Monday, October 29, 2007

Catholic church with chinese characteristics

We went on a walk organised by Chinese Culture Club to Xishiku Catholic Church, also known as the North Church (北堂). This is the largest church in Beijing. The church was originally located in Zhongnanhai (opposite the former Beijing Library), on land bestowed by Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty.
I like its grand Gothic style that reminded me of Notre Dame. There was a famous painting of Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in Manchurian imperial robes; perhaps a Catholic localisation to win more Chinese converts. the blend of Chinese and Western painting styles is like that of Giuseppe Castiglione, Jesuit and court painter for Emperor Qianlong. In the church courtyard were Chinese pavilions.

There was a gift shop selling, amongst other souveniors, the pictures of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in Chinese robes. Printed behind the postcards was Ave Maria in Chinese.
It was mass time when we reached the church. It was surreal to see the vaulted roofs, stained glass windows and so many Catholic nuns in Beijing. The priest gave a lively sermon on the church being an open church, open to all believers and church members, and with the coming Olympics, opened to all people from all over the world.


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