China’s Old Churches, by Alan Sweeten, examines the history of Catholicism (1600 to the present) as reflected by the location, style, and details of sacred structures in three crucial north China areas. 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 socio-politically foreign and invasive. The physical-visual impact of church structures is significant. Today, restored old and new churches are still mostly of Western style, serving a growing number of Catholics who actively support a Marian movement.
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.