This year the eight churches of Beijing will hold Christmas services for Christian Chinese to worship. The churches include the Eastern Church (Wangfujing Catholic Church), Western Church (Xizhimen Church), Southern Church (Xuanwumen Catholic Church), Northern Church (Xishiku Catholic Church), St. Michael’s Church, Nangangzi Church, Pingfang Church and Dongguantou Church. Churchgoers have the option of going to nine additional churches located in Beijing’s suburbs. Each of the churches in Beijing have had a long presence and continues to attract churchgoers for generations.
The Wangfujing Catholic Church (East Church) is considered the best preserved of Beijing’s eight churches. The original East Church was called the Saint Joseph’s church. It was constructed at around 1655, the 12th year of Emperor Shunzhi’s reign over the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The East Church was the second church built in Beijing after Italian preacher Matteo Ricci the “South Church” in Southern Beijing toward the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
The East Church was rebuilt in 1904 after being burnt to the ground. Subsequent repairs in the 1980s have served to keep this church well preserved against the effects of the ravages of time. The church has since then undergone many government-funded renovations including the latest of which end in May of this year. The church occupies an area of 2,387 square meters and is located near the famed Wangfujing tourist and shopping district, allowing for easier accessibility.
At night, the church is well lit with electrical lighting, lending it a warm glow that contrasts with Beijing’s chilly winter air.
The Xishiku Catholic Church (Northern Church) is located just west of Zhongnanhai, in Cancikou west of the Ziguang Pavilion. Because of this, the church also goes by the name “Canchikou Church.” The sanctuary of the church was later relocated to Xishiku Street and was consequently called the Catholic North Church.
Xishiku Church is currently the largest Catholic Church in Beijing and is famed for its beautiful Gothic architecture and design. The North church has two pavilions with green glazed tiled roofs. Two stone columns and stone lions guard the main gate of the church – mixing western and eastern architectural techniques.
The church was constructed in 1890 by French missionaries. In the past the church has served as a center for schools, orphanages and hospitals. The interior of the building has a tall, wide nave with side aisles, octagonal transepts, and a huge sanctuary. The church contains many chandeliers, paintings of the cross, antique stained glass, and the remains of wall decorations.
The Southern Cathedral is the oldest Catholic church in Beijing. The church is also known as the “Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.” The church is located near the Xuanwumen area of Beijing.
The first church was build in the middle 16th century on the former site of the Dong Society – a political organization active during the late Ming dynasty (1369-1644). The first church was built by Italian missionary Matteo Ricci during Emperor Wanli’s reign in the Ming Dynasty. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1657 during the reign of Emperor Shunzhi during the Qing dynasty.
The cathedral faced severe damage in two separate major earthquakes in 1775 and 1900. In 1904, the cathedral was rebuilt to its current form. Despite the years, the church has remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years. The only exception to this, is the church’s brick and mortar columns decorated that are decorated with tiled mosaics. The new columns were used to replace the church’s already existing wooden support columns.
Today, the church is still in excellent condition. No less than ten priests conduct mass in any given time. Usually Sundays, Easter, and Christmas are the busiest days for the church.
The Western Church is located near the southern side of the Xizhimen Neidajie. Of the four churches, the Western Church is the youngest. The Western Church was constructed in 1723, but later underwent renovation in 1912. The church is graced by two elegant Collins pillars and Gothic-peaked arches – lending the church a solemn but grand and elegant design.
On Christmas Eve, each church is scheduled to hold one mass. On Christmas day, December 25th, mass will be held around the clock.