Century-Old Church Reopens in Oldtown of Lijiang, Yunnan Province
By CCD contributor: Yang Daoyi, November 19, 2016 02:11 AM
When the Old Town of Lijiang in Yunnan was listed as a world heritage site in 1997, a tall building combining eastern and western styles in the Old Town was also included on the list. This building was Wang Jiazhuang Christian Church which survived the 1996 Lijiang earthquake.
Because it was listed in the World Cultural Heritage List and according to the regulation of world cultural heritage protection, the surviving church wasn't changed to other uses. According to the regulations of world cultural heritage protection, once a building is listed in the world heritage list, it is protected if it is not damaged and restored to how it was if it was damaged, and it is not allowed to change. The historical church in the Old Town of Lijiang was reserved in such historical background and was restored to how it was. It has become a miniature of the culture of the Old Town of Lijiang, and it also witnessed the historical origin of Christianity in Lijiang.
According to historical records, from 1902 to 1909, two Dutch missionaries, three German missionaries, and four English missionaries from International Pentecostal Holiness Church once preached in the region of Lijiang.
This church in the Old Town of Lijiang was initially prepared and built by English pastor An Yongjing and Jessie in 1905. Because the church was located in the eastern suburbs of Wang Jiazhuang of the Old Town, the name of the church was Wang Jiazhuang Gospel Church. Back then, Mr. and Mrs. An lived in the yard of the church presiding over the pastoral service and preaching ministry. Besides preaching in the church, they started Preaching Houses in Wuyi Street and Xinyi Street in the Old Town and Yulong Township outside of the Old Town. In 1935, they started a church school in Xinyi Street and enrolled more than 40 students.
Wang Jiazhuang Gospel Church in the Old Town of Lijiang became the center of Christianity in Lijiang back then. However, at the time in Dayan City, even after 40 years of hard preaching, at the national liberation of the People's Republic of China, there were only about 50 regular Christians. With the preaching ministry of Mr. and Mrs. An outside the city, however, the Gospel was unexpectedly widespread in other places in Lijiang. Now, there are almost 10,000 Lisu believers in Shigu, Liming, Judian, shitou in Yulong County, and several villages in Yongsheng County. This is all because of the Gospel spreading of Pastor An back then.
Speaking of the development of the Gospel in Lijiang, Xuan Mingde, father of the famous Xuan Ke, also played an important part. Pastor An first discipled Xuan Mingde and sent him to Guizhou Theological School to study. He continued his study in Nanjing Theological School, came back to Lijiang, and was anointed as the first Naxi pastor. He became the right hand of Pastor An and made active contributions to the Gospel development in Lijiang. Xuan Ke himself was greatly influenced by Christianity growing up. He studied in the church school and naturally became a Christian. It was his faith that kept him through 21 years in prison and allowed him to make a great contribution to carrying forward Chinese folk music and become famous both in China and all over the world.
Mr. and Mrs. An were no doubt the founders of Christianity in Lijiang. They had two children while preaching in Lijiang. The pastor named the son An Lisheng, and the daughter An Lihua to remember the Gospel ministry in Lijiang. Now, An Lisheng lives in Taiwan. A few years back, he came to Lijiang with his wife and shared with the believers of the church of Old Town Lijiang about his father's Gospel spreading history in Lijiang.
When talking about Wang Jiazhuang Christian Church, the elders who once lived in the Old Town proudly remembered what they'd seen. At the time, when they prepared to build the church, Pastor An bought a land of 6.5 mu (4333 square meters). Aside from the big church for worship purpose, they also built houses for living. They planted grapes, apple trees, and roses in the yard which turned into a beautiful garden. Not only that, Pastor An also brought fine cow reproduction techniques from England to promote in Lijiang.
What makes the people in Lijiang prouder is the fact that the first hydroelectric equipment in Yunnan was from the church of this Old Town. As it turned out, in the north of the church, the water from the river formed a height difference. With the hydroelectric equipment that Pastor An bought from England, Wang Jiazhuang Christian Church of Old Town of Lijiang became the brightest using electric light bulbs while other places still used kerosene lamps and candles.
Due to historical reasons, the church buildings and yard of Old Town Lijiang were occupied, but not the main church hall. After the foundation of the Christian Council in Lijiang, the church has been actively communicating with the administrative departments of the government to restore the old church as soon as possible to carry forward the Gospel ministry.
In 2014, World Cultural Heritage Old Town of Lijiang Protection and Management Bureau launched the program of restoring the site of Wang Jiazhuang Christian Church. After two years of construction, it was completed. Except restoring the old as it was, the facilities of the church have been arranged just as they were. However, what confused the believers of the church is that after the restoration, the church was used not to carry out Gospel ministry, but as a cultural site of Old Town of Lijiang. It has been opened to tourists for free, and there is a notice outside the church.
No matter what, having a church of 100 years standing upright in the World Cultural Heritage Old Town of Lijiang is a symbol that God didn't forget "the Forgotten Ancient Naxi Kingdom." On a desk on the way to the church is a guest register for tourists to sign and comment on. The forms were full of signatures from tourists all over the world (maybe Christians), they will see from this 100-year-old church what God has done, and His grace in Lijiang.
Now, Lijiang has become a tourist attraction known all over the world, and the Gospel has spread from the church in the Old Town (actually the center of spreading the Gospel), gradually flourishing in this well-known tourist city.
At the moment, in the district where Lijiang belongs, there are four counties. Except Huaping County, they have all formed Christian Councils and the number of believers increases every year.
It is rather grateful that due to the development of the tourism industry, many outsider believers take roots in Lijiang which promotes the Gospel spreading in Lijiang. For example, there are Christians who work or do business long term in Lijiang from Zhejiang, Guangdong, Fujian, and Henan, three provinces in eastern China, and other places. Some people form their own regional fellowships and this provides a drive for the spread of the Gospel.
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