Beijing Parish Houses
In the middle of September I became so familiar with Chinese capital, so that I was easily moving in any point of the city even the rural part. I was visiting 3 times different priests in their apartments... I got to know 3 another churches. I got to know young organist Tony native from Hong-Kong. I got currage to ask about catholic underground. I got an answer:"Yes, underground exists even in Beijing"...
I got some booklets with official statistics concerning Beijing Diocese and also, I am enjoying my new visa.
At the first time I was visiting Chinese movie theatre... There was a good excuse; actually they play famous historical film "Banquet".
On my area of Guan Cay Lu happened well advertised tennis competition "China Open", many youngsters was attending plays with famous stars from all over the world. Between them: Bagdaitis from Cyprus, Ancic and Lubcic from Croatia, French Mauresmo...all of them, the first 10 in ratings.
The biggest team of ladies came from Russia. On the street some guys were selling tickets. I was also I was thinking to buy ticket, but finally I was looking competitions home in TV, on my favor sportive channel 5. Like in Poland in soviet period the most truth we may see on the sport and whether channels. All the rest in China seems to be "propaganda of successful grate Communist country" and bit stupid programs for youngsters.
From the internet I got to know about Pope talks in Bavaria about Muslims. Still I was visiting daily my doctor.
1. Saint Teresa from "blue church".
After the morning Mass in st. Josephs church, I gone to the sacristy to ask the priests how can I reach st. Teresa. The vicar priest as usually had no time for me but he showed me some parishioner which wrote me down in my prayer book the address in Chinese.
I was trying to communicate my doctor my decision to go there but same time came to me French speaking boy whose name was Sheng. He looked on my prayer book, explained that it is very difficult to find the place. He took my book with address and disappeared. When he came back he proposed me to help me, because he asked some people to explain and it was really difficult. I explained to Sheng that perhaps Doctor will be happy to go with us, but doctor seemed to be busy, I was not understanding what is going on with him. Finally I realized that he was just waiting for Steven, protestant seminarian, which we got to know sometime before looking for Catholic Seminary in How Ba Jia.
Finally he came and we were 4 persons delegation talking 3 languages: Chinese, French and English. Doctor invited Steven to be my translator. He was typical Chinese boy 30 years old with tin body and big head.
His English was rather good. He told me that he refuge from some Presbyterian prayers to be with us and he was risking to be punished. I was really sorry because of that. We were travelling by trolleybus 108 and after 3 stops we changed on bus 8. We were walking along some small but full of people "hutong" in direction indicated by the street desk. The name of the church officially is "south blue church". The people explained us that we are going wrong way. The street to the church was a bit higher. It was silent hutong, there was now people walking except us.
Church was nicely appearing thanks to small hill. It looked like some gothic style buildings in Ukraine and Russia, for example in Crimean Yalta or Russia Ural city Perm. Also in Poland you may find such building especially in Krakow's Lagiewniki where st. Faustina is buried.
The daily Mass is here at 7 but in Sundays also at 8.oo. The second Mass just finished so the church was empty. Only in the buildings near the church there was some people attending studies of French language under young lady which asked us about the reason of our visit. Sheng explained to her that we will be happy to se the priest and after few minutes he came to the church and took us to his office.
The church had blue walls inside and big image of st. Teresa in altar. She was traditionally dressed in bronze and white Carmelite habit and she was taking the small Cross with flowers in her hands. Flowers were going down to the earth as symbol of her prayers for her friends. Here I understood that she really is my friend as my mother's patron and patron of missions. I asked her blessing going to China and finally we may meet each other.
I was happy to visit the priests office, because it was the first opportunity to see such a place and to have friendly talk with a simple parish priest in Beijing. He asked many questions but mostly my friends were answering on my behalf, they was knowing me rather good, so I was just hearing theirs Chinese discussion. The priest served to us some tea or water and after 15 minutes talk he told us that he is very sorry because of some urgent meeting in the city. He took the French teacher, and smoking cigarette he left.
It was really nice person. He was also typical middle age Chinese man. He had round smiling face, black long hairs, middle high. All dressed in white with roman collar symbol of being priest. No one priest in China in my presence was dressed in sutana.
2. Protestants from Chong Wen Men
Doctor Fan took us to the street restaurant near there. The special food there were big noodles made just in our presence by young boy in the big container. Steven told me that it is typical food in his native Shanxi province and invited me to try. Doctor took some noodles with cabbage and meet he also drunk bottle of famous Chinese Harbin bear. Steven was not eating, Sheng asked our excuse and gone home tired because working last night.
We were three men and all the day was in our disposition. I asked Steve to show us some protestant church. He was bit shy, perhaps he wished not to be seen by some of his teachers, but finally he took us to the "Korean Community from Jilin. There is big Korean minority in China. They have Catholic Priest in st. Michel, but also protestant ministers in Chong wen Men.
The church was at the last stop of 108-th trolley bus so the place was near st. Teresa and familiar to all of us. The building was hidden behind some office center which inside was also made in church style, but too much high and rich to be a church.
Protestant church looked small from outside. Some too ladies were greeting us in the entrance. There were many small buildings in the garden. People was buying and selling books. I asked English-Chinese Bible which price was 50 Yuan (about 12 dollars).
The church inside looked huge. There was perhaps 500 sitting places in the around the altar. There was pop music instruments by altar and some people singing People was walking here and there, there was no prayer that time. The second big room looked as an additional chapel for around 300 sitting places. We were asking some of pastors but nobody was present. We was slowly leaving from the place. Only in the garden, some pastoress came to us, and start to talk to my friends. They explained her again all my story and she answered that she also was very sick, same sickness. She visited many doctors but nobody was able to help her. Finally she converted to Jesus and she was cured. Her name was Emmanuel, she asked my name and standing on the road she started to pray together with some 2 women which where walking with her and following our discussion. I was told they were praying for my health.
The same day we were visiting another parish house. Doctor Fan explained to Steve that near there is some other Catholic Church and he knows the priest working there. We were walking 10 minutes and we came to st. Michaels church. I was there before, but this day it was totally different story. There was no one Korean, but some Australian man waiting for his wife. She was an English teacher here. He talked us about his being in China and also about st. Michaels parish. I got to know that I was mistaken thinking that it is totally under Korean care church. Koreans only rent this place 1 day a week all the rest of the week we have celebrations on Latin at 6 AM and Chinese at 7.00.
The meeting with priest was unsuccessful. We were knocking long time and finally we met very tired 50 years old mad. He asked the reason of the visit but looked not interested talking to us so doctor asked him something to drink. The priest has gone to his sleeping room. We were seeing his office with collection of hats on the shelf, small table and 3 big aquariums. He returned, gave us 3 bottles of water and we understood that we have to go. In fact Sunday is not the best time to have unexpected visits in priests house.
This moment Steve asked me showing the statue of Holly Marry from the Lourdes "why she has rosary on her hands. Isn't it a Buddhist symbol?" I answered him explaining the story and meaning of rosary and asked their permission to go.
Last days I was so active that slowly I got more and more tired. The 803 bus stop was near there so I took the bus and gone home.
3. Holly Mary from Mount Carmel
Tree days I stayed home, tired of adventures, also I was slowly loosing patience to painful acupuncture sessions. Also I got sad because of my superiors. They did got inform me about their opinion concerning my staying here in China. The old visa was about to expire. I was looking China Open in TV, boiling noodles for the breakfast and the supper and preparing long stories about my childhood for the book, which I am planning to issue near future.
In Thursday I got phone call from my doctor and I promised him to visit him in Friday. I came back to my usual schedule and vital energy came back to me. 25-th of September we took the trolley bus 111, and pay a visit to another Beijing church under the name of Holly Mary from Mount Carmel.
That very day I was able to compare my activities in returned church of Artiomowsk and all difficulties which local priest got after returning back of the 150 years old church building. From any side I was able to see acts of damaging and vandalism. At the front the tower was destroyed and communist owners made some brick office which destroyed beauty and harmony of church. Also some other factories and houses were built just 2 or 5 meters from left and right side of the church, so that priest no cannot do any procession around the church. Old vitrages were destroyed and I was seeing the rubbish of vitrage in the coin of the garden. It is very fresh wound. New windows made temporarily are very simple and the wind destroyed some of them again.
Inside the church somebody put fresh cement as plumb in the teeth to the wholes made for construction of artificial second flour. Same story I saw in Ukraine or Russia. This was the unbelievers was getting more place for their offices or factories occupying the building of church.
Reparations made in hurry. There were stations of new Cross Road, which indicates the way to follow, like every where in China in different direction than in Europe. Style of the church same as in st. Michael or st. Teresa, the second part of 19-th century. I was satisfied and have had no intention to continue our excursion, but doctor Fan insisted to pay a visit to the priest. At first he talked himself, but priest wished to hear me personally so he called his organist Tony, young man native Hong-Kong. He came and asked my story. He was very curious about my experience in Siberia and translated to the priest my entire story. Priest served us tea and even wished invite to the lunch but he realized that he has no vegetables in the kitchen and asked Tony to take me in restaurant near there.
Anthony spent with us about 3 hours. He gave me some message about situation of underground in China telling that some bishops especially in Shanghai and in Shanxi have good relationship both with communist government and with Vatican and underground believers as well.
I got know that Tony came recently to Beijing and still has small information about the city. From another hand I had no intention to ask some delicate topics against his will. I realized, it may be dangerous for him and perhaps he may loose his job talking to much with foreigner. I asked him how I can go to the parish of Christ the King, he explained me and doctor took me to the next adventure the same very day.
4. Christ the King in the province
I got a booklet of Beijing diocese in the church of st. Joseph. In the book I got directions of 20 churches in the central and rural Beijing. I got to know also some information about Bishop Fu, the 3-rd Chinese bishop of Beijing. He was elected in 1979 in the age perhaps 30, without any blessing of Vatican. It is my personal concern, because until now he is a Chairman of Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
In the book I saw him with Cardinal Kim from Seul and Cardinal Sin from Manila, which visited him in Beijing. It may give impression, that conflict with Vatican was cured. According the book, in these 27 years of ministry Bishop Fu took back most of old churches in the aerie, he trained about 40 new priests, her= has some sisters, hospital, elderly people house and regular vacations for poor children.
The most number of Catholics in Beijing diocese live in rural south and west parishes, some of them 80 or 100% citizens Catholics. One of such rural settlements is in the north of Beijing. I decided to start visiting rural aeries from that place. Doctor told me that we need 3 hours to be there. Our trip started at 3 PM. I was thinking myself that somewhere in the north Beijing we may see the Grate Chinese wall. My intuition was good. During about 30km of travel we were seeing very nice picture. On the top of the mountain, I saw the wall with many towers perhaps each kilometer.
When we were going back the landscape was much more attractive, because there was no bus back, because to late, we took "occasional transportation". The car taking us back was traveling old road along the Grate Wall. The driver had no money to pay the highway, so we were able to see the wall in all the beauty of night illuminations.
The bus 919 finished his trip but our catholic rural settlement was still not there, we took the taxi and in 6 pm we were inside. The priest was absent. The gate was closed, but doctor Fan find the old lay man who opened the door and patiently waited the strange people during their prayer. I got to know that church was a garage during Cultural Revolution. From outside beautiful cathedral inside very poor just repaired chapel with simple benches for perhaps 150-200 sitting places.
I was deeply moved in heard by the peace I got there. Christ the king has very good place for his Kingdom. In the evening sun was red illuminating the stone road to the church. In the middle of the large street I saw the beautiful and big historical gate. The houses both sides very small, mostly restaurants. The settlement was ready to sleep. I was feeling like I was another century and hundreds and thousands km from capital. Taxi took us Back to the bus but as I said it was to late. After small talk with local drivers, one of them volunteered to take us back to Beijing for 50 Yuan.
With many adventures I was back home at 12 pm. Very tired and happy. It was my first trip out of the city in China.
5. Visa story
I am a man which was dismissed from Russia and my visa was cancelled. From that time I am visiting any visa offices with deep memory of injustice. These days I got permission from both Polish and Ukrainian superiors to stay longer in China so there was no choice. I came to the visa office and... I was very surprised the simple way of being all the workers, even the building was looking nicely like international airport, with electric stairs, large and clean corridors. There was many people waiting but each of them was doing his visa perhaps 2 or 3 minutes, not more. In Russia it was hours even days before we meet the officer hearing from his side million of difficulties.
As it was in Kiev my visa was made according the invitation of my friendly businessman mister Wan. I was told that I may take my visa in 5 day term. I was so happy, because it was truth. I was staying in queue 3 minutes and I exchanged with a lady just 3 words. At the end of the world... no bureaucracy at all.
On the movie Banquet I came without planning. It happens the bus 807 or 803 changes his way, or cut some stations. You never now, when and why. Guan Cai Lu is at the end of the travel so many times I am confused when conductor wishes not to buy me a ticket. When it happened again I decided to go by foot home. I crossed big park around the God's of Heaven Church and I came in the near of another bus station I saw the desk inviting to see the film Banquet. I saw this advertisement before and I decided to ask the schedule. The lady told me that the next séance is in 5 minutes. I took the ticket and was very surprised. Surprisingly on so nice and famous movie came so few people. Also the behavior of spectators was not very nice. Eating, talking during exhibition was very disturbing me.
After movie finished, I was very hurry to take bus back. It wad 9PM and I was afraid walking in the night. I changed 2 different busses and finally get hope happy. The film was similar to Hamlet intrigue. The prince looses his father. It seems he is interested only in theatre and poetries but in fact he wishes to kill his uncle which killed prince father. The entire story happens in the middle age China during unity action between 10 small kingdoms.
Each of 3 parts of the film was made in different color. Dominant color in the beginning is white, which has a meaning of death, second part in red which means desire. The third part is made in black colors, which means violence. Many people die in the end, all the heroes of the story. It was a bit sad story, but very helpful for somebody who makes the effort to understand Chinese soul and culture.
7. Big Tennis
Competitions "China Open" were 3 weeks long. All that period of time my street was full of traffic and people. In the air were flying too balloons inviting people to the event. Young boys were offering calendars of competitions for free. At first was mans competition. One famous Russian sportsman came with his girlfriend telling publicly that she is his guaranty of good health and success, but he was punished in the game with some Thai tennis player whom nobody was knowing before.
The final game was between Bagdaitis from Cyprus and Croat Ancic. In woman's competition: French Mauresmo and Russian Kuznecova. As a boy I was trying many kind of sport, but every time unsuccessful, so it was only one way to realize myself as spectator. I like looking football, box even motor sports like Formula 1.
Sport is now in China topic number one, because of Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing. The entire nation is preparing to the event. The organizers have choose in special competition 100 000 of volunteers talking English to help staying of sportsmen in China. The problem is that in my opinion China do not have big number of good sportsman, maybe I am not well informed.
8. The Great Pope and small mister "Pu"
From internet I got to know two important messages. One message is explaining the historical talk of Benedict the 16-th about Moslems. The second is reaction of Moscow on that. Moslems were sad it is not surprise, but big surprise for me was peaceful talk of mister "Pu". We call so in Ukraine Russian President, because of his big ambitions we shorten his family to show his real value.
He was calling "religious leaders (without calling the name of the Pope), to be more diplomatic and patient.
The man, who was so inpatient and impolite to journalist, businessman and even priests is telling that! The person which promised publicly to kill all the Moslems in the toilet! He is giving advices to our Great Pope what he have to talk about. In my opinion this pope is Great, because he likes to talk open way what is white and what is black. Some day he will say something about actual persecution of underground church. It is urgent message to many politics like Putin and actual administration in China. There are still 5 bishops in prison.
Even successful in economy China and Russia as well have to be more kind to religious minorities. We still live here and there under "one party and one nation". We may say even "one religion"! I remember this style from my childhood in Poland.
9. Buddhist Czestochowa
During my walking on Yong He Gong street I got impression of big religious festival which happens daily like in Polish Czestochowa. Most of the shops are proposing Buddhist candles, statues, song tapes and prayer books, even "Buddhist Rosaries". Even polish language I was hearing during my staying in China only there. There are many tourists from all over the world, like in polish shrine.
Beijing Monastery Yong He Gong is famous because of the biggest wooden statue in the world. It is made from sandal wood and one peace of wood 18 meters high. Monastery was founded 250 years before, by Tibetan Lamas. Territory has about 10 hectares. There is a line of small chapels as the wall of the territory and 7 shrines on one line from south to the north. All of them represent various hypostases of Buddha. The additional chapels have names esoteric, exoteric and even mathematic. It describes what kind of meditations was practicing Lama in that place.
I was seeing about 50 young monks dressed in very similar way like polish seminarians. Inn each chapel I met one or even 3 of them, looking for good behavior of visitors. Sometime I was seeing also adult monks in same dressing as Dalai Lama.
Even so, I have impression Buddhism is not very popular in Beijing, even comparing small Christian minority, we Christians give impression of living persons. Here more theatre and museum than real religious activity.
10. Taoism "a la Lichen"
Time to time I am still comparing China to my native Poland. There is just in the Geographical Center on the road between Poznan and Warsaw the city Konin with open mines of bronze coal. In the settlement of Lichen local priest fr. Machulski, during about 50 years was collecting big stones from these mines to built replica of Jerusalem Calvarias and every station of Cross Road has some connection with contemporary committed sins of people. Jesus, soldiers and Jews are represented in alabaster or clay in a natural high of a man.
When I visited Taoist Shrine in Beijing, in the entrance I had impression, that it may be Buddhist monastery. Even 4 centuries older than Yong He Gong, the Shrine has the same style and similar size. The wall around was also used for additional chapels. Seven churches in the middle were oriented south north direction starting from main gate. Same was the style of altars in the churches the burning containers with fragrant incense and gifted fruits: apples, bananas and bread.
The difference was in the number of statues. In Poland in Lichen each of 14 stations has 3 or even 5 statues. Total about 500. In Beijing even more. In additional 78 chapels we have the same number of figures. Main 3 meters sitting "god", 2 "angels" right and left hand of him and 2 lines 5 persons or animals, 1,5 or 2 meters high, representing the reality which that one special of 78 "gods" is controlling. Total number is: more than 1000 statues.
The realities (sections) represented here are: section of long and short life, good and bad: bureaucrats, soldiers, priests, section of any kind of killers: abortionists, suicide committers, poisonings, section of injustice death condemnations, sections of: wind gods, water gods, fire gods, animal care etc. The difference with Buddhists was also lack of monks. Here we have ordinary security.
The main legendary "gods" of Taoism represented at the entrance are: Tiger and Dagon, They have under their command 10 generals and they command these 78 rulers dressed as Chinese bureaucrats in black had with two funny "ears" ad different color of faces: white, yellow, green, blue, violet even black.
The last few sections in the north of territory were used as museum of Chinese customs during so called festivals. According lunar calendar, festival happens when number of day and month is the same: 1 January, 2-nd February, 3-rd of March... The most interesting to me was festival in 7-th of July. It calls in Chinese Qi Qi. It is Chinese st. Valentine and there is a legend about one father who organized a wedding of his beloved daughter with some Prince without knowing that she fall in love with somebody before. When she informed him about her heart problem he was unable to change his decision, but he helped lovers to have meetings one time every year in 7-th of July.
Other festivals venerate New Year, Spring, Fathers, Grand-fathers, Buddha, Harvest or some other events.
I spend 1 hour in Lama Monastery and got tired. In Taoist I spent 3 hour without being tired. Even so I got here same impression as in Tibetan monastery about co9ndition of faith. There is very small number of real believers and the care about shrine is 100% the state business.
11. Confucian God of Heaven Shrine
In the day of Mao Victory Anniversary Communist Rulers made one surprise for the people, they proclaimed "official reopening" of God of Heaven Shrine in the center of the city after long restoration. UNESCO is recognizing the territory of shrine as unique. Unique is really not only beautiful round shrine but also the number of unique trees. The territory is 10 time larger than Buddhist Lama Monastery or Taoist Shrine. It is very easy here to understand what religion was ever supported by the state.
Master Kung he organized except system of ethics also a system of Palace Etiquette. The way of walking,, dressing, training of teachers and bureaucrats... even venerating ancestor souls, all it was under Confucian rules.
Today's China make efforts to restore Confucian ideas creating so called Confucian Institutes. There are about 100 such institutes in many countries of the world as branches of Chinese Consulates. These efforts are also similar to Russian Government efforts to rule all Orthodox parishes overseas, even they actually have independent structure. The church has to be independent, without intervening of politics side. Not here not there. Religion is still under strict control and used as instrument in political games.
fr. Jaroslaw Wisniewski
Guan Caj Lu - Pekin, 29 September 2006