In the footsteps of the CICM Missionaries – September 2015 From Beijing to Xiwanzi

In the footsteps of the CICM Missionaries is composed of 5 sections:
1) In the footsteps of the CICM Missionaries
2) Zhalan Jesuit Cemetery
3) Beijing South and East Cathedral
4) Beijing Ancient Observatory
5) Beijing – Xiwanzi

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The Ferdinand Verbiest Institute hosted by the Catholic University Leuven (Belgium) organized in September 2015 an excursion to China with a view to visit different places mainly located in Inner-Mongolia where CICM missionaries were based. [1]

The voyage of the first CICM Missionaries from Brussels to China started in September but some 150 years ago! Théophile Verbist, the founder of the Congregation, decided that besides three priests: Aloïs Van Segvelt, François Vranckx, and Ferdinand Hamer also a young layman Paul Splingaerd who worked for him in Brussels would travel with him to China. [2]

Our journey started on 12 September 2015 when we arrived in Beijing. Our early arrival in the morning gave us the opportunity to visit the temple of verbist before leaving for china0001Heaven.

During the evening I took some time to analyse more in depth the program for the next days which we would spend in Beijing. Besides visits planned to some classical touristic places three not so common visits were also planned. The first one was to the Zhalan cemetery with in particular the tomb of Matteo Ricci and Ferdinand Verbiest. The second one was the Beijing Ancient Observatory and the third one was a visit to the South, North and East Cathedral.

Over the years I had often visited the tombs of the Zhalan cemetery but I visited only once the Beijing Ancient Observatory and never went to the South Cathedral.

Flipping through the Programme I remember having read the impressions of Théophile Verbist and his colleagues of their first visit to Beijing and in particular of those places. What struck me when I started, years ago, to study the history of the CICM Congregation in China was that already in 1873 i.e. roughly ten years after setting-up the congregation a book was published describing the journey of Verbist from Brussels to Mongolia[3].

This publication gives me the opportunity to tell their story and our experience on the way from Beijing to Xiwanzi.

Verbist and his group arrived in Beijing the 24th of November 1865. Before travelling to their end destination Siwanzi they decided to take a few days rest in Beijing and visit the city.

[1] The acronym CICM stands for Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (in English Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary). The Congregation was founded by Théophile Verbist in 1862 and started its activities in Scheut now part of Brussels very soon the CICM was unofficially called Scheut Mission.

[2] The name is also spelled Splingaert in particular in books on Scheut or, published by Scheut.

[3] Voyage de Bruxelles en Mongolie, Travaux des Missionnaires de la congrégation de Scheutveld lez-Bruxelles, Bruxelles Casimir Coomans, 1873