Fujian

Fujian Province is one of China’s richest in terms of cultural and biological diversity. Its relatively late industrialisation has meant that it retains extensive forests in the rural north and west, and the province is particularly noted for its varieties of tea.

Rapid economic growth in the coastal regions, stimulated particularly by proximity to Taiwanese and Southeast Asian Chinese entrepreneurs, has led to rapid migration into the coastal cities. A strong tradition in higher education has also been maintained. Fujian is now one of China’s richest provinces, though many inland areas are still poverty-stricken.

Fujian has long been a religious centre in China. Its port cities have bought in international traders for centuries, while in the mountainous inland regions, hundreds of small linguistically and culturally distinct groups live in separate valleys. As a result not only Buddhist, Daoist, Islamic and more recently Christian groups have flourished, but so have folk traditions which blend the world traditions together with local practices.

China’s southeast coast has held one of the longest Christian presences anywhere in China. Nestorian and Franciscan communities were present during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in the fourteenth century. Catholic communities were founded by the Jesuits, particularly Portuguese coming through Macao.

Religious disputes in Fujian led to a strong Chinese scholastic reaction against Christianity, and collections of anti-Christian writings were collated there toward the end of the seventeenth century. On the other hand, the first Chinese Catholic priest, Gregory Luo Wenzao, was from Fujian and was consecrated bishop for south China in 1685.

In the nineteenth century, Protestant missionaries arrived by sea as Xiamen (Amoy) became a treaty port and the number of Chinese Protestants reached 100,000 by 1949. Watchman Ni grew up in Fuzhou and was educated at Trinity College (created by the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission). His Little Flock church had a strong presence in the province until the 1950s.

Since the 1970s, Protestant church growth has again been strong with the numbers of official believers estimated at 1,179,000 in 2004*. In particular the cities of Fuzhou and Fuqing have seen many churches built, with Fuqing being named the ‘second Jerusalem’ of China after Wenzhou. The Catholic church is divided into four provinces, with around 210,000 registered believers in 2008.

 

Yunlong Bridge, Fujian
Yunlong Bridge, Fujian. Photo: David Reid Creative Commons logo
Rural church buildings, Fujian
Courtyard buildings, Fujian
Rural church buildings
Courtyards. Photo: David Reid Creative Commons logo
© Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 2010