Sichuan

The province of Sichuan is one of China’s largest and most diverse. The province is mountainous in the west, north and south, while the central basin and eastern regions are among the most densely populated areas in all of China. The province is China’s leading producer of rice and wheat, as well as being blessed with large fruit orchards. While Han Chinese make up the overwhelming majority in the province, there are significant ethnic nationalities of Yi, Tibetan, Qiang, Miao and Naxi people living there also. Its total population is around 90 million, among who there are around 520,000 registered Protestant and . Sichuan is perhaps most famous worldwide for its spicy food, one of the four leading Chinese cuisines.

Christianity may have reached Sichuan as early as the Tang dynasty via the Silk Road trade routes. Small communities of Syriac Nestorian Christians inhabited a monastery in Chengdu until the 9th Century. Catholic Jesuit missionaries began working in the province from 1640. During the mid-Qing dynasty, the province represented one of the few strongholds for the Catholic presence in China where it was kept alive by the famous Chinese priest Li Ande, who also helped the French Fr Luigi Buglio translate the Missal, Ritual, Breviary and parts of the Bible into Chinese. Protestant missionaries began to settle in the province in the 1880s, running schools, hospitals and clinics as well as preaching the gospel. The church grew slowly until the 1930s, when the influx of refugees from Japanese-occupied China led to a surge in church growth.

Sichuan was notable for having some of the earliest proponents of the Patriotic Movements. Chen Chonggui was a prominent Protestant pastor and theological educator who helped create the Three Self Patriotic Movement in 1950, while Fr Wang Liangzuo was the first priest to join the Catholic Patriotic Association. However churches were increasingly merged and closed throughout the province during the 1960s and 70s. In recent decades many churches have reopened, and numerous meeting points established. The Protestant Seminary in Chengdu is also a regional centre, training students from all of the south-western provinces. Nevertheless, Christians continue to be a small minority in this highly populated province.

On May 12, 2008, a devastating earthquake struck the Western part of Sichuan, killing more than 75,000 people in the province and making whole communities homeless. Churches throughout China donated money to the Chinese Red Cross and to the Amity and Jinde Charities which together with other NGOs helped the national and local government in the relief effort. A five year programme of reconstruction and rehabilitation has been implemented, but the trauma and desolation are still keenly felt.

 

Lake Long, Sichuan
Lake Long, Muli, Sichuan Photo: George Lu Creative Commons logo
Fishing, Mianyang
Baby and Aunt
Fishing. Photo: Lost Bob Creative Commons logo
Residents. Photo: le niners Creative Commons logo

Further information

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