Learn more about this period of history and the martyrs in The Red Book of Chinese Martyrs(click here for information and purchase) Chinese Martyrs is a name given to a number of members of the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches who were killed in China during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are celebrated as martyrs by their respective churches. Most were … Continued
Chinese Martyrs is a name given to a number of members of the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches who were killed in China during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are celebrated as martyrs by their respective churches. Most were Chinese laity, but others were missionaries from various other countries; many of them died during the Boxer Rebellion.
The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes 222 Albazinians (Chinese of Russian descent) who died during the Boxer Rebellion as “Holy Martyrs of China.” They were mostly members of the Chinese Orthodox Church, which had been founded by Russian Orthodox missionaries in the 17th century and maintained close relations with them, especially in the large Russian community in Harbin. They are called new-martyrs, as they died under a modern regime. The first of these martyrs was Metrophanes, Chi Sung.
The Roman Catholic Church recognizes 120 Catholics who died between 1648 and 1930 as its “Martyr Saints of China“. They were canonized by Pope John Paul II on 1 October 2000. Of the group, 87 were Chinese laypeople and 33 were missionaries; 86 died during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario is named for them. Many Protestant Christians also died during the Uprising, including the “China Martyrs of 1900“, but there is no formal veneration or a universally recognized list.
Metrophanes, Chi Sung (his Chinese name is also sometimes translated as Tsi Chung) or Mitrophan (December 10, 1855 – June 11, 1900) was the first Chinese Eastern Orthodox priest to be martyred. He was killed with his family members and church followers in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. He is the best known of some 222 Holy Chinese Martyrs glorified in August 2000 by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Metrophanes was stabbed in the chest by a crowd of rebels. Also considered martyrs are his wife Tatiana, whose Chinese name was Li, his sons, twenty-three year-old Isaiah and eight-year-old John, and Isaiah’s nineteen-year-old fiancee Maria, who were all killed with him.
Metrophanes was raised by his mother, Marina, and grandmother, Ekaterina, after his father died when he was a child. He was a shy, unassuming man who was educated for the priesthood at a Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China. Church authorities urged him to become a priest, but they persuaded him to do so with difficulty because he didn’t believe he had the talents necessary. “A man of poor talent and little virtue, how dare I accept this great rank?” he said. Metrophanes was ordained by Nikolai, Bishop of Japan in 1880. He helped with translation of liturgical books into Chinese from Russian and proofreading. Eventually he suffered a breakdown and settled outside the mission, receiving half of his salary. Many people took advantage of his goodwill or mocked him.
During the Boxer Rebellion, the Boxers burned down his print shop and church site. He tried to encourage fellow members of the church during the rebellion. On the night of June 10, rebels surrounded his house and killed Metrophanes along with many of the 70 people inside. Metrophanes was stabbed to death under a date tree.
His son Isaiah or Esaias, who served in the Chinese military, was beheaded on June 7 near the Ping-tse-Min gates by rebels who knew he was a Christian. Metrophanes’ wife, Tatiana, age forty-four, escaped the house with Isaiah’s fiancee, Maria, but Tatiana was beheaded June 12 along with other Christians. Maria had come to Metrophanes’ house two days before the attack, determined to stay with her dead fiance’s family despite the danger. She had been urged three times by Metrophanes’ middle son Sergei to run away and hide, but refused to leave. She helped many others escape, but she chose to remain with Isaiah’s family, where she was also eventually murdered by the Boxers. Eight-year-old Ioann or John was attacked brutally on June 10, 1900 by the Boxers who—by some reports—chopped off his nose, ears, and toes and hacked away at his shoulders. Maria concealed the little boy in the outhouse, where he survived the attack. The next day, according to the reports of followers, he was seen sitting naked on the steps outside the house, begging for water, which his neighbors refused him. Their children mocked him and called him a follower of devils. John reportedly replied, “I am a believer in God, and not a follower of devils.” Others asked him if his wounds hurt and the child reportedly replied, “It does not hurt to suffer for Christ.” He was later taken away again by a crowd of Boxers to be murdered, but seemed to show no fear. One old man protested as he was led away, “What is the boy’s fault? Blame the parents for his becoming a devil’s disciple.” Others in the crowd jeered at him.
Many of the 120 witnesses to the faith in China who died between the 17th and 20th century were martyred in the provinces of Hebei (northeastern China) and Guizhou (southeastern China) from where Christians evangelized the neighboring province of Guangxi.
The martyrdom of Father Chapdelaine was used by colonial powers Britain and France– who hardly tolerated the Catholic Church at home– against the Qing Empire in the years of the Opium War which ended with the Five Ports Treaty in 1842 and 1862.
Anna Wang was born to Christian parents in 1886 at Majiazhuang, in the Weixian zone in the south of Hebei province. Her mother died when she was five. At an early age her strong character was already visible: at eleven she was to be given in marriage but she strongly opposed the idea. On July 21, 1900 a band of Boxers reaches Majiazhuang. They captured a group of Christians and warned them, “The government has banned the practice of western religions. If you renounce your religion you will be set free. If you refuse we will kill you.”
Anna’s stepmother decided to renounce her religion, and urged Anna to do the same. But Anna refused to follow her and cried in a loud voice: “I believe in God. I am a Christian, I do not want to renounce God. Jesus save me!” Anna and a number of companions prayed through the night. In the morning the Boxers took the Christians who refused to deny their faith to the execution field.
Anna watched the terrifying scene of the execution of little Andre Wang Tianquing, aged 9. The non-Christians were anxious to save him, but his mother said: “I am a Christian, my son is a Christian. You will have to kill us both.” The leaders of the band made a sign with their heads. Little Andre knelt down and bent over. He looked towards his mother and smiled. Then the executioner’s axe struck the boy’s neck.
On that day the Boxers killed five women with their children, including a ten-month-old baby.Anna kept watch with the Church in Weixian. On her knees she prayed out loud and kept her eyes set on the sky. A soldier said to her, “Give up your faith and you will live.” But Anna made no reply, and when he insisted, she said, “Do not touch me; I am a Christian. I prefer to die rather than give up my faith.” The bandit brutally cut off her right arm and repeated his question: “Do you deny you religion?” She said nothing. He struck her again. Anna said, “The door of heaven is open,” and she whispered the name of “Jesus” three times, lowering her head. The bandit made the final blow, severing her head from her body.
Father Augustine Chapdelaine (Chinese name: Ma Lai), a priest of the Paris Society for Foreign Missions, left France in 1852 for the mission in the province of Guangxi. After meeting with a number of difficulties he eventually reached Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, north of Guangxi, in 1854. He studied the language for a few months and then went to Guangxi where he met some new Christians. In Guangxi there was a community of 300 people, members of the Meos and Hmong ethnic minority groups. Father Chapdelaine’s ministry lasted only a few months. At Yaoshan he celebrated the first Mass in December 1854. He took the Chinese name of Ma, but this name was also used by Muslims because it is the first syllable of Mahomet and the priest was reported to the police for being an accomplice of Muslim rebels. The local prefect, a wise, balanced man, saw the accusations were false and advised the priest to return to Guizhou for his safety. After a brief period, the missionary returned to his catechumens in Guangxi and, in March 1855, he baptized nine people including an elderly convert from Buddhism, Laurent Bai Man. In the meantime, the local prefect was replaced by a new one who was hostile to Christians. In February 1856, for the second time, Father Chapdelaine was accused formally in front of the prefect. The accusation said that the foreign faith was perverse and justified all crimes. The prefect sent two men to capture the priest, and the Christians urged Father Chapdelaine to escape, but he replied, “If I leave, you will suffer for it. To save you from greater harm, I must stay with you.” When they insisted, the priest agreed to take refuge at the home of the writer Luo Gongye, a respectable citizen. A few days later, Father Chapdelaine, Bai Man and four other Christians were arrested and whipped, but they refused to deny the faith. Bai Man and the others were beheaded, but the wounded Father Augustine died in slow agony. The local Christian authorities protested against the martyrdom of Father Chapdelaine saying it was a violation of the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) which stated, “It is forbidden to beat or maltreat in any way French citizens who were arrested.” The Chapdelaine case was used for political and economic ends by France and Britain: the latter declared a second war on China which ended with the second Treaty in 1862. Article 13 of the Treaty stated that Christians of all confessions were allowed to practice their religion and that missionaries were allowed to move freely in China.
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