A History of the Orthodox Church in China, Korea and Japan

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This book describes the history and development of the Orthodox Church in China from its origins in 1242 A.D., its Eastern Church forebears, and its development in the other nations of North Asia – Korea and Japan.

By 1955, on the eve of its establishment as an independent entity, the Orthodox Church in China reached its greatest numbers. There were more than 100,000 communicants in former Russian territory in Manchuria, with 200 priests and 60 parishes, as well as monasteries and a seminary. Elsewhere, in China, there were another 200,000 Orthodox Christians and 150 parishes. These conservative figures mean that at that time, around 6% of Chinese Christians were adherents of the Orthodox Church.

The activities and achievements of the Orthodox Church, especially since the 17th century, have been understated in many historical studies of Christianity in China.

It is a similar story in regard to the first impact of Christianity with the cultures of Japan and Korea. Eastern Christianity came to Japan from China between the seventh and ninth centuries. There is also evidence that Eastern Christian missionaries were present in Korea during the sixth century. This book details the nature and evidence of these early activities.


“The reading of history is an act of enlightenment. It reflects an endeavor to divine and to discern the past from the perspective of truthfulness and openness ... As the reader considers the spread to Asia of the “Luminous Religion from the Middle Kingdom” – whether the region of provenance refers to Palestine or Persia – he or she is gradually able to discover an amalgam that comprises the religion of China, Japan, and Korea. The fascinating picture is aptly completed by pieces that derive from Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism (that is given deserved attention in this book), Christianity (both Eastern and Western), as well as Islam. Dr. Kevin Baker makes every effort to re-construct this picture carefully. Indeed, it would be more appropriate to say that the author makes every effort to re-thread the colorful thread in a sensitive manner, which is only appropriate for the fabric that constitutes religion in Asia through the centuries ...” – (from the Preface) Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, Center for the Study of World Religions, Boston

“This book is of a high standard of scholarship and makes a valuable contribution to an understanding of the history of religion and culture in northern Asia. The subject matter of the book, eastern Christianity in the region, and particularly the presence of the Orthodox Church and its activities, deserves a rigorous academic examination, and Dr. Baker presents this. The book is also well-written and readable and should attract wide interest from the reading public generally.” – Dr. Jeremy Huyton, University of Canberra

“This is an excellent and long-needed work. It is well-composed and well-referenced, and presents a clear and intensely readable account of an area of history that has been virtually overlooked for a long time. The events covered by the book have influenced the cultures and peoples of the region, and in order to understand the changing situation of the present, it is necessary to understand the events of the past ... This book merits a wide reading audience and deserves a place on the bookshelves of historians and anyone concerned with the development of relationships between Christianity and the countries of north Asia and their prospects for the 21st century.” – Dr. Harry Simmons, University of Sydney

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations
Notes and Names and Place Names
Preface by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis
Part One – The Roots of the Vine
1. Introduction
2. Eastern Christians in China, Korea and Japan to 1200
3. Eastern Christians in China, Korea and Japan from 1201 to 1400
4. The First Orthodox Christians in China 1242 to 1689
Part Two – The Vine is Established
5. Russian Priests and Traders 1690 to 1718
6. Setbacks and Negotiations 1719 to 1799
7. Learning, Scholarship and Expansion 1800 to 1898
8. The Boxer Uprising 1899 to 1900
Part Three – The Spreading of the Vine
9. The Spread of Orthodoxy 1901 to 1945
10. Towards Indigenous Orthodox Churches 1946 to 1956
11. The Church Suffering 1957 to 1986
12. The Church Renewed 1987 to 2004

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