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A brief history of Roman Christianity being brought into China


The first time Roman Christianity was brought into China in 635 AD, during Tang Dynasty, on the 9th year of the Emperor Zheng Guan (唐贞观) of Tang, it was called Nestorianism (景教).



Apostles’ Creed

The Apostle’s Creed was brought in with the Roman bible. But not too many people became believers.

The Emperor Wu Zong of Tang Dynasty in 845 AD preferred Buddhism and made all other religions forbidden.

Then during the 13th century, Genghis Khan and his warriors brought Roman Catholicism into China for the second time. It became under the Yuan Dynasty’s control, with most of the believers from Mongolian, and Uighurs, and other Turks.

The propagation of this religion was terminated after Yuan was finished.

During late Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty, Roman Catholicism with foreign missionaries, especially the Italians, entered China by learning the Chinese language and mannerisms, while beginning to teach and translate Christianity into China.

They made Christianity fit the Chinese culture and Chinese life. The Italian Matteo Ricci was famous for bringing the Christian religion into China in a greater abundance. That was about AD 1600一1700 era.

During Emperor Kangxi (康熙)of Qing Dynasty, however, there was the “Chinese Rites Controversy” between the Pope in the Vatican against the Chinese Emperor. It undisputedly takes a significant position in the history of the conflict between Chinese Confucianism and Western Christian culture. China has a long civilization and is well known for its morals and rituals.

In AD 1693, it was the 32nd Emperor Kangxi, the leader of the French missionary in Fujian province named Shi Yan (士颜) who suddenly gave an order to all the Christian church believers to stop the rites for Confucian ceremony, worshipping their ancestors in the tombs, as well as paying tributes to their wood plaques in the homes. Then on AD 1704, the Papal Clement Xi gave an order to China, sending his representative named Doro to Beijing, with the order from the Vatican. And all the Christian missionaries in China were to follow that order without fail.

Then on AD 1721, the missionaries translated the Papal order into Chinese to give to the Emperor himself. Emperor Kangxi read it and became angry,He said: “Upon reading this French notice, I can only say that those little people from Foreign countries are simply not qualified to talk about our great Chinese Rites. From now on, those missionaries will not be allowed to do their missions in China any more, and to save us the problems.” Although he ordered those missionaries to leave China, many of them found a way to stay around.

The adjudication by the Pope from the Vatican:

1) Christian believers are forbidden to enter the local temples to worship the gods;

2) Christians are not allowed to enter the temple of Confucius for their worship;

3) Christians are not allowed to enter the local temples of their ancestry;

4) Christians are neither allowed to build tombs, make wooden plaques at home, nor out in the open, nor to pray to their ancestors in any way.

Christianity and the Opium War in China

Opium Salesman, War Spy, and using Christian Missionary as his cover, Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (born in 1803, died in 1851) was a German missionary who had started with the Dutch Mission in 1823, leaving that organization in 1827 to enter Indonesia and declared himself a free agent.

He learned the Chinese language and took a name in Chinese as Guo Shi Li. He entered the Guo Townsmen Association in the Southeast Pacific and in 1831 became a translator for the East India Company of UK. In 1833 he wrote a report called “Report on the expedition of the William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst to northern Chinese port” – plus others. Later he became the translator of Jardine Matheson company in Hong Kong for UK. He continued to dump Opium into China for the British salesmen. Guo acted as the chief Spying Officer for the British Expeditionary Fleet and was the city mayor in Ding Hai and Zhou Shan during the short time when Britain occupied those two cities. As UK won in the Opium War, Guo not only was responsible in the most part, but was the draftsperson for “The Treaty of Nanjing”. Thus, Guo was responsible for the dumping of Opium as well as the pushing of Christianity into China. Guo Shi Li was solely self-seeking in his contradictory acts as a missionary for Christianity and as an Opium salesman in it for the money. He ended up with a huge fortune.

Opium Salesman, War Spy, Hugh Hamilton Lindsay (胡夏米-林赛) was born on August 12th, 1802. At a young age of 18, Hugh was given the job as the Cargo Manager of a British merchant ship in 1820. Then in 1830 he was promoted to be the secretary of the British East India company in Guang Dong, China. It was recorded in history as the “Hugh H. Lindsay Incident”. In 1832  Hugh H. Lindsay became the pilot of the merchant ship named “Mark Milan” (阿美士德号) which had sailed through Amoy, Fuzhou, Zhou Shan, Ning Bo, Wusong Kou, and Weihai harbors, especially doing the survey of the harbors along Shanghai Bay.

Hugh Hamilton Lindsay measured those areas for navigation in China and published his “English Citizens Trickling in China” which was made as preparation for the oncoming battles against the Chinese ships. He concluded: even one thousand Chinese Ships cannot win against one modern British naval cruiser. In 1835, he sent his suggestion to the British Foreign Affairs Minister. He said that UK only needed 12 naval ships with 2940 sailors and soldiers to completely wipe out the Chinese navy.

British Sales Merchants

Chinese people smoking Opium(My grandma was among them)

After traveling 18,000 miles from China, the No.1 British Opium Salesman named William Chayton, nicknamed “Rat Iron Head” brought his Chinese silver equivalent to about 2,500,000 British pound sterling to London in July, 1839. He gave 100,000 pounds sterling to Viscount Henry Temple, Palmerston, 3rd

In the meantime as a large amount of Chinese silver began to flow out of China into Britain, the Emperor Dao Guang order his Primary officer, the Governor of two southern Provinces, Mr. Lin Ze Xu (林则徐), a friend of my great-great-great grandfather, to look into the Opium dumping into China by Britain.

In 1832, Governor of the two southern Provinces, Mr. Lin Ze Xu (林则徐) convinced the Emperor Daoguang (道光) to make Opium forbidden in China, because of losing all those tons of silver to Britain. In 1838, the Emperor Daoguang made Lin Ze Xu the Inspector General in charge of forbidding the smuggling of Opium in Guangdong Province. As soon as Lin Zr Xu arrived in Guang Zhou, he ordered the capture of illegal Opium, and it came to as many as 20,000 boxes. So He ordered all of it be destroyed at the “Tiger Gate” (虎门).  Thousands of people came to observe the huge event. This great event was immediately reported to the British Parliament in London. In three days the Lower House in the Parliament opened for discussion on whether British Navy could attack China. At the end 271 votes said yes to War while 262 votes were opposed to War.

So in June, 1940, 47 British naval ships plus 4,000 Army men under General George Elliot (1784-1863) (乔治·懿律) as the Chief Admiral, came to China in the first Opium War. His cousin Charles Elliot, the British Chief of Commerce came as his assistant. The Chinese army and navy came to over 91,680. In the end 523 English soldiers died and 69 of them were injured. But the Chinese death and injured came to over 22,790. China had to pay a lot of Silver plus give up much of our land to Britain.

Then the “Treaty of Nanjing” was signed. Inspector General Lin Ze Xu was exiled by the Emperor to Xin Jiang Province in Yi Li city. (for ten years!) And opium trade became wide open.

Two more Treaties followed the “Treaty of Nanjing” from UK. They were”Whampoa Treaty” and”Wangxia Treaty”, where Whampoa Treaty was between France and China, while Wangxia Treaty was between America and China, both took place in 1844, for more than 30 items in each, making China decrease further into a Half-Nation status, becoming weaker and weaker. That was to expire in twenty years; and by 1856, those countries plus Great Britain started another military attack on China for more pieces of the big “cake”. All this made the five city-harbors of China open for commoners with these nations and the opium trade became wide open for market in all China. Church buildings for Christianity and for Catholicism then opened by these Foreign countries in the five cities.   

The Second Opium War in China

Britain and France wanted more free trade and bigger share in the China market, but were refused by China. So all foreign nations agreed to start another military attack on China, especially into Shanghai, Tienjin, and into Beijing. The French and Britain were the two major Forces, with America, Italy, and Russia following behind for the spoil.

When French and British armies entered into Beijing they burned and destroyed the famous Imperial Garden called “Yuan Ming Yuan”Garden and they looted Beining.

This was called “The Second Opium War”with more treaties including “Tianjin”, “Beijing,and “Aihui Unequal Treaty, or, (瑷珲条约) the Treaty of Aihui unequal treaty imposed on the Qing government by tsarist Russia, 1858.

In addition to the previous five harbor cities becoming open markets, China was forced to open up at least ten more harbor cities for commerce, 开放牛庄、登州、台南、淡水、潮州、琼州、汉、九江、南京、镇江为通商岸. China had to pay eight million ounces of silver to French and British even after they had freely looted Beijing!  Foreign missionaries were freely allowed to spread Christianity in all of China from then on.

The spread of Christianity into China

According to the report by PRC National Bureau on religion, after the Opium Wars in 1840-1858, western Foreign Missionaries received special rights to spread Catholicism and Christianity in all China until 1949 when the current PRC took over.

There were 130 denominations with missionaries working in China. And there were about 700,000 Christians in the two groups combined by 1949. The Chinese people called them Foreign Believers. Then PRC took over the control and allowed self-spreading of Christianity. By 2008, there were about 23,050,000 Christians combined, with 50,000 church buildings, about 4,000 full time ministers or priests, 37,000 teachers, and 150,000 volunteers. There are 20 seminaries and schools, and they have printed 58,000,000 copies of the bible in all China.

And most of them are fundamentalists.

Respectfully, Eugene Lo Wei  (2022-06-15)

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