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29 July 2014
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Sunday Worship from China

Wangfujing shopping precinct, a wide pedestrian area surrounded by tall buildings.  Shoppers and outdoors café tables are on the pavement

Wangfujing shopping area
After years of persecution, Christianity is now undergoing massive growth in China. To find out why, Martin Palmer travelled to Beijing and the ancient imperial capital of Xi'an in a special feature for Sunday Worship to explore the history of Chinese Christianity.

This is modern China: Wangfujing shopping area, the 'Regent Street' of Beijing. It is less than a mile from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

The Eastern Cathedral, a white stone building topped with three small domed towers. Tubs and beds of flowers decorate the square in front of the building while people sit at tables in the shade of a tree

Eastern Cathedral, Beijing
Beijing's Eastern Cathedral in the heart of the busy Wangfujing shopping area. At nearly 400 years old it has been favoured by Emperors, shut by persecution, burnt down by revolutionaries and turned into a store during the Cultural Revolution, but is now active again in the changing world of China today.

Interior of the Eastern Cathedral, looking down the aisle of the east nave between rows of pews to an altar at the end. Beneath the high white ceiling and brown stone pillars, a single man is sitting praying

Eastern Cathedral nave
Looking east down the nave of the Eastern Catholic Cathedral of Beijing.

Presenter Martin Palmer and producer Mark O'Brien on horseback with unidentified guide, travelling along a dirt road through countryside

On horseback to Da Qin
Presenter Martin Palmer and producer Mark O'Brien travelling by horseback. The best from of transport to one of the oldest Christian sites in China, the Da Qin Pagoda, 30 miles outside the ancient imperial city of Xi'an.

Da Qin Pagoda, a tall buff-coloured building dating from 800CE. A sign with Chinese characters hangs at the base and a ladder made of sticks is leaning up against the bottom window

Da Qin Pagoda
The Da Qin Pagoda outside the ancient city of Xi'an. Dating from around 800CE from the Tang Dynasty, it is one of the oldest Christian sites in China.

The Da Qin nativity scene, a stone carving that is left barely recognisable by erosion and damage. It shows gently curving mountains surrounding a central human figure, of whom only the legs remain

Da Qin nativity scene
1200-year-old nativity scene on the first floor inside the Da Qin Pagoda. Damaged by age and persecution, it resembles the Orthodox depiction of the Nativity, but fused with classical Chinese art. It contains the five mountains of Taoism with its most sacred mountain Tai Shan.

The white stone Southern Cathedral is visible behind a gold-coloured statue of a figure holding a cross, which stands in the middle of an outdoor seating area. Red Chinese lanterns hang from the trees that shade the seats

Southern Cathedral
The Southern Cathedral of Beijing. Founded by Jesuits in 1601, it is China's oldest cathedral.

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