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Martyrs in China

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The first Christian martyrs in China appear to have been the missionaries of Ili Bâliq in Central Asia, Khan-Bâlig (Peking), and Zaitun (Fu-kien), in the middle of the fourteenth century. Islam had been introduced into Central Asia, and in China, the native dynasty of Ming, replacing the Mongol dynasty of Yuan, had not followed the policy of toleration of their predecessors; the Hungarian, Matthew Escandel, being possibly the first martyr.

With the revival of the missions in China with Matteo Ricci, who died at Peking in 1610, the blood of martyrs was soon shed to fertilize the evangelical field; the change of the Ming dynasty to the Manchu dynasty, giving occasion for new prosecution. Andrew Xavier (better known as Andrew Wolfgang) Koffler (b. at Krems, Austria, 1603), a Jesuit, and companion of Father Michel Boym, in the Kwang-si province, who had been very successful during the Ming dynasty, was killed by the Manchu invaders on 12 December, 1651. On 9 May, 1665, the Dominican, Domingo Coronado, died in prison at Peking. Sometime before, a Spanish Dominican, Francisco Fernandez, of the convent of Valladolid, had been martyred on 15 January, 1648. Among the martyrs must be reckoned the celebrated Jesuit Johann Adam Schall von Bell (T'ang Jo-wang), who was imprisoned and ill-treated during the Manchu conquest. They were the first victims in modern times.

After publication by a literato, of a libel against the Christians of Fu-ngan, in Fu-kien, the viceroy of the province gave orders to inquire into the state of the Catholic religion, the result of which was that a dreadful prosecution broke out in 1746, during the reign of Emperor K'ien lung, the victims of which were all Spanish Dominicans; the following were arrested: Juan Alcober (b. at Girone in 1649); Francisco Serrano, Bishop of Tipasa, and coadjutor the vicar Apostolic; and Francisco Diaz (b. in 1712, at Ecija); finally the vicar Apostolic; Pedra Martyr Sanz (b. in 1680, at Asco, Tortosa), Bishop of Mauricastra, and Joachim Royo (b. at Tervel in 1690) surrendered. After they had been cruelly tortured, the viceroy sentenced them to death on 1 November, 1746; Sanz was martyred on 26 May, 1747; his companions shared his fate; the five Dominican martyrs were beatified by Leo XIII, on 14 May, 1893. Shortly after, a fresh prosecution broke out in the Kiang-nan province, and the two Jesuit fathers, Antoine-Joseph Henriquez (b. 13 June, 1707), and Tristan de Attimis (b. in Friuli, 28 July, 1707), were thrown into prison with a great number of Christians, including young girls, who were ill-treated; finally the viceroy of Nan-king sentenced to death the two missionaries, who were strangled on 12 September, 1748. In 1785, the Franciscan brother, Atto Biagini (b. at Pistoia, 1752), died in prison at Peking.

Persecution was very severe during the Kia K'ing period (1796-1820); Louis-Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse (b. at Ville de Lézoux, Bourbonnais, 1751), of the Paris Foreign Missions, Bishop of Tabraca (24 July, 1800, and Vicar Apostolic of Sze ch'wan, was beheaded in this province on 14 September, 1815. In 1819, a new prosecution took place in the Hu-pe Province; Jean-François-Regis Clet (b. at Grenoble, 19 April, 1748), and aged Lazarist, was betrayed by a renegade, arrested in Ho-nan, and thrown in prison at Wu ch'ang in Oct., 1819; he was strangled on 18 Feb., 1820, and twenty-three Christians were, at the same time, sentenced to perpetual banishment; another Lazarist, Lamiot, who had also been arrested, being the emperor's interpreter, was sent back to Peking; the Emperor Kia K'ing died shortly after; Father Clet was beatified in 1900.

Under the reign of Emperor Tas Kwang, another Lazarist was also the victim of the Mandarin of Hu-pe; also betrayed by a Chinese renegade, Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (b. at Puech, Cahors, on 6 Jan., 1802), was tranferred to Wu ch'ang like Clet; during several months, he endured awful tortures, and was finally strangled on 11 September, 1870; he was beatified on 10 November, 1889. Father d'Addosio has written in Chinese, in 1887, a life of Perboyre; full bibliographical details are given of these two martyrs in "Bibliotheca Sinica".

Just after the French treaty of 1844, stipulating free exercises of the Christian religion, the Franciscan Vicar Apostolic of Hu-pe, Giuseppe Rizzolati, was expelled, and Michel Navarro (b. at Granada, 4 June, 1809, was arrested; a Lazarist missionary, Laurent Carayon was taken back from Chi-li to Macao (June, 1846), while Huc and Gabet were compelled to leave Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on 26 February, 1846, and forcibly conducted to Canton. The death of Father August Chapdelaine, of the Paris Foreign Missions (b. at La Rochelle, Diocese of Coutances, 6 Jan., 1814, beheaded on 29 Feb., 1856, at Si-lin-hien, in the Kwang-si province), was the pretext chosen by France, to join England in a war against China; when peace was restored by a treaty signed at Tien-tsin in June, 1858, it was stipulated by a separate article that the Si-lin mandarin guilty of the murder of the French missionary should be degraded, and disqualified for any office in the future. On 27 Feb., 1857, Jean-Victor Muller, of the Paris Foreign Missions, was arrested in Kwang-tung; an indemnity of 200 dollars was paid to him; he was finally murdered by the rebels at Hing-yi-fu, on 24 April, 1866. On 16 August, 1860, the T'ai-p'ing rebel chief, the Chung Wang, accompanied by the Kan Wang, marched upon Shanghai; on 17th, his troops entered the village of Tsa ka wei, where the orphanage of the Jesuit Luigi de Massa (b. at Naples, 3 March, 1827) was situated; the father was killed with a number of Christians; they were no less than five brothers belonging to the Napolitan family of Massa, all Jesuit missionaries in China: Augustin (b. 16 March, 1813; d. 15 August, 1856), Nicolas (b. 30 Jan., 1815; d. 3 June, 1876), René (b. 14 May, 1817; d. 28 April, 1853), Gaetano (b. 31 Jan., 1821; d. 28 April, 1850), and Luigi. Two years later, another Jesuit father, Victor Vuillaume (b. 26 Dec., 1818), was put to death on 4 March, 1862, at Ts'ien Kia, Kiangsu province, by order of the Shanghai authorities.

At the beginning of 1861, Jean-Joseph Fenouil (b. 18 Nov., 1821 at Rudelle, Cahors), later Bishop of Tenedos, and Vicar Apostolic of Yun-nan, was captured by the Lolo savages of Ta Leang Shan, and ill-treated being mistaken for a Chinaman. On 1 Sept., 1854, Nicolas-Michel Krick (b. 2 March, 1819, at Lixheim), of the Paris Foreign Missions, missionary to Tibet, was murdered, with Fater Bourry, in the country of the Abors. On 18 Feb., 1862, Jean-Pierre Néel (b. at Sainte-Catherine-sur-Rivérie, Diocese of Lyons, June, 1832), Paris Foreign Missions, was beheaded at Kaichou (Kweichou). Gabriel-Marie Piere Durand (b. at Lunel, on 31 Jan., 1835), of the same order, missionary to Tibet, in trying to escape his prosecutors, fell into the Salwein river and was drowned on 28 Sept., 1865.

On 29 August, 1865, François Mabileau (b. 1 March, 1829, at Paimboeuf), of the Paris Foreign Missions, was murdered at Yew yang chou, in Eastern Sze Chw'an; four years later, Jean-Francois Rigaud (b. at Arc-et-Senans) was killed on 2 Jan., 1869, at the same place. Redress was obtained for these crimes by the French Legation at Peking. In Kwang-tung, Fathers Verchére (1867), Dejean (1868), Delavay (1869), were prosecuted; Gilles and Lebrun were ill-treated (1869-1870). Things came to a climax in June, 1870: rumours had been afloat that children had been kidnapped by the missionaries and the sisters at T'ien-tsin; the che-fu, instead of calming the people, was exciting them by posting bills hostile to foreigners; the infuriated mob rose on 20 June, 1870: the French consul, Fontainer, and his chancellor Simon, were murdered at the Yamun of the imperial commissioner, Ch'ung Hou; the church of the Lazarists was pillaged and burnt down: Father Chevrier was killed with a Cantonese priest, Vincent Hu, the French interpreter, Thomassin and his wife, a French merchant, Challemaison and his wife; inside the native town, ten sisters of St. Vincent of Paul were put to death in the most cruel manner, while on the other side of the river, the Russian merchants, Bassof and Protopopoff with his wife, were also murdered.

Throughout China there was an outcry from all the foreign communities. It may be said that this awful crime were never punished; France was involved in her gigantic struggle with Germany, and she had to be content with the punishment of the supposed murderers, and with the apology brought to St-Germain by the special embassy of Ch'ung hou, who at one time had been looked upon as one of the instigators of the massacre. Jean Hue (b. 21 Jan., 1837), was massacred with a Chinese priest on 5 Sept., 1873, at Kien-Kiang in Sze chw'an; another priest of the Paris Foreign Missions, Jean-Joseph-Marie Baptifaud (b. 1 June, 1845), was murdered at Pienkio, in the Yun-nan province during the night of 16-17 September, 1874. The secretary of the French legation, Guilaume de Roquette, was sent to Sze ch'wan, and after some protracted negotiations, arranged that two murderers should be executed, and indemnity paid and some mandarins punished (1875).

In the article CHINA we have related the Korean massacres of 1839, and 1866; on 14 May, 1879, Victor Marie Deguette, of the Paris Foreign Missions, was arrested in the district of Kung-tjyou, and taken to Seoul; he was released at the request of the French minister at Peking; during the preceding year the Vicar Apostolic of Korea, Mgr Ridel, one of the survivors of the massacre of 1866, had been arrested and sent back to China. On Sunday, 29 July, 1894, Father Jean-Moïse Jozeau (b. 9 Feb., 1866), was murdered in Korea. There priests of the Paris Foreign Missions were the next victims: Jean-Baptiste-Honoré Brieux was murdered near Ba-t'ang, on 8 Sept., 1881; in April, 1882, Eugène Charles Brugnon was imprisoned; Jean-Antoine Louis Terrasse (b. at Lantriac, Haute-Loire) was murdered with seven Christians at Chang In-Yun'nan province, during the night of 27-28 March, 1883; the culprits were flogged and banished, and an indemnity of 50,000 taels was paid. Some time before, Louis-Dominique Conraux, of the same order (b. 1852) was arrested and tortured in Manchuria at Hou Lan. On 1 November, 1897, at eleven o'clock in the evening, a troop of men belonging to the Ta Tao Hwei, the great "Knife Association", an anti-foreign secret society, attacked the German mission (priest of Steyl), in the village of Chang Kia-chwang (Chao-chou prefecture), where Fathers Francis-Xavier Nies (b. 11 June, 1859, at Recklinghausen, Paderborn), Richard Henle (b. 21 July, 1863, at Stetten, near Kaigerloch, Sigmaringen), and Stenz were asleep; the latter escaped, but the other two were killed. This double murder led to the occupation of Kiao-chou, on 14 Nov., 1897, by the German fleet: the Governor of Shan-tung, Li Peng-heng was replaced by the no less notorious Yu Hien. On 21 April, 1898, Mathieu Bertholet (b. at Charbonnier, Puy de Dome, 12 June, 1865), was murdered in the Kwang-si province at Tong-Kiang chou; he belonged to the Paris Foreign Missions.

In July, 1898, two French missionaries were arrested at Yung chang in Sza-ch'wan, by the bandit Yu Man-tze already sentenced to death in Jan., 1892, at the request of the French legation; one of the missionaries escaped wounded; but the other, Fleury (b. 1869), was set at liberty only on 7 Jan., 1899. On 14 October, 1898, Henri Chanés (b. 22 Sept., 1865, at Coubon-sur-Loire), of the Paris Foreign Missions, was murdered at Pak-tung (Kwang-tung), with several native Christians; the Chinese had to pay 80,000 dollars. In the same year, on 6 Dec., the Belgian Franciscan, Jean Delbrouck (brother Victorin, b. at Boirs, 14 May, 1870), was arrested and beheaded on 11 Dec., his body being cut to pieces; by an agreement signed on 12 Dec., 1899, by the French consul at Hankou, 10,000 taels were paid for the murder, and 44,500 tales for the destruction of churches, buildings, etc. in the prefectures of I-ch'ang and Sha-nan. The most appalling disaster befell the Christian Church in 1900 during the Boxer rebellion: at Peking, the Lazarist, Jules Garrigues (b. 23 June, 1840), was burnt with his church, the Tung-Tang; Doré (b. at Paris, 15 May, 1862) was murdered, and his church the Si Tang, destroyed; two Marist brethren were killed at Sha-la-eul; Father d'Addosio (b. at Brescia, 19 Dec., 1835), who left the French legation to look after the foreign troops who had entered Peking, was caught by the Boxers, and put to death; another priest, Chavanne (b. at St. Chamond, 20 August, 1862), wounded by a shot during the siege, died of smallpox on 26 July.

In the Chi-li province, the following Jesuits suffered for their faith: Modeste Andlauer (b. at Rosheim, Alsace, 1847); Remis Isoré (b. 22 Jan., 1852, at Bambecque, Nord); Paul Denn (b. 1 April, 1847, at Lille); Ignace Mangin (b. 30 July, 1857, at Verny, Lorraine). In the Hu-nan province, the Franciscan: Antonio Fantosati, Vicar Apostolic and Bishop of Adra (b. 16 Oct., 1842, at Sta. Maria in Valle, Trevi); Cesada; and Joseph: in the Hu-pe province, the Franciscan Ebert; in the Shan-si province, where the notorious Yu hien, subsequently beheaded, ordered a wholesale massacre of missionaries both Catholic and Protestant, at T'ai yuan: Gregorio Grassi (b. at Castellazzo, 13 Dec., 1833, vicar apostolic; his coadjutor, Francisco Fogolla (b. at Motereggio, 4 Oct., 1839), Bishop of Bagi; Fathers Facchini, Saccani, Theodoric Balat, Egide, and Brother Andrew Bauer, all Franciscans. In Manchuria: Laurent Guillon (b. 8 Nov., 1854, at Chindrieux, burnt at Mukden, 3 July, 1900), Vicar Apostolic and Bishop of Eumenia; Nöel-Marie Emonet (b. at Massingy, canton of Rumilly, burnt at Mukden, 2 July, 1900); Jean-Marie Viaud (b. 5 June, 1864; murdered 11 July, 1900); Edouard Agnius (b. at Haubourdin, Nord, 27 Sept., 1874; Murdered 11 July, 1900); Jules-Joseph Bayart (b. 31 March, 1877; murdered 11 July, 1900); Louis-Marie-Joseph Bourgeois (b. 21 Dec., 1863, at La Chapelle-des-Bois, Doubs; murdered 15 July, 1900); Louis Marie Leray (b. at Ligné, 8 Oct., 1872; murdered 16 July, 1900); Auguste Le Guevel (b. at Vannes, 21 March, 1875; murdered, 15 July, 1900); François Georjon (b. at Marlhes, Loire, 3 August, 1869; murdered 20 July, 1900); Jean-Francois Régis Souvignet (b. 22 Oct., 1854, at Monistrol-sur-Loire; murdered 30 July, 1900), all priests of the Paris Foreign Missions.

The Belgian Missions (Congregation of Scheut), numbered also many martyrs: Ferdinant Hamer (b. at Nimegue, Holland, 21 August, 1840; burnt to death in Kan-su), the first Vicar Apostolic of the province; in Mongolia: Joseph Segers (b. at Saint Nicolas, Waes, 20 Oct., 1869); Herman; Mallet; Jaspers; Zylmans; Abbeloos, Dobbe. The cemeteries, at Peking especially, were desecrated, the graves opened and, the remains scattered abroad. Seven cemeteries (one British, five French, and one mission), situated in the neighbourhood of Peking has been desecrated. By Article IV of the Protocol signed at Peking, 7 Sept., 1901, it was stipulated: "The Chinese government has agreed to erect an expiatory monument in each of the foreign or international cemeteries, which were desecrated, and in which the tombs were destroyed. It has been agreed with the Representatives of the Powers, that the Legations interested shall settle the details for the erection of these monuments, China bearing all the expenses thereof, estimated at ten thousand taels for the cemeteries at Peking and in its neighbourhood, and at five thousand taels for the cemeteries in the provinces." The amounts have been paid. Notwithstanding these negotiations, Hippolyte Julien (b. 16 July, 1874) of the Paris Foreign Missions was murdered on 16 Jan., 1902, at Ma-tze-hao, in the Kwang Tung province.

In 1904, Mgr. Theotime Verhaegen, Franciscan Vicar Apostolic of Southern Hu-pe (b. 1867), was killed with his brother, at Li-Shwan. A new massacre of several missionaries of the Paris Foreign Missions including Father Jean-André Soulié (b. 1858), took place in 1905 in the Mission of Tibet (western part of the province of Sze-chw'an). Finally we shall record the death of the Marist Brother, Louis Maurice, murdered at Nan ch'ang on 25 Feb., 1906.

A long and sad list, to which might be added the names of many others, whose sufferings for the Faith of Christ have not been recorded.

About this page

APA citation. Cordier, H. (1910). Martyrs in China. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Cordier, Henri. "Martyrs in China." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Listya Sari Diyah.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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