One Church, September-October 1958: Vol 12 Iss 9-10 pp 281-296
Internet edition revised to use Hànyǔ Pīnyīn

The beginnings of Orthodoxy in China coincides with the expansion of the Russian Empire in the Far East and the occupation (1644) of Beijing by the Manchu Army which brought the new Qing dynasty into power. By the middle of the seventeenth century the Russians had penetrated to the northern borders of Manchuria and had established forts along the Amur River. The Muscovites had been pushing eastward across Siberia until northeastern Manchuria was threatened. The fort of Yakutsk had been built by the Russians in 1636 and from here Cossack expeditions were sent out to explore the resources of the territory north of the Amur River. In 1650 the adventurer Khabaroff had built a fortress and trading post at Albazin (Yacsa) on the northermost point of the river. These Russian activities must have alarmed the Manchus. The Chinese in those parts claimed that the Russians were treating them with cruelty, and they appealed to Beijing either for assistance or for permission to become Russian subjects.

In the following years several Manchu armies were sent against the invaders with little results. Albazin was captured and destroyed several times but the lure of the riches of the Mongol and Manchu lands was so great that the Russians returned again and again. Finally, the Tsar sent a special envoy, Prince Feodor Golovin, to attempt to stabilize the situation and to negotiate a treaty. The discussions between the Manchus and the Russians took place in the Russian town of Nerchinsk (Nipchou, Níbùchǔ), built in 1658. Several important royal emissaries and hundreds of other officials and soldiers came from Beijing for the negotiations which began on 12 August 1689. The talks were aided by two Jesuit interpreters brougnt by the Manchus. The treaty was finally signed on 7 September 1689 and it became the first formal agreement between China and a European power. [1]

What is of most importance to us, however, is that at one of the earlier sieges of the fortress of Albazin, perhaps in 1685, some thirty-one prisoners were captured by the forces of Emperor Kangxi and taken to Beijing. [2] These men were given a place of residence in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City. Later they were made part of one of the "banners" and were put in charge of the defense of their section of Beijing. These Cossacks were members of the Orthodox Church and, as far is known, were the first members of the Orthodox Church to dwell within the Eighteen Provinces of China. Centuries before, interestingly enough, another Eastern Christian Church, the Nestorian, had done missionary work in China.


When the Cossacks came to reside in Beijing, their chaplain, Father Maximus Leontiev, an Orthodox priest, was persuaded to go with them. In ministering to his small flock, Father Leontiev first used a Buddhist temple which was transformed into a Christian chapel and in which was erected an ancient icon of St. Nicholas of Mozhaisk. [3] Later a chapel was built especially for the small Christian community. [4] In 1695 ties were formed with Metropolitan Ignatius of Tobolsk who gave his recognition to this Orthodox community and sent them an Antimins as a sign of his jurisdiction over them. In 1698 the chapel was converted into a church and consecrated in honor Sophia-Wisdom of God. At this time the Metropolitan apparently gawe instructions for missionary work to be undertaken among the Chinese, but this order seems not to have been heeded.[5]

As time went on the Cossacks inter-married with the native women and their descendants soon came to resemble the Manchus and Chinese in physiognomy. Their wives adopted Orthodoxy, however, and the Albazinians persevered in their religion. The request of the Albazinians to send a replacement for Father Leontiev, who was getting old, was not heeded until three years after the priest died (1712). At the behest of Peter the Great, the first Spiritual Mission was sent to Beijing by Metropolitan Philotheus of Tobolsk in 1715. At the head of it stood the Archimandrite Hilarion Lezhaisky of Yakutsk, and it was composed of another priest, a deacon, and seven lesser clerics, probably monks. The following year, the Mission transformed the former "Russian House" in Beijing, reserved for Russian travellers, into an ecclesiastical establishment and a small monastery. The members of this Mission were appointed military chaplains to the Orthodox Albazinians by the Beijing government for which the Manchus gave them a small salary. This first Mission also occupied itself with scholarly works and the learning of Chinese and Manchu. It is interesting that the Mission adopted the Chinese word for temple, miao, for their church, and they utilized the Buddhist terms fo for God, and lama for clergymen.[6]

Soon the need was felt to make some changes in the Beijing Mission. It is not clear whether it became necessary to replace Archimandrite Hilarion as head of the Mission or whether it was felt that a bishop was needed in Beijing. At any rate, the Russian court sent an Ambassador, named Izmailov, to Beijing with the express purpose, it would seem, to receive permission to send a bishop to Beijing. It is claimed that Izmailov was not successful in this project because of the interference of the Jesuits at the Beijing court.[7]


Be this as it may, in 1720 the Holy Governing Synod at St. Petersburg appointed the Archimandrite Innocent Kulchitsky to Beijing" to preach the word of God."[8] After his appointment the question of what ecclesiastical rank he should hold arose. It was only after a year's time that it was decided to send Innocent to Beijing in the rank of a bishop and, on 5 March 1721, he was consecrated in St. Petersburg as Bishop of Perejaslav and directed to proceed to the "Khin Kingdom." In Moscow Bishop Innocent received an Ukase which directed him not to reveal the fact that he was in episcopal orders and to refer to his status only under special circumstances and with "no littlle caution." He and his retinue arrived in the city of Irkutsk in March of 1722 and soon left for the border town of Selenginsk where "he awaited the conclusion of diplomatic negotiations and permission to enter China." Bishop Innocent, however, never did arrive at his destination for reasons which are not altogether clear. Some writers say that there were several reasons: the suspicious attitude of the Manchu leaders of that time, the inexperience of the Russian diplomats, and the intrigues of a certain Archimandrite Antony Platnovsky who himself desired to become head of the Beijing Mission. At any rate, the bishop was held up in Selenginsk for about five years, living under the most difficult conditions, receiving no salary and without quarters. Anthony Platkovsky apparently succeeded in his intigues and, thanks to the cooperation of the Ambassador Gaguzinsky, he was appointed the Superior of the Mission. Meanwhile Bishop Innocent was, in 1727, appointed Bishop of Irkutsk where he laid the foundation for the evangelization of the Yakuts, Tunguses, and Buryats. He died on 26 November 1731 and because of his singularly saintly life was canonized on 9 February 1805. He is known as the Apostle of Siberia.[9]

By 1727 the ever-growing relations between the Chinese and Russians made it necessary to make supplementary agreements: the Burin tractate of 1727, and the Chakta treaty of 1728. Besides regulating trade, diplomatic relations, and other matters, Article 5 of the latter document concerned the Orthodox Mission in Beijing. This article provided for the residence in Beijing of a Mission composed of ten persons: four clergymen and six scholars. In actual practice the Missions were usually made up of one Archimandrite (the Superior), two hieromonks, one hierodeacon, and a doctor, while the other members were students of Chinese and Manchu. The scholars, it was hoped, would return to Russia and assist in the conduct of relations between the two countries. The duration of each Mission was to be ten years and it was agreed that no Mission would leave Beijing until it was replaced.

The chief aim of the Spiritual Mission was to care for the spiritual welfare of the descendants of the Albazinians and of Russian travelers and inhabitants of the Capital, and also to provide a means for Oriental studies. The Mission did not carry on any activities among the Chinese other than those married to the Albazinians and their offspring. The Mission was supported financially by both the Chinese and Russian governments. Until 1737 all its members were Chinese Civil Servants but in that year the Russian government managed to change this status. The Beijing court continued to support the Mission until 1858. The Mission fulfilled the duties of diplomatic representatives of the Russian state until 1861 when a lay Ambassador was first appointed by the Russian government and the Mission began to devote itself to spiritual matters alone. Thus it was that the head of the Mission was also the Russian diplomatic representative to Beijing and at the same time a Chinese Civil Servant financially supported by the Beijing regime.[10]


Despite the fact that Article 2 of the "Statute for the Russian Spiritual Mission in China" direced it to spread the Light of Christ among the heathen population as far as it was able,[11] the Mission apparently did not engage actively in preaching to the Chinese until after the treaties of 1858, made as an outcome of the Second War between China and the Western Powers. The treaties guaranteed the toleration of Christianity and gave permission for a certain number of missionaries to propagate their faith. In these stipulations the Russian government apparently led the way. The treaties also concerned the Orthodox Mission in Beijing.[12] It is not certain how large the Orthodox community was at this time, but it seems to have numbered about two hundred in 1856. After the treaty of 1858 between Russia and China, there were some changes in the Mission's activities and it seems to have carried on some work among the Chinese other than Albazinians. In 1871 the number of Orthodox Christians was about 500 and about ten to forty Chinese were converted yearly.[13]

Probably the Mission's most important activity in the nineteenth century was the scholarly work of its students who learned Chinese and Manchu and through various publications and translations of Chinese literature acquainted Russia with the ancient civilzation of the Middle Kingdom. Although in theory the Mission's personnel was to change every ten years, in practice the intervals of change were not so regular. By 1860 about 155 men had served in the Mission which meant that it provided a considerable number of scholars—some of whom became quite distinguished as Orientalists. Among such may be mentioned the head of the ninth Mission (1806-1821), Archimandrite Hyacinthus Bichurin, and the head of a later Mission, Archimadnrite Palladius Kafarov.

Bichurin studied Chinese literature quite seriously and compiled a lexicon of 12,000 Chinese characters. Among his other achievements was the translation of the Orthodox Liturgy into Chinese. He wrote a great deal on China, Mongolia, and Tibet and, later in 1826, was appointed to the Russian Foreign Office as an adviser on Far Eastern affairs. Although a scholar, Bichurin did not have a vocation for monasticism and this caused him considerable trouble. Probably the most important scholar turned out by the Beijing Mission was the Archimandrite Palladius (1817- 1878). Before his tonsure he was known as Peter Ivanovich Kafarov. He is said to have been a saintly person, possessed of many talents. He spent three "terms" in Beijing, the first from 1840 to 1847 as a member of the Mission, the second from 1849 as Superior for ten years. In 1865 he again returned to Beijing and at the conclusion of his service he died while returning home at Marseilles in 1878. Palladius is noted for his Russo- Chinese Dictionary and his Life of Buddha, and other outstanding works. Bichurin as well as Palladius produced many scholarly works but, as Latourette said of the latter, "Few missionaries of any branch of the Church have deserved the title 'sinologue' as much as he."[14]


Another noted Russian Sinologue, Basil Pavlovich Vasiliev (1818- 1900) spent eleven years in the Beijing Mission. In 1851 Vasiliev became Professor of Chinese at the Kazan University and in 1855 he was transferred to St. Petersburg. Another student of Oriental matters was Archimandrite Flavian Gorodetsky (1841-1915) who was Superior of the Mission towards the end of the nineteenth century. He is said to have tran- Slated the remaining liturgical books into Chinese. Flavian died as Metropolitan of Kiev.[15]

At the beginning the services at the Mission had apparently been in Church Slavonic, but after 1858 Chinese had come to be used gradually. A school for children was maintained and quite early at least two centers were established outside Beijing and some converts were made. Between 1860 and 1897 it is said that 500 converts were baptized. The New Testament was translated by members of the Mission and published in 1864 at Beijing. The language chosen for the scriptures was the so-called High Wenli, the language of the Chinese classics and no longer a spoken tongue. The Mission's interest in literary matters brought about the translation ot most of the liturgical books of the Orthodox Church allowing, from 1892, the celebration of most of the services in Chinese.[16]

It was only near the end of the century that any plans were devised for more extensive evangelization of the Chinese by the Mission. The new Superior, Archimandrite Innocent Figurovsky, instituted several reforms. He introduced the daily celebration of Divine Worship in Chinese, sought to establish business enterprises to make some of the poverty- stricken Albazinians self-supporting; he sent out preachers and tried to institute parochial activities of various sorts and charities. Unfortunately many of these projects were suspended because of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 which worked havoc with the Orthodox Mission as well as with other European establishments.[17]

The Russian Orthodox Church settlement in Beijing (E-guo-guan or Beiguan) was a large estate in the north-eastern corner of the Tatar or Manchu City in Beijing. It contained several buildings, schools, and churches, its own printing plant, and was a self-contained city within itself. Until the Boxer storm the Chinese had never molested the Mission and, in fact, from time to time non-Orthodox missionaries, Jesuits as well, sought shelter within its walls to escape recurrent attacks of anti-Europeanism. In the uprising of 1900 many of the Mission's buildings were demolished, a precious library destroyed, and about 400 Orthodox Chinese, some of them in Sacred Orders, were slain. To commemorate the victims of the uprising, a church of the Chinese Martyrs was erected within the Mission grounds.[18]


After the Boxer Rebellion had ended, the Mission's work was renewed with even more vigor and extended and in the years up to the outbreak of World War I, the Orthodox Church's missionary work in China was marked with great strides forward. A serious effort was now made to convert Chinese and to push out further from Beijing. Although the Mission continued to care for the spiritual needs of the Orthodox already within the bosom of the Church—the descendants of the Albazinian-Cossacks and the large numbers of Russians who were settling in Manchuria and the treaty ports of the various Provinces—now specific mission stations were started for the Chinese non-Christians and many of Archimandrite Innocent's plans formulated before the Boxer storm were now put into effect.[19]

Archimandrite Innocent was called to Petrograd in 1901 to report on the status of the Mission to the Holy Governing Synod. In 1902, while he was still there, it was decided to consecrate him to the episcopacy and he was given the see title of Perejaslav as was St. Innocent before him. Why the Synod refrained from calling him the Bishop of Beijing is not known, but his territory, nevertheless, covered some 300 square miles. The new Bishop Innocent soon returned to the Chinese capital with more clergy. A Sinologue, the Bishop did scholarly work on a dictionary and engaged in other literary undertakings. He was an active worker and a good administrator. Through his efforts a printing plant was established at the Mission, a meteorological station set up, and various small industries and trades instituted. He is said to have been a tall man physically and well-liked by the Chinese.[20]

In 1906 the Orthodox Mission had two churches in Beijing, one in Shanghai, one in Jun-nping-Fu, and one in Dun-Dunan. It possessed a monastery dedicated to the Theotokos in Beijing, five mission posts in various places, two conventual-hostel churches in Manchuria, a church in Xinjiang, several chapels, and a total of seven schools. At this time the number of Orthodox Chinese was counted at 636 and there were about 80,000 Orthodox Christians of various other nationalities and races under the Mission's jurisdiction.[21] In 1909 the Mission is said to have had as clergy: one bishop, two archimandrites, ten priests (of these three were Chinese), six deacons (two Chinese), three lectors, ten monks, and seven nuns. Besides the above churches, by 1909 the Mission had churches in Hànkǒu, Dalian, and Port Arthur, fifteen schools, two chapels, and five "churchyards." By the conclusion of 1914 the Mission is reported to have possessed 19 churches, five conventual churches, 20 schools, and mission stations in Zhílì, Húběi, Hénán, Jiāngsū, and Mongolia. There were 500 students enrolled in its schools, and the Chinese converts totalled 5,035,[22] although another source gives this figure as 10,000.[23]

The outbreak of World War I did not seem to affect the Mission to any great degree. By 1916 there were reported to be twenty missionaries, with twenty-one churches and chapels, and forty mission stations.


There were twenty schools and the number of Chinese Christians remained about the same. After the Russian Revolution matters changed, however. All financial support was cut off and the Mission was consequently hard hit. The theological seminary was forced to close and much of the missionary work among the Chinese is reputed to have stopped except in the vicinity of Beijing. The ecclesiastical disorders in Russia also made themselves felt in China and especially in Manchuria which was flooded with Russian political emigres. It is stated that many Chinese Orthodox Christians lapsed. With the influx of emigres, Bishop Innocent needed help in ministering to their spiritual needs and, consequently, in 1923 Bishop Simon was consecrated to assist him.[24] Gradually the Church in China managed to come from near destruction to a semblance of recovery. The property in Beijing was retained and a small nucleus of about 300 faithful clustred about it.[25]

In the early 1920's, the Mission in China together with the diocese in Manchuria entered into relationship with the so-called Karlovitz Synod of emigre bishops located in Yugoslavia, because of the difficulties of communication with the Moscow Patriarchate and because of political reasons. Thus Innocent of Beijing, who by this time was an Archbishop, Bishop Simon of Shanghai, and Bishop Jonah of Tianjin, together with the Manchurian prelates: Archbishop, later Metropolitan, Methodius Gerasimov, formerly of Orenburg (died 1930), Bishop Meletius Zaborovsky of Zabaikal (1869-1946), and Bishop Nestor Anisimov of Kamchatka, by 1922-24 became associated with the Karlovitz Church in Exile. Orthodoxy in the Far East was established at two important centers: Beijing, where at the head of the Mission stood Archbishop Innocent (who died in 1930 as Metropolitan), and Harbin, which was erected into a diocese in 1930-31, and where the large parishes were of a predominantly Russian emigre character. Metropolitan Innocent was succeeded by Archbishop Simon, while in Harbin, Archbishop Meletius (Metropolitan from 1939) became ruling prelate.[26]

The balance of power swung to the Manchurian Church which was the largest. In 1935 the Karlovitz Synod organized all the Orthodox churches in the Far East into one Metropolitical District with the see city at Harbin, thus making the Mission in China a part of the Far Eastern District. Bishop Demetrius Voznesensky represented the Far East at the deliberations which formed the District.[27] The churches in the Far East were represented at the second Council (Sobor) of the Karlovitz Church in Exile held in 1938 by Meletius, Archbishop of Harbin and Manchuria, Nestor, Archbishop of Kamchatka and Petropavlovsk, and Bishop John Maksimovich of Shanghai.[28]

Thus in the 1930's and 1940's there was an Archbishop at Beijing and two vicar bishops, at Shanghai and Tianjin. Most of the Orthodox in China were either recent Russian emigres or descendants of Russians and many were naturalized Chinese subjects. There were also Orthodox of other nationalities, such as Greeks and other Slavs in the Port cities. The Chinese Christians were both recent converts scattered in the various provinces where the Church had established mission stations, and the descendants of the Albazinians. There were parishes in Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hànkǒu, and other places. Besides the Beijing monastery, there were convents with orphanages. At Shanghai there was a theological school three and the number of Chinese priests was gradually growing and, like the deceased Father Sergius Chen and Father Basil Du, were greatly honored.[29] In the thirty-five year period from 1915 to 1950 new Orthodox churches had been founded in Shanghai, Beijing, Zhāngjiākǒu (Kalgan), Zhīfú, Hong Kong, Guǎngzhōu, and other cities. Work continued in the preparation of cadres of missionaries and the preaching of the Gospel did not cease.[30]


There were also native Christians in Xinjiang or Chinese Turkestan, in Mongolia, and in Manchuria, besides emigre Russians and Siberian natives. The Orthodox Church in Manchuria was the largest and though it contained some Korean, Japanese, and other native Christians, it was of a predominantly Russian character.

Shortly after the Soviet occupation of Manchuria and the liberation of the land from the Japanese who, especially in 1943 and 1944, had been particularly obnoxious to the Orthodox in Manchuria and, among other things, had tried to force them to worship the Japanese goddess Amateras, an ecclesiastical delegation arrived in Harbin from Moscow. This was on 24 October 1945 and the delegation, composed of Bishop Eleutherius (now Metropolitan of Leningrad) and a priest, remained in Harbin until 14 November 1945. The delegation's purpose was to receive the bishops of the Far East back into communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. On 26 October the following bishops decided to terminate the schism: Metropolitan Meletius, Archbishop Nestor, Archbishop Demetrius, and Bishop Juvenalius.[31]

Presumably the Church in China was also reconciled at this time. At any rate by Ukase of Patriarch Alexis of Moscow, dated 27 December 1945, the Mission in China was re-united to the Russian Mother Church and the break caused by the schismatic activities of the Karlovitz Synod was healed. But the perspectives for church work were somewhat clouded by the schism in 1946 of the vicar bishop of Shanghai, John Maksimovich, who took the lead in an opposition movement against the Patriarch and his ruling bishop at Beijing. Through the intrigues of this hostile group, Archbishop Victor of Beijing was arrested on false charges by the Shanghai military authorities on 19 October 1947 and it was only after energetic mediation by the USSR consular officials that he was set free. The schism ended after the establishment in China of the People's Republic.[32]

After reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate, the Mission in China continued to be a part of the Metropolitical District. Metropolitan Meletius died on 6 April 1946 after a long illness.[33] Archbishop Nestor Anisimov was appointed his successor, raised to the dignity of Metropolitan of Harbin and Manchuria, and given the title Exarch of Eastern Asia.[34] Upon the death of Metropolitan Meletius, Archbishop Nestor had acted as pro tempore administrator of the East Asian Metropolitanate which now was raised to the status of an Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.[35]


Soon after World War II many clergymen from East Asia began to return to Soviet Russia. Among these were Archbishop Demetrius Voznesensky, who soon died as noted above; Bishop Juvenalius Kilin, who returned to Russia in January 1947 and was given a diocese in Siberia. About this time, 1948, Metropolitan Nestor, ceased to be heard of. Among the many lesser clerics who emigrated to Russia was the Archimandrite Gabriel Ogorodnikov, a member of the Mission in Beijing, who was consecrated Bishop of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok on 29 August 1948.[36]

In the period between the two World Wars and especially during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, considerable numbers of Russians emigrated South and settled around Shanghai. It was not long before the Roman Catholics, capitalizing on the poverty of these people, started a "Russian Mission" in Shanghai as well as Manchuria, and through schools and other means endeavored to wean away the children of these Orthodox people to the Roman Church.37 In their efforts to win "souls" the Roman clergy adopted the Byzantine-Orthodox rite, grew beards to make themselves look Russian, and even learned the Russian language. To show the psychology of these Roman Catholic "birds of prey" it is enough to quote the following words from a letter written by two Jesuits of the "Russsian Mission" working in Shanghai:

The Orthodox Church is in a bad way, and is rushing toward a split. Archbishop Victor of Beijing is definitely for the Soviets, while John of Shanghai has elected to stay independent. For a time he wavered, but it seems he has made up his mind. The priests are divided, but I think most of them are against the Soviets, or at least are trying not to commit themselves. One or two are definitely black-listed. I should think this would work in favour of the Church, but as yet we haven't much concrete evidence that men's minds are turning towards Rome.[38]

Fortunately for the Orthodox Church in China, it does not have to contend with this type of "missionary" hacking at its back at the present time, for the Jesuit "Russian Mission" has been forced to flee to other pastures.

In June of 1949 another delegation was sent to Harbin by the Moscow Patriarchate. They apparently came to regulate the ecclesiastical affairs which were probably being hampered by the Chinese authorities with its program of sinization of Manchuria. The delegation met with Bishop Nicander Viktorov, Bishop of Qiqihar who was also Exarch pro tempore in the absence of Metropolitan Nestor of whom no mention is made in the source materials for this period.[39] Discussions were also held with Archpriest Daniel He who was at the head of the Mission Council for Manchuria on how to fight the remnants of heathenism among the neophyte converts.[40]


The Archbishop of Beijing and China, Victor Svjatin, and the Mitred Archpriest Theodore Du of the Chinese Mission arrived in Moscow on 17 July 1950. The purpose of the visit was to report on conditions in China and, at the same time, Archbishop Victor took part in the sessions of the Sacred Synod at which it was decided to consecrate Father Theodore Du as Bishop of Tianjin. Father Du was tonsured on Sunday, 23 July and given the monastic name Simeon. His consecration took place on 30 July in the Theophany Patriarchal Cathedral in Moscow. Among his five co-consecrators were Patriarch Alexis, Metropolitan Nicholas of Krutitsy and Kolomna, and Metropolitan Eleutherius of Prague and Czechoslovakia, presently Metropolitan of Leningrad. After his consecration, Bishop Simeon blessed the assembled multitude and "the faithful Russian people received their blessings from the first Chinese Orthodox bishop with emotion." The two bishops of the Far East left for home on 30 August after visiting Georgia, Armenia, and various cities of the Soviet Union where they participated in church services.[41] This was Du's third visit to Moscow— the first two presumably before the Russian Revolution.'

There seems to be little doubt that it was at this time that it was decided to raise the prestige of the Beijing diocese at the expense of the Church in Manchuria, even though the latter was the larger of the two. It is known, i. e., that during the delegation's visit to Moscow the East Asian Exarchate was re-organized.[43]'

The following interesting passages are quoted from the Address delivered by Archimandrite Du at his Nomination ceremony as Bishop of Tianjin:

I am Chinese, but Russian blood also runs in my veins. My ancestors were Russian Cossack-Albazinians who settled in Beijing in 1685. My faith is the Orthodox Faith which I inherited from my fathers, all of whom belonged to the Orthodox Russian Church. They witnessed to their faith and fidelity to the Orthodox Church by their blood which they shed in 1900 when, without fear, even women and children accepted suffering for Christ's Faith. My father and my closest relatives perished in that difficult moment for our Mission and I, being only a fourteen year old youngster, escaped death only by a miracle.
The firm adherance to the Faith by my relatives, and people close to me, laid a strong foundation of belief in God in my young soul, and this belief became stronger in the passing years of my life.
I graduated the courses in the Spiritual Seminary at our Mission in Beijing and for several years fulfilled the duties of Lector and Catechist. When I completed my twenty-second year, the Superior of the Mission, the late prelate Innocent ordained me into the diaconate, and I received an appointment to the Annunciation Conventual church of the Mission in the city of Harbin where, besides the ministry of deacon, I fulfilled the duties of a missionary, economus, and supervisor of the chancellery.

In the course of the following years it fell upon me to do missionary work in many cities of China: in Shanghai, Hànkǒu, Hǎimén, Kāifēng, Zhangde, Weihou, Bǎodìngfǔ, Zhāngjiākǒu (Kalgan), Shěnyáng (Moukden), Jílín, Qiqihar, and in Station Mǎnzhōulǐ where the Mission has an extensive hostel with a grandiose church in honor of St. Innocent, the Irkutsk Wonderworker, as well as orphanages and schools.

From 1932 I settled in Tianjin where the present Superior of the Mission, Archbishop Victor, elevated me to the rank of Protodeacon and soon ordained me to the Priesthood and appointed me to the post of Rector of the St. Innocent missionary church. I am serving in this capacity at the present time."

He went on to mention that there was a great need for church workers in China, and indicated that a great number of Pastcrs had died during the difficult years of the war.[44] A month after his consecration, on 26 September 1950, Bishop Simeon was transferred as Bishop of Shanghai.[45]

Sometime during 1950, probably at the sessions of the Sacred Synod which re-organized the Exarchate, Archbishop Victor was appointed Exarch, while Bishop Nicander Viktorov was made Vice Exarch and Superior of the Mission in Manchuria.[46] They were styled thus in a list of personages who had sent the Patriarch greetings at Christmas, 1950.[47] Neither the Ukase formulating these changes nor any other specific mention of these events was made in the publications of the Moscow Patriarchate, neither were Metropolitan Nestor, who lost his title as Exarch, mentioned.

The 14 March issue of the Church Times (London) said that the Communist regime of China had allowed in recent times the Russian Orthodox Church to expand its activities in China. It said that in 1951 the Russian Orthodox Church had increased the work of its missions both in China and Manchuria. The article mentioned that whereas in the past the work had been carried on among Russian emigres in such centers as Harbin and Shanghai, now new Orthodox Archbishoprics and Bishoprics had been established. It said that the Manchurian Archdiocese had 60 parishes, 200 priests, and up to 100,000 laymen, with two monasterise, and a theological school. In the remainder of China there were 150 Orthodox parishes and up to 200,000 parishioners. The article said that political motives had played their role in the support of the Church which is so closely bound up with Russia, the chief ally of China but, in spite of this, it says, the final fruit of this expansion of Christianity may be for the glory of God.[48]


This item from the Church Times is a bit exaggerated in view of the fact that there were only three hierarchs in all of China and Manchuria. Some of the other figures, also, are over-inflated and probably represent wishful thinking. However, it is known that the East Asian Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate was composed of five dioceses: Beijing, Harbin, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Sin-Tsian. As for the so-called "support" of the Orthodox Church by the Chinese government, this, too, is probably far from reality. There is an article in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate which, in some respects, is almost reminiscent of the apologies of Tertullian. The article stresses that in the past it was the Russian Church which began the process of bringing closer together the peoples of China and Russia through its early diplomatic and scholarly activities. It says that for 235 years of activity the Orthodox Mission never once had the shadow of political suspicion fall on its reputation, something which can not be said of the non-Orthodox missions. The article says that in the construction of a new society and life in China, the "peace-making voice of Orthodoxy can only operate for the good." Among other things the same article quotes from a 1951 issue of the Chinese Evangel (Kitaisky Blagovestnik) and mentions various Chinese Orthodox clergymen by name: the Priest John Du and Protodeacon Thallelaeus Mao. There is mention of the visit of professors and students from a Protestant theological school who, on 21 October 1951, visited the St. Innocent church of the Orthodox Mission in Beijing during the celebration of services. They were welcomed by the Pastor, Father Pinnas Du.[49]

Another article in the same journal mentions two concerts of religious music given in Shanghai on 23 and 30 November 1952 with the blessing of Bishop Simeon. The hymns were apparently sung in Russian. Before each concert Protopresbyter M. Rogozhin gave a short talk, recommending that all Christians ought to acquaint themselves with Orthodoxy and the purpose of the concerts was to acquaint people with Orthodoxy's spiritual treasures. He spoke in Russian with an interpreter translating into Chinese, while Bishop Simeon spoke in Chinese during the intermissions, translating his own speech into Russian. These two concerts were given in the Shanghai Cathedral by the Cathedral Choir. The edifice, which holds over a thousand ,was filled with Orthodox Chinese who stood for almost two hours for the music and talks.[50]

In June of 1954 Archbishop Victor was again called to Moscow to report on the affairs of his Exarchate. He was there from 12 through 27 June and was accompanied by Archpriest Leonidas Liu En-hoy, the Rector of the Sophia church in Tsindao.[51] The outcome of this visit is not known. However, by a decree of the Sacred Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Victor was transferred to the Krasnodar diocese in Russia and relieved of his duties as Exarch of the East Asian Exarchate.[52] About the same time Bishop Nicander of Harbin left for Russia and eventually was appointed to the cathedra of Archangelsk.[53] The re-calling of these two bishops and the general exodus of Russians from China and Manchuria seem to indicate that another step was being taken in the sinization of the Orthodox Church in China. In February of 1953 the Rector of the Tianjin Cathedral, Archpriest V. Sinaisky, received a visa from the Soviet Government and emigrated to the Soviet Union where he received a post in Sverdlovsk. In Tianjin, Father Sinaisky had been the assistant to the head of the Exarchal chancellery.[54] In January of 1957 Protopresbyter M. Rogozhin, mentioned above in connection with the Shanghai concerts, returned to Russia and was appointed to church work in the Krasnodar diocese where the diocesan bishop was Archbishop Victor.[55]


It is interesting to note that in July of 1956 Metropolitan Niphon Saba of the Syrian Orthodox see of Heliopolis stopped in Moscow on his way home from China. He remained in Moscow from 2 through 11 July as the guest of the Moscow Patriarchate. Unfortunately nothing more than this fact is known.[56]

The next event of importance in the life of the Orthodox Church of China was the arrival in Moscow of a delegation of members of the Orthodox Church of China on 27 May 1957. It included Archimandrite Basil Yao Fu'an (Shuang) who had received an Ukase, dated 23 November 1956, nominating him to the see of Beijing.[57] He had been recommended to the post by Archbishop Victor. The two other members of the Chinese delegation were the Archpriests Leonidas Liu Enhou and Anicetus Wang Yulin. The ceremony of Nomination of Archimandrite Basil took place on 28 May 1957 and he was consecrated Bishop of Beijing on 30 May, the Feast of the Ascension, in the church of the Transfiguration in Moscow by Metropolitan Nicholas, Archbishop Victor, and Archbishop Macarius of Mozhaisk. While in the Soviet Union the Chinese delegation visited Odessa, where they met the Patriarch, and other cities.

The new Bishop of Beijing was born on 23 December 1888 in Beijing. His Christian name as a layman was Ignatius. He completed his seminary studies at the Mission in Beijing and was ordained to the diaconate on 11 May 1915 by Bishop Innocent. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1948 and that same year, on 30 August, he received the monastic tonsure and was given the name Basil by Archbishop Victor. Elevated later that same year to the status of Hegumen, he became the Confessor of the Dormition monastery and the Convent of the Protection. In July of 1950, by the Ukase of Patriarch Alexis, he was made an Archimandrite and in December of the same year was appointed Superior of the Catechetical School of the Mission and a member of the governing council of the Exarchate. From February of 1951 he was a member of the Council of the Spiritual Mission which was a separate institution within the Exarchate. Finally, he was Dean of the Assumption Cathedral in Beijing and pro tempore administrator of the Beijing diocese in the absence of a bishop.


In his Address at his Nomination ceremony, the bishop-elect mentioned that as early as 1951 he had been chosen to be bishop of the Tien-tsin diocese by the Patriarch and Sacred Synod, but had refused the honor because of his infirmities and the knowledge that the flock of Christ in China was under capable leadership. "Now, he says, when the Exarch has been re-called and the Bishop of Harbin has gone to his native land, I, by the Providence of God, am chosen to occupy the most ancient cathedral of Beijing by a new decision of the Most Holy Patriarch and Holy Synod." He goes on to say that though he still is infirm both spiritually and physically, he will accept this office of responsibility in this moment of accounting in the life of the Orthodox Church in China.

In the customary address given by the consecrator of a new bishop when presenting him with his crosier, we find these interesting words uttered by Metropolitan Nicholas of Krutitsy and Kolomna:

You are now to exercise your episcopacy under new conditions of Orthodox ecclesiastical life in China, your great native land.

You know well that the Russian Orthodox Church gave birth to Orthodoxy in China through its Spiritual Mission which labored with honor and glory through the course of many decades, and adorned itself with many praise-worthy workers, the names of whom will never die in the history of Orthodoxy .

For a certain time the Orthodox Church in China was an Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and it, together with the Russian Spiritual Mission in latter years, was headed by the most worthy, and beloved by us all, Master-Archbishop Victor, one of our con-celebrants at your consecration. He is also your spiritual father.

Now the Orthodox Church in China is transformed into the Chinese Autonomous Church. In your internal life you will be independent.[58]

Although the date for the decree granting the Church in China an autonomous status has not been published, and the only inkling of it is the above quotation, it would seem that the sinization of the Chinese Church is well on its way. Although there are varying degrees of autonomy, there is no way of knowing to what extent the Chinese Church will be self-governing until the decree is published or until the new statutes of the Chinese Church become known. As of this writing there are now only two bishops for all of China (including Manchuria) and both of these are Chinese. There are three dioceses left to fill with hierarchs. These two bishops are both apparently quite old—Bishop Basil, as we have seen, being born in 1888. The Beijing Mission has had a glorious past and some of its Superiors (by 1950, in 235 years there had been a total of 19 superiors of the Mission)[59] will long be remembered for their various labors. Now, however, a new chapter has opened in the history of Orthodoxy in China and it will be the duty of the descendants of the Albazinian-Cossacks to carry on the works of their fathers.


In Manchuria, with which this article has not_ specifically concerned itself, but which now is part of China, the situation does not look very hopeful. Several monasteries have been closed with the monks and nuns dispersed. The orphanages have been taken over by the state, and though the Cathedral and some churches remain open in Harbin, the seminary and most schools are closed. The Russian colony there has grown much smaller and it would seem that the Chinese authorities wish to rid themselves of the Russian missionaries. The number of parishes in Manchuria has diminished and, as we have seen, the cathedra of the Exarchate was removed to Beijing. The see of Harbin, once occupied by a Metropolitan, now is vacant, though, presumably a bishop will be found to place there.[60]

There are now apparently no church periodicals published in Russian, if any at all. In the last several years there was considerable pressure to consecrate Chinese bishops but it was difficult to find suitable candidates because most of the native clergymen were married. Archpriest He was apparently to be consecrated Bishop of Harbin but he died. The Chinese seem to be all out to make Manchuria thoroughly Chinese and treat even the native Manchurians with contempt, while the Japanese and Koreans, for most part, have been expelled since 1945. There are only the Russians to contend with and there has been a mass exodus of these to the Soviet Union—including numerous churchmen. It does not seem so simple to get a Soviet visa judging from several statements in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, and it is probably even more difficult to get visas to other countries. The Chinese regime apparently does not care which country the Russians choose for emigration.

The sinization of Manchuria with the departure of the Russians will amount to a near catastrophe there as far as the Church is concerned for even if some churches remain open with Chinese priests, it is doubtful that these can be supported by the Orthodox natives. The diocese of Harbin, in 1941, possessed three bishops and 217 lesser clerics, with 69 churches, three monasteries, a theological facutly, and other schools and institutions—all built up, for the most part, after World War I.[61]


As for the problem of Metropolitan Nestor of Harbin, it is said that he was arrested in 1948[62] for his "former associations with the Russian emigres and the Japanese conquerors of Manchuria,"[63] and sent to Siberia. Other sources place his "arrest" later, in the early 50's[64] but, as we have seen above, this is probably wrong. This problem and other developments in Manchuria are discussed elsewhere.[65] On 8 July 1956 Metropolitan Nestor was appointed Metropolitan of Novosibirsk, a Siberian diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.[66]

There were still almost 100 Orthodox clergymen in Manchuria in 1953 but by 1955 their number fell to thirty and has probably gotten even smaller since. After Bishop Nicander left, he and other clergy appealed in the Russian press in Harbin for others to return to Russia. Twenty-eight left even before the Bishop.[67] In 1953 there were four Chinese priests in the city of Harbin and in 1954 Archbishop Victor ordained eight Chinese priests to replace the departing Russian clergy.[68] The situation in China proper is probably comparable to that in Manchuria.[69]


  1. Missionary and Mandarin by Arnold H. Rowbotham, University of California Press Berkeley, 1942, Pp. 374 (Pp. 107-109).
  2. A History of Christian Missions in China, By Kenneth Scott Latourette, New York, Macmillan, 1929, p. 199. According to Bolshakoff, The Foreign Missions of the Russian Orthodox Church, Pp. 63-64, this occured in 1686 and the men were not captured but went to Beijing willingly. He gives the number of men who remained as forty-five. In another place, however, he says: "The Russian Mission in China began in 1685, when the Chinese troops... captured 350 Siberian Cossacks. Soon afterwards the frontier was delimitated and the Cossacks were allowed to return to Siberia. 45 of them, however, agreed, on the invitation of Emperor Kangxi, to form a special unit of the Chinese Imperial Guard and to remain in China" (New Missionary Review. № 10, Autumn, 1956, Pa. 9-10). Another source, The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate (1950, № 10, p. 28) gives the number as 300 and says the men went freely.
  3. Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate (hereafter cited as J.M.P.), Ibid.
  4. Latourette, pp. 199-200.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Latourette, p. 200; J.M.P.. op. cit.
  7. Bolshakoff, Foreign Missions. p. 64.
  8. J.M.P., 1948, № 2, p. 32, "Sibirskie svjatiteli—chudotvortsy," By Archbishop Bartholomew.
  9. J.M.P., 1948, № 2, Pp. 32-33.
  10. Bolshakoff, Foreign Missions. p. 65; Latourette, p. 200.
  11. J.M.P., 1950, № 10, p. 28.
  12. Latourette, Pp. 274, 275.
  13. Ibid., Pp. 486, 487n.
  14. Latourette, p. 487.
  15. Bolshakoff, Foreign Missions, p. 67.
  16. J.M.P.. 1950, № 10, p. 28; The Book of a Th d T Harper, New York, 1938, p. 155.
  17. Latourette, Ibid.
  18. Bolshakoff, Foreign Missions, p. 67. g Ed. by Eric M. North,
  19. Latourette, p. 566.
  20. Latourette, Ibid.; The Eastern Churches Quarterly, Vol. V, Nos. 5-6, Pp. 121-122, 'The Missionary Expansion of the Russian Orthodox Church," By Nadejda Gorodetzky.
  21. Bolshakoff, Ibid.
  22. Latourette, Ibid.
  23. J.M.P.. 1950, № 10, p. 29.
  24. The Eastern Churches Quarterly. Ibid.
  25. Latourette, Pp. 741-742.
  26. I. M. Andreev, Kratkij obzor istorii Russkoj Tserkvi ot revoljutsii do nashikh dnej. Jordanville, N. Y., 1952, Pp. 100-101.
  27. Ibid. p. 111. He was consecrated in 1934, later made Archbishop. Died in Leningrad, 31 January 1947 (see J.M.P., 1947, № 2, Pp. 4-6 (Necrology).
  28. Andreev, Ibid.
  29. Bolshakoff, Foreign Missions, p. 68.
  30. J.M.P.. 1950, № 10, p. 29.
  31. J.M.P., 1945, № 12, Pp. 14-17.
  32. Ibid.. 1950, № 10, Pp. 28-29. Bishop John Maksimovich later emigrated to the United States and remains in the Karlovitz jurisdiction at the present time.
  33. Ibid.. 1946, № 5, Pp. 11-12 (Necrology).
  34. Ibid., 1946, № 7, p. 3.
  35. Ibid.. 1946, № 6, p. 59. Also see his short biography in J.M.P.. 1956, № 11, Pp. 13-14.
  36. Ibid., 1947, № 5, Pp. 46-47; 1948, № 9, p. 40.
  37. J.M.P., 1949, № 7, Pp. 21-27, "The Work of Roman Catholics and Protestants in China," By G. Lapin.
  38. The Eastern Churches Quarterly, Vol. VI, № 6, (April-June, 1946), p. 355.
  39. J.M.P.. 1950, № 2, p. 11.
  40. Ibid., 1949, № 11, Pp. 7-9.
  41. Ibid.. 1950, № 9, Pp. 26-31.
  42. Ibid.. 1953, № 4, p. 31.
  43. Pravoslavnyj Tserkovnyj Kalendar na 1951 god. Moskva, 1951, p. 8.
  44. J.M.P.. 1950, № 9, Pp. 37-38.
  45. Ibid.. 1950, № 10, p. 3.
  46. Ibid.. 1951, № 2, p. 4.
  47. For the photographs of Archbishop-Exarch Victor, Bishop Nicander of Qiqihar, Bishop Simeon of Shanghai, see the Pravoslavnyj Tserkovnyj Kalendar na 1952 god. Moskva, (n.d.). These are the only bishops in China and Manchuria at that time.
  48. Quoted in Messager de Il'Exarchat du Patriarche Russe en Europe Occidentale, Avril, 1952, № 10, p. 40.
  49. J.M.P.. 1953, № 2, Pp. 27-30.
  50. Ibid., 1953, № 4, Pp. 31-32.
  51. Ibid., 1954, № 8, p. 13.
  52. Ibid.. 1956, № 7, p. 13.
  53. Bolshakoff, New Missionary Review. Spring, 1956, № 9, p. 13. On 25 February 1957, Bishop Nicander was elevated to the status of Archbishop by the Patriarch (J.M.P.. 1957, № 3, p. 9).
  54. J.M.P., 1953, № 11, Pp. 44-46.
  55. Ibid.. 1957, № 10, Pp. 10-13.
  56. Ibid.. 1956, № 10, p. 16.
  57. Ibid., 1957, № 6, p. 13.
  58. Ibid.. 1957, № 6, Pp. 13, 22-29.
  59. Ibid.. 1950, № 10, p. 28.
  60. Bolshakoff, New Missionary Review (Oxford), Spring 1953, Pp. 8-9.
  61. Bolshakoff, New Missionary Review. Spring 1956, Pp. 12-13.
  62. Ibid.
  63. Ibid.. Autumn, 1956, Pp. 11-12.
  64. Vestnik Instituta po Izucheniju SSSR. Munchen, 1957, № 1, Pp. 123-124.
  65. Ibid.. 1956, № 3, Pp. 101-105, "Iz Istorii otnoshenij sovetskoj vlasti k Tserkvi na Dal'nem Vostoke" By E. N.
  66. J.M.P.. 1956, № 9, p. 3.
  67. Bolshakoff, New Missionary Review. Spring, 1956, Pp. 13-14; See also J.M.P., 1955, № 12, p. 10; Pravoslavnaja Rus', (Jordanville, N. Y.), 14 May 1956, contains a description of Harbin at this time.
  68. Pravoslavnaja Rus', 14 October 1955; See also Bolshakoff, Ibid.
  69. See Orthodox Life (Jordanville, N. Y.), 1956, № 6, Pp. 9-19; 1957, № 1, Pp. 20-22; and Tserkovnaja Zhizn' (New York), 1956, Nos. 7-10, p. 93 for accounts of the present-day situation in Harbin and of certain "miracles" taking place there in the form of "renewing of icons." Both of these journals are published by the schismatic Karlovitz Synod which is hostile to the Moscow Patriarchate.