The Russian Orthodox Church began missionary
activity in China at the end of the 19th century. By 1914 there were about 5,000 Chinese
Orthodox, including Chinese priests and a seminary in Peking.
After the 1917 Russian revolution, Russian émigrés swelled the
Orthodox population in China. In 1939 there were five bishops in the country and an
Orthodox University at Harbin. By 1949 there were 100,000 faithful, 60 parishes, 200
priests, two monasteries and a seminary in Manchuria, as well as 150 parishes and 200,000
faithful in the rest of China.
After the communist revolution in China, most of the Russian clergy
and faithful were either repatriated to the Soviet Union or fled to the West. By 1955,
there were only 30 Russian priests left.
The Moscow Patriarchate granted autonomous status to the Chinese
Orthodox Church in 1956 and recalled its Russian hierarchy. At that time there were about
20,000 faithful with one bishop in Shanghai and one in Peking. Today there is only one
functioning church, in Harbin.
In 1996 the Ecumenical Patriarchate established a metropolitanate
in Hong Kong with jurisdiction over all of China as well as India, the Philippines,
Singapore and Indonesia. But in February 1997 the Russian Orthodox Holy Synod reaffirmed
its links to the Chinese Orthodox Church and stated that, pending the election of a
primate, the maintenance of Orthodoxy in the country remained the responsibility of the