Chu Shi Er: Missionary Zeal

Nicholas Quirke was surprised that 5 hours of his day on 23 February seemed to get lost and when he came to write it up he could not fathom how the morning had passed. He suspected that as always he spent fifteen minutes on learning Mandarin, downloading his film from the GoPro and he could recollect spending sometime on making an asparagus soup for lunch but the hours engaged in these activities seemed excessive and he decided that reflecting on how the afternoon was spent was clearly as interesting as his day got. Peng had located an intriguing nearby coffee bar just off the road to Xidan. It was close enough to walk though it was not long before they were both complaining of the cold. The route took them past The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Xuanwumen a historic Roman Catholic Church. As the Cathedral has been shut for repairs since December 2018 and its entrance hidden from view behind the now completed renovation of Xuanwumen Subway station he had paid it only scant interest. But now they were in its immediate vicinity he decided to take a closer look. The history revealed by stopping was worth the effort. The original foundation of the cathedral was in 1605, making it the oldest Catholic church in Beijing, though the current building dates from 1904. In 1601, the 33rd year of the reign of the Wanli Emperor of the Ming dynasty. the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci arrived in Beijing after twenty years of missionary work in China. He became the first European to enter the Forbidden City when he was invited to become an adviser to the imperial court. This honor was in recognition of his scientific abilities, chiefly his predictions of solar eclipses, which were significant events in the Chinese world. He converted several prominent Chinese officials to Catholicism, worked with several Chinese elites such as Xu Guangqi, in translating Euclid’s Elements into Chinese as well as the Confucian classics into Latin for the first time in history and completion of the Zhifang Waiji, China’s first global atlas and the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu, a map of the world written in Chinese characters. For these the Emperor permitted him a residence with a small Chinese style chapel on which he established the Cathedral. The chapel was replaced with a European style church building when a bishop was appointed in 1703 but destroyed by an earthquake in 1720 it was rebuilt but severely damaged by another quake in 1730. In 1838, the Qing government decreed a restriction of the activity of the Catholic Church in China. In this decree, the cathedral was confiscated by the government and remained such until the end of the Second Opium War, when the Catholic Church was again permitted to act freely. When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in 1900, all the churches of Beijing were targets of vandalism, and on 14 June 1900, the cathedral was razed to the ground. In 1904, the present structure, the fourth church on the site, was completed. It was a fascinating history lesson and led to the discovery of a couple of further relics he could explore. The Cafe was comfortable and smart and they spent a relaxing couple of hours before heading hurriedly home through the very cold temperatures. They continued the delicious Tang Yuan tradition with some Black sesame and Peanut glutinous millet balls. He had expected to resume the watching of ‘Angels in America, but Peng had alternative ideas and instead the extraordinarily revelatory ‘Judas, Black Messiah’ was the film fare for the evening and paved the way for a night of vivid dreamscapes during his sleep.

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