Armenian presence in China
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.
Famous Armenians in China
Sir Paul Catchik Chater
Sir Paul Catchick Chater, undoubtedly one of the most important individuals in the history of Hong Kong, was born to Armenian parents in India in 1846. Orphaned at the age of eight, Chater received his education in Calcutta before arriving in Hong Kong in 1864. He became one of the most successful businessmen in the history of Hong Kong and is regarded for founding Hong Kong Land in 1889, that remains one of the largest and most prestigious companies of Hong Kong. In 1896, Chater was appointed to the Executive Council of Hong Kong and served there until his death in 1926. He was knighted in 1902. In 1904, he single-handedly financed the construction of St. Andrew’s Church in Kowloon that is still in use and bears a plaque to his honor.
One of Hong Kong’s main streets (Chater Road) and a prestigious office building (Chater House) are named after him. Chater House also holds a bust and a commemorative plate to his honor that mentions his Armenian past. Chater laid the foundations of Armenian community in Hong Kong, reaching 100 today and rapidly growing, mainly due to young professionals – Armenians from all around the world, who come here inspired by the sense of adventure and the promising opportunities, just like Chater did more than a century ago.
Professor Hovhannes Ghazarian
Professor Hovhannes Ghazarian, an Armenian born and educated in Macau, and the first to translate the Holy Bible into Chinese in 1822 had tremendously influenced China. According to the Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia, Hovhannes Ghazarian (also known as Johannes Lassar), translated the Gospel by St. Matthew in 1807. Later on, he traveled to Serampore (in current West Bengal, India) to continue working on the Bible. The New Testament was published in 1813, and the whole Bible was issued in 1822 by the liberality of the British and Foreign Bible Society.These editions are now recognized as the first known complete print version of the Scriptures in Chinese.
I want to learn more about the history of Armenians in China. Any interesting links?
1. Armenians in China
Armenians have held historical presence in China for many centuries.
More recently the Armenian settlement of Harbin is also witness to Armenian presence in China from late19th century until the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
2. China and the Chinese according to 5-13th Century Classical Armenian Sources
References to China and to the Chinese are found scattered throughout Armenian historical sources of the 5-13th centuries. The references,which are not numerous, are of two main types: those which provide geographical information about China, and those which mention China in connection with one of Armenia’s most famous lordly families, the Mamikonian house.
3. Pictorial History of the Armenians in China, 1919-1945
Virginia Meltickian of Fresno, California, has donated an archive of photos and articles about the Armenian community in CHina. Her "Memory" Album encompasses the time period from the beginning of the century to the 1950s, when the Armenians had to leave China due to the change in political situation of the country.
4. Sir Paul Catchik Chater 1846-1926
Sir Paul Catchik Chater was a prominent British businessman of Armenian descent in colonial Hong Kong.
The Armenian Church in Kolkata organized a pilgrimage to Hong Kong in May 2005during which time various events took place to honor the memory of the Church’s benefactor, Sir Catchick Paul Chater. This is the documentary film that was made by the Armenian detailing Sir Paul Chater’s life from cradle to grave.
5. ARMENIANS:Journey to China. Documentary TV Series by Ruben Gini. Film Trailer
6. “The Gathering Place” A book by Edward Sargoyan. Stories from the Armenian Social Club in Shanghai.
Sergoyan’s book tell stories about the Armenian community in China and more specifically about the Armenian Social Club in Shanghai. The book can be ordered from Amazon.