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The St. Francis Church on Shangchuan Island

The St. Francis Church on Shangchuan Island

The St. Francis Church on Shangchuan Island, Taizhou, Guangdong The St. Francis Church on Shangchuan Island, Taizhou, Guangdong
ByCCD contributor: Paul Wu January 21, 2020
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Shangchuan island is located in the southwest of Taishan City, Guangdong Province. Standing in the middle of the south China sea, it is a famous tourist resort. In addition to the beautiful scenery, a church, the St. Francis Catholic church, adds a touch of sacred color. It was built in 1869 in memory of St. Francis Xavier who came to China in 1552.

St. Francis Xavier was the first missionary sent by the Society of Jesus to the east. He made contributions to the spread of the Gospel in the eastern countries and was known as the "eastern apostle".

Francis Xavier was sent by the Vatican to preach in the East in 1540. He led the ministry of the church affairs in the Comorin Islands of India before going to Goa in 1542. After several years of missionary work in India, he transferred to Malacca. Xavier spent seven years preaching in India, Nanyang islands and other places and achieved great success, leading thousands of people to baptism.

Xavier and two friars led by Zhan Silang arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, on August 15,1549. For more than two years, he led more than 1,000 Japanese to become Christians. However, he also encountered tough situations. When he debated with Japanese intellectuals, the Japanese literati retorted, "if what your religion says is true, why is it still unheard of in China?" Through contact with Japanese scholars, he deeply understood the shared cultural heritage between Japan and China, and realized the important position of China in the missionary work in the east. So he decided to preach in China.

Xavier left Goa, India, on a journey to China in April 1552. He arrived at Shangchuan Island, 30 nautical miles south of Taishan county, Guangdong, via a shipping vessel known as the "Holy Cross". Soon, Xavier learned that the Ming government had banned the entry of foreign missionaries into China, thus slimming his chances of entry. But this did not shaken his determination as a missionary. He set up a small church on the island, as a base into China. And through negotiations with the Siamese Mission, he could visit the Chinese emperor together with them. While Francois Xavier was actively planning his mission to China, he unfortunately contracted malaria. Due to lack of medical supplies, on December 3, Francois Xavier rested in the arms of the Lord on Shangchuan island.

The church of Macau raised money to build the tomb of Francis Xavier. The cemetery was repeatedly destroyed and repaired, and got expanded each time it was rebuilt. When the story of Francis Xavier spread to the west, he was canonized by the Vatican. Father Tekoti of the French Jesuits built the chapel at the site of the original tomb of Francis in 1689. In 1869, a Gothic clock tower was built in the cemetery, and the first Catholic church in Shangchuan was built in Xindi Village at the foot of Xiangbi Mountain.

The gate of the cemetery is at the end of the path by the sea. Inside the gate, a flight of steps lead to a halfway point up the mountain, where the tomb was built in an open space. The tomb is a Gothic church with a high steeple on the front. The cenotaph of Francis Xavier is located in the center of the church, with the inscription "the thirty-eighth year of Kangxi" on the tombstone. On either side were rows of chairs, and right in front is the cross of the crucifixion of Jesus. Beneath the cross stands a statue of Francis Xavier.

- Translated by Sophia Chen 

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