XIANGGANG (Hong Kong), Jan. 6 - RIA Novosti, Kira Pozdnyaeva [reporting].
Clergy from Russia, Australia, the USA and the Czech Republic have come to China to conduct Nativity services in the five existing communities of the Russian Orthodox Church - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, according to the RIA Novosti's correspondent.
"In preparation for the Nativity of Christ, the iconostasis of the temple of St. Innokenty of Irkutsk (Red Fangzi) on the grounds of Russia's Embassy in China, where the Spiritual Mission had previously been located, has been renewed; it was painted especially for this temple by graduates of the school of iconography at the Moscow Theological Academy," - stated Hieromonk Melety (Sokoloff), an instructor from the Moscow Theological Academy who had come from Moscow.
On the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Beijing, the temple of the Dormition, built at the beginning of the [20th] century and in recent years used as a garage, is also being restored.
The history of Orthodoxy in China is over 300 years old. The Orthodox faith was brought to the country by Cossack prisoners, defending the Albazin fortress on the banks of the Amur River. About 50 families of their descendants still live in China and adhere to the faith of their ancestors.
The Russian Spiritual Mission in China, established in the times of Peter the Great, also had a diplomatic role. Thanks to the efforts of missionaries, by 1918 there were about 10 thousand Chinese Orthodox.
During the 1917 Revolution hundreds of thousands of immigrants fleeing to China brought with them their culture and faith. By the middle of the 20th century there were more than a hundred temples in Beijing, Harbin, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Hankou, Tianjin. And in 1957, the Orthodox Church in China achieved the status of autonomy.
The existence of Orthodoxy in China was in jeopardy during the "Cultural Revolution", marked by large-scale destruction of temples and cemeteries, the desecration of the relics and icons, and persecution of believers. There were no divine services in China for over 20 years.
During the 80's due to ongoing reforms in China Orthodoxy began to revive. One of the temples of Harbin was opened during those years.
At the present time more than 10 thousands of Chinese Orthodox believers live in various provinces of China. The majority of believers live in Harbin and the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. Because there are no Chinese clerics, Nativity services in temples located in these regions will be coducted by laymen.
Regular services for Orthodox Russians and international believers have been taking place in China since 1997.