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Anlong Diocese, Guizhou With the Southern Ming

June 29, 2006 2:10 PM
The Church in Guizhou (Kouitchow) consists of Guiyang Diocese, Anlong Diocese and Shiqian Diocese, being integrated in the last ten years as the Guizhou Diocese.

The Anlong Diocese was created in 1922, with its jurisdiction over the south-western part of the Province, including 10 counties from Panxian, Pu’an, Qinglong, Xingyi, Xingren, Anlong, Ceheng, Zhenfeng, Wangmo, Luodian and north-western part of Guangxi, including Longlin, Tianlin, Tianyang, Lingyun and Tian’e, Guangxi, altogether 15 counties. The Bishop’s House is located at Anlong County.

The existing Anlong parish has a Catholic population of 15,000 distributed in Wangmo, Ceheng and Anlong, and in all the village settlements in the surrounding area and 85% of them belongs to ethnic minority, mostly of Bouyei-Miao minority. The cathedral of Anlong is located in the center of the city of Anlong, separated by a boundary wall with the former palace of the last dynasty of Southern Ming, known as Yongli(Yungli 1647-60). The layout of the palace was built according to the gradient level of the city and was an integral part of a secondary school building, the Limin Middle School. The Bishop’s Office had architectural feature of ancient and southern region characteristics, rich in historical elements of imported culture. The city parish has more than 300 parishioners. According to the Parish Priest, Fr. Li Yifei: “The only regret is that we do not have a large number of Catholics and the greater regret is that we do not have a high percentage of Catholics coming to church. In ordinary times, the turn-up rate is around 10%. We are now preparing to conduct catechism and Bible study groups in August, with the hope of raising the standard of religious knowledge of the parishioners and the will to propagate our faith. There is one consoling factor with our parish - there is a tradition that every Friday evening, the Catholics will be coming to say prayers for the deceased members of the family and friends. In addition, some Catholics maintain the practice of coming to the church for training in liturgical hymns.”

According to Anlong Church history made available to The Faith Press reporters, we found that, in 1885, Fr. Guo Deqi built a large church and office, with boarding for male, a school, a house for Virgins, a girls’ school and a convent for religious sisters. It is generally accepted that the Church in Anlong started during this period. But further search in history revealed that the origin of Anlong Church started much earlier than that.

In 1644, following the death of the last Ming Emperor and the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, the Manchus made their advance outside the Great Wall to China Proper. Three feudatories of the Southern Ming Dynasties, namely the Hong Guang, Long Wu and Yongli(Yungli 1647-60) set up some semblance of legitimate authority in the southern provinces. The Southern Ming dynasties, particularly the Yongli Court had close association with the Catholic Church.

In 1646, King of Gui, Zhu You-long became the Superintendent of the State in Zhaoqing, Guangdong and changed the annual to the First Year as Yongli. For this reason, he was identified as the Emperor Yongli. Due to the fact that he became the Superintendent of the State in Zhaoqing, Guangdong, the majority of the court officials were drawn from the local people in Zhaoqing, which was the first station when Matteo Ricci started his mission in China. Many officials were Catholic and many of them held important posts. Pang Tian Shou, a eunuch, holding the post of Minister of Rites and Personal Secretary of the State was christianized as Archilleus. The Secretary of Military Service and Imperial Academy, Zan Shisi, was baptized as Thomas. Jian Lian, the Duke of Revival had the Christian name of Luke. Empress Wang, the legal mother of the Emperor Yongli was known as Lena, the natural mother of the Emperor Empress Ma was christianized as Maria. Wife of the Emperor, christianized as Ana. The Crown Prince Cixuan was Stephen. Missionaries serving the Yongli Court were Fr. Andre-Xavier Koffer, Zan Sawei, Bu Mige. There were 40 Catholic ministers and secretaries in the royal court, and over 50 princesses and concubines were baptized. There were more converts from the eunuchs. The Emperor had the intention to be baptized but on account of polygamy, the Church could not baptize the Emperor.

In 1652, Emperor Yongli took refuge in Anlong, Guizhou, a county with one thousand families. He made his headquarters there for four years. The Empress had little hope of regaining the empire from the Manchus and she entrusted her hope for assistance from the Pope in Rome. She decided to send an emissary to Pope Innocent X for assistance. Owing to unfavorable conditions, the emissary did not return until 1658 from Rome and landed only in Siam (now Thailand) By this time, the Yongli dynasty lost all hope of regaining power. During the period of his stay in Anlong, anxiously awaiting the reply from the Holy Father, the Gospel was then disseminated in Anlong which marked the start of evangelization of Guizhou.

When reporters from the Faith Press were in Anlong, they discovered several ancient stone sculptures, being relics of the Yongli dynasty closely associated with the Church.

On the surface of a stone lotus flower pedestal prism column were inscribed the dates and names of the Crown Prince, Empress with the Christian names. According to Fr. Li Yifei, the stone relic was unearthed on 2nd Dec. last year and the stone crucifix was also discovered at the same time. There were signs of the Church in Lain together with a stone floral vase, each inscribed in Latin with date of April 1662. That was the date when the Emperor was killed and the recession of the Yongli dynasty from the political arena in history.

Fr. Li also showed to the Faith Press reporters a piece of broken stone lintel relic. Pattern on stone carvings could be identified. In the center, there was a sun and two phoenixes could be seen at side. There was a blurred Chinese character with two horizontal strokes, sandwiching a sun radical in the middle. An academic from Shanghai made a special journey to Anlong to study the cultural finds. According to the opinion of the researcher, the noble pattern employed would not be for common folks, in as much as the dragon is the symbol for the king. It was possible that the lintel relic would the single stone tablet for the empress tomb.

With this historical background, Anlong will be different from other dioceses in its cultural history.

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