Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Three Christian Churches in Zigong

Nuwa (女媧 Ruwa) was the earliest description of the goddess who started Chinese creation. She had a "human head and snake body." Comparing Chinese and Hebrew creation and flood myths, Nuwa and the God of the Hebrew Bible look different, but the Chinese and Hebrew creation myths have a number of points in common.
Noah - Two Mountains and Chinese Origins!
Fuxi (male) and Nuwa (female) (伏羲女娲)

Nuwa stopped the biggest flood on earth by filling the leaks of the sky with 5-colored stones. Hakka around the world still celebrate this day (天穿日around Jan 20th) every year.
Chinese Angel in Da Yuen Yuan (大云院) in Shanxi (山西) built in 935 AD (Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period)
     Christianity existed in China as early as the 7th century A.D., strong for hundreds of years, disappearing for hundreds of years, and then reintroduced. For example, see Matteo Ricci (1552 – 1610). Although it has taken more than 400 years, the sainthood cause of Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, the 16th-century missionary to China, appears to be back on track. Inculturation: The case of Matteo Ricci .
Matteo Ricci's grave (利玛窦墓) in the backyard of the Beijing Administrative College (, formerly the Beijing Communist Party School), off Chegongzhuang Dajie.
     See more close-up photos of the tombs of Ricci and other early Christian pastors in the backyard of the Communist party school. This place is well protected and remembered by the Chinese today. In 1589, Matteo Ricci built a mission house, the first ever Jesuit mission in Shaoguan (韶关), China. He stayed in Shaoguan for a few years and built his connections that allowed him to move north, to Nanchang, Nanjing, and Beijing. I was searching for our Guan’s family information when I came across this CCTV’s short video on The Secret Guan Fortress (神秘的官家围楼). It is also located in Shixing, Shaoguan ( 韶关,始兴县,隘子), where we have over 8000 distant cousins live today.
Joannes Terrenz (邓玉函), Giacono Rho (羅雅谷), Nicholas Longobardi (龙华民), Johann Adan Schallvon Bell (汤若望), Ferdinand Verbiest (南怀仁), Giusppe Castiglione (郎世宁). 
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (圣母无染原罪堂), also known as the Xuanwumen church (宣武门天主堂) or Nantang (南堂) to the locals, in Beijing. It was built in 1605, the Baroque style today was built in1904. The present Archbishop Joseph Li Shan, installed in September 2007, is one of the few bishops openly recognized by both the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church and the Vatican.
大故宫( 宫外三堂)
St. Francis Cathedral (圣方濟主教座堂/南堂) in Xi'an. It was built in 1716, expanded in 1884, closed in 1966 and reopened in 1980.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral (), it was built in 1901 Jinan (济南).
Our Lady of the Rosary (圣母玫瑰堂) in Shanxi was built in 1914
     Christianity began to take root during the Qing Dynasty and although it has remained a minority, it has had a significant impact. More and more missionaries arrived as a result of contact with foreign powers. After the First Opium War (1842), Christian missionaries and schools played an important positive role in China.  The British Protestant missionaries came to Zigong after the Battle of Peking (1900) 
One Catholic converted to join the British church in Zigong Then American missionaries joined the British around 1918. Pictures of Old Churches surviving in China today and best one aroundSee List.
Han Da Hui (韓大輝) Roman Catholic archbishop in Hong Kong.
Christianity and Chinese Salvation
My oldest (should have been second oldest) uncle Guan Ju Jin (官举晶, #10 in boys) was born on January 16, 1927. He was sent to save our family. His style name was Su Liang (蜀樑). He was in the Church’s care when he was little (婴儿保育会). There were three Christian churches, one called Gongjing Fuyingtong (贡井福音堂), on Hou De Tan Si Ba (后抵炭市坝) street with only a few classrooms and a few residential rooms. The second one, called Ai Ye Fuyingtong (艾叶福音堂), was located on Ai Ye Street (艾叶横街子) with few classrooms as well. My uncle went to the third one called Shangqiu Fuyingtong (上丘镇福音堂), which was located in Ci Ba You (磁巴坳) and was the largest. It had a large, two-story high church hall; there were western oil paintings hanging in the hallway, a stage for plays, and a crucifix. There was a garden in front, a few classrooms, and a few rooms where family members could wait. Behind the church, there were rooms for pastors and staff, plus childcare and kindergartens. Mass was held every week for anyone who came.
The upper part was what was left from the original Church where my oldest uncle used to go in the 1920s. We could only see a tip of the stone structure and upper walls from far away 
After my uncle, the next four children came along fine. They came while my grandfather's business and health were declining; then the business was gone and he could not get out of bed. Five children waited for what my grandmother would feed them. I could not believe that my grandmother, with her bound feet, was able to do everything inside and outside of the house. She must have been in pain with each step that she took. Bound feet were for the rich; those who did not need to do daily work. I asked my grandfather’s living children, my oldest uncle, my aunt, and my mother about their memories of their father. They all said that he was disabled at home, nothing more. I knew my grandmother, my aunt, and my mother all loved my oldest uncle, because of what he did for the family. I just discovered how much my oldest uncle loved his mother and his little brother (who was the smartest and suffered the most); he could not understand how his mother managed. He felt very bad that his mother had calluses on her hands; she had to learn to make shoes, weave, and make school uniforms. Boys’ and girls’ scout uniforms had to be green in color, so she went up the hills nearby her home to collect plants to dye the threads green, which she weaved into green cloth, and then made the uniforms herself. She felt very bad her kids’ uniforms were not as fine as the others (machine-made).
      We thought he had buried my grandmother’s ashes next to my grandfather’s remains back in 1978 when she died. We all received a share of the money (1.5 times of my mother's monthly pay) from selling her belongings in the treasure chest. She once opened the big chest by her bed to show me extraordinary embroidery on silk she did when she was young before she married. She could not embroider anymore because of her failing sight since I asked her to teach me how. She also showed me all of her gold, silver, and jade jewelry and some fine China. She wanted to carry the chest full in her coffin when she died. I did not care that much for her jewelry because they all looked old and boring. I did admire so much the embroideries on silk. They looked so beautiful and delicate. I asked who could teach me to do that. She said none of her daughters learned because they all went to school. When she was a girl, only boys went to school; she stayed home and learned the art of embroidery. 
     My grandmother told me a long time ago that she didn’t want to be cremated. My grandfather had his coffin made when he was very sick. I was never able to go to the porch because I was afraid of the coffin there.  My grandfather wanted to save his coffin for my grandmother which was the only thing he had.  He said my grandmother was afraid of fire; he did not have anything else to give her. My grandmother kept a lot of jewels, china, and silk in one of her chests hoping to carry them with her in the coffin. In her later years, especially after she moved in with us in the big city, she realized that it was impossible to be buried. There just weren’t any plots available. She told me that she was scared but since my grandfather was cremated, she would follow him, hoping that he could guide her.
     We did not know that my oldest uncle kept her ashes at his home until he could buy her a proper burial plot in the 1990s. I went to his home in 1986 before I left China to say goodbye. I did not know my grandmother’s ashes were right there at his home. I assumed that we could not find them anymore, since the hill was replaced with high-rise buildings including a church. He just said that they could not find my grandfather’s burial place anymore, since my grandfather was buried without any mark, under a tree on the hill in 1968. After 1949, there were really no burial places for sale. City people really did not have a formal burial place available to buy. Some scattered their ashes, some took them back to their farm, and some kept them at home. I was grateful for my oldest uncle’s great foresight, to keep our grandmother’s ashes so that we could come to visit her. We went to visit a new Catholic church in the area on a steep hill with hundreds of stone steps leading upward. My grandfather’s ashes were also on the slope somewhere. My eighty-three year old uncle climbed all the way up with us, as if he was sorry to lose my grandfather’s ashes. I felt the hill was a good resting place for my grandfather, since the church was nearby. Still, no one could explain why the only Catholic Church in the area just happened to be built there and not anywhere else.
The only new Catholic church in Zigong was built where
my grandfather’s ashes were buried in the 1960s
 I was brought up without any religion, although I visited both Dao and Buddhist temples as a part of sightseeing. It really did not bring much interest to me. When my grandmother was dying, I hoped to find some belief or superpower to save her. At the same time, I had just finished a comic book about how an ancient young scholar used a magic bag to scare all the ghosts who came to take him when it was time for him to die. He drove them away again and again by simply saying “magic bag, magic bag, collect all the ghosts and throw them far away.” He lived a few hundred years. When the ghosts came back again, he asked them if they wanted to go in the magic bag. They simply left. I did not have this magic bag and I had not been taught any beliefs. My grandmother was the person in my life I loved the most and I did not want to let her die. It was so despairing; I closed my eyes and imagined that I had the magic bag and said the magic words in my mind by my grandmother’s bed and even far away. I drove the ghosts into the magic bag. I prayed for her to get better and it worked. She was better. I blamed myself for not praying hard enough the second time when she was in not in critical condition but died.
I was alone for a year in Syracuse struggling. My husband (who has British, French, Italian and Polish blood) grew up in a strong Catholic family; he started as an altar boy and attended Catholic schools all the way to college. Then, he was a temporarily a religious brother and taught in schools in Liberia (Africa) and New York City, then changed his mind. We met on his first day of graduate school (a year after I arrived) as if he had a mission to help me. When I expressed interest in the Church, he introduced me to Catholicism. When I went to Church for the first time, the paintings on the walls really caught my attention, especially the angels blowing long horns. This reminded me of Tibetan monks blowing their horns. Also, the collars of the priests reminded me of the traditional collars worn by Chinese men, except the priest's collar was white and missing a button. Finally, the idea that Catholics ate the body of Christ to become immortal reminded me of how the evil ghost wanted to eat the body of the Tang-shen (唐僧), in order to become immortal, in the classic Journey to the West.   
Tang-shen (唐僧)
Journey to the West painting in Summer Palace 颐和园
When we moved to Melrose in 1993, many of our parish were Irish immigrants. I felt alone there, then I noticed an old Chinese lady who sat behind us, and we instantly became good friends. Her Cantonese husband taught at Tufts University until he retired. She was working for a biotech company until she retired. They did not have any children. Coincidentally, she was born in the same year as my mother, and she treated me like her daughter.
   After my second son Richard graduated from high school in 2012, she sent a check and I decided to sent her some cookies and dessert from the graduation party. Like Dr. Hu, she loved my desserts. I had been to her place a few times, but always in her kitchen. This time I was in her living room, I noticed a picture of this Chinese Bishop shaking hands with the Pope Benedict, so I asked her who was this Chinese Bishop. She said, “oh, that is my brother Msgr. Ignatius Wang, a Bishop in San Francisco. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II. He was the first Asian American to be appointed to the office of bishop and the first Chinese Catholic pastor in San Francisco. 
     After I told her about my search for my family roots two years ago, she was really depressed for awhile. She told me that she was a Manchu and her Manchu family name was changed to the Chinese surname “Wang” like all other Manchus in Beijing. She did not know her real family name or anything beyond Beijing. Their parents were relatives of a Manchurian Emperor, the rulers of the last Chinese dynasty. She and her eight brothers and sisters were living in a home next to the Summer Palace. As old as she remembered in her childhood, she was running for her life with the rest of her family. They ran from north to south, she went to Japan, Taiwan, and eventually came to America. Unlike my mother, she experienced hunger and fear when she was young. 
       My oldest uncle then took me to the old house at Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) where I used to stay with my grandparents for my first 5 years, an old Chinese courtyard house where there was a huge entry door with two very high wooden doors that were closed at night. There was also a high wooden panel across the doorstep to prevent leaves or dust from blowing in. I had to climb over the wooden panel since my legs were too short.  A few steps down from the gate, on the left side, there was a peach tree that my youngest uncle planted when he was young. The peach blossoms were so high that I could not reach them. There was a little creek running down the hill on the left, to right in front of our house, to a pond not far from our house. There was a Buddhist temple on the hillside, my grandma never took me inside.  I used to be afraid of the huge Buddhist statue and it was very dark inside.   Next to the temple, there was a tailor shop where my grandma used to take me to get my dress done. The tailor was a skinny old man with old glasses almost falling down from his face; he looked at me not through the glasses, but over his glasses. He was always telling me how pretty I looked in all the dresses he made for me. The road to downtown was on the right. On the other side of the road were fields and fields of crops.
     The old place Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) was nothing like my memories; we met a seventy-five-year-old woman named Zhou who claimed to be the wife of a restaurant owner close to the house. Her husband had died many years ago; my grandfather’s oldest brother Tai-Ba used to own the entire land and properties there, including her husband’s restaurant. They used to pay rent to him. Tai-Ba had to donate everything to the government after 1949. Tai-Ba died in his home in Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) in 1960. She pointed out the house where I used to live, where the temple was, and where the pond used to be. They were all gone except the old roofs, since they covered dense smaller houses and sheds. The old courtyard was gone. The pond was filled; small houses were now built on top of it. Now the highway went through this area; it looked like the current buildings would soon be torn down very soon for high-rise buildings, like elsewhere in China. 
Mrs. Zhou in the middle was telling my oldest uncle on the right where our Guan family properties used to be
My grandfather is in the middle row to the left of my grandmother who is in the middle. Next to my grandmother is the 3rd wife of his oldest brother, next to her is the second wife of his 4th brother and their children and grandchildren. This photo was taken after the land reform, and my grandfather was the only of his generation still around. He became the head of our Guan family.

大故宫( 宫外三堂): Four Catholic churches located in South, North, East and West side of Forbidden City from Ming to Qing Dynasty still exist today.
Mystery of Fuxi Temple / 01
Mystery of Fuxi Temple / 02
Biggest Catholic Churches | Catholicism in China
BBC around the world in 80 treasures of the world : Journey from Jordan to Ethiopia