Worship in Yunnan
It might come as a surprise that among the remote slopes of the Tibetan Plateau in Yunnan Province stands a Catholic Church. This intriguing presence traces back nearly two centuries when ambitious French missionaries ventured into this distant region.
When the blond-haired, blue-eyed missionaries first set foot in this remote region, the Tibetan people didn’t welcome them with open arms. To the locals, these newcomers filled every description of devils found in the Buddhist tradition, with their fair skin, hair and light eyes. As a result, the Tibetan people were protective of their territory, and the missionaries faced a daunting challenge. It took nearly six centuries of relentless effort before French priests could finally negotiate safe passage along the Tea and Horse Road.
In a remarkable turn of events, the priest requested a piece of land no larger than a yak’s skin for the construction of their church. The lamas, initially amused by this modest request, reluctantly agreed. To their astonishment, the priest took the yak skin, stretched it, and cut it into strips, which he then used to outline the boundaries of the monastery. It marked the humble beginnings of the first church in this region, a place where the faith would later flourish, leading to the construction of more churches in the area.
One of these churches is in Cizhong, a charming town, where approximately 80% of the population practices Catholicism. Every Sunday, the church, built in a captivating blend of Chinese and European architectural styles, opens its doors to warmly welcome local villagers to attend the mass. The church is surrounded by vineyards, planted by French missionaries over 150 years ago and lovingly tended by the local community. Visitors rarely venture to this remote place, but when they do villagers graciously offer homemade desserts crafted from family-grown produce and serve local tea or wine.
As Christmas approaches, this destination offers a perfect escape from the ordinary while still embracing the tradition of Christmas celebration.