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The Chinese Orthodox Church (simplified Chinese: 中华东正教会; traditional Chinese: 中華東正教會; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Dōngzhèngjiàohuì) is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church in China. It was granted autonomy by its mother church, the Russian Orthodox Church, in 1956.[citation needed]


Ancient PeriodEdit

Christianity is believed to have been founded in China by the apostle Thomas around the year 68 AD.[2][3] There is also evidence to suggest the missionary of a few Church of the East Assyrian Christians during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD).[4] Some Christians attribute Isaiah 49:12 to be a prophecy of the foundation of Christianity in China.[5] After the East-West Schism, the church in China was divided into two groups, Roman Catholicism and Chinese Orthodoxy, both present in significant amounts.[citation needed]


The Church of the East was introduced to China in the seventh century by a missionary, but was suppressed in the ninth century. The Eastern Christianity of that period is commemorated by the Nestorian Stele and Daqin Pagoda of Xi'an. Christianity was again introduced in the 13th century via the Mongol Empire during the Yuan dynasty but declined rapidly with the coming of the native Chinese Ming dynasty in the 14th century.

Russian MissionEdit

Former Orthodox church in Wuhan

Russian/Siberian Orthodox missionaries arrived in China in 1685. In that year, the Kangxi Emperor resettled 31 inhabitants from the captured fort of Albazin on the Amur River.

The first mission establishment was begun in 1715 at Beijing by an Orthodox Archimandrite, Hilarion. This mission is first recorded in the Russo-Chinese Treaty of Kyakhta (1727). Under Sava Vladislavich's pressure, the Chinese government conceded to the Russians the right to build an Orthodox chapel at the ambassadorial quarters of Beijing. The mission published four volumes of research in Chinese studies in the 1850s and 1960s. Two clerics became well known for scholarship in the subject, the monk Iakinf and the Archimandrite Palladius, who also compiled a dictionary. During the Boxer Rebellion, the mission suffered greatly, including the destruction of its library.

Leaders of the Russian MissionEdit

Boxer Rebellion and the Cultural RevolutionEdit

The Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900 targeted foreign missionaries and Chinese converts to Christianity. Orthodox Chinese were among those killed. The rebels also burned the mission's library at Beijing. The Orthodox liturgical calendar for June 24 remembers 222 Chinese Orthodox Christians, including Father Mitrophan, who were slaughtered in 1900, as the Holy Martyrs of China.[6] In spite of the uprising, by 1902, there were 32 Orthodox churches in China with close to 6,000 adherents[citation needed]. The church also ran schools and orphanages.

106 Orthodox churches were opened in China by 1949. Parishioners included Russian refugees and approximately 10,000 Chinese converts. Many churches were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (St Nicholas' Orthodox church in Harbin, for example).[citation needed]


The government of the People's Republic of China extends official recognition to five religious communities: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism (though with the latter two, the Chinese government had formed the Patriotic Catholic Association — which is not in communion with Rome — and the Three-Self Churches, respectively). However this recognition does not extend to the Orthodox Church; no national Orthodox association has ever been created in China. The officially declared reason for the government's non-recognition is the government's fear that external political forces from outside nations — in this case, primarily Russia — could achieve influence within China.[citation needed] Nonetheless in the 2010s tentative steps have been taken between China and Russia to revive the Chinese Orthodox Church; it has been speculated that this is part of an effort by the two governments to forge closer ties in response to perceived American hegemony.[7]

At present, there are only three communities in Mainland China with regular weekly services and resident clergy. The Beijing community meets at the restored Church of the Dormition in the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Dongzhimen; the Shanghai community at the Russian Consulate; and the Church of the Intercession, Harbin, the only one open to Chinese nationals for regular worship. Elsewhere, priestless congregations continue to meet in Northeast China (in Heilongjiang and elsewhere) and in Western China (Xinjiang - Ürümqi and Ghulja) with, apparently, the tacit consent of the government. There are also Orthodox parishes in the Province of Guangdong and in Shanghai; two former Orthodox churches in Shanghai are currently in a process of being returned to the church but no activities are currently held inside them.

In March 2018, The Chinese Orthodox church acquired the government's approval to prepare new priests in Russian theological seminaries. [8]

The Orthodox Church operates relatively freely in Hong Kong, where there are two parishes: St Luke's Greek Orthodox Cathedral (Eastern Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate) and the Russian Orthodox parish of Saints Peter and Paul under the Moscow Patriarchate. There is also a presence in Taiwan (where Archimandrite Jonah George Mourtos leads a mission church).

Orthodox EvenkisEdit

Although many of them have adopted Tibetan Buddhism, the Evenks of both the Russian Federation and China are a nominally Orthodox Christian people. They are some of the only Asiatic peoples who nominally practice Orthodox Christianity, which they had voluntarily (as opposed to being coerced to do so) adopted. There are also around 3000 Evenks in neighbouring Heilongjiang.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "REGIONS.RU — новости Федерации | Митрополит Иларион о православии в Китае". Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ [2][dead link]
  4. ^ "であいけい掲示板徹底ガイド". Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Isaiah 49:12 See, they will come from afar - some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Chinese Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion". Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  7. ^ Gardner, Hannah (21 October 2015). "Ordination of Russian Orthodox priest in China sign of warming ties amid U.S. tensions". USA Today. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Chinese Orthodox Receive State Approval to Prepare for Ministry in Russian Seminaries". Journey to Orthodoxy. Retrieved 2018-08-12.

External linksEdit