Xishiku Catholic Church, 305 years old, is the favorite church for the city's youngsters. [Wang Jing]
Of the many architectural and historic attractions in Beijing, the city's Christian churches may not be on the regular tourist agenda, but they are well worth a tour.
Christianity was first introduced into China the 7th century. The first Protestant missionaries came in 1807. The efforts of Western missionaries to spread Christianity in China reached a peak at the dawn of the 20th Century and were concurrent with incursions by the imperialist powers which semi-colonized parts of the country. Many Christian institutions established beachheads throughout China, building churches, schools and other institutions. Most Beijing churches were built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and have been refurbished many times.
The following are the seven major churches in Beijing:
Zhongguancun Christian Church
Address: No 39, Haidian Xidajie, Haidian district Tel: 62572902
Zhongguancun Christian Church is perhaps an unlikely looking church, but its tall minimalist modern building fits in perfectly on a street lined with skyscrapers in this Chinese Silicon Valley district, home of the country's technology giants and prestigious universities.
Designed by GMP International GmbH, a German architectural firm, this newly built Haidian District protestant church was only put into service last summer. Parishioners donated 6 million yuan ($822,000) for the building, which has modern acoustics, film projection and lighting systems.
Ringed by white vertical posts which allow light into the building, parishioners enter by walking under a huge white cross in front of the door. This building replaces the old church which was built in 1933. Unlike other Christian churches at the time, it was the only church in the city built and managed by Chinese Christians.
The old structure instilled a sense of national pride in the people because China was still semi-colonized at the time, according to Liu Zhen, who lives near the church. 'The old church should have been preserved as a cultural site because it's an important part of history,' he said.
The demographics of parishioners have changed since the old days. Up to 70 percent of the church's parishioners are young people from nearby universities and leading IT companies.
The increasing number of young believers created the need for additional pastoral counseling on topics that are interesting to youth, such as love and marriage.
Even the musical accompaniment during services has changed. Instead of just piano, the church sometimes uses guitars and drums during services.