China’s Old Churches, by Alan Sweeten, surveys the history of Catholicism in China (1600 to the present) as reflected by the location, style, and details of sacred structures in three crucial areas of north China. Examined are the most famous and important churches in the urban settings of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as lesser-known ones in rural Hebei Province.
Missionaries built Western-looking churches to make a broad religious statement important to themselves and Chinese worshippers. Non-Catholics, however, tended to see churches as sociopolitically foreign and culturally invasive. The physical-visual impact of church structures is significant. Today, restored old churches and new ones are still mostly of Western style, but often include a sacred grotto dedicated to Our Lady of China--a growing number of Catholics supporting Marian-centered activities.
Alan Richard Sweeten, Ph.D. (1980), University of California, Davis, is Adjunct Professor of History at California State University, Stanislaus. The author of many publications on Christianity in China, he is retired from teaching but remains an active researcher.
Readers with interest in the history of the missionary movement in China from Ming to modern times as well as those who appreciate old churches’ architectural, visual, and cultural representations.