Armenian merchants traveled and lived in China long before the twentieth century; many have left an influence on the Middle Kingdom.
From 17th to19th centuries, some Armenian merchants established communities and ran successful businesses in Guangzhou and Hong Kong. There was even a small Armenian community in Tibet.
The first large group of Armenians appeared in Northern China during the construction of the Chinese Eastern Rail Road by Imperial Russia. An Armenian National Organization was subsequently founded in 1917 and by 1923 the 400 strong community had succeeded in building their own church in Harbin, called the Far-Eastern Armeno-Grigorian Church.
In Shanghai, Armenians had established a substantial community, which had a gathering place, called The Armenian Club of Shanghai. Following the Communist takeover in 1949, many Armenians left China (mainly for San Francisco) and the community ended up being only 50 person strong.
In 1959, the building of the Armenian Church in Harbin became the property of the Chinese Government, which used it as a textile factory until it was destroyed in 1966 as part of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
However, these early Armenian settlers set the foundations of a now rapidly growing community that, encouraged by the rapid development of the Chinese economy and the opportunities that it presents, now comes from the four corners of the globe and is comprised of about 500 members, spread mainly across the cities of Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Shenzhen.