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Religions
South Sichuan Road Catholic Church
2012/12/10

Situated on 36 South Sichuan Road, South Sichuan Road Catholic Church was designed by father Louis Hélot. Its official name is St. Joseph Cathedral but colloquially known as Yanjingbang Church. It is among the city’s heritage architectures as a well-preserved modern western-style building.
Preaching of Christianity in China was banned by the Qing Government starting 1665 (the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi) with the activities of foreign missionaries confined to Guangzhou and its vicinity, and was pronounced a heresy in 1722 (the last year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi). Emperor Yongzheng ordered in the second year of his reign in 1724 complete prohibition of Christianity in China, expropriating all Catholic churches and their properties, and so was Shanghai’s first church established at Anrenli (now known as Anren Street) by one of Chinese Scientist Xu Guangqi’s grand daughters (There’s controversy as to the very first church in Shanghai. Some believe it was at Xu’s famous property “Nine-room Building”, as was used by Italian father Francesco Brancati, while others contend that after Xu’s fourth granddaughter was married to the wealthy Pan family residing in Yu Garden, Brancati bought “Shichun Tang” from the Pan Family with her financial support, and reconstructed it into Shanghai’s first church and named it “Jingyi Tang”). After the Opium War in 1846, the Qing government publicly recognized Catholicism was “a religion that inspires virtues”, and consented to return previously expropriated yet not otherwise utilized properties to the Catholic Church. Although the chapel of the old Catholic church had been converted into a Guan Yu Temple and the star observation site into Jingye Academy, the French Catholic Church demanded the property be returned, arguing part of the land were not occupied. To avoid further troubles, the then Shanghai government agreed to purchase two pieces of land at Dongjiadu and Yangjingbang, where Dongjiadu Catholic Church and Yangjingbang Church were later located, as compensation.
The building of St. Joseph Cathedral started on April 15, 1860 (the tenth year of the reign of the Emperor Xianfeng) and was completed and unveiled on June 29, 1861. The church covers a site area of 3,570 square meters and a construction area of 969 square meters. It gained the colloquial name as it was located at the south bank of Yangjingbang and its official name as it consecrated St. Joseph.
Although the church seated only 1,000 worshipers and was primitively adorned, the 50-meter –high building was the tallest in Shanghai. There was a chapel at the back of the church as well as a two-storey building. To its right was another building with a basement where the father lived. After it terminated religious functions during the Cultural Revolution, a reopening committee was organized and celebrated Christmas Mass in December 1981. The renovated church was officially open to the congregation on December 25, 1982. It was passed at the 3rd Congress of Catholicism in Huangpu District in 1987 to set up a church administration committee and a democratic management composing 39 clerical persons and Christians. May 1988 to early 1991, the clerical person’s office and apartment building was reconstructed into a seven-storey building, and the main church went through a year long renovation since April 1991.
In 1865 (the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Tongzhi), a school named after French priest Ludovicus Mafia Besi was set up by the church to popularize Catholicism. The school was taken over by the people’s government in 1949 to carry out people’s education, and has officially been known as South Sichuan Road Elementary School of Huangpu District since February 1953.