On June 1597 Hierodeacon Amvrosy of the Ascension hermitage walking by a salt spring discovered the miracle working icon of the Mother of God. The brethren took the icon to the church, but the next morning it was not to be found there. They finally came across it at the monastery gates.
They soon built a small chapel over that location. After the destruction of the monastery in 1633 the icon was lost, but around one hundred years later it was discovered for the second time. In 1766 the icon was seen by some shepherds near the salt springs. The icon was then brought to the Theophany church of the Bogoyavlensk Copper Smelting Factory. But the icon mysteriously disappeared from that church and was found in the village of Tabynsk. From then on it is called "the Tabynsk icon".
During the cholera epidemic in 1854 the icon was transferred in Orenburg and the epidemic was stalled.
Until 1918 it was carried annually from Tabynsk to Orenburg where it was placed in a special casket where it stayed for three months.
In 1914 the icon was taken to the frontlines. In the time of the Civil War during the withdrawal of the White Army under the Orenburg Cossack corps' hetman, and the combat hetman of the entire Cossack Army, Lieutenant General Alexander Ilevich Dutov (December 5, 1879 - February 6, 1921) , the miraculously discovered Tabynsk icon of the Mother of God was brought to China by His Eminence Methodius, the bishop of Orenburg. He was later made the ruling Hierarch of the Harbin Diocese, and then Metropolitan.
According to one tradition, the icon was in Harbin placed in a specially built monastery church until 1948. Afterwards it had been moved, first to Australia, and then to the USA, presumably in San Francisco.
Still, based on the archive materials of the local museums of Irkutsk, Barnaul, Vladivostok, the Archive of the Buriat branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and by living in the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Province of China - Urumqi, we can speak about the other "Chinese" life of the icon.
The detached Orenburg army of Dutov, having left Orenburg during winter 1919, and passing through Orsk, which till the end of March numbered more than 30 thousand people, crossed the Chinese border near Chuchuchon.
photo from Georgy Arutyunov
From 1920, the icon brought by the Dutov men was put in the church of Suiding town (present-day Shuiding, Xinjiang Province). The rectors of the church during that time were Archimandrite Jonah (Pokrovsky), made later the bishop of Hankou (1920), Priest Grigory Shtokalko (1921 - 1925), Priest Theodosy Soloshenko (1925 - 30), Archpriest Mikhail Malyarovsky (1930 - 1933), Archpriest Pavel Kochunovsky (1938 - 1944), the rector of the Xinjiang Orthodox churches and the parish priest Archpriest D. Modzyanovsky (1946 - 1952), the rector and the church elder Abbot Sofrony (Yogel) (July 8, 1954 - 1960).
The most revered sacred object of St Nicholas Church - the miracle working image of the Tabynsk Icon of the Mother of God was kept at the left kliros of the church in Ghulja. The icon, almost meter high, was covered in gilded silver casing. Similar as when in Russia, on the ninth Friday after Pascha, in Ghulja (present-day Yining), Suiding (present-day Shuiding), Chuguchak (present-day Tacheng) and Urumqi a Litany was performed.
In the late sixties St Nicholas Church was destroyed. During the "Cultural Revolution", the icon was lost too.
The remaining Orthodox faithful in Ghulja are gathering in private homes, where old icons are still kept together with some Service books. Many of them, not having prayer books, are manually copying prayers, passing them to one another and carefully keeping them. The natives of Ghulja, the Izmailovs, Ostroumovs, Iakovlevs are well remembering where the church together with the miracle working icon once stood. They do not believe that the icon was destroyed and are of the opinion that it was concealed by one of the parishioners somewhere outside the city. One of these natives has given to me a copy of picture of the St Nicholas church.
There is a connection between the Tabyinsk holy image and the founding in 1934 in Kanagashi near Dalian of the Mother of God of Kazan and Tabynsk female monastery. The priest serving there was Archpriest Ioann Petelin from Harbin. At the Monastery a copy of the icon was kept. In the beginning of the sixties the female monastery was closed and the nuns moved to California. Maybe it is the Kanagashi copy they are looking for in America!?