Catholicism flourishes in Tibetan village
By Mu Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-10 14:13
With compensation from the government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the
missionaries built the Cizhong Church. It was completed in 1914 and became the
main church of the Yunnan parish.
The three-storey clock tower of Cizhong Church is a Gothic building, but its
top floor is of Chinese pavilion style, covered with glazed tiles. On the top
floor, one can enjoy a bird's eye view of Cizhong Village.
Though foreign missionaries left in the early 1950s, Catholicism had taken
root in Cizhong. Today there are 233 households in the village. Of the 130
households on the west side of the Lancang River, where the church is located,
89 are Catholics.
Though both Catholics and Tibetan-Buddhists live in Cizhong, there seems not
to be a distinct boundary between them, as all villagers, whether Catholics or
Buddhists, celebrate religious festivals together.
"On Christmas, the Buddhists help us prepare the celebration, and they sing,
dance and eat with us. The only difference is that they don't go to church to
pray," said Hansen. "It's similar for us on Buddhist festivals."
On Christmas Eve, a fire was lit before the church. Villagers, no matter what
religion, age, or gender, formed a circle around the fire to sing and dance.
"Our guests from afar have come a long way. On this auspicious day, we meet
at the Catholic Church. It is by God's mercy that we can celebrate Christmas
Xianzi, a form of song and dance popular among the Tibetans living in Yunnan,
was used to express a Christian theme, and such songs were sung by Catholics and
The party reached a climax when Santa Claus appeared. Played by Austin,
president of the church, Santa Claus brought gifts for the children.
People went on singing and dancing around the fire until midnight, when
firecrackers were set off declaring time for Mass. Then the villagers swarmed
into the church.
There is no regular priest in Cizhong. For this year's Christmas, the village
invited Father Yang Hongchang from Dali to hold the Mass.