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HEBEI PROVINCE

Pronunciation: huh-bay
Meaning: North of the (Yellow) River
Population: 66,315,000
Protestant Population: over 300,000 (.4%)
Catholic Population: 800,000-1,500,000 (1.2-2.3%)
House Church Activity Level: Medium
Official Bible Schools/Seminaries: None

GATEWAY CITIES

Dingzhou: Pop. 1,024,953
Langfang: Pop. 657,247
Qinhuangdao: Pop. 646,111
Zhangjiakou: Pop. 820,267

Picture 1. This monument in Hebei’s Baoding once memorialized the 15 Protestant missionaries who were martyred there on June 30-July 1, 1900 in one of the largest massacres of Protestant missionaries during the Boxer Uprising.

Picture 2. In 1996 government authorities destroyed this unregistered church building in Hebei.

GENERAL INFORMATION. Hebei is a coastal province on the North China Plain, and with nearly half its area less than 300 feet above sea level, flooding has been a problem throughout history. Earthquakes are also common. Over 300,000 died in 1976’s Great Earthquake in Tangshan, and a smaller quake near Zhangjiakou in 1998 left thousands injured or homeless. Hebei once included the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, but they are now separate political entities.

PROVINCIAL CHURCH HISTORY. Hebei has long been the center of Catholicism in China. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the foundation for the modern Catholic Church in China was laid by the great Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci. Ricci lived in China for 27 years, the last 9 in Beijing, until his death in 1610. Ricci adopted the dress of a Confucian scholar and went to great lengths to indigenize his faith. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Catholic work was driven underground during the “Rites Controversy”. In 1724 Emperor Yong Zheng outlawed Catholicism after the Pope declared that Catholics could not participate in traditional ancestor rituals. Not until the treaties which ended the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century was the ban on Catholic mission work lifted.
Protestant missionaries first entered Hebei (excluding Beijing and Tianjin) in 1873 when American Congregationalist Isaac Pierson moved to Baoding, where he lived for the next 18 years. During the Boxer Uprising, one of Pierson’s disciples, Rev. Meng Changchun, gave his life trying to save Pierson’s successors. Meng was beheaded, and then 15 foreign missionaries were killed in Baoding. All told, 32,000 Chinese Christians were slaughtered by the Boxers in 1900, most being Catholics in Hebei and other parts of North China. In 1920, it was reported that Hebei had 578,873 Catholics, a number constituting about 1/3 of the Catholics in China and nearly equal to the Protestants in all of China.

CURRENT CHURCH SITUATION. Religious control in Hebei Province, for both Catholics and Protestants, is as strict as anywhere in China. This is undoubtedly related to the large number of Catholics in Hebei who remain loyal to the Pope and reject the authority of the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association. Villagers in Hebei were tortured and fined in 1994 for violating the one-child policy. Four of Hebei’s underground bishops have been imprisoned without trials at unknown locations in recent years: Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Donglu since 1996; Bishop James Su Zhimin since October 1997; and Bishops Han Dingxiang of Yongnian and Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding since late 1999. Hebei may be one of the few provinces in China where Catholics out-number Protestants, but Protestants are also reporting significant growth from about 70,000 in 1949 (which included Beijing and Tianjin) to well over 300,000 now (which does not include Beijing and Tianjin).

KEY PRAYER POINTS:

1. Pray that Hebei’s Christians would be bold in their faith despite the strong presence of military forces near Beijing and Tianjin.

2. Pray that Hebei’s many devout Catholics would have access to Bibles and Biblical teaching about Christ and the Cross.

3. Pray that the “Christianity fever” which swept across neighboring Henan in recent years would sweep across the Yellow River into Hebei and also reap a harvest there.

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