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The Chinese Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion

Contributed by Father Geoffrey Korz

Orthodox Christianity has often been described as the faith of the martyrs. Without doubt, the centuries have shown among the Orthodox an unparalleled degree of suffering for the sake of Christ's name. Yet despite the dramatic increase in Orthodox martyrdom in the last century, Orthodox believers living in the comforts of North America remain largely isolated from the suffering of the saints. Ironically, the Western world has become a more potentand indeed, more subtle enemy of Christian Orthodoxy than any regime of the past. Cut off from the struggles of our Christian forebears, we have too readily accepted materialism and hedonism. To be a Christian, especially an Orthodox Christian, has become a fundamentally countercultural calling. The arrival of the year 2000 marks the centennial of the first martyrs of the last century, and the first known group of Orthodox martyrs from Chinaa group who knew well the meaning of standing against the social tide of their day. Some of the 222 Orthodox martyrs of June 10/23, 1900, were direct descendants of the Russian mission set up at the end of the seventeenth century, after Russia lost its Albazin outpost to Chinese forces. Orthodoxy's Beginnings in China With the Chinese recapture of Albazin, the Chinese Imperial Court looked with curiosity and tolerance upon the Russians in their territories, allowing them a surprising level of religious freedom. A former Buddhist temple near Beijing was converted into a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and church vestments and holy objects were sent from the Imperial Court in Russia. The Chinese and Russian governments proceeded to establish diplomatic relations, a move facilitated by the presence and work of the Albazin Chinese Orthodox. Since the Russian soldiers were viewed as a loose equivalent of the warrior class of Chinese society, they moved easily among the Chinese aristocracy, with many marrying Chinese noblewomen. Just as many of the first converts at Rome were noble patrons of the Church, Orthodox Christianity in China was to see a similar beginning. In the years following, Orthodoxy made significant inroads among the Albazin Chinese population, becoming a kind of ethnic religion of the people. Emperor Kangxi was favorable toward these Christians, and for a time it was hoped the emperor might become a kind of Saint Constantine of the Orient. When the Chinese court later discovered that local Roman Catholic missionaries followed orders from Western masters, however, Emperor Kangxi and his successors began persecutions against Christians. Because of their position at court and their foothold among the Albazin Chinese faithful, the Orthodox were spared much of this persecution for a time.

Orthodox missions in China were cautious from the beginning. 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 a certain kind of arrogance." While the growth of the Orthodox Chinese mission was modest, its faithful were solid witnesses for their faith in Christ. Just as pagan Rome saw Christian devotion to Christ as a rival to imperial loyalty, so too did the Imperial Chinese of the late nineteenth century see Christians as enemies of the Emperor. While some in China were embracing Western modernist ideas, others including the Dowager Empress, nationalists, and those who practiced martial arts'sought to eliminate any challenges to tradition, including foreign influences. This conservative movement was dubbed by foreigners the "Boxer movement." A Courageous Witness By June 1900, placards calling for the death of foreigners and Christians covered the walls around Beijing. Armed bands combed the streets of the city, setting fire to homes and "with imperial blessing" killing Chinese Christians and foreigners. Faced with torture or death, some of the Chinese Christians did deny Christ, while others, emboldened by the faith of the martyrs and the prayers of the saints, declared boldly the Name of the Lord. Among these were Priest Mitrophan Tsi-Chung, his Matushka Tatiana, and their children, Isaiah, Serge, and John. Baptized by Saint Nicholas of Japan, Saint Mitrophan was a shy and retiring priest, who avoided honors and labored continually for the building of new churches, for the translation of spiritual books, and for the care of his flock. Yet in Christ, who gives more than we can ask or imagine, Saint Mitrophan and his flock became lions in the face of marauding wolves. It was with this reassurance that Saint Mitrophan met his martyrdom on June 10, 1900. About seventy faithful had gathered in his home for consolation when the Boxers surrounded the house. While some of the faithful managed to escape, most including Saint Mitrophanwere stabbed or burned to death. Like the priests of old slaughtered in the sight of Elijah, Saint Mitrophan's holy body fell beneath the date tree in the yard of his home, his family witnesses to his suffering. His youngest son, Saint John, an eight-year-old child, was disfigured by the Boxers the same day. Although the mob cut off his ears, nose, and toes, Saint John did not seem to feel any pain, and walked steadily. Crowds mocked the young confessor, as they mocked his Lord before him, calling him a demon for his unwillingness to bend to make sacrifice to the idols. To the amazement of onlookers, although he was mutilated, mocked, and alone, young Saint John declared that it did not hurt to suffer for Christ.

Saint Isaiah, 23, the elder brother of Saint John, had been martyred several days earlier. Despite repeated urging, his nineteen-year-old bride, Saint Mary, refused to leave and hide, declaring that she had been born near the church of the Mother of God, and would die there as well. Saint Ia (Wang), a mission school teacher also among the martyrs, was slashed repeatedly by the Boxers and buried, half-dead. In an attempt to save her, a sympathetic non-Christian bystander unearthed her, carrying her to his home in the hope of safety. There, however, the Boxers seized her again, torturing her at length until she died, a bold confession of Christ on her lips. Thereby did Saint Ia the teacher gain the crown of martyrdom not once, but twice. Among those who died for Christ were Albazinians whose ancestors had first carried the light of Holy Orthodoxy to Beijing in 1685. The faith of these pioneers 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, and many more, fearless of those who kill the body but cannot harm the soul (Matthew 10:28), met agony and death with courage, praying to the Savior for their tormentors. Honoring the Martyrs When the feast of the Holy Chinese Martyrs was first commemorated in 1903, the bodies of Saint Mitrophan and others were placed under the altar of the Church of the All Holy Orthodox Martyrs (built in 19011916). A cross was later erected on the site of their martyrdom, standing as a testimony of the first sufferings of Orthodox faithful in a century of such great suffering. The church, along with others, was destroyed by the communists in 1954; the condition and whereabouts of the relics are not known. In 1996, the first Greek Metropolitan of Hong Kong was consecrated, just prior to the reunification of the city-state with mainland China. There began the first attempt in decades to reach the remnant Orthodox community on the mainland. Many of the Orthodox faithful had fled the country years before. Knowledge of the only remaining Orthodox church in Chinathe Protection of the Mother of God, located in Harbin is sketchy, and attempts by Greek authorities in Hong Kong to contact the parish have seen little success. The Church of the Annunciation was converted into a circus; it was closed only when an acrobat fell to his death there. The Shanghai Cathedral of Saint John Maximovich (+1966)a great champion and shepherd of Orthodox Christians of non-Orthodox ancestrywas turned into a stock exchange. In the late 1990sa century after the martyrdoms at Harbin and elsewherea new flowering of zeal for Orthodox Christian missions to the people of China began. A Chinese prayerbook and catechesis was published by Holy Trinity Monastery of Jordanville, New York. Several short histories of the martyrs have been written, and an akathist in their memory was recently composed. In the pattern of Saint Paul, who used the great highways of pagan Rome to spread the gospel, a network of Orthodox Christians dedicated to the spread of the Orthodox faith among the

peoples of the Far East has taken to the Internet to make available prayers and church materials in Chinese. On the occasion of the centenary of the Holy Chinese Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion, let us as Orthodox faithful ask their prayers that we may have the courage of their witness in our own time and place, and like them live out the call of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ to go and make disciples of all nations. Father Geoffrey Korz is priest of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Information for this article was taken from a web site on the Chinese Orthodox martyrs and from the Synaxarion of the Chinese Orthodox Martyrs, produced by Apostoliki Diakonia of Athens, Greece. An edition of this article was previously printed in the Orthodox Messenger, a publication of the Archdiocese of Canada (OCA).

Priest Mitrophan
The priest Mitrophan (also Metrophanes), whose Chinese name was Ji chong or Tsi Chung (the English transliterations vary), was born on December 10, 1855. He lost his father in early childhood and was raised under the care of his grandmother Ekaterina and his mother Marina; his mother was a teacher at a school for women. At this time he experienced many troubles. When Archimandrite Pallady became head of the mission for the second time, he charged his teacher Juren Long Yuan to take great care in educating Mitrophan, in order to prepare him for his eventual ordination. Before reaching twenty years of age, he was appointed to the post of catechist. At 25 he was ordained to the priesthood by Nikolai, bishop of Japan. Mitrophan was a humble person, very cautious and quiet, peaceful and dispassionate; even when faced with great insults, he did not try to justify himself. From the time of his arrival in Beijing (, Peking), Archimandrite Pallady charged Mitrophan, as did his teacher Long Yuan, to try to attain the priesthood. Mitrophan, however, did not want to accept ordination and constantly refused it, saying "how can a person with insufficient abilities and charity dare to accept this great rank?" But under the forceful urging of Archimandrite Flavian, succesor to Pallady, and the persuasion of the teacher, Mitrophan obeyed, even though he knew that by accepting the priesthood, his end would be inevitable. Under Archimandrite Flavian, Mitrophan assisted in translating and checking books. For fifteen years, he tirelessly served God while suffering many hurts and insults, both from his own people and outsiders. He finally had a mild breakdown. Sometime after this he spent three years living outside the mission, receiving half of his previous salary. All his life Father Mitrophan was never greedy, and many took advantage of this.

On the evening of June 1, 1900 (which was the 17th day of the 5th month on the Chinese calendar)1, the Boxers (Yihetuan Movement) burned the buildings of the mission. About seventy Christians, hiding from danger, assembled in St

Mitrophan's home. Although Fr. Mitrophan's former ill-wishers were among them, he did not drive them out. Seeing that some people were dispirited, he strengthened them, saying that the time of troubles had come and would be difficult to avoid. He himself several times daily went to look at the burned church. On the 10th of June, towards 10 in the evening, soldiers and Boxers surrounded Fr. Mitrophan's dwelling. Up to seventy Christians were there at the time; the stronger among them fled, while Fr. Mitrophan and many others, primarily women and children, remained and were tortured. Fr. Mitrophan sat in his courtyard when the Boxers punctured his chest, and he fell under a date tree. His neighbors removed his body to the mission's almshouse. Later the hieromonk Avraamy picked up Fr. Mitrophan's body and, in 1903, during the first commemoration of the martyrs, it and those of the others, were placed under the altar in the martyrs' church. Fr. Mitrophans family members were also tortured; they included his wife Tatiana and his three sons: the eldest, named Isaiah; the second, called Sergiy, a priest; and the third, Ioann.

On June 11, Tatiana was saved from the Boxers with help from her son Isaiah's bride, but on the following morning, June 12, she was seized along with 19 others and sent to Xiaoyingfang, where the Boxer camp was located, and was finally executed by beheading. An almshouse for the poor now stands on the place of her execution.

Isaiah had served in the military for 23 years. On June 7, the Boxers beheaded him because he was known to be a Christian.

Ioann (John) was only eight years old at the time. On June 10, when his father was killed, Boxers slashed his shoulders and chopped off his nose, ears, and toes. His brother Isaiah's bride managed to save him from death by hiding him in a latrine. In the morning he sat at the entrance without clothes and shoes, and when people asked "Are you hurting?" he answered It doesn't hurt." Boys scoffed at him, calling him a child of demons." Shortly thereafter, he reposed.

The Feast of the Chinese Martyrs One of the best-kept secrets in the Orthodox world has to be the existence of the Chinese Martyrs who celebrate their feast day on June 11th. Almost everyone was unaware of the fact that not even one hundred years ago, a group of Chinese Orthodox Christians gave up their lives for Christ and His Church in the great city of Beijing. It was the time of the Boxer Rebellion, which held foreigners responsible for every misfortune that took place. The first to suffer were the Christians, and in 1899 the first English missionary was killed. On the 10th of June, proclamations were posted on walls all over Beijing, calling on the Chinese to slaughter all Christians and threatening all those Christians who tried to hide with martyrdom.

On the 11th of June, China shone in glory as it would offer her share of martyrs for the Church. According to Dr. Piperakis of the University of Athens, the events are described: "The executioners' procession set off triumphantly with burning torches, as the idols of the traditional god of the Chinese were carried aloft. Censers were held so that the Christians could cense the idols, and thus deny their 'alien' faith. The pressure was unbearable, the martyrdoms most terrible. The fear was great. The Orthodox Christians' homes were surrounded. Threats and violence were used to force the Orthodox to sacrifice to false gods and deny Christ. Unfortunately, as with all oppression, many capitulated and burnt incense to the idols to save their lives, while others who were stronger in faith boldly confessed Christ. The latter, the confessors, were led out of the city to the Boxers' idol worshipping temples. Here, after indescribable torture, cutting them open and pulling out their entrails and the like, they were finally beheaded or burnt to death. The martyrs' houses suffered the same fate as their owners. Churches and Orthodox institutions were also given over to the flames. All the church buildings (with the exception of the

one in Hankow), the Sino-Russian Library and the print shop with its 30,000 woodcarved Chinese characters were set alight and burnt to ashes. The Russian missionaries managed to flee to Chien-Chin and then to Shanghai. Of the 700 Orthodox Chinese believers, 300 were martyred for their faith [1]. Taking into account its low numbers, the Orthodox Church of China gave up more martyrs than the more populous heterodox Churches." Included in those who received the crown of martyrdom was the first Chinese heiromartyr, St. Mitrophan Chi-Sung: "St. Mitrophan was the first Orthodox Chinese priest. He was ordained by St. Nicholas of Japan and served the Orthodox mission for fifteen years. He sat among the ruins of the burnt-out Orthodox Mission, enveloped by the men, women and children of his flock, then they started to hit his chest with fists. His Presbytera Tatiana and his 23-year-old son, Isaiah, were slaughtered before his very eyes, while they cut off the nose, ears and toes of his younger son, John. Not only did the child martyr refuse to complain of protest, but miraculously he felt no pain. The executioners taunted him, calling him a "child of demons". He answered saying, "I am an Orthodox Christian and I believe in Christ, not in demons". After Father Mitrophan's execution, his future daughter-in-law, 19 year old fiance of nowmartyred Isaiah, arrived at the priest's house. She wanted to die together with the family of her betrothed. When the Boxers surrounded the house, Maria helped many of the faithful jump over garden walls. She faced her executioners with courage and reproached them for the unjust murder of so many innocent souls, who were not tried by any court. The executioners pierced her feet and wounded her hands, encouraging her to leave and be saved. Brave Maria answered boldly, "I was born here at the Church of the All-Holy Mother of God, I will die here, too." Then the Boxers executed her." Of the 1,000 people that were in the Beijing parish, 222 received the crown of martyrdom [1] and constituted the glorious sacrificial beginning of the 20th century, which would soon turn purple by the river of blood that flowed out of the vast expanses of Russia. However, the small Church of the Chinese people proclaim through their martyrdom that Orthodoxy has no borders and is above race, nations, and languages. The Orthodox Church is the Church of all nations, people, languages, and stands before God to offer praise and worship.