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The Russian Embassy
 













Its origin dates back to 1658, when, following clashes between Chinese and Russian troops on the Amur River, 45 Cossacks and their wives settled in Beijing. Covering 16 hectares, this compound is the largest Russian embassy in the world. They were formed into a special company under a Manchu Banner, or military divisinon, by Emperor Kangxi. As Bannermen,they were included in the secondhighest class of the mobility in China at that time ,and their rank was hereditary.
A small Buddhist prayer house was assigned for them to practice their Orthodox faith,and was named the Nikolskii Church. This became the site of the Russian Orthodox Mission, and for all practical purposes was for along time the first foreign embassy in Beijing. A report to Perter the Great from a merchant described the newly consecrated church as being攐n the right-hand side at the corner of the city, close to the wall,and next to the church is laid out a suburb for Russians dwelling in the Chinese capital.擻r
Minister-Counselor Anton Vassiliev was our guide in May 1994.He told us that 20 missons,each residing in Beijing for about ten years were sent by the Orthodos Church to China.Treaties in 1689 and 1727 promoted the expansion of trade and cultural contacts between China and Russia. An additional site south of the original one was given to the mission.This is known as the Nanguan,the other being known as the Beiguan.
Following Napolen抯 invasion of Russia in 1812, all contact with the homeland was lost.The mission members had to survive by their own efforts and small allowances from the Chinese govemment.But by 1860.the legation Quarter had been established.with the influx of diplomatic missions from several other countries.The Nannguan became the site of the Russian Embassy, by 揝oviet Embassy Compound Lane,擳he Beiguan was reserved for the Russian Orthodox priests. The Beiguan was sacked by the Boxers in 1900, and its famous library was destroyed. The priests had to take refuge in the embassy building.
The Sovite Union was the first foreign country to recognize the People抯 Republic of China in 1949.The empty Beiguan was allocated for the new mission, and redesigned by the architect who had designed Moscow University.
Mr Vassiliev showed us stone clearly marked in cyrllic letter 揃eijing Orthodox Mission,抴hich had been unearthed during maintenance work only three days before our visit. In the palatial reception hall of the main building hang dazzling Bohemian crystal chandelier,purchased in the 1950s and now priceless.
Outside .we strolled to a Chinese-style building known as the Red Mansion ,modeled on an earlier building Emperor kangxi had given the Russians. Inside is a tall antique screen made of ivory-inlaid wood.the most valuable piece of furniture owned by the embassy.We then walked by a splashing fountain. A canal and a sparkling pond.Russians love to live beside water ,the minister-counselor抯 wife told us.Passing the children抯 playground,we came to a small Chinese pavilion on the spot wherer long ago the first Orthodox mission had been set up.

How to get there
4 Beizhong Street Dongzhimennei, Dongcheng District.
 


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