china edition


Eastern Church

The Eastern Church (Wangfujing) is one of the best preserved religious sites and the second oldest Catholic Church in Beijing. Its gray Gothic structure has endured torrid history.

Eastern ChurchBuilt on ground donated by the Shunzhi emperor in 1655, this Jesuit church was toppled by an earthquake in 1720, then gutted by fire in 1812, after which it was leveled by an increasingly anti-foreign regime.

It was rebuilt after foreigners forced their way into Beijing in 1860, and was razed again during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Chinese Christians were the first targets of the xenophobic Boxers, who disparagingly referred to them as "lesser hairy ones".

Local converts were slaughtered in the hundreds before the Boxers (who also murdered women with unbound feet) worked up the courage to kill a real foreigner. Yet they are usually portrayed as a "patriotic" movement in China's history books.

After a major renovation in 2004, the Eastern Church is notable for its wide, tree-lined forecourt, a favorite spot for Beijing's skateboarders.