Memory Lives

New Martyrs of China were glorified in Russia early in the XX c.: as indicated above, in 1903 services were already held in their honor. Their commemoration was appointed on the first day of the massacre of Christians in Beijing, June 11 (June 24 on the Civil calendar). Later a church was built on the site of their burial.

Other holy relics arrived here in 1920, of those who were buried alive in a mine shaft in Alapaevsk on July 5, 1918. Bodies of Grand-Duchess Elizabeth and nun Barbara were brought in Beijing when the White armies withdrew from the Ural and Siberia, and then set for another journey, around the Asian continent, to the place of their final rest in Jerusalem.

Everything looks different now; Russian Mission in Beijing doesn't exist any more. Part of its property with the beautiful park has been handed over to the Russian (then Soviet) Embassy. Thus, contrary to their own intentions, Chinese Communists helped preserve the holy memory of the Orthodox martyrs in their land. Here are travel notes of a recent Russian visitor to Beijing:

"Our Embassy in Beijing, one of the largest in the world, is renown for exquisite beauty of its landscapes. It is embraced all around by a quiet, crystal-clear canal with willows along its banks and a large lake in the middle... My favorite place was on the island with the playground. But neither Russian children who played here, nor their parents, knew why this island was a remarkable place. In 1901-1916 the church of All Holy Orthodox Martyrs was built on this spot. The crypt under the altar gave rest to the bodies of the Chinese Christians killed by the Boxers. The church was surrounded by the cemetery. All that is gone...

"In 1945 Archbishop Victor (Sviatin), who was at the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in China, recognized the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. He remained the Chief of the Mission until it was closed in 1954, and then returned to Russia. At that time no one could oppose the destruction of Orthodox churches: razed among other was the Church of All Holy Martyrs. This loss is irrevocable... the fate of the holy relics buried in the crypt is unknown. The cemetery was likewise destroyed. Another Mission church was defaced and turned into a garage...

"What men forget, God remembers. On grassy sites where the churches once stood field flowers sprout forth through gray foundation stones."[36]

Orthodoxy in China is all but invisible. Nearly all Russians from Harbin and Shanghai left the country. Some, in the hope for better future, returned to Russia, others scattered over the face of the Earth: in America, Australia, Japan... In Harbin, of many beautiful churches there remains only one, the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God, with a handful of Chinese and Russian parishioners: is it not the only legal Orthodox community in the entire China? The Church of the Annunciation was converted into a circus; it was closed only when an acrobat fell down to his death there. The Cathedral of St. John Maximovich (+1966) in Shanghai was turned into stock exchange.

The day of June 11 is not marked in calendars of either Moscow or foreign edition. Only St.Herman calendar in English mentions the Chinese martyrs. But the Prayer book and Catechesis in Chinese have been recently re- printed in the Holy Trinity monastery in Jordanville, NY.

Since this article was first published in 1995, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate have called to restore the veneration of the New Martyrs of China. Cross has been erected on the site of their martyrdom in Beijing. The day of their commemoration is now marked in Church calendars.

Like the European and American faithful, Orthodox people of China will never forget their Bishop St. John who held the Shanghai see for over a decade. Chinese land still keeps his footprints. On the day of the Chinese New year St. John always celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Chinese. He consulted Eugene Rose (yet to become Fr. Seraphim), who was writing an article on China in the mid-'60s[37]. Unfortunately, my letter to St. Herman monastery in Platina, CA with the request for these materials from Fr. Seraphim's archive has not been answered. It remains to hope that in the future we will learn more about the Chinese heritage of St. John.

Let us also remember that when the Second World War was over, five out of six of the Russian Church hierarchs in the Far East complied with the demand of the occupation forces and left the Russian Church Abroad[38]. It is not hard to guess who was the sixth.

* * *

Many of those events and ideas which disturbed the world in 1900 have disappeared in the gory mist of the past century; other are still in the limelight, albeit under a different guise. At any rate, we may not forget about them, if we wish to face the challenges of the New World Order rather than stick our heads in sand.

Memory of saints is the spine of the earthly Church, the axis of her revolution. If we restore and keep the memory of the Boxer Rebellion martyrs, we can clearly see those events and correctly understand those ideas, -- not from the standpoint of an arrogant "civilized man", or a shameless bureaucrat of the "world community", or a savage bloodthirsty killer, or a cold-blooded killer in the State Department, or a clueless victim of modern public schools, or a moron with a doctoral degree, but from the standpoint of Truth, -- from their standpoint.

In fact, all of us who dwell in the land of the shadow of death of the modern world, day after day, one way or another, are making a choice.

[36] O. Voropaeva. Pamiat Sviatykh Muchenikov. Put Pravoslavija, 2 1993, p. 233-237
[37] Monk Damascene, p. 300
[38] Blessed John the Wonderworker. St.Herman's Press, 1987, p.52