History of the Yanjing Church, the Only Catholic Church in Tibet

By Pauline Petro, March 23, 2017 05:03 AM

The only Catholic Church In Tibet(ExploreTibet)

In the Buddhist-dominated Tibet, there is one village where 80 percent of its people believe in Jesus and it is located in the village of Yanjin, in Minzu Zone, Changdu District, Tibet.

The church was built by French missionaries; 17 missionaries had come to the village to do their mission one after the other. There are over 650 Catholics in Yanjing, where there are 149 families and a population of some 800. These Catholics are mainly from the Zang [Tibetan] group, apart from the Naxi and Han group. In some families, two faiths exist together in harmony. People from one faith accept people from other faith. The church and the temples in the village enjoy a good relationship.

At present, the church is being led by Lu Rendi, whose family has produced 4 generations of Catholic believers. According to him, the traditions of the village are Catholic, including marriage and funeral. There is also a Catholic cemetery near the church.

The Origin of the Church

Two godfathers, after a long laborious journey, brought Catholicism to Yanjing in 1865. They bought the land of the church from Lama Gongge and built the church on it with 15 rooms. Afterwards, they also built a splendid church according to the West, and the sermons shared in the church was in English. Since then, believers gradually gathered and settled in Yanjing and expanded the church, whose original shape was destroyed in the Cultural Reformation.

Overcoming trials, missionaries not only restored the church; but, also helped people settle down so they could live in peace and safety. The missionaries also assisted the people so they could begin to understand the teachings of Catholicism.

After years of hard work, missionaries saw their fruits of their mission and received help from the people and gotten materials from missionaries in Paris they managed to contact. They combined all churches into one parish located in Batang, which was then moved to Kangding. The school to learn the local language was built in the parish so that the missionaries can learn their languages easily to help them evangelize.

The fourth godfather named Ni Delong also achieved a great success. He not only translated many Scriptures in the Zang language, he had also set up night school. He invited local teachers for believers to help them recognize characters. What he did not only helped believers improve their education level; but, also increased the number of believers, which raised the status and impact of Catholicism in the village.

With the increase of believers, Catholicism grew strong in Yanjin.

The new opportunity of mission in Tibet

According to Hudson Taylor in 1892, to convert people of Tibet into Christianity was like taking away the lion cubs while they are near the adult lions. One century later, as China grew in various ways, Tibet revealed a new bright future for the Gospel.

Some Tibetans, having received high education over the past decades, start to have an open mind to Christianity.  Among them are those who have left Tibet are more likely to receive the Gospel. Besides education, the railway system to Tibet was successfully built in 2006, giving new opportunity for the Gospel to grow.

The Tibetan Autonomous Region is home to 2.8 million people, with 80% are Lama Buddhists. Christians make up only 0.2 % of the population. It is said that Tibet has over 30 underground churches and a few thousands of believers from both Zang and Han groups. Local Bible, Gospel leaflets and brochures are already used in the mission. In addition, the story of Jesus written in Zang language has also been widely used in the mission.

Translated by Alvin Zhou

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