Shrines in China

– Father Anh Thu Tran (John the Baptist), C.S.J.B.

The following listing represents a selection of major Marian shrines in China and Taiwan, classified according to regions and provinces. The map reproduced here allows one to situate the shrines according to regions.


NORTHERN REGION

Inner Mongolia

The Shrine of Our Lady of Mo Zi Shan (Mount of Mo Zi) [View Satellite Map]

The Shrine of Our Lady of Mo Zi Shan in the diocese of Ji Ning, central Inner Mongolia, is very popular among Catholics for the many miracles. Mo Zi Shan is not a high and majestic mountain. There are no extraordinary flowers or trees. But in the hearts of Catholics, and many people who come, this is a special place and is considered a “sacred mountain”.

In June 1905 snow fell suddenly on Mo Zi Shan. Some shepherds saw a beautiful Lady dressed in white. They immediately shouted unanimously "This is Our Lady, the Heavenly Mother”. They knelt down and began to pray. After some time the Lady dressed in White ascended slowly among the clouds. The shepherds returned to the village and realized that there was no snow in the village. They told their Pastor right away about this phenomenon of which they had witnessed. Later a Belgian missionary decided to build a church to worship Our Lady in Mo Zi Shan. Work began in 1906 and two years later a church of 25 meters long, 8 meters wide stood on Mo Zi Shan. He also built a small fountain for the faithful to quench their thirst during the journey.

During the Cultural Revolution the church was destroyed. In 1980 the faithful have spontaneously begun a make pilgrimage to this sacred place again, but the church no longer exists. The enthusiasm, zeal and devotion of the faithful for Our Lady have overcome all difficulties. In 1985, the faithful make a altar with stones for Masses. Since the number of pilgrims keeps growing, in 1997 the diocese has launched an appeal to all faithful to rebuild the shrine. After the restoration, many pilgrims are welcomed to this “Sacred Mountain”.

Shan Dong Province

The Shrine of Our Lady of Jianshan of Shan Dong [View Satellite Map]

The Marian Church of Jianshan is situated on the western slope of Mountain Tai, on the peak of Jianshan to the south of Pingyin city.

The church was built in 1889 but was destroyed by fire in 1927 and rebuilt later. The district enjoyed protection of the Holy Mother during the time of religious persecution but unfortunately the church was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. A new marine church, preserving the original architectural feature of Our Lady of Lourdes, was rebuilt in 1990. The steeple roofs set on a dome-shape hill were integrated into a unique landscape.

Surrounded by cypress and pine, the Marian shrine is a captivating beauty. Below the hill is the village settlement of Huzhuang with four-hundred years of a catholic community and is well-known as the cradle for, religious sisters and priestly vocations. With the growth in fame of this Marian shrine, more pilgrims,clergy and Catholics from China and overseas, are coming to Jianshan.

Jilin province

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Jilin [View Satellite Map]

The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is located on the bank of Songhua River, on the outskirts of Jilin, being the only shrine of Mary in the north-eastern part of China. Pilgrims, clergy and faithful from the country and overseas, come in great numbers annually to visit this shrine.

During the Cultural Revolution, great damage was done to the church and the grotto. After the liberalization of policies on religions, the late bishop of Jilin, Bishop Li Xuesong led the diocese to rebuild the grotto and church and added fourteen Stations of the Cross on the peak. On the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady on September 8, every year, large numbers of catholics gather here to venerate Our Holy Mother.

He Bei Province

The Shrine of Our Lady of China in Donglu  [View Satellite Map]

Location

Our Lady of China Church is situated in Donglu, Qingyuan County, Baoding City, Hebei Province (twenty kilometers Southeast of the City of Baoding). It is one of the two pilgrimage attractions in China acknowledged by the Pope. (The other one is the Basilica of Sheshan in Songjiang, Shanghai).

History

Donglu is a village in the Huabei (North China) plains. It has a population of approximately nine-thousand people. In the village, about seven-thousand were Catholics. (Also, there were at least seven-thousand Catholics in the village of Liuhe, Qingxu County, Shanxi Province.)

In 1862, among the inhabitants numbering two-thousand, none were Catholics. There were only two big families, the Yang and the Kou. The Yangs were less well off. Under the influence of a Master and in superstition, their family member dismantled the Buddhist tower in the Kou’s pond. Word went out and the Kous took the vandal and put him in front of the court. The Yangs consulted with his relative who was a Catholic and found the help of a Chinese priest named Fr. Liu. They took religious instructions for six months and were baptized. The Kous, seeing that they could be protected if they were Catholics, also went to Fr. Liu. In the Spring of 1863, 50 Yangs and Kous were baptized by Fr. Liu. In 1874, 103 people became Catholics. In 1896, there were 698 Catholics.

In June 1900, during the Boxer Uprising, nine-thousand villagers from other areas including Baoding came to Donglu for refuge. At that time, their pastor Fr. F. Zhang, was in Beijing and couldn’t return to Baoding. Fr. Wang, who was one of those taking refuge in Donglu took charge and led his villagers to dig up trenches and lined the sides with thorny branches. The Boxers, who had faced defeat in other areas, had to retreat to Donglu. They made tents and surrounded the city vowing to kill all the Catholics in the village. With only a few guns and one canon, they were able to fight off the Boxer's attack four times. In July, the villages hold the town despite attacked by the Qing Army forty-four times. On August 15, news came that the Eight-Nation Alliance reached Beijing. With the retreat of the Qing Army, the church in Dong Lu was saved. The other church which survived the attack was Xishiku Catholic Church in Beijing. Word had been spreading out that the Holy Mother had appeared in the sky of Dong Lu and showed her maternal protection. Later, the converts told Fr. JM Tremorin, CM that the “white Lady” scared away all who wanted to enter the village.

Birth of a Pilgrim Attraction

1901-1903: In gratitude to the Holy Mother for her protection, priests from the Congregation of the Mission built a church in Gothic style with a convent and schools. The walls were reinforced and four gates were constructed - “Help of Christians,” “Tower of David,” “St. Michael,” and “St. Louis.” In 1915, there were forty-two thousand Catholics in Donglu diocese and thirty-five hundred Catholics lived in the village.

After the Boxer Uprising, Donglu became the center of pilgrimage. Pope Pius XI appointed Archbishop Celso Constantini to be the first Apostolic Delegate in China and the first National Conference of Bishops was held in Shanghai During the conference, a decision was made that devotion should be offered to the Virgin Mary and all Chinese people should be consecrated to Our Lady of China. The statue of Our Lady in Dong Lu Church was chosen as an image for this purpose. After the conference, Bishop Paul Montaigne, CM returned to his diocese and made a decision to start inviting all Catholics to go to Dong Lu for pilgrimage.

1928: Approval was obtained from Bishop Joseph Zhou Ji-shi, CM to send a French priest Fr. JM Tremorin, CM to Lourdes for a pilgrimage. In May, 1929, activities began. Villagers from Bao Ding came daily. Bishops and priests arrived with parishioners from Beijing, Tianjin, Xianxuan and Anguo Dioceses.

1937: Pope Pius XI gave his recognition and approval after reading the pilgrimage reports and the request (to consecrate the Chinese people to Our Lady of China). In May, the bishops went to Donglu with thousands of faithful. The papal letter was read and made official in the church.

Destruction

1937: The Sino-Japanese War broke out and northern China was occupied.

1941: The church was destroyed. All pilgrimages stopped.

Rebuilt

1989 March 12: Under the guidance of Bishop Peter Fan Xue-yan, the sum of about one-million dollars was raised to rebuild the church.

1900, Oct 3: Pope John Paul II officially gave his blessing to this project.

1992, May 1: Construction began.

Structure

1901: The church was 55 meters in length, 15.5 meter in width with a twin tower (23 meters in height). This became the largest Catholic Church in the diocese.

1992: After completion, the new church in Gothic style had increased its size by one-third in comparison to the old building. This was 66 meters long and 18 meters wide and encompassed an area of 1548 square meters. The bell tower was 43 meters high, with glittering metal on the top. Having a capacity of three-thousand people, this became the largest Catholic Church in Northern China.

Official Image

In gratitude foro the protection of the Holy Mother, Fr. Geron (Pastor) invited a virgin to draw an oriental image of Our Lady and put this behind the altar on the wall. After a few years, a French artist who was touring China was invited by the Parish priest Fr. P. Flament to redraw this image. Specific instructions were given to him:

Our Lady was to be in royal courtly attire.

Her facial expression was to be kind and merciful and she would wear a crown of jewels.

The child Jesus would be on her lap.

At that time, the Empress Dowager Tsu-Hsi of Qing Dynasty was the highest authority in China. Her image was adopted and the feather on her right hand was replaced by a staff, with the child Jesus standing on her left. The face of the empress was replaced with the Virgin Mary. Her eyes expressed nothing but love and mercy coinciding the Prayer honoring the Virgin Mary, the Hail Holy Queen “…turn then, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us….” According to the tradition of all the images of Our Lady, a veil covered her head and she also wore a crown with jewels. Jesus had a belted purple cloak, with traditional shoes of the Qing dynasty on his feet. The Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove and the cross symbolized his title, Jesus Christ our Savior. Stretching out his hands and looking far ahead, he also had a crown showing royalty. To be consistent with the Chinese culture, calligraphy of the character of ‘longevity’ was printed at the background. Both sides were scenes of the countryside with houses and pagoda. Across the top said: Our Lady of Donglu, Pray for us. This oil painting is two meters high and was completed in 1908.

In the month of May, villagers recited the rosary and followed it with benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the evening. On the feast of the Assumption, there was a huge celebration to remember the time that they were saved by the Virgin Mary.

Pilgrimage

May 2: The day before Mother’s Day became the feast day of Our Lady of China. This was to dedicate their prayers for China so that there would be peace and prosperity. May was also the month for pilgrimage. Catholics from all over the country came to offer their devotion and prayer to the Holy Mother.

May 24: This is the feast day of Our Lady, of Help of Christians. Solemn Mass would start at 9 am. In the afternoon by 2 pm, villagers had already cleaned the streets and doors were adorned with flags of welcome. There was a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. After procession, all went to the church for Benediction.

1929-1937: Many pilgrims come daily to Dong Lu.

Among the most prominent officials who came were: Archbishop Celso Constantini (Apostolic Delegate to China), Archbishop Mario Zanin (Apostolic Delegate to China), Bishop Paul Montaigne, CM (Beijing Diocese), Bishop Sun De-zhen Melchior, CM (Anguo Diocese), twenty other bishops and priests from XianXuan Diocese, and over one-hundred other priests including Fr. Yu Pin (later became Cardinal), Fr. Vincent Lebbe (Founder of the Congregation of St. John the Baptist and the Congregation of St. Teresa). Bishop Jean de Vienne (Tianjin Diocese), and Bishop Zhou Ji-shi Joseph, CM (Baoding Diocese) came for pilgrimages very often. At one time, there were twenty-five thousand visitors within one year. Miracles of healings were also reported. Christian faith was greatly increased in Northern China.

After 1992, the church was rebuilt and activities resumed for a short period of time. After a short while, they were restrictions again. On May 23, 1995, it was reported that apparitions of the Virgin Mary were seen by the pilgrims in Dong Lu.

1996: Activities were banned.

Today, the devotion has spread outside of the China Mainland. The image of Our Lady was very popular. In 1964, Bishop Lokuang built the Church of Our Lady of China in Tainan. In 1974, the tenth anniversary of the completion of their church and all the priests from Taiwan congregated in Tainan for this celebration.

MID-WEST REGION

Shanxi Province

The Shrine of Our Lady of Grace Ban Quan Shan, Shan XI  [View Satellite Map]

This Marian church is situated on the meandering road leading to peak of Ban Quan Shan, to the south-east of Yangquxian, Taiyuan, Shanxi.

The church was built in 1897 but after ten years of chaos during the Cultural Revolution, it was completely destroyed. From 1986-1989, the Taiyuan Diocese undertook renovation and restoration works. From the road of Niu Tou Po to the church, fourteen Stations of the Cross and monuments of the passion were added.

Devotion to Our Lady is held all year round, in particular, during the month of May when large crowds come in pilgrimage. Two occasions for large-scale veneration are held every year, in May – (the month of Mary) and on the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady on the September 8. The sounds of prayers and hymns fill the valley as streams of pilgrims surge up the hill.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Hu Xian Shan Xi Province [View Satellite Map]

In the diocese of Zho Zhi, in the northwestern province of Shan Xi, everyone knows the famous Xi Shan (West Mountain) is the Mount of the Holy Cross, whereas that of the Dong Shan (East Mountain) is the Mount of the Virgin, a Marian shrine.

According to the diocesan history, the shrine was built in 1923 by the then Prefect of the Apostolic Prefecture, local Italian missionary Bishop Florencio Tessiatore, OFM. During a pilgrimage to Mount of the Holy Cross, Bishop Tessiatore was robbed. After this experience, he wanted to build another sanctuary in a safer place. After inspecting many sites and consultation with local people the East Mountain was selected. Unfortunately, Bishop Tessiatore died shortly afterwards without his dream realized. In 1946, under the guidance of the new priest, Father Lu Jiu Si, three chapels made of wood were built and now can accommodate about a hundred parishioners.

In 1988, the Bishop of the Diocese of Zhou Zhi sent Fr. Li Xiao Di as the new pastor of the shrine, which was like a ruin and without land ownership. With prayer and with the help of Catholic lawyers, in 1999 the Catholic community won back the right of the land. In January 2000, reconstruction work began. The church was rebuilt and the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross were added. From the Marian shrine you can now enjoy a wonderful panoramic view. The church of Our Lady of China, on top of the mountain, welcomes everyone with open arms.

Our Lady of Sorrows Dong'ErGou  [View Satellite Map]

Dong’ergou is one of the oldest parish in Taiyuan Diocese. It is located in the Jinyuan District about thirty kilometers south of Taiyuan. Catholicism arrived in Taiyuan in 1633. The Catholic faith was introduced into Dong’ergou for more than 220 years. The Seven Sorrows Hill is one of the most famous Marian Shrines in China.

The Legend of Seven Sorrows Hill

About a hundred years ago, every year during the autumn equinox, a time when crops are to be harvested, the area suffered hail storms which destroyed the crops. Since all the villagers were Catholics, they decided to pray to God for relief. The priest led the villagers, carrying the cross, and climbed up the hill to pray to God to relieve them of the annual hail storm. Since then, the hail storms ceased and people’s livelihood was protected.

How Seven Sorrows Hill got its name

“At the Cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last.”

IN 1924, the faithful of Dong’ergou built a church on the hill. The pope of the time, Pius X, had moved the feast of Seven Sorrows to September 15, the day after the Veneration of the Holy Cross. Since the faithful at Dong’ergou had venerated the Cross since the hail storm ceased, they name the hill “Seven Sorrows Hill.”

Reconstruction of Seven Sorrows Hill

During the Cultural Revolution, the church on Seven Sorrows Hill was totally demolished. Faithful could pray only underground. With the reform policies of the later government, all the pastors were concerned with rebuilding of the church. In 1992 Fr. Li, with the support of the Bishop of Taiyuan, started the reconstruction of a grand church of Our Lady of Sorrows. The church and altar were to be in traditional Chinese styles. After five years and nine months of hard work, on September 15, 1998, the church of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Temple of Heaven were consecrated. During the Mass of Consecration, the Papal Blessing from John Paul II was read.

Present Situation

In accordance with the spirit of Second Vatican Council, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows was changed to Our Lady of Sorrows. The sorrows and sufferings of Our Lady is a true expression of the life of our Virgin Mother. Our Lady, totally immersed in the pain, the suffering of Jesus Christ, suffered more than the seven sorrows. For the continued protection of Our Lady, the bishop led the priests and the faithful to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows twice a year, one on the Friday before Palm Sunday and one on September 15 of each year. Besides these two important dates, pilgrims come to the shrine from May 10 to 13 of each year and on the first Saturday of each month.

Jiangsu Province

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Lang Shan (Wolf Hill)  [View Satellite Map]


The Sanctuary and the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes Lang Shan (Wolf Hill) are situated in the Diocese of Hai Men, in the Jiangsu province. The Gothic style church was built in 1936, covers an area of five-hundred square meters and can accommodate about a thousand worshipers.

On May 17, 1936 one of the first ordained Chinese bishops consecrated by Pope Pius XI in 1926, Bishop Zhu Kai Min, blessed the foundation stone of the church. On May 9, 1937 the church was completed with a bell tower thirty meters tall and a white cross that could be seen from afar. The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was placed in the grotto, surrounded by flowers. The ceremony was a historic event at the time. Transport Agency Da Tong Shang Hai had to make available two extra ferries to help meet the large influx of pilgrims. The event was covered extensively by all newspapers at the time.

During the Cultural Revolution the church sanctuary structures were converted into a factory and a local school, among other things.

On December 8, 1981, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Sanctuary was re-consecrated, and the feast of the Immaculate Conception became the feast day of the sanctuary.

Later two other buildings were constructed: one for priests and other for religious. At present, the Bishop of the Diocese of Hai Men is based in this Church. The sanctuary has been renovated several times: in 1922, in 1998 and 2004 and a new statue of Our Lady of Lourdes of two meters high was added. This site is now designated as a historical site in the municipality of Nan Tong (where the Diocese of Hai Men is located). Each year thousands and thousands of faithful come thereto pray to Our Lady.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan  [View Satellite Map]

Location

Sheshan Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians is located on the peak of Sheshan in Songjiang district in Shanghai. It is One of the most prominent pilgrimage shrines in China, it is well-known both far and wide in China and overseas.

History

The Catholic faith was introduced in the Songjiang district for a long time. For more than one-hundred years, when the Catholic religion was banned, Catholics had been practicing their faith underground. In 1844, a Jesuit priest Fr. Claude Gotteland, SJ, came to Sheshan and was very much impressed by the serenity and beauty of the area. He decided to build a house of prayer for the retired priests. However, he died in 1856 before his dream was realized. In 1863, his successor, Fr. Joseph Gonnet, SJ came to Sheshan. He purchased the whole hill top as well as the southern slope and began to build religious houses with a chapel half way on the slope for convalescence of missionaries. The following year, Fr. Desjacques Marin built a hexagonal pavilion for the statue of our Lady. On Mar 1 1868, Bishop Msgr. Adrien Languillat, SJ consecrated the chapel and blessed the portrait of Our Lady, Help of Christians, which was copied from Our Lady of Victory, in Paris On the feast day of Our Lady, Help of Christians, hundreds of pilgrims came and participated outside the chapel where Mass was held in a tent. During the Taiping Uprising, the Catholic Church was being attacked. In Shanghai, there were many incidents of prejudice and unrest. The Jesuit Superior Fr. A. Della Corte, SJ climbed up the mountain of Sheshan. He went in front of the statue of Our Lady and made a vow that if the area was spared in this turmoil and danger, he would build a church on the location. The prayer was heard and the diocese stood unharmed. In September 1870, he appealed to the generous Catholics to fulfill his vow and to thank our Lady for her protection.

1871, May: Bishop Languillat, SJ gave his blessings for laying the foundation stone. Six-thousand parishioners attended the solemn Mass outdoors. The project was a difficult task. The most challenging part was to move all the necessary materials to the top of the mountain, and were done by the volunteers.

1873, April 15: The new church in Gothic style was completed and inaugurated. A winding path to the peak with the fourteen Stations of the Cross were built. On May 1 of the same year, Bishop Languillat, SJ came again to celebrate the mass at Sheshan. For the whole month of May, pilgrims came from other parts of the diocese to honour Mary. For this reason, Our Lady of Sheshan was proclaimed the patron saint of the Diocese. In the first year on May 1 and 24, about fifteen-thousand people came for the Marian devotion.

In 1874, at the request of Bishop Languillat, SJ Pope Pius IX granted an indulgence to those who came to this Marian devotion during the month of May every year. In 1875, the church installed several bells, which, when rung, could be heard from far and near

1894: Zhong Shan Church (Mid-Mountain Church) was also built half way up the mountain. This was in traditional Chinese style with a capacity of five-hundred people. At the front entrance, there was a pair of Chinese sayings written to encourage pilgrims to rest a while and pray at this area before climbing more steps to pay homage to Our Lady on top of the mountain. The courtyard in front of the church had fences and stone benches which could hold over a thousand people. On the west side, threre pavilions were built to house Our Lady, The Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Joseph; they were called the “Three Holy Pavilions.”

1907: A statue of Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemani was erected at the beginning of the Stations of the Cross.

Reconstruction of the Church

1925: The church was found to be inadequate in size. Part of it was torn down and rebuilt. The project was designed by the architect who was a Portuguese priest. Fr. Prospero Paris, SJ blessed the foundation stone of the new church. The renovation took ten years to complete.

1935: The church was completed in November. It was 56 meters long, 25 meters wide and 17 meters high with a bell tower of 36 meters high. The interior walls were made of stones, the outside of red bricks. Part of the roof was covered in Chinese-style glazed tiles. A bronze statue of the Our Lady with Infant Jesus stood at the top of the tower. The church was consecrated by Bishop Auguste Haouisee, SJ.

1942: During the Chinese invasion by the Japanese, Pope Pius XII designated Sheshan Cathedral to be a minor Basilica, and the statue of Our Lady was crowned on May 12 of the same year. All the bishops went to the shrine for this ceremony.

1946, May 8: A special blessing was sent out by the Holy See and Our Lady was being crowned as ‘Help of Christians’. Over ten-thousand people attended the ceremony. The shrine once again became a famous place for pilgrimage.

During the Cultural Revolution, the church was badly damaged. All the stained glass was shattered. The statues and all the Stations of the Cross were also destroyed.

1981: Shanghai government returned the church to the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Shanghai undertook the renovation of the shrine. On May 24, Bishop Aloysius Zhang (張家樹) held a Mass to re-consecrate the Church. Those who attended numbered five-hundred including all the religious.

1982: On the southern slope of Sheshan, a Seminary was built for the seminarians to further their studies. In the month of Mary, pilgrims flocked towards the shrine. Information centers were set up and there were various activities for catechism and hymn-chanting.

2000: Donations were made to raise funds to remake the statue of the Madonna and the Infant Jesus (Our Lady, Help of Christians). On April 18, Bishop Aloysius Jin gave his blessing to the finished statue. There was a procession to welcome Our Lady and Jesus into the church. Thousands of people attended and offered all of China to the Holy Mother and her Son in heaven. From then on, pilgrims started pouring into the basilica. Visitors would start their pilgrimage by going to Zhong Shan Church to pray. After walking the Stations of the Cross, they would proceed to Mass in the basilica. After Mass, they returned to the “Three Holy Pavilions” for prayer which would make their journey more complete and satisfying.

The Image of Our Lady of She Shan

1942: This was a statue of bronze with a height of 3.87 meters. Both of her hands were up at an angle and holding the Infant Jesus right on top of her head which was slightly inclined with her gentle and merciful eyes so that one would feel her love for the faithful. Hail Holy Queen "…valley of tears. Turn then, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us." Her humility in obedience to God was fully clothed in this artwork of superb beauty. Jesus had His hands fully stretched to the side in symbolism of His holy cross on Calvary conquering death in His resurrection. Both Jesus and His mother were on top of the serpent who was under the feet of the Virgin Mary. The serpent’s head tilted upward with angry and fearful eyes. Both of his fangs, wings and the tail were struggling under the pressure of Our Lady’s feet. It was unfortunate that the original statue was destroyed. However, this was remade in later decades.

Our Lady of Sheshan: The Meaning of the Elements of the Original Statue

On the top of the tower is the statue of Our Lady cast in bronze standing about 5.49 meters high and weighing about 1400 kilograms. Our Lady held Child Jesus high about her head, with Jesus stretching out his hands like a cross. Unfortunately, this statue was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution; only the dragon at the base of the statue remained.

The status was so special and had such a beautiful shape, that from the late 80s to now, many places have been making reproductions of the statue of Our Lady of Sheshan. At the same time, because of her significance, the statues made of the tree resin from Tushan Bay of Shanghai were made only for exports.

In 2000, the Shanghai Diocese rededicated the Sheshan Basilica Church and a new statue was erected on top of the bell tower once again. In 2008, because of Pope Benedict XVI personally wrote the "Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan," the respect and enthusiasm of this statue reached an unprecedented level.

Child Jesus:

Child Jesus with arms extended straight, symbolizes the passion of Jesus on the Cross, overcoming death with His resurrection, also manifests to the world his love and blessing to man. Looking from a distance Child Jesus with open arms appears like cross-shaped, and Our Lady is holding high the cross (Jesus) overcoming the devil (the dragon).

Our Lady:

With Our Lady holding the Child Jesus high over her head, it looks like the Chinese character “Luck.” Therefore some people called the statue “Our Lady of Luck.” The eyes of Our Lady are looking downwards, an expression of love towards her people in the valley of tears. Our Lady have indeed been a good mother caring for her children. (On August 13, 1937 the Japanese attacked Shanghai. By early November, the Japanese had landed at Jinshanwei, crossing Songjiang and reached Sheshan. On the night of November 9, a fierce battle took place near Sheshan. The villagers sought refuge at Sheshan, and the Sheshan Basilica became the temporary refugee camp. After the battle, more than sixteen-hundred corpses were found at the bottom of Sheshan. For those staying at the mountain only one person was injured, and the remaining people were all safe. People attributed this to the special protection of Our Lady of Sheshan.)

The Dragon:

The dragon was firmly subdued by Our Lady and Jesus. Although it tried to struggle with its fierce looking posture, it is totally submitted to Our Lady. With its wings almost erect up and its tail coiled, it shows the shape of a last-ditch struggle. The twist of the tail as a result of two curls ends with a shape of a trident (which is one of the common symbols of the devil in Western Art).

In summary, we can admire the talent of the sculptor of the original statue. He showed a strong theological creativity in his artistic expression.

Pope Benedict XVI loved China and he made an announcement that he had composed a special prayer for Our Lady of She Shan. He also designated May 24 to be a special day to pray for China. To show appreciation for his affection for the country, a statue of Our Lady of Sheshan was made as a gift to the Pope. All the people in China prayed for His Holiness on all his journeys of faith and especially when he attended the ceremony for 150 years' anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady in Lourdes. Our Lady of Sheshan holding up her Son with his arms stretched out is a symbol of love towards all of humanity. Let us ask Our Lady to help us, especially all Catholic Christians, to bring our testimony of love in connection with this chosen corner stone of St. Peter to be known by all.

Our Lady of China, Mother of Asia,
pray for us now and forever. Amen.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Qing Yang, Jiang Yin, Jiangsu  [View Satellite Map]

Qingyang is a large city of Jiangyin, Jiangsu Province. According to legend, a village old woman after a long lapse of illness had a vision of a noble and kind lady in white gown, with a blue ribbon on her waist, clasping her hands. She told the old woman that she could be healed if she would take the grass on a certain meadow and boil them for use as medicinal tonic. The old woman did as she was told and was cured. She was under the impression that it had to be the Guanyin (Avalokitesvara) who cured her and went to various temples to give her thanks. On a certain day, she found the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the home of a Catholic. She exclaimed that it was the Lady who had cured her. The news spread fast and wide, and there were people coming here to venerate the Holy Mother. Later on, the Diocese purchased the site and built a house for use as a church. Sometime after, a Gothic-style church was built to satisfy the need of the Catholics. The fame of “Our Lady of Qingyang” was known on both sides of the Yangtze River. The hymn of Our Lady of Qingyang has been sung everywhere and this Marian Church has been a well-known Marian Shrine in Jiangsu Province.

In 1939, the church was destroyed during an air-raid by Japanese bombers. In 1993, seventeen acres of land were purchased beside the original site for building a new church in April that year. On May 1, of the following year the new church was completed.

Zhe Jiang Province

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Jiao Jiang, Zhe Jiang Province  [View Satellite Map]

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in the diocese of Jiao Jiang, Tai Zhou in Zhe Jiang Province, is one of the rare sanctuaries in China, situated on a mountain close to the city.

It was built in 1913 and completed in 1920 by one of the first bishops of Chinese origin, Hu Ruo-Shan (consecrated by Pope Pius XI in October 1926 in St. Peter). According to local people, the aunt of a priest of the place, who was sick for many years, had a dream during which angel told her to go to Jiao Jiang to ask Our Lady of Lourdes for healing. She was cured immediately. To thank Our Lady, she made a plaque with the wording of "Health of the Sick" and hang it on the top of the hill. Since that time the number of pilgrims increased significantly. During the Cultural Revolution, the sanctuary suffered desecration and was partly destroyed. Recently the faithful repaired the sanctuary and rebuilt the Grotto of Our Lady. They added a giant statue of St. Joseph and Sacred Heart of Jesus addition to the Stations of the Cross in marble. In this way, the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes of Jiao Jiang has returned to its former glory.

The Diocese of Tai Zhou, to thank Our Lady’s love and protection, has Mass to Our Lady in the open air on the top of the hill on every first Saturday of the month. The faithful will first make the Way of the Cross and then walk up the hill with Our Lady and Jesus, singing and praying. On the top of the hill, they offer as thanksgiving to God Our Father and also ask for favours. During the week there is no shortage of pilgrims who will come in small groups to implore the intercession of Our Lady for their needs.

SOUTHERN REGION

Guizhou Province

The Shrine of Our Lady of Bliss (Zhang ke)  [View Satellite Map]

This well-known Marian Shrine in south-western China is located in the west suburbs of Anlongxian, Guizhou, at Zhung Ke. It is different from other Marian Shrines in that it has no church but a grotto with a large rock carving of the Holy Mother and her Son. The rock-carving portrait shows the Holy Mother sitting in the Chinese fashion of rolling clouds, with the Child Jesus in her bosom. Immediately below this portrait is the inscription of “1917.” The whole portrait is encircled by a double ring. Below the portrait are inscribed four big characters, reading from right to left, meaning “Queen of Zhung Ke,” and four of smaller type behind, meaning “Pray for us.” Due to the absence of documentary information, it is not possible to conduct any research as to how this shrine came into being. According to an oral legend from an old woman, she heard a story when she was very small. A foreign missionary priest was passing by the site of the Marian shrine when he had a vision of Mary with the Child Jesus. The woods became immediately radiant against darkness. To commemorate this event, the priest carried out stone-carving on the rock of the cave in honor of Zhung Ke, an ancient state in the times of spring and autumn period, entrusting the descendants of the Zhung Ke ancient state to the Queen of Heaven, Holy Mother of God. People in this region call this rock-carving the Zhung Ke Ancient Grotto.

There is another anecdote in connection with the fate of this wonderful shrine. On a certain day in July 1975, the production team of the district had the intention to blow up Zhung Ke grotto with explosives in order to obtain land for cultivation. A young man, named Long Bao was detailed to this job. Due to fatigue, he postponed the work for another day. That night, a Catholic, named Ms. Xiong Yuanfen, who lived at the foot of this Marian Shrine in Jianjiachong, had a dream. She saw a noble and beautiful lady come to her house and seat herself on the stone-steps in front of her house. Out of respect for this lady, she invited her into her home and brought her a stool. But this lady appeared to be in an agitated state and said: “I shall not be seated since you have already forgotten me. You have a home but tomorrow, my home will be gone....”

Next morning, the old lady related her dream to her husband, Beijihua. The couple then recalled that the production team would blow up the Marian Shrine Grotto that day. If the Marian Shrine were to be blown away, then the Holy Mother would have lost her home. They then told the villagers and Long Bao: “This is a holy place. If you blow up this shrine, you will get retribution for what you have done and great calamity will fall upon you all.” After delivery of this stinging ‘threat’, the villagers abandoned the scheme and the ancient grotto was spared.

Pilgrims from Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou and the local district gather annually at this Marian Shrine, including the non-Catholics from Anlong during festival seasons.

At the foot of the Marian shrine, sits a small village settlement known as Jingjiachong. A building complex, embodying the East and West architectural features, can be seen from afar. This building was the diocesan minor seminary, St. Michael Seminary, built in 1910 by Ceheng' Parish and started operation in 1936. From the foundation of this seminary until the liberation of Anlong, over three-hundred junior seminarians made their studies there. Since the liberation, the St. Michael Seminary has been occupied by a mechanical factory until now. The seminary occupied a site of 8,300 sq. m., with some 150 rooms of varying sizes, together with a chapel. Fr. Li Limin informed us that this place would be returned to the church, and if financial resources are available, it will be renovated as a training center for biblical and catechetical studies. The Limin Secondary School is now operated by the church and the future growth of this school could be included as part of the training center.

The Sanctuary of the Rosary Villa from the Village of Fu Jian  [View Satellite Map]

Among the Marian Sanctuaries in China, the latest and newest on was built in 1993, located on a hilltop in the village of Long Tian, close to Fu Zhou, the capital of the province of Fu Jian. The shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.

In 1993 Bishop Chang Cheng Zheng, the first Chinese Bishop of the diocese of Fu Zhou, retired at the age of eighty. He requested the Committee of the Village of his home town to give him a piece of abandoned land in the mountain. Thus began the colossal work of the Sanctuary. Today there emerg the famous Rosary Villa, consisting of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a house of retreats and training for priests and religious, a library, a church, a niche of the Virgin and one with the image of Sacred Heart of Jesus, and statues of Saints Peter and Paul and St. Michael the Archangel. It includes a Way of the Cross, a four-story building with a chapel for permanent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a shelter for the pilgrims, an elderly home and fields of crops needed to self sustain economically.

But the Rosary Villa is not just a place that awaits the pilgrims but also strives to bring the Gospel and God’s love to all. Indeed, the Catholic community of the place (i.e. the diocese) periodically offers a free medical service, collects funds for school and road construction, in addition to building a church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and a Catholic cemetery.

In the first year since its construction the village has welcomed more than ten-thousand pilgrims from neighboring villages. At present, pilgrims have come from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao. It has also been received many guests from Italy, Spain, France, England, Belgium, Germany, United States, Poland, Canada, Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia. The village has become the center of religious and cultural exchange in the Catholic community of Fu Jian. In this place people can seek to harmonize theology and Western philosophy with China's traditional culture, thereby making this Marian sanctuary, an oasis of harmony.

TAIWAN

Ilan County

Villa of Our Lady at Wu Fung Chi ILan County, Taiwan  [View Satellite Map]

In November 1980, Our Lady showed herself to five non-Catholic mountain climbers, after protecting them throughout a dangerous walk downhill in darkness. These five climbers were part of a group of eleven climbers who were climbing the 880 meter high Wu Fung Chi Mountain. It was late afternoon when they reached the summit. As it was late, some of them decided to stay for the night. However, five of them had to return to work in Taipei the next day. As they were descending, it started to get dark. By the time they got back to the Villa of Our Lady, it was quite dark and there were still another three hours to go. Although they were not Catholic, they prayed to Our Lady to protect them on their remaining journey. They finally reached the foot of the mountain and rejoiced that they were all safe. As they turned their heads they saw a shape of a lady clothed in a white gown, standing about fifty-feet up in the air, with her arms stretched out just like the statue they prayed to earlier. The figure faded away quickly. Three days later, one of them returned to the spot with his wife where they saw the image. It was on top of a tree, and nothing like such an object that could be up in the air. As the news of this unusual happening spread around, many people came to honor Our Lady and ask for special grace. Wu Fung Chi Mountain became a pilgrimage site.

Our Lady at Wu Fung Chi , Pray for us!

Ping Dong County

The Wanchin Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Ping Dong County, Taiwan [View Satellite Map]

The history of the Catholic Church of Wanchin is intertwined with the history of the evangelization of Taiwan.

Beginnings...

In 1858 the Qing government signed an agreement with England and France allowing foreign missionaries to do mission work in special ports and regions in China. The Holy See asked the Dominican Fathers of the Holy Rosary Province to restore the Catholic missions in Taiwan. The task of restoring the Catholic missions in Taiwan fell in the hands of Fr. Fernando Sainz and Fr. Angel Bofurul. The first Catholic mission was established in Takao (Kaohsiung), and a church in honor of the Queen of the Rosary was built near the banks of the Love River. The mission in Takao began to thrive with a good number of catechumens and converts.

Some of the new converts were from Wanchin. Seeing their deep religiosity and good naturalness as well as a means to extend the mission work further in the hinterlands, Father. Sainz decided to go to their village and to preach the Gospel to them. On March, 1861, he thus took along a catechist and another Christian to this remote settlement at the foot of the mountains, 60 Kms. down south Takao. This is how the evangelization of Wanchin came about.

There were many reasons why the people of Wanchin received the faith. One important fact is that to the missionary's proficiency with the Min-nan dialect had an accent is similar to that dialect spoken in Wanchin. Secondly, the village settlement was in a strategic location was between the impenetrable Hakkas and the Paiwan aborigines who were known at that time as fierce head hunters. Their precarious existence among these people enkindled in them a need for a divine protection, a real experience of a Providential God who cares for them as a Father for His children.

Sufferings

The people of Wanchin sincerely accepted the faith abandoning their former practices. This infuriated the surrounding Hakka settlers. In due course, the mission as well as the Christians suffered persecutions, discrimination, lootings, and violent harassment from these people.

Although no records are extant among the historical annals of any religious persecutions or religious wars, the unwritten history of the Catholic mission is replete with many touching stories of the sufferings of the early evangelizers who had to offer their blood for the glory of God and His Church.

The Building of the Church

With a good group of Christians in the Village, Father. Sainz decided to build a simple Church. In May 1863, he spent sixty yuan to purchase the land in order to build the simple mud church for the mission. Two years later, on October 13, 1865, the church was destroyed by an earthquake. Since the original church was also too small for the growing number of Christians, Father. Sainz and the people decided to build a bigger and stronger church.

With financial help from the Dominican Fathers and generous contributions from the faithful, enough money was collected to build a new church. Because the property was too small for this purpose by the end of October, 1869, Father Francisco Herce purchased some hectares of land to amplify the church grounds and for the use of the Christians. Father. Herce, who was living in Kaohsiung, sent Liu Ah Chang, a trusted and able catechist to supervise the construction of the mission church.

Due to the past experiences with the neighboring settlers, it was decided that the church adopt the style of a Spanish fortress-castle. This can be seen in the church's new dimensions: 45 feet wide, 116 feet long, 25 feet high and with walls five feet thick, using the best materials for the construction available then, such as honey, lime and eggs. This enabled the church building to be used as a refuge and shelter to the Christians in times of natural calamities or from attacks by enemies. This special feature of the church edifice makes it one of the special architectural and historical monuments of Pintung County.

Other materials used in building the church were imported from mainland China. The beams of hardwood and fire bricks were tied together on rafts and carried along the sea to piers of Tung Kang and from there, by oxcart, transported to Wanchin.

Most of the masons, carpenters and artisans were also from Fuzhou and some from Xiamen. They left their subtle artistry in the church structure and the intricate altars and palanquins of the church. The total cost of the church was about 299 yuan for the lime, 200 yuan fro the wood and 300 yuan for the bricks. Religious vessels, vestments for church use as well as religious image which adorned the main altar were ordered by the missionaries either from Manila or from Europe.

On December 8, 1870, the church was finally inaugurated and placed under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sometime later, the house of the missionaries and the catechists was built. In 1872, Father. Herce bought some more lands to provide a decent means of livelihood for the mission and the Christians. This property was to become the nucleus of the village of Wanchin.

Imperial Protection

During the tour of duty to southern Taiwan the Qing Court official Shen Pao Chen passed by Wanchin and began to be interested in the work of the Catholic Church in that village. He was deeply moved by the people's simple and happy lives and the way the missionary, Fr. Francisco Herce, OP wore Chinese apparel and was fluent in the Fukien dialect while taking care of these people with enthusiasm. He was informed of the constant harassment made by the neighboring Hakkas against them, and he personally wrote a report to the Qing Court asking the imperial protection for the people of Wanchin in the mission.

In 1874, the Qing Imperial Government promulgated an edict thereby placing the Catholic church of Wanchin under imperial protection. Two granite tablets each bearing the inscriptions"On Imperial Orders" and "Catholic Church" were sent to the Catholic mission. On January 12, 1875, these tablets were inlaid in the facade of the church. This was a singular privilege and honor for the Catholics. From then on, every imperial soldier passing by Wanchin church had to dismount from his horse as a sign of respect.

In spite of Imperial orders, the hostility of the Hakkas towards the Christians did not change. Numerous clashes between the dwellers of the two villages continued sporadically for many years.

In August 17, 1985, the same year when Taiwan was transferred to Japanese Rule, the most violent skirmish occurred between the Hakkas and the Wanchin Catholics. The Wanchin villagers were on the losing side, beset with difficulties with a depleting food supply. Many were desperate and were waiting to be massacred. Fortunately, the Japanese army arrived and drove the enemies away. The conflict between the Hakkas and the Catholics then ceased to exist.

Under the Japanese Rule

During the Japanese colonial rule, the mission remained calm and grew steadily. In 1942, at the height of the Pacific War, Japanese troops occupied the church and used it as military headquarters. Foxholes, defense trenches, ammunition depots and granaries were built around the church property. Only the missionary was able to have limited freedom to move around and minister to the needs of the Catholics. At the end of the Pacific War, Wanchin was heavily bombed by the Allied troops, but miraculously the church was not damaged.

Restorations

Restorations were made on the church in the 50s and the 60s by different missionaries who worked in Wanchin due to the repairs needed by the old building and the guidelines set by the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council. The latest restoration was made in the 80s to bring back the simple architectural lines of the church was made in consonance to the functionality and solemnity of the Christian worship. In May, 1999 it was planed to make a new restoration sponsored and paid for the Pingtung government.

Wanchin Basilica

On December 9, 1984, Pope John Paul II bestowed on the Wanchin church, the title of Basilica. It is the first church in Taiwan to be given this singular privilege. According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, the term "Basilica" is an honorary title given to a church for its religious, historic and artistic significance in the locality. It enjoys the privilege of bearing the Papal coat of arms at the facade of the church and special blessings are given to those who visit it.

National Monument

In recognition of his historical value, the Ministry of Interior declared this church a national monument with a third-class rank, making it a cultural legacy of Pingtung County.

National Shrine

In 1985, the late Bishop of Kaohsiung, Msgr. Joseph Cheng Tien Hsiang designated Wanchin as a pilgrimage shrine and the National Bishops' Conference promulgated it as a national shrine. It has become a favorite place of Marian devotion and spiritual renewal in the Taiwan Church. Pilgrimages are organized especially during the months of May and October. On the Sunday nearest to the feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Catholics all over the island converge at the Basilica to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin, celebrating the patron feast with the Catholics of the village.

Residence and Activity Center

In 1991, the Immaculate Conception Dominican residence was inaugurated. This beautiful building, designed according to Spanish colonial architectural lines, is the residence of the Dominican community serving the Wanchin Basilica as well the Dominican mission stations among the Paiwan aborigines in the hinterlands.

The two-story Activity Center, also following the aesthetic lines of the Dominican Residence in front of it, was blessed and inaugurated in 1994. This building not only houses the parochial offices but also serves as a pilgrimage house, a center formation of lay apostles, meeting place for various religious organizations. It also has five conference rooms and a dining hall.

Recently a nice Chinese stile garden was added with a grotto in the middle, as well a new basketball court and a new and big altar for the open air celebrations, especially on the feast of the Immaculate Conception when more than ten thousand pilgrims arrive to participate in the celebrations.

This historic church, the two buildings, the Chinese garden with the Grotto, the sprawling grass covered grounds of palms and fruit trees around the property, make up the beautiful complex of the Wanchin Basilica.

Wanchin Today...

Today, about 80% of the residents of both Wanchin and Chihshan are Catholic, the highest density of Catholics at a given area on the Island. Despite high percentage of youth migration to the cities and industrial centers, they still consider Wanchin their home and the Church, a part of their lives. Many Catholic families in the island can trace their roots to Wanchin. It has also produced many religious and priestly vocations for the Church.

The Basilica of Wanchin stands today not only a living monument of faith of the Catholic Church in Taiwan, but also as a reminder of the rich cultural and historic heritage of the southern part of the island.

Reference: Father Anh Thu Tran (John the Baptist), C.S.J.B., Marian Shrines in China, Published by St. Francis Xavier Church (Chinese Community),Vancouver, BC. Canada,2009.

Address: St. Francis Xavier Parish, 428 Great Northern Way, Van.,BC,V5T 4S5,Canada, Tel 1-(604)254-2727, E-mail address: jbtat@yahoo.com

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