-23.

[14] In Mukden plot of land for the original graveyard was purchased by the Russian government in 1902 in the amount of 2,874.5 square yards (13,085 square meters), then at the request of the general Dobronravov governor of three eastern provinces (Manchuria) Chao-Er-Xun in 1912 ordered to add additional to the cemetery area of 3,312.83 square yards (15,080 square meters) and transfer this land as a gift to the cemetery in perpetuity. See: Neglected graves. Ordinance. cit. pg 38.

[15] Chinese Evangelist. 1914. Year XI. Vol. 9-10. pg 26. Mukden temple (like the temple in Dalian) due to uncanonical existence of churches outside of the episcopal administration by the decree of the temporary Arhbishop's Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad from December 3 / 16, 1922 under number 70 was transferred to the head of the Spiritual Mission in Beijing.

[16] Kirichenko E.I. Written history of Russia. Monuments XVIII - beginning of the twentieth century. Book 1. An architectural monument. M., 2001.

[17] The Bread of Heaven. 1928, № 10. Pg. 25; Forgotten grave. Ordinance. cit. Pg. 39. Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich (1864-1931) - the inspector general of the Russian army for the engineering part, had an engineering education, was close to the greatest architects of his time. In particular, his drawings were used to provide the canopy over the tomb of Mikhail Fedorovich in honor of 300 anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The commission for the construction of the Cathedral in Vladivostok in 1912, was contacting him as well; the cathedral was conceived as a memorial to the fallen soldiers in Russian-Japanese war, with the request for the detailing of the cathedral (See: Miz N.G. Levoshko S.S. Temples of South Manchuria and South-Ussuri region in memory of Russian soldiers who died in a Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905. / O.B. Stratievsky, N.G. Miz, G.P. Turmov. Forever in memory. Vladivostok: ed of DVGGTU, 2004. P. 31.

[18] Svyatoslavskij A.V. tradition of memory .... Ordinance. cit. Pg. 73.

[19] By the filokartist A. Kapranov, author of "Monument to Russian Soldiers in Shenyang, who visited the temple in 2004, the boards were cast in bronze. For those that is located on the south wall, one can easily read lists of all the infantry, the infantry regiments, artillery brigades, horse-mountain artillery, dragoon and Cossack regiments. (Earth Irkutsk. № 2 (25), 2004. Pg. 84).

[20] Neglected graves. Ordinance. cit. Pg. 39.

[21] Ibid. Pg. 40.

[22] Around Russian graves / Bread of Heaven. Ordinance. cit. Pg. 25

[23] Ibid. Pg. 38. This figure, according to the publisher, should be considered exaggerated. In another source, "Bread of Heaven" (Ordinance cit. Pg. 25), according to the abbot of the temple, Archpriest I. Prikhodko is stated figure of 100 thousand soldiers.

[24] Shenyang Evening Newspaper.March 21, 2004. (translated from Chinese)