Tao Fung Shan: A Christian Church Built in the Chinese Oriental Style
Situated upon a small hill in Shatin, Tao Fung Shan is the perfect location for a missionary site. However, Tao Fung Shan struck myself, and undoubtedly any other new visitors, as its appearance does not reflect its Christian roots. Instead, the context was wholly Chinese with the buildings constructed in the typical Chinese traditional style. The gardens were in a typical Asian-Pacific style which involves having the garden enclosed within the outer walls as opposed to the surrounding the structures. The purpose of the mission was also highly interesting as the targeted audience of the mission were not laymen but instead, Buddhist monks and practitioners.
This explains the construction features throughout the entirety of the church. By adapting to a Buddhist construction style, it allows the Buddhist or Taoist monks to feel perfectly at home. According to the tour guides and the descriptive video played during the beginning of the tour, Reichelt believed that the Buddhist monks, having already been devoted to religion, are perfect for conversion. He greatly admired the monks’ dedication to their faith and therefore, had focused upon his conversion efforts upon them. His attempt to convert the Buddhist/Taoist, deemed the Christian Mission to Buddhist, led to controversy from both the aforementioned faction and the Christian side – the former believed that the Christian missionaries were impacting their religion while the Christians criticized the Mission based upon religious syncretism, an attempt to merge contrary beliefs together. This view is contrastive with the opinion of Reichelt and the other pioneers of the Christian Mission to Buddhist movement. The primary reason behind unique attributes of Tao Fung Shan, namely the Chinese traditional architectural style and religious elements are constructed based on this principle.
Upon entering the ‘church’, we first passed through the wooden arch doorway constructed similar to many in Asian temples. The calligraphy at the top stated the words “道風大千”. Initially misinterpreting the meaning of 道, or dao, I was perplexed at the nature of the temple expecting a hybrid of Christianity and Buddhism/Taoism perhaps in religious. However, upon the arrival of the tour guides, the answer soon arrived as it turns out that the dao was in fact meant to express “the true way” and therefore described solely Christianity. The style of the building is merely aimed to create ease for the pilgrims while the actual philosophical and religious thinking differs little from regular Christian establishments.
The chapel, or Christ Temple, was another speculator site. Elements taken from Chinese architecture is highly obvious within the inwards of the temple. The altar was built using Chinese symbolism such as the plants decorating the borders. In the middle, the Locus Cross commands the attention of all comers. Despite criticism from certain Christian factions that this states that Christianity grew out of the locus, we were told that the Reichelt’s intended for the cross to mean is that Christianity has been planted into locus, symbolizing religious search. The holy water vessel is shaped in the form of a pagoda and because of its religious significance for Buddhism, its usage became a controversial issue for Christians and Buddhist alike. However, it not provides a greater sense of the Chinese context allowing the missionary and the Reichelt’ church to its further domesticate Christianity for China, it also plays upon the mindset of the Buddhist monks who would familiar with the pagoda.
Another interesting aspect of the church atop Tao Fung Shan is the path down to the pavilion and the cross overlooking Shatin. Three factors contribute to this part of the field trip’s uniqueness. Firstly, the path that leads to this area is comprised of a narrow stone path through the middle and into...
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