TRAVEL TO CIZHONG, ABOVE THE MEKONG VALLEY IN YUNNAN PROVINCE
The village of Cizhong is located on a sunny plateau on the western bank of the Mekong River high above the Mekong Valley in Yunnan Province. The main attraction of Cizhong is the Catholic Church, built here 150 years ago by French and Swiss Jesuit missionaries of the "Mission Etrangère de Paris".
The history of this inconspicuous church begins in 1846, when Pope Gregory the 16th founded the Tibet Mission with the aim of "Christianizing" Tibet. The then monumental task was assigned to the "Mission étrangère de Paris" and later to the Swiss "Mission St. Bernard", which together sent 44 missionaries to Tibet in the following 100 years.
The missionaries encountered great resistance in Tibet with their form of faith, since many Lamas felt threatened by Christianity in their power. In Cizhong alone, two monks died in 1905 during the temporary expulsion of Catholics from the Mekong Valley by Buddhist Lamas. In total there are still 14 Catholic churches of this kind in Tibet, but the Church of Cizhong is the only Catholic church of this kind on Tibetan soil in Yunnan Province.
In 1951 the last two foreign priests were expelled from the country by Mao's government. Religion was no longer tolerated. The church of Cizhong was left to its fate and was later mostly destroyed by Mao's Red Guards. Nevertheless, most Cizhong residents have remained faithful to their Christian faith and now celebrate mass every Sunday in their church, which was renovated during the 1980s. About 80% of the predominantly Tibetan population of Cizhong belong to the Catholic faith.
In addition to the Christian faith, the Catholic priests have carried something else into the Mekong Valley: grapes. Soon the priests found out that the climate of Cizhong is ideal for the cultivation of grapes. Soon after, there was French wine produced in Cizhong. Grapes are still cultivated in the area around Cizhong today.
The construction of the dam in Cizhong has triggered a real building boom in recent years. The wobbly suspension bridge near Cizhong over the Mekong was replaced by a solid concrete bridge. Despite the changes it is still worthwhile to stop in Cizhong on a trip throughout the Yunnan Province. Meanwhile there are numerous guesthouses available in Cizhong.