|Martyr Saints of China|
|Died||1648–1930, Qing dynasty and Republic of China|
|Martyred by||Boxer Rebellion|
|Venerated in||Catholic Church|
|Beatified||27 May 1900 by Pope Leo XIII|
24 November 1946 by Pope Pius XII
|Canonized||1 October 2000, by Pope John Paul II|
|Notable martyrs||Anna Wang|
Augustine Zhao Rong
Francisco Fernández de Capillas
The Martyr Saints of China (traditional Chinese: 中華殉道聖人; simplified Chinese: 中华殉道圣人; pinyin: Zhōnghuá xùndào shèngrén), or Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions, are 120 saints of the Catholic Church. The 87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western missionaries from the mid-17th century to 1930 were martyred because of their ministry and, in some cases, for their refusal to apostatize.
Many died in the Boxer Rebellion, in which anti-Western peasant rebels slaughtered 30,000 Chinese converts to Christianity along with missionaries and other foreigners.
In the General Roman Calendar of 1969, they are remembered with an optional memorial on 9 July.
On 15 January, 1648, during the Manchu Invasion to Ming China, Manchu Tatars, invaded the region of Fujian and captured Francisco Fernández de Capillas, a Dominican priest aged 40. After having imprisoned and tortured him, they beheaded him while he recited with others the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Father de Capillas has since been recognised by the Holy See as the protomartyr of China.
After the first wave of missionary activities in China during the late Ming to early Qing dynasties, the Qing government officially banned Catholicism (Protestantism was considered outlawed by the same decree, as it was linked to Catholicism) in 1724 and lumped it together with other 'perverse sects and sinister doctrines' in Chinese folk religion.
While Catholicism continued to exist and increase many-fold in areas beyond the government's control (Sichuan notably), and many Chinese Christians fled the persecution to go to port cities in Guangdong or to The Philippines, where many translations of Christian works into Chinese occurred during this period, there were also many missionaries who broke the law and secretly entered the forbidden mainland territory. They eluded Chinese patrol boats on the rivers and coasts; however, some of them were caught and put to death.
Towards the middle of the 18th century five Spanish missionaries, who had carried out their activity between 1715 and 1747, were put to death as a result of a new wave of persecution that started in 1729 and broke out again in 1746. This was in the epoch of the Yongzheng Emperor and of his successor, the Qianlong Emperor.
All four of the following were killed on 28 October 1748:
A new period of persecution in regard to the Christian religion occurred in the 19th century.
While Catholicism had been authorised by some Chinese emperors in the preceding centuries, the Jiaqing Emperor published, instead, numerous and severe decrees against it. The first was issued in 1805. Two edicts of 1811 were directed against those among the Chinese who were studying to receive sacred orders, and against priests who were propagating the Christian religion. A decree of 1813 exonerated voluntary apostates from every chastisement – that is, Christians who spontaneously declared that they would abandon their faith – but all others were to be dealt with harshly.
In this period the following underwent martyrdom:
Also in the same year, there came two other decrees, with which approval was given to the conduct of the Viceroy of Sichuan who had beheaded Monsignor Dufresse, of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, and some Chinese Christians. As a result, there was a worsening of the persecution.
The following martyrs belong to this period:
Three catechists, known as the Martyrs of Maokou (in the province of Guizhou) were killed on 28 January 1858, by order of the officials in Maokou:
All three had been called on to renounce the Christian religion and having refused to do so were condemned to be beheaded.
In Guizhou, two seminarians and two lay people, one of whom was a farmer, the other a widow who worked as a cook in the seminary, suffered martyrdom together on 29 July 1861. They are known as the Martyrs of Qingyanzhen (Guizhou):
In the following year, on 18 and 19 February 1862, another five people gave their life for Christ. They are known as the Martyrs of Guizhou.
And so passed an era of expansion in the Christian missions, with the exception of the period in which they were struck by the uprising by the "Society for Justice and Harmony" (commonly known as the "Boxers"). This occurred at the beginning of the 20th century and caused the shedding of the blood of many Christians.
It is known that mingled in this rebellion were all the secret societies and the accumulated and repressed hatred against foreigners in the last decades of the 19th century, because of the political and social changes following the Second Opium War and the imposition of the so-called unequal treaties on China by the Western Powers.
Very different, however, was the motive for the persecution of the missionaries, even though they were of European nationalities. Their slaughter was brought about solely on religious grounds. They were killed for the same reason as the Chinese faithful who had become Christians. Reliable historical documents provide evidence of the anti-Christian hatred which spurred the Boxers to massacre the missionaries and the Christians of the area who had adhered to their teaching. In this regard, an edict was issued on 1 July 1900, which, in substance, said that the time of good relations with European missionaries and their Christians was now past: that the former must be repatriated at once and the faithful forced to apostatize, on penalty of death.
Following the failure of the Boxer Rebellion, China was further subject to Western spheres of influence, which in turn led to a booming conversion period in the following decades. The Chinese developed respect for the moral level that Christians maintained in their hospital and schools. The continuing association between Western imperialism in China and missionary efforts nevertheless continued to fuel hostilities against missions and Christianity in China. All missions were banned in China by the new communist regime after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, and officially continue to be legally outlawed to the present.
As a result, the martyrdom took place of several missionaries and many Chinese who can be grouped together as follows:
a) Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on 9 July 1900 (known as the Taiyuan massacre), who were Franciscan Friars Minor:
b) Martyrs of Southern Hunan, who were also Franciscan Friars Minor:
To the martyred Franciscans of the First Order were added seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, of whom three were French, two Italian, one Belgian, and one Dutch:
Of the martyrs belonging to the Franciscan family, there were also eleven Secular Franciscans, all Chinese:
To these are joined a number of Chinese lay faithful:
When the uprising of the Boxers, which had begun in Shandong and then spread through Shanxi and Hunan, also reached South-Eastern Tcheli (currently named Hebei), which was then the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian, in the care of the Jesuits, the Christians killed could be counted in thousands. Among these were four French Jesuit missionaries and at least 52 Chinese lay Christians: men, women and children – the oldest of them being 79 years old, while the youngest were aged only nine years. All suffered martyrdom in the month of July 1900. Many of them were killed in the church in Zhujiahe Village, in which they were taking refuge and where they were in prayer together with the first two of the missionaries listed below:
Besides all those already mentioned who were killed by the Boxers, there were the following:
Some years later, members of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco were added to the considerable number of martyrs recorded above:
They were killed together on 25 February 1930, at Li-Thau-Tseul.