Priest Mitrophan and the Boxer Rebellion

An icon of the seventy-plus martyrs killed along with the Priest Mitrophan.

Yesterday the Orthodox Church commemorated all the saints of the Church.  The feast began as a way to commemorate all of the martyrs and grew into a larger commemoration over the years.  Today we commemorate the Priest Mitrophan and all those who perished with him during the Boxer Rebellion in China.  I must admit I had never heard of him until I saw him on today’s calendar.

The Boxer Rebellion

The Boxer or Yihetuan Movement was a pro-nationalist uprising by the “Righteous Harmony Society” in China between 1898 and 1901.  They were opposed to foreign imperialistic nations and Christianity.  There was a fear, due to the weakened economic state in China, that Christian missionaries would take over large tracts of land and place the Chinese under servitude.

In June of 1900 Boxer fighters, with the support of Dowager Empress Cixi, forced foreigners to seek refuge in the Legation Quarter.  They placed the area under siege for 55 days.  The siege ended when 20,000 troops from and eight national alliance, including the United States, defeated the Imperial Army and captured Beijing.  The Boxer protocol of September 1901ended the uprising and placed severe punishments on all those involved.

The Priest Mitrophan

The Priest Mitrophan whose Chinese name was Ji chong or Tsi Chung was born on December 10, 1855.  He lost his father at an early age and was raised by his grandmother and mother.  When he was 25 years old he was ordained to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church by Bishop Nikolai of Japan.

From the story of his martyrdom

On the evening of June 1, 1900 (which was the 17th day of the 5th month on the Chinese calendar)1, the Boxers (Yihetuan Movement) burned the buildings of the mission. About seventy Christians, hiding from danger, assembled in St Mitrophan’s home. Although Fr. Mitrophan’s former ill-wishers were among them, he did not drive them out. Seeing that some people were dispirited, he strengthened them, saying that the time of troubles had come and would be difficult to avoid. He himself several times daily went to look at the burned church. On the 10th of June, towards 10 in the evening, soldiers and Boxers surrounded Fr. Mitrophan’s dwelling. Up to seventy Christians were there at the time; the stronger among them fled, while Fr. Mitrophan and many others, primarily women and children, remained and were tortured. Fr. Mitrophan sat in his courtyard when the Boxers punctured his chest, and he fell under a date tree. His neighbors removed his body to the mission’s almshouse. Later the hieromonk Avraamy picked up Fr. Mitrophan’s body and, in 1903, during the first commemoration of the martyrs, it and those of the others, were placed under the altar in the martyrs’ church.

His wife Tatiana was beheaded on June 12th.  His son Isaiah was beheaded on June 7th because he was known to be a Christian.  His other son Ioann, who was only 7 when his father was martyred, had his nose, ears, and toes cut off and left to die.  He died around June 10th.

“Minister to Christ, true priest of glory, reasonable sacrifice and blameless victim, thou gavest thyself up to the stadium with thy flock, O father, Chi – Sung in Beijing. Therefore pray for us who keep thy precious memory with faith” (Troparion of Mitrophan Tone 1)

“In a pagan land ye were enlightened by the Orthodox Faith, and having lived in the Faith but a little time, ye inherited the eternal Kingdom. By the purity of your Christian ways ye put to shame the false Confucian piety and trampled demon-inspired Buddhism underfoot as refuse, sanctifying the Chinese land with your blood. Wherefore, we pray: Entreat the Master of all that He enlighten your land with Orthodoxy in these latter times, and strengthen us therein.” (Troparion of the New Martyrs of China, Tone 5)


  1. I am an Orthodox Christian of Korean descent and I take some offence to the phrase “false Confucian piety.” I would like to know what the source for that Tropar is. Confucianism describes not only the religio-political system of East Asia, but also the general cultural outlook. Culturally, I am a Confucian. This means I honor my parents, my ancestors, and strive to cultivate a spirit of reverence for all people around me. I fail to see how this is a false piety, or how Christianity somehow destroys this worldview. Rather, I see in Confucianism a seed of the eternal Logos, which is able to grow more fully in the rich soil of the Gospel. In fact, when Christianity first arrived in China and Korea, it was closely linked to Confucianism, and the most sympathy toward the western faith was showed by Confucian scholars.

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