Christianity in China

Christianity has a long and complex history in China, spanning over a thousand years. It was first introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) through the arrival of Nestorian missionaries. However, it was not until the arrival of European missionaries in the 16th century that Christianity began to gain significant traction in China.

The Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, who arrived in China in the late 16th century, played a key role in introducing Christianity to the Chinese elite through his knowledge of science, mathematics, and philosophy. Despite initial successes, Christianity faced periods of persecution and suppression, particularly during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), when it was viewed as a foreign and subversive influence.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Christianity experienced rapid growth, fueled by missionary activities, the establishment of Christian schools and hospitals, and social reforms. Missionaries from various denominations, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodox Christianity, spread across China, converting significant numbers of Chinese believers.

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900, an anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement, resulted in widespread violence against Christians and foreign missionaries, leading to further restrictions on Christian activities in China. The rise of nationalist movements and political turmoil in the early 20th century also contributed to the marginalization of Christianity in Chinese society.

Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Christianity, along with other religions, came under strict state control and supervision. Churches were closed, religious activities were restricted, and religious believers faced persecution and discrimination during various political campaigns, such as the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976).

Despite these challenges, Christianity persisted in China, often underground or in house churches. Since the late 1970s, China has experienced a religious revival, with Christianity experiencing significant growth and resurgence. The government’s policies toward religion have gradually relaxed, allowing for greater religious freedom and tolerance.

Today, Christianity is one of the fastest-growing religions in China, with millions of adherents belonging to both state-sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches, as well as unofficial house churches and underground Christian communities. While the Chinese government maintains tight control over religious affairs and seeks to regulate religious expression, Christianity continues to thrive and exert influence in various aspects of Chinese society, including education, social services, and charitable work.