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Archdiocese of Beijing

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Archdiocese of Beijing
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The Archdiocese of Beijing covers a territory of 30,000 sq. kilometers.


Beijing dialect is spoken by the natives of Beijing, and it falls under the Mandarin division of spoken Chinese. Standard Mandarin, the language that is in use in mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore, has Beijing dialect as its base. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality, and the Hebei Province that surrounds it, have similar dialects.


In 1294, the Franciscan missionary John of Montecorvino reached the Mongol capital of Kambalik (Khanbalik), where now Beijing situates. Pope Clement V appointed John of Montecorvino, the Archbishop of Kambalik and Patriarch of the Far East, in the year 1307. When he died in 1328, the missionary work he undertook came to a standstill. At the time of his death, the number of Catholics in the realm of the Mongols had reached 30,000. Between the end of the Yuan dynasty (1368) and for most of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), under which the Christians were suppressed, Christianity disappeared, leaving nearly no trace.

Another phase of missionary activities began with the arrival of the first Jesuit missionaries Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci in China, in 1583. Besides the Jesuits, missionaries of the Dominican (1631), Franciscan (1633), and Augustinian (1638) orders began their mission in China.

The Church in the area where now Beijing situates became the Diocese of Beijing from the Apostolic Vicariate of Nanjing, on April 10, 1690. It was demoted to an Apostolic Vicariate of Northern China, on May 30, 1856. It was renamed on Dec 3, 1924, as the Apostolic Vicariate of Beijing. On April 11, 1946, the Vicariate was finally established as the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Beijing.

In the same year, Pope Pius XII formally erected the Chinese hierarchy, at a moment in time when the civil war between the soldiers of the Guomindang and the Communists had already started. The Catholic Church in China was divided into 20 Church Provinces, each led by an archbishop. In the Consistory of February 18, 1946, Archbishop Thomas Tien Kensin SVD of Beijing became the first Chinese to be appointed as a cardinal.

According to the statistical data of 1946, there were 146 bishops in China, of whom only 35 were Chinese, while the great majority of (111) bishops were still foreigners. At the same time, the number of indigenous Chinese priests had reached 2,542, but when compared with the number of 3,046 foreign priests active in the Church, the indigenous clergy were still the minority. Even two years after the Communists had come to power and many foreign missionaries had left the country, four fifths of the Catholic bishops and two thirds of the priests were still foreigners.

In 1948, a year before the Communists won the civil war against the Guomindang, China had 3,274,740 Catholics, in 20 archdioceses, 85 dioceses and 34 Apostolic Prefectures. Among those Catholics were 139 bishops, 5,788 priests, 7,667 religious sisters and 1,107 religious brothers. There were around 216 church-run hospitals, 254 orphanages and 4,446 schools in continental China during that time.


Beijing's climate is a monsoon-influenced humid continental climate, characterised by hot, humid summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and generally cold, windy, dry winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone. Average daytime high temperatures in January are at around 1º C, while average temperatures in July are around 30º C.


Beijing, situated at the northern apex of the North China Plain, borders Heibei Province to the north, south, west, a small area in the east, and Tianjin Municipality in two short stretches to the southeast. The city lies between around 30-40m above sea level. The city and northern China’s agricultural heartland is shielded by mountains in the north, north-west and western regions, from the encroaching desert steppes. The Jundu Mountains dominate the Yanqing County and Huairou District, in the northwestern part of Beijing, and the Xishan Mountains, the western part of Beijing.

The nomadic invasions from the steppes were prevented by way of the Great Wall of China, which stretches across these mountains. Beijing’s highest point is Mount Dongling, also known as ‘Beijing’s Mount Everest’, is at 2303m above sea level. The Yongding River and the Chaobai River, the tributaries of the Hai River system, which flow towards the south, are the major rivers of Beijing. The Grand Canal of China, built across the North China Plain to Hangzhou, has Beijing as its northern terminus. Miyun Reservoir, a major source of water to the city of Beijing, is the city’s largest reservoir, and is built on the upper reaches of Chaobai River.

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