04 May 2011

Stars of the Orient: New Martyrs of China

Troparion, in the Fifth Tone:

In a pagan land ye were enlightened by the Orthodox Faith,
and having lived in the Faith but a little time,
ye inherited the eternal Kingdom.
By the purity of your Christian ways
ye put to shame the false Confucian piety
and trampled demon-inspired Buddhism underfoot as refuse,
sanctifying the Chinese land with your blood.
Wherefore, we pray:
Entreat the Master of all
that He enlighten your land with Orthodoxy in these latter times,
and strengthen us therein.

Kontakion, in the First Tone:

O Martyrs of these latter times,
ye whitened your garments in the blood of the Lamb,
and shed your own blood for Christ.
Wherefore, ye now minister unto Him day and night
in the Church of heaven.
Therefore, entreat Christ for us, O glorious Martyrs,
that He hide His little flock from the beguilement of Antichrist,
and that He lead all of us out of great tribulation
unto a land of never-waning light.
The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light:
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined. -- Isaiah
No matter how rich in tears, tribulations and death was the end of the XIX century, its very last year marked a particularly sinister event, a rough sketch, as it were, of the new realities to be unveiled by the dawning 1900s -- a century which in the eyes of most contemporaries promised common good, justice and plenty for all. If men could only learn the lessons of the Boxer Rebellion in China, wouldn't it be possible that the entire modern history changed its course?

Today, unlike 100 years ago, there is no naive excitement about the future: instead we see mass apathy, despair and horror caused by the abundant fruits of our century. This is hardly a better choice, however: what's needed is a sober and honest assessment of our trouble, both around us and inside ourselves, to get out of it before it is too late. A glimpse into the past helps find our way in the future.

Part 1: The Celestial Empire and her Northern Neighbor

Not only the Chinese people is the most numerous in the world: it also has a very rich culture and ancient statehood. Hundreds of years B.C. the Chinese had established the way of life which was preserved with little changes until very recently. Silk and paper, gunpowder and printing press speak for the material culture of China; names of Confucius and Lao-Tse remind us of its spiritual heritage.

Traditional Way of Life

Chinese religious scene is often understood as some sort of ecumenism where "anything goes". This is not so: three traditions of Chinese religious thought -- Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism -- constitute certain structure known as "the three ways to the single goal". This structure, moreover, was remarkably stable and resistant to external influences.

Fr. Seraphim (Rose), who had been a serious scholar of ancient Chinese culture, and for whom Taoism became a bridge to the Christian Orthodox faith noticed that
"...there is a very strong idea in the Chinese mind of orthodoxy: that there is a right teaching, and that the whole society depends on that right teaching. This orthodoxy is expressed in different forms ... Taoism is the esoteric side, and Confucianism is the more social side."[1]
Reserved and cautious approach to alien influences helped the Chinese to keep their culture and civilization throughout millennia in numerous conflicts with neighbors and nomads. We all remember the timeless advise:
"...If we are truly born to imitate, why shouldn't we borrow then from the Chinese their wise incognizance of foreign tribes, and get redeemed from tyranny of fashion?" (Griboedov, Woe from Wit)
Traditional way of life based on the notion of orthodoxy was the foundation of the Chinese society and state. Western attempts to establish contacts with China, including Christian missionary efforts, remained largely unsuccessful due to disregard (or total ignorance) of that foundation.

Albazinians in Beijing

China faced her northern neighbor in XVII c., when Russia expanded into East Siberia. First contacts were limited to border skirmishes; then, in 1685, a 15,000 strong Chinese force captured Russian fortress of Albazin on the Amur River. A number of Cossack families were taken prisoners and settled in Beijing: that was the origin of the Russian "Albazinian" minority in the Chinese capital. Fr. Maxim Leontiev went to Beijing with the Cossacks to become the first Orthodox priest on the ancient Chinese soil.

The Albazinians were assigned to the honorary warrior estate; they played an important role in the development of political and trade relations between Russia and China in XVII - XIX cc. Chinese authorities allowed them to build a chapel, and later, in 1695 -- when the Antimens, service books and church articles had been sent from Russia, -- a church was built, in spite of the widespread restrictions and persecutions of Christians. Remarkably, Metropolitan Ignatios wrote to Fr. Maxim in Beijing:

"Your captivity is not without benefit for the Chinese; for the light of the Christian Orthodox faith opens to them through your presence, and you gain much towards your own salvation."[2]

The Ecclesiastical Mission

Such was the beginning of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing. For over 250 years it provided Christian enlightenment to Albazinians and native Chinese, and served as the base for the Russian scholars of Chinese land, language, history, and culture. Commenting on the Mission's opening and on conversion of a number of Chinese, Emperor Peter the Great observed:
"This is a very important enterprise. But, for God's sake, let us be cautious and circumspect, not to provoke either the Chinese authorities or the Jesuits whose den is there since long ago. To this end, the clergymen are needed not so much as scholarly, but rather reasonable and amicable, lest this holy effort suffers a painful defeat because of certain kind of arrogance".[3]
Although Peter I is rarely counted among Christian sources, in this case his foresight proved to be amazingly accurate.

The work of the Mission had its ups and downs, but we always see its best representatives following the original guidelines and combine the highest levels of knowledge with deep respect to the country they lived in, to her people and culture. Take for instance Archimandrite Hyacinth Bichurin, Chief of the Ninth Mission in Beijing (1808-1820), one of the most prominent sinologists, author of many scholarly works, Pushkin's friend and inspirer:
"Fr. Hyacinth immediately plunged into the Chinese life, and soon he was feeling himself completely at home. He got used to the Chinese, learned the language to perfection... broad contacts with local people gave him accurate and first-hand knowledge of the country and its life."[4]
Or listen to Archimandrite Peter Kamensky, Chief of the Tenth Mission (1820-1830), who wrote about his contacts with Chinese dignitaries:
"This great minister of the local faith, a Manchurian named Kutouhta, became our good friend in Beijing. He visited us very often, many times was present at the Divine Liturgy, invited us for dinner, and so did we..."[5]
Those who see St. Stephen of Perm, St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of the Aleutian Islands, or St. Nicholas of Japan as a role model for a Christian missionary will find little noteworthy in the above quotes: basically, what else should be expected? But if we hold these saints as a standard, alternative ideals and examples of enlightenment of heathens abound in the Western world ever since the Crusades.

Visible results of the Mission's work could be more impressive. Numbers of the Chinese Orthodox would grow and then shrink again. During the periods of persecutions, Chinese converts would sometimes mask themselves as Albazinians:
"...With God's help and protection, the measures of the Chinese government have not affected our Orthodox Christians of Albazinian origin: it is well known that they are Russian descendants. Thus, other Chinese and Manchurian Christians could safely go to the Church, pretending they were also Albazinians:... in 1768 the Great Khan issued a very stern decree, prohibiting all Manchurians, Chinese, Mongolians and Koreans to convert into a foreign faith under the pain of terrible punishment..."[6]
Unfortunately, Albazinians seemed to be far from exemplary Christians: frequent were complaints of their ignorance, weakness in faith, tendency towards pagan customs, drunkenness... The year of 1900 will judge them from a different standpoint, however, reminding once again of how limited the human judgment could be, and how dangerous it is to draw a line between "good" and "bad" Christians.

Part 2: Slicing of the Melon

The Dawn of the "Millennium of Peace"

Addressing German troops in 1900, Kaiser William II encouraged them in the following bold words which might have caused a few brows rising among the rulers from the European Christian past :
"Just as the Huns a thousand years ago, under the leadership of Attila, gained a reputation by virtue of which they still live in history, so may the German name become known in such a manner in China that no Chinese will ever again dare to look askance at a German."[7]
While the leader of the highly civilized German nation sets a simple practical goal to learn from the Huns, a contemporary American ideologist Prof. J.W. Davis adds a theological spin to the subject:
"China needs protection and guidance, even to the point of wise compulsion... China will be delivered from its effete civilization and will come under the power of those motives which have their source in the vital truth of the Christian revelation."[8]
And here is what Senator A. Beveridge of Indiana had to say to his colleagues about the U.S. foreign policy and its underlying principles:
"God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years of nothing but vain and idle self- contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world... that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples."[9]
Such were the dominant opinions of the day. Racial superiority over the "savage and senile peoples" coupled with irresistible desire to convert it into cash were viewed as legitimate manifestation of "the motives which have their source in the vital truth of the Christian revelation". It was not a shortage of oxygen, fresh water of arable land, but rather progress in the range of naval vessels, accuracy of fire and destructive force of projectiles, that suddenly rendered the planet too small. Old countries on the world map were rapidly changing their colors, and familiar human fallacies like "the Millennium of peace", "wise compulsion", "end justifies the means", etc. have found amazingly broad practical implementation.

Under the Attack of Free Trade

China remained one of the few juicy pieces still to be divided among the "civilized nations". Her plight was exacerbated by the weakness and impending fall of the ruling Manchu dynasty which had been in power since XVII century. Crises of that kind are painful for any monarchy; China had experienced a number of them in her long history, and all of them brought about civil strife, turmoil, and human suffering. Under such conditions the much-coveted "opening up" of ancient China was taking place; the Chinese, however, saw it as "slicing of the melon".

As usual, the first issue on the table is free trade; then claims are made for "concessions" and "zones of influence" for every trade partner; and soon the country itself is gone, split into colonies and protectorates. Again as usual, the leadership was Great Britain's. Problems with export of Chinese tea to Europe began in early XIX c.: British tea clippers, those white-winged sea beauties, returned to China loaded with opium, the hottest item in the noble gentlemen's business plans. China had never known opium before: in a matter of few decades it swept the country and became the scourge of the nation. Christian missionaries, who helped their flock get rid of the loathsome addiction, proudly ascribed their success to the "advantages of the Western civilization"; they never stopped to think who introduced the drug in China in the first place.[10]

Little wonder that the government of China did not share the British views on free trade and "advantages of the Western civilization"; hence the First Opium War with Britain, then the Second, with Britain and France, than with Japan, than again with France, than once again with Japan, all with the same outcome: defeat of the Chinese army, humiliation of the Chinese state, expansion of foreign influence.

Pistol Diplomacy

Thus, traditional isolationist tendency of the Chinese and their distrust of the aliens were continually fueled during the XIX c. and eventually grew into a steady hatred. The infamous Tientsin massacre of 1870 offers a graphic example:
"A serious disturbance apparently having been nipped in the bud, Ch'ung-hou began to draft a proclamation to pacify the inhabitants of the city. Shortly after noon, however, he was suddenly informed that a brawl had begun at the Catholic church between some converts and a group of bystanders. Just as he was deputing soldiers to quell the riot, the French consul arrived at the yamen and Ch'ung-hou went out to greet him.

"Fontanier, accompanied by his chancellor, M. Simon, was armed with two pistols and in an ugly mood. Upon seeing Ch'ung, he began to use abusive language and, in an act of incredible folly, shot at the Chinese official, fortunately without hitting him. Fontanier was then seized by the onlooking attendants, and Ch'ung-hou, finding it inconvenient to wrangle with him further, withdrew for the moment into the yamen. The consul then entered, and, shouting furiously, started to make a shambles of the room's contents.

"When his fury had abated somewhat and he prepared to go, Ch'ung-hou advised him that since popular feeling was enraged and a mob of several thousand Chinese -- including members of the gentry and official classes -- had gathered in the streets outside, he had best not leave the yamen. The Frenchman, according to Ch'ung, replied that he was not afraid of the Chinese common people and angrily stalked out into the crowd.

"Outside Fontanier encountered the Tientsin magistrate, purportedly on his way back from having suppressed the disturbance at the church. The consul again fired his pistols, missing the magistrate, but fatally wounding one of his attendants.

"Whether the hideous atrocities which followed were pre-meditated, as the "immense majority" of contemporary foreigners seemed to feel, or not, they were now inevitable. Fontanier and Simon were ripped open on the spot. The crowd then plundered and set fire to the French consulate, the orphanage, the church, and other Catholic properties, and killed and savagely mutilated every Frenchman that could be found..."[11]
The Underlying Crisis

Unfortunately, we have to admit that Western missionaries -- both Protestant and Roman Catholic -- had something in common with consul Fontanier and his kind. A young American woman, a preacher of the Word, is riding on the horseback in Shansi Province in 1898. A Chinese villager calls her "a foreign devil" (common derogative for the aliens) from far away; she catches up with him and treats him with her whip. Worst of all, no one of her fellow missionaries seems to have any problem with that...[12]

Arrogance and contempt are often explained away by "cultural differences". There are indeed enough peculiarities in the Chinese culture, from an evasive manner of speech (mistaken by many for deception), unusual food, clothing, and hygienic rules, to the already mentioned addiction to drugs, propensity for litigation (some Chinese viewed conversion to Christianity as a means to prevail over the contestants in numerous lawsuits), swindling, and horrible custom of killing the "unneeded" newborn. All that is true, and all that could be counted as an excuse for someone who came here as a merchant -- but hardly as a Christian missionary.

Considering Sino-Western relations in general, including politics, commerce, culture and religion, we have to conclude that the events of 1900 were caused not by the "transgressions" of the West, but by the very nature of the Western influences. The ancient Chinese state could be seen as a victim of the conflict between opposing trends within the Western culture itself, -- or, in other words, of its crisis.[13]

Tragically, Russia took her part in the "slicing of the melon". A. Solzhenitsyn observes that
"...it was wrong for Russia not only morally, but also practically, to overstep her vast natural boundaries. The Russian government since 1895 joined forces with the European powers in the Far East, which resulted in the shameful act of sending troops to Beijing in 1900: for many decades China had been weak, and all international predators were scrambling to take a bite."[14]
We shall see below to which extent Solzhenitsyn is justified in calling Russian military operation "shameful"; but in any case, there is much to lament here, both in particular -- when Russian names are mentioned in connection with violence against the civilians, -- and in general, when we speak of Russian involvement in Manchuria, of Russo-Japanese war, and the following events. And, as always, the enemies of Russia use every opportunity for their advancement:
"British policy of the moment was to play up to Germany and defeat Russian territorial ambitions in the Far East. For that policy decision, nameless Chinese villagers would die of English bullets."[15]
Part 3: Red Fist vs. Mailed Fist

Young Liberators

The movement of the Yi-Ho-Tuan, or Boxers, -- as the Europeans called them because of the red ensign of the clenched fist, -- has an obscure origin[16]. Chinese history is rich in secret societies and rebellions; Boxers' hallmark was their unquenchable hate of the "foreign devils" and their native stooges which had to be expunged at any cost.

Boxer groups began to spring up in 1899. They set up temples with sacrifices to local idols and hypnotic rites not much different from those practiced by modern occultists and New Agers. Their extensive battle drilling was similar to what is currently taught as Oriental martial arts. Thanks partially to suggestive techniques, partially to cheap fraud, Boxers were certain of their invincibility to enemy's bullets -- at least for the time being.

Boxer detachments consisted predominantly (if not exclusively) of village youth: gentry never took part in them, but in general were sympathetic. Observers testify with horror about the young age of Boxer fighters; Empress Tzu Hsi, on the contrary, welcomed "broad participation of children in the liberation of the country from the aliens". It is very important that anti-Christianity from the beginning to the end was the backbone of Boxer ideology, religious in nature and appearance: their propaganda tried to convince the people that ancient gods turned away from them, dismayed with the iniquities of alien worship[17]. Along with the familiar image of an arrogant, aggressive and stupid foreigner, they exploited wild superstitions and absurd accusations of cannibalism, child abuse, and even "arson of water wells."[18]

Swift Success...

Whether the Boxers had a goal to liberate the country from the ruling dynasty is not clear: there were contradictory appeals to support the Manchu and to get rid of them. The government was not too consistent either: although Boxers had many sympathizers at the Imperial Court, hoping they stop the "slicing of the melon", up until Spring of 1900 the official policy was to protect the foreign missions and subdue the rising rebellion.

By June, however, the rebellion engulfed the countryside and spilled over into Beijing: Legation Quarter, filled with foreign refugees and their families, came under siege. A joint detachment, sent from Tiantsin to rescue them, was pushed back by Boxer fighters. The Empress heard this news as a call to action: she ordered her troops to support the Boxers, arrested and killed the highest officials suspected of having links with the aliens, and declared war on Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Austro-Hungary, Untied States, and Japan. Provincial authorities, which until that moment had been wavering and even tried to resist the Boxers, now took their side and in some places began the extermination of Christians.

Some say that the Boxers owe their swift success to the draught: allegedly, superstitious Chinese peasants, unable to start toiling their land and, facing sure famine, vented their outrage at the "foreign devils" whom they held responsible for the absence of rain. But this doesn't explain much: firstly, draught in China is not unheard of (and normally the government would have the situation under control by bringing in food supplies from other provinces), and, secondly, the draught of 1900 did not last long: by June the soil already had enough water, and many of the terrible atrocities of the Boxer Rebellion evolved under pouring rain[19].

The war spread northeast, where the construction of the East-Chinese Railroad by the Russians was under way. Forces of the Trans-Amur District came under assault from the Chinese troops and Boxer bands; city of Harbin was besieged and attacked. Casualties, both military and civilian, were very substantial.

"Tragic was the fate of the detachment of road builders which withdrew from Mukden under the command of lieutenant Valevsky and engineer Verhovsky: most of them were killed in battle. Verhovsky was taken prisoner and beheaded.

"...There is a small monument at the Piatnitskoe cemetery in Moscow. The caption says: Boris Alexeevich Verhovsky, 1873 - 1900. And another caption on the side: The head of Railroad Engineer B. A. Verhovsky, killed by Chinese Boxers in Lao-Yan, Manchuria, in July, 1900, was brought in Russia in 1901 and is resting under this stone."20

If this tombstone survived the Bolshevist years, it is probably the only monument of that war on the Russian soil.

...And Crushing Defeat

In the meantime, the allied powers dispatched troops to China, which, having broken minor resistance of the Chinese forces, reached Beijing by mid- August. The Imperial Court fled, hoping, evidently, to continue the fight, but soon accepted the conditions of surrender. The war was over; former members of the Boxer bands were subject to arrest, court-martial, and execution.

Like any other war, the defense of the Legation Quarter in Beijing and the multinational rescue expedition from Tiantsin have seen both gallantry and wickedness, self-sacrifice and brutality. The trouble is, when the Chinese were defeated, the latter completely overtook the former.

Much was written about the heroes of the Legation Quarter where a handful of sailors and marines from different countries for two long months stood firm against fierce attacks of numerous savages... It is uncommon, however, to mention with this regard, that the Chinese military command in Beijing restrained its forces from assaulting the Legation Quarter, while Boxer bands, armed mainly with sticks and knives, their formidable appearance notwithstanding, were poor match for Gatling guns and cannon[21].

"Compensation for the Damage"

Pillaging and atrocities of the occupation troops in China made an impression even on seasoned observers. The Germans (apparently inspired by their Kaiser) were particularly notorious:
"...They are still shooting around here, just as if a war were going on. They don't think anything at all of a Chinaman's life, and on the least excuse they shoot them down like so many dogs. As you have probably noticed in my dispatches I have NOT much use for the German soldiers anyhow. They are a big lot of swine, if human beings ever are swine."[22]
Western missionaries also showed their interest in the "compensation for the damage", motivated, as it were, by their version of the "Christian revelation":
"As you know, of course, by the papers, everybody went loot- mad at Tientsin and here, and the missionaries were as bad, if not worse than, anybody else. Here is a sample of what they did. Take the case of one missionary. As soon as the allies arrived, he boldly took possession of the house of one of the Princes who was wealthy and who had fled with the Court. Then he sent out and got some moneyed men and showed them the store of treasure he had and boldly asked for bids. He sold everything in the home except what he needed for his own use. His alleged excuse for doing it was that "his people" had been robbed and he had the right to compensate himself for their losses. In other words, two wrongs make a right. If a man steals from you, you steal from him.

"This case is not an isolated one. These men knew where the rich men lived in Peking, and the moment it was safe to do it they descended on their homes and took possession, protecting themselves by sticking up a flag of whatever nationality they happened to belong to. A case even worse than the one cited is that of a missionary who found six soldiers digging for loot that they learned had been buried. They were Americans, and, under the orders of our Government, our men could take nothing. The fact that these men were disobeying orders gave the missionary an advantage, and he frightened then away by telling them he would report them to their officers. They left. Half an hour or so afterwards they got back their courage and started back to the place. They got there just in time to find the missionary driving off with the treasure. He had commandeered coolies and put them to work digging up the stuff, silks and silver."[23]
The Glory of the Huns

But besides barbarities and looting, no matter how terrible they were, there was more to the conflict of cultures in the Chinese expedition. American general Wilson, a skilled and experienced soldier obviously unaffected by any "idealism", bears eloquent witness to this fact:
"Brigadier Richard Barrow, British Adjutant General, asked for my permission to destroy the beautiful porcelain pagoda which had stood on the brow of the hill overlooking the plains beyond for a thousand years, and was still as fresh in appearance as the day it was built. Amazed at the request which seemed to be made in the spirit of barbarism, I declared at once that I could not countenance the destruction of such a beautiful building while I remained in command of the joint forces. Desirous, however, of knowing what justification could be advanced in support of this strange request, I asked General Barrow why the British Minister wanted to destroy so notable a landmark. His reply was still more amazing, for he explained at once that if the Christians did not destroy this famous Chinese temple, the Chinese, who had destroyed many missionary churches, would conclude that their gods to whom the pagoda was dedicated were more powerful than the God of the Christians.

"A brief conversation followed, in which I stood by my disapproval of the proposition, but concluded with the remark that I should dissolve the Anglo-American command and withdraw our contingent to Peking at the early hour the next morning, after which the British Minister and the British command would, of course, be free to take such action as they might think proper. And there the matter rested that night, and the next morning till I took up my return march, but I regret to add that we had hardly got strung out in the plain below when the British contingent which had already undermined the foundation of the pagoda, exploded a charge of gunpowder under its base and toppled the world-famed structure over in irretrievable ruin."[24]

Rather than styling himself as someone like St. Clement who "labored to obliterate all places of the idol worship", General Barrow should have learned a lesson from Russian Orthodox villagers of the Volga region who, passing by a mosque, would make the sign of a Cross and explain to a puzzled foreigner that "Muslims have built this house for God, and respect is due to it".
Mark Twain in a pamphlet scornfully called "To the Person Sitting in the Darkness" quotes the Rev. Mr. Ament, of the American Board of Foreign Missions, who made a trip to China for the purpose of collecting indemnities for damages done by Boxers:
"I criticize the Americans. The soft hand of the Americans is not as good as the mailed fist of the Germans."[25]
Surely, it was not only the Kaiser who coveted the glory of the Huns.

Part 4: "Preaching the Lamb of God, ye were also slain as lambs..."

Orthodox Martyrs in Beijing

The month of June of 1900, when Boxers were soaking Beijing in Christian blood, gave China her first Orthodox martyrs.

"Of the 1,000 flock of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission about 300 have been lost. A few of them renounced the Faith, but most, numbered 222, became holy confessors and martyrs for Christ."[26]

Archimandrite Innocent, then Chief of the Mission, later Metropolitan, and Archimandrite Abraham, testify of their martyrdom in the following words:
"The day of reckoning for most Orthodox Chinese was June 11, 1900. On the eve of that day leaflets were posted in the streets, calling for the massacre of the Christians and threatening anyone who would dare to shelter them with certain death. In the middle of the night gangs of Boxers with flaming torches spread over Beijing, attacking Christian houses, seizing Christians and forcing them to deny Christ. Some, terrified by torture and death, indeed renounced the Faith in exchange for life and burned incense before idols. Others, undaunted, confessed Christ. Their fate was horrible. They were ripped open, beheaded, burned alive. After that day search for Christians and killings continued: Christian houses were destroyed, people brought out of town to where Boxers' temples were set up, interrogated and burned at the stake.

"As even the non-Christian bystanders would admit, Orthodox Chinese faced their death with astounding courage. Orthodox catechist Paul Wang died with a prayer on his lips. Ia Wang, a Mission school teacher, suffered martyrdom twice. First time the Boxers slashed her with swords and buried half- dead. An attendant, non-Christian, heard her groaning and carried her to his cabin. There Boxer seized her again, and this time they tortured her to death. In either instance Ia Wang fervently confessed Christ in the face of her tormentors.

"Among those who died for Christ were Albazinians whose ancestors first carried the light of holy Orthodoxy to Beijing in 1685. Their faith has now been crowned with the glory of martyrdom conferred upon their descendants. Albazinians Clement Kui Lin, Matthew Chai Tsuang, his brother Witt, Anna Chui, any many more, fearless of those who kill the body but cannot harm the soul (Matt. 10:28) met agony and death with courage, praying the Savior for their tormentors.

"Of all Chinese Orthodox martyrs, the most famous are priest Mitrophan Tsi-Chung and his family. He was born in 1855, and at the age of 25 was baptized by Bishop [St.] Nicholas of Japan. Mitrophan was a low-profile kind of a man, shy and reticent, peaceful and humble; even in case of a grave insult he would never seek to justify himself. He was unwilling to become a priest, saying: A man of poor talent and little virtue, how dare I accept this great rank? Encouraged by Archimandrite Flavian and the teacher, he finally consented, yet knowing that priesthood will never bring him happiness. He served under Archimandrite Flavian, helping with translation and proofreading of liturgical books [along with the churches, Boxers burned down the print shop and destroyed all plates and types]. For fifteen years he served God tirelessly, suffering much pain and contempt from everyone near and far, and finally was struck with a mental illness. After that he settled outside of the Mission, receiving half of his former salary as a pension. Throughout his life Fr. Mitrophan was always generous, and many took advantage of him.

"On June 1, 1900 (the 17th day of the 5th month, according to the Chinese calendar), in the evening Boxers set the Mission ablaze. A number of Christians, seeking shelter, gathered in the house of Fr. Mitrophan. Among them were those who had done him much harm in the past, but he didn't mind. Seeing that some were falling in despair, he tried to encourage them, saying that the time of tribulations has come, and it is hard to avoid them. Several times a day he would go out to look at the cinders at the church site. On June 10, at about 10 PM, soldiers and Boxers surrounded his house. There was about 70 people inside; some stronger ones ran away, and those who remained, Fr. Mitrophan and many others, mostly women and children, were all martyred. He was sitting in the front yard; Boxers stabbed his chest like a beehive, and he fell under the date tree.

"Neighbors dragged his body to the site of the Mission's hospice. Fr. Heiromonk Abraham found it later, and in 1903, when the Feast of the New Martyrs was first celebrated, it was placed with other bodies in the church of the Martyrs under the Altar. Today (1920es) there is a Cross standing where he was killed; on the Martyr's Feast a procession goes there for the memorial service.

"Fr. Mitrophan had a wife Tatiana, born Li, and three sons: Isaiah, the oldest, Serge, who is now an Archpriest, and John. On the 10th of June in the evening Tatiana escaped the Boxers with the help of her son's bride, but on the next morning she was beheaded among others on the place where now is the hospice for the poor. Isaiah was 23, and he served in the military. He was beheaded on June 7, on the main street near the Ping-tse-Min gates, since it had been known that he was a Christian. His bride Mary, 19, two days before the massacre came to Fr. Mitrophan, willing to die in the house of her bridegroom. Three times tried Isaiah's brother Serge to convince her to leave and hide, but she refused, saying: I was born near the church of the Mother of God, and I will die right here. When the soldiers and Boxers overtook the place, she found her rest in the horrible death.

"John was 8. On June 10, when his father was killed, Boxers slashed his shoulders and chopped off his nose, ears and toes. Isaiah's bride helped him escape death by hiding in the outhouse. When people asked him if it hurt, he answered that it does not hurt to suffer for Christ. Children were mocking him... John asked the neighbors to drink, but they didn't give him and drove him off. Protasios Chang and Irodion Tsui, who had not yet been baptized at that time, testify that they saw John with wounds shoulders and legs: wounds were deeper than an inch, but he didn't seem to feel pain and, taken again by the Boxers, showed no fear and walked steadily. An old man protested, saying: What is the boy's fault? Blame the parents for his becoming a devil's disciple. Others jeered at him, scoffed him, or simply grinned with derision. Thus he was led away, as a lamb to the sacrifice."[27]

"We came here to bring you the Good News..."
It would be a grave injustice -- especially in connection to what has been said of Western missionaries -- not to mention non-Orthodox Christians, both Chinese and Europeans, who suffered martyrdom in those days. About 30,000 Roman Catholics and 2,000 Protestants were killed; 134 of 2,500 Protestant missionaries lost their lives[28]. As a tribute to their memory we are presenting here the eyewitness testimony of the events of July 9, 1900 at the Shansi Governor's Palace in Taiyuan, before a huge crowd of bystanders:
"The first to be led forth was Mr. Farthing (an English Baptist missionary). His wife clung to him, but he gently put her aside, and going in front of the soldiers knelt down without saying a word, and his head was struck off with one blow of the executioner's knife. He was quickly followed by Mr. Hoddle and Mr. Beynon, Drs. Lovitt and Wilson, each of whom was beheaded by one blow of the executioner's knife. Then the Governor, Yu Hsien, grew impatient and told his bodyguard, all of whom carried heavy swords with long handless, to help kill the others. Mr. Stokes, Mr. Simpson, and Mr. Whitehouse were next killed, the last by one blow, the other two by several.

"When the men were finished the ladies were taken. Mrs. Farthing had hold of the hands of her children who clung to her, but the soldiers parted them, and with one blow beheaded their mother. The executioner beheaded all the children and did it skillfully, needing only one blow, but the soldiers were clumsy, and some of the ladies suffered several cuts before death. Mrs. Lovitt was wearing her spectacles and held the hand of her little boy, even when she was killed. She spoke to the people, saying, We all came to China to bring you the good news of the salvation by Jesus Christ; we have done you no harm, only good. Why do you treat us so? A soldier took off her spectacles before beheading her.

"When the Protestants had been killed, the Roman Catholics were led forward. The Bishop, an old man with a long white beard, asked the Governor why he was doing this wicked deed. I did not hear the Governor give him any answer, but he drew his sword and cut the Bishop across the face with one heavy stroke; blood poured down his white beard and he was beheaded.

"The priests and nuns quickly followed him in death. Then Mr. Pigott and his party were led from the district jail which is close by. He was still handcuffed, and so was Mr. Robinson. He preached to the people to the very last, when he was beheaded with one blow. Mr. Robinson suffered death very calmly. Mrs. Pigott held the hand of her son, even when she was beheaded, and he was killed immediately after her. The ladies and two girls were also killed.

"On that day forty five foreigners were beheaded in all, thirty three Protestants and twelve Roman Catholics. A number of the native Christians were also quickly killed. The bodies of all were left where they fell till the next morning, as it was evening before the work was finished. During the night they were stripped of their clothing, rings and watches. The next day they were removed to a place inside the great South Gate, except some of the heads which were placed in cages on the city wall. All were surprised at the firmness and quietness of the foreigners, none of whom, except two or three of the children cried or made any noise."[29]
Part 5: One Hundred Years Later

Dewey, Marx, and Lenin

One hundred years is not much for China, but this century was not an ordinary one. To a large extent, it was a consequence of the Boxer Rebellion and the crushing defeat of China by the allied powers. The Chinese got seriously interested in Western culture. First and foremost they were concerned with such mundane things as railroad, telegraph, and semi-automatic rifle; but the change of mind on a deeper level was also evident:
"Militant Christianity triumphed temporarily over the ancient religions, not because great numbers of the Chinese were persuaded to accept the cross, but because they were converted to a belief in education... The Chinese would be selective about the offerings of the West; they would eventually reject Christ but accept John Dewey (and later Messr. Marx and Lenin)."[30]
An eyewitness of the Boxer Rebellion quite naturally reached a sober conclusion: "If the Chinese are a cruel people, they will probably be more cruel in the future, for they have the example of the civilized people to follow."[31] Also remarkable is the following observation:
"The inevitable by-product of this sudden increase in the educated class was the creation of intelligentsia. The intelligentsia has been described as a group of educated people in a country which cannot find any other occupation than that of undermining the traditional institutions which keep that country from being in the front line of 'progress'. China certainly found herself with this irritant in the early years of the XX century."[32]
Triumph of Communism in China is not incidental either. In the popular perception, it were the Communists who restored the traditional orthodoxy, all but destroyed by the Western predators, kicked out the despised missionaries, and even tamed the Roman Catholics: Catholicism is legal in China, but... has no official ties with the Vatican, and bishops are elected from among reliable comrades under strict supervision of the Communist Party[33].

"Multicultural Developments" at Home

Another important subject is the feedback of those despised features of the Chinese culture into the once-Christian (or, as it has become known,post-Christian) world. Consider for instance the aversion of straightforward words ("yes, yes, no, no"): any modern American politician is miles ahead of the traditional Chinese in evasive speech.And no one dare to call them liars: how mean, how intolerant! Drug addiction hardly needs comment... Litigation and regulations are also at home in today's America where every graduating engineer is matched by ten law school graduates. Not long ago a New York City landlord, a Chinese immigrant, after several encounters with the city authorities went on record saying that he wants to return to Red China: there, at least, he would be killed without torture.

And infanticide, probably the ugliest trait of old (as well as modern)China? No one seems shocked by two of every nine newborns being killed in today's America; moreover, when a couple of years ago the number of abortions for the first time in decades has dropped by a split of a point,all progressive voices began screaming and howling about the "Christian fundamentalists depriving women of their right to choose."

And the last example: when in 1901 China was forced to pay huge restitution to the Western powers, the US decided to convert their share into a fund for education of Chinese students in America.[34] Sounds very noble, and probably so it was at that time. But think of what American colleges have become since then, and you should send your condolences to every normal Chinese family, irrespective of its faith and tradition, whose son or daughter is enrolled in a US school. And the "reciprocal move" comes as no surprise: the Memorial to American missionaries, victims of the Boxers, erected by their friends and relatives at Oberlin College (Ohio), was desecrated by Chinese students in 1993. I have found no record of any legal or disciplinary measures against the perpetrators[35].

Memory Lives

New Martyrs of China were glorified in Russia early in the XX c.: as indicated above, in 1903 services were already held in their honor. Their commemoration was appointed on the first day of the massacre of Christians in Beijing, June 11 (June 24 on the Civil calendar). Later a church was built on the site of their burial.

Other holy relics arrived here in 1920, of those who were buried alive in a mine shaft in Alapaevsk on July 5, 1918. Bodies of Grand-Duchess Elizabeth and nun Barbara were brought in Beijing when the White armies withdrew from the Ural and Siberia, and then set for another journey,around the Asian continent, to the place of their final rest in Jerusalem.

Everything looks different now; Russian Mission in Beijing doesn't exist any more. Part of its property with the beautiful park has been handed over to the Russian (then Soviet) Embassy. Thus, contrary to their own intentions, Chinese Communists helped preserve the holy memory of the Orthodox martyrs in their land. Here are travel notes of a recent Russian visitor to Beijing:
"Our Embassy in Beijing, one of the largest in the world, is renown for exquisite beauty of its landscapes. It is embraced all around by a quiet, crystal-clear canal with willows along its banks and a large lake in the middle... My favorite place was on the island with the playground. But neither Russian children who played here, nor their parents, knew why this island was a remarkable place. In 1901-1916 the church of All Holy Orthodox Martyrs was built on this spot. The crypt under the altar gave rest to the bodies of the Chinese Christians killed by the Boxers. The church was surrounded by the cemetery. All that is gone...

"In 1945 Archbishop Victor (Sviatin), who was at the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in China, recognized the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. He remained the Chief of the Mission until it was closed in 1954, and then returned to Russia. At that time no one could oppose the destruction of Orthodox churches: razed among other was the Church of All Holy Martyrs. This loss is irrevocable... the fate of the holy relics buried in the crypt is unknown. The cemetery was likewise destroyed. Another Mission church was defaced and turned into a garage...
"What men forget, God remembers. On grassy sites where the churches once stood field flowers sprout forth through gray foundation stones."[36]
Orthodoxy in China is all but invisible. Nearly all Russians from Harbin and Shanghai left the country. Some, in the hope for better future,returned to Russia, others scattered over the face of the Earth: in America, Australia, Japan... In Harbin, of many beautiful churches there remains only one, the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God, with a handful of Chinese and Russian parishioners: is it not the only legal Orthodox community in the entire China? The Church of the Annunciation was converted into a circus; it was closed only when an acrobat fell down to his death there. The Cathedral of St. John Maximovich (+1966) in Shanghai was turned into stock exchange.

The day of June 11 is not marked in calendars of either Moscow or foreign edition. Only St. Herman calendar in English mentions the Chinese martyrs. But the Prayer book and Catechesis in Chinese have been recently re- printed in the Holy Trinity monastery in Jordanville, NY

Since this article was first published in 1995, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate have called to restore the veneration of the New Martyrs of China. Cross has been erected on the site of their martyrdom in Beijing. The day of their commemoration is now marked in Church calendars.

Like the European and American faithful, Orthodox people of China will never forget their Bishop St. John who held the Shanghai see for over a decade. Chinese land still keeps his footprints. On the day of the Chinese New year St. John always celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Chinese. He consulted Eugene Rose (yet to become Fr. Seraphim), who was writing an article on China in the mid-'60s[37]. Unfortunately, my letter to St. Herman monastery in Platina, CA with the request for these materials from Fr. Seraphim's archive has not been answered. It remains to hope that in the future we will learn more about the Chinese heritage of St. John.

Let us also remember that when the Second World War was over, five out of six of the Russian Church hierarchs in the Far East complied with the demand of the occupation forces and left the Russian Church Abroad[38]. It is not hard to guess who was the sixth.

Many of those events and ideas which disturbed the world in 1900 have disappeared in the gory mist of the past century; other are still in the limelight, albeit under a different guise. At any rate, we may not forget about them, if we wish to face the challenges of the New World Order rather than stick our heads in sand.

Memory of saints is the spine of the earthly Church, the axis of her revolution. If we restore and keep the memory of the Boxer Rebellion martyrs, we can clearly see those events and correctly understand those ideas, -- not from the standpoint of an arrogant "civilized man", or a shameless bureaucrat of the "world community", or a savage bloodthirsty killer, or a cold-blooded killer in the State Department, or a clueless victim of modern public schools, or a moron with a doctoral degree, but from the standpoint of Truth, -- from their standpoint.

In fact, all of us who dwell in the land of the shadow of death of the modern world, day after day, one way or another, are making a choice.

A note from Mark Markish:

Kind help from all those who have provided material and advice necessary for writing this article, particularly Fr. Deacon John Whiteford of Houghton, TX, Br. Andrew Psarev of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, Nina M. Baranova of Cambridge, MA and Timothy Beach of the Bible College in Taiwan is gratefully acknowledged.

An abbreviated version of this article was published in Russian in the Pravoslavnaia Zhizn, 6, 1995

[1] Monk Damascene Christensen. Not of This World. Fr. Seraphim Rose Foundation, 1993, p.74-75
[2] V.P. Petrov. Rossijskaja Duhovnaja Missija v Kitae. Victor Kamkin, 1968, p.14
[3] Ibid., p.17
[4] Ibid., p. 64
[5] Ibid., p. 74
[6] Ibid., p. 50
[7] Hannah Arendt. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books, 1958, p. 185
[8] R. O'Connor. The Spirit Soldiers. G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1973, p. 28
[9] Ibid., p. 29
[10] Nat Brandt. Massacre in Shansi. Syracuse Univ. Press, 1994, p.48
[11] P. Cohen. China and Christianity. Harvard Univ. Press, 1963, p.232-233
[12] Brandt, p. 152
[13] Arthur N. Holcomb. Chinese Problem. The Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Vol.3, 1930
[14] A.I. Solzhenitsyn. Russkij Vopros k Konysu XX Veka. Novyj Mir, 7, 1994
[15] O'Connor, p. 299
[17] Joseph Esherick. The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. Univ. of California Press, 1987, p 281
[18] Brandt, p. 178
[19] Ibid., p. 209
[20] G.V. Melihov. Manchuria Dalekaja i Blizkaja. Moskva, Nauka, 1991, p. 108-109, 122
[21] O'Connor, p. 343-344
[22] Wilbur J. Chamberlain. Ordered to China. F.A. Stokes, 1903, p. 163
[23] Ibid., p. 126
[24] J.H. Wilson. Under The Old Flag. D. Appleton, 1912, p. 530
[25] Mark Twain. To the Person Sitting in the Darkness. A Pen Warmed-up in Hell, Harper & Row, 1972, p. 61
[26] Pervye Christianskie Mucheniki iz Pravoslavnykh Kitaitsev. Za Tserkov, 19, 1936, p. 1-3
[27] Ibid.
[28] Brandt, p. 270
[29] O'Connor, p.341-342
[30] Ibid., p. 342
[31] Chamberlain, p. 127
[32] O'Connor, p.342
[33] Cohen, p. 267
[34] O'Connor, p. 326
[35] Brandt, p. 292
[36] O. Voropaeva. Pamiat Sviatykh Muchenikov. Put Pravoslavija, 2 1993, p. 233-237
[37] Monk Damascene, p. 300
[38] Blessed John the Wonderworker. St.Herman's Press, 1987, p.52

J-List has thousands of rare products from Japan - click now

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...