Armenians Celebrate Mass in China for First Time in Decades

GUANGZHOU, China (A.W.)—The Armenian community in China gathered at a church in Guangzhou on Dec. 14 to celebrate mass for the first time in decades.

A scene from the mass (Photo by Raffi Kabakian)
A scene from the mass (Photo by Raffi Kabakian)

Bishop Haigazoun Najarian presided over the mass that brought together dozens of Armenians from Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hong Kong, and other cities.

A scene from the mass (Photo by Raffi Kabakian)
A scene from the mass (Photo by Raffi Kabakian)

Bishop Najarian, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Australia and New Zealand and Pontifical Legate of All Armenians in India and the Far East, said he was pleased that decades after the last church mass was held by the Armenian community in China, Armenians from around the world who now call China and Hong Kong home have gathered again to celebrate mass.

The community after the mass.
The community after the mass.

A small yet vibrant Armenian community existed in Harbin, Shanghai, and Hong Kong from the late 19th till the mid-20th century. In that period, Harbin had an Armenian church and Shanghai boasted a vibrant community center.

Most Armenians left for the Americas or for Soviet Armenia by the 1950s.

Lecture on Armenian community in China

On Dec. 13, scholar Khatchig Mouradian presented his illustrated talk on the Armenian communities in Harbin and Shanghai from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. (Click here for detailed report.)

Pulling from memoirs, accounts, archival material, and photographs from China, Armenia, and missionary archives in the U.S., Mouradian depicted the life of Armenians from the Caucasus and the Ottoman Empire who went east in search of opportunity or to escape genocide and political upheavals.

In August, Mouradian received a Gulbenkian Armenian Studies fellowship to research the history of the Armenian community in China.


  1. I was hoping to see Khatchig in the photo when I read the headline! I was also thrilled to see Lara Setrakian Aslanian and her husband Henri! I do hope that Lara had the opportunity to sing during mass.
    She made her guests weep during her wedding ceremony when she sang in our sacred church at Geghart in memory of her grandmother. Thank you for helping resurrect a community and bringing church and faith back to our people in China. You all continue to inspire us!

  2. I am glad to see my old friend Hagop Apikian in the pictures. In the early 80’s we were living in Hong Kong. We got married within weeks of each other and brought our wives to Hong Kong in November 1986. He from Beirut, mine from Baghdad. We had a wedding party with all the Armenians, at Vartan Keshishian’s restaurant, Omar Khayyam.


  3. Armenian had Church in Guangzhou China since 12th century, the church get fire on 14 century , one Armenian women ” Amera ” re- build the church in here account.

  4. congratulations to the Armenian Community in China. They are getting stronger and more numerous every year!
    I saw some familiar faces, including the Maxians, ( hello Baron Hagop- the famous Jack Max and family!)
    Also nice to see Henri Arslanian and Lara. Wish I was in China to attend!
    A Happy season’s greetings to you all!

    Zareh Amadouni

  5. Good to see this taking place. My sincere congratulations to our compatriotd in China.I however think it is an exaggeration that this was the first Armenian Mass held in China in decades.

    What about the Mass held in 2005 by the Archbishop’s predecessor Archbishop Baliozian of blessed memory who conducted the service with the blessings of The Catholicos Karekin II? The Mass was conducted at St. Andrew’s church Kowloon which was built and paid for by the most successful Armenian China has ever seen, Sir Paul Chater. I’m sure you do not mean to belittle Archibishop Baliozian’s Mass of 2005 but your headline does sideline him and his representation of the Catholicos at that occasion. Very few of you, if any were in China in 2005 and if you were you would know that the service you held in Guangzhou last week was the first one held in 9 years, not decades.

    Karen Mkrtchyan.
    New Delhi, India

    • “Dear Karen – thank you for your comment. Just to clarify, this was indeed the first Armenian Mass in Mainland China for many decades. Hong Kong, which is also where the Mass you mentioned took place, regularly has Armenian Mass celebrated. However, holding Mass in Mainland China is very different than in Hong Kong for reasons that I am sure you are familiar with, thus the significant nature of this event. The community actually opened an Armenian Centre in Hong Kong in 2013 with the presence of His Holiness Karekin II. Armenian Mass as well as many other Armenian events, including in relation to Sir Paul Chater, are regularly held there. Although the community has been growing tremendously in recent years (with around 500 Armenians now across China), many of us have been living in China for longer, including myself since 1984 in Hong Kong and for the last 7 years in China. You can find out more about the community and the various activities organized on the Armenian Community in China website: or on our Facebook group””

  6. Thank you, Vahe. I had actually spotted Khatchig immediately, knowing that he probably had played a significant role in bringing the community together for the first time in a decade. I meant to write, ” I was hoping to see Khatchig in the picture, and I did!”

    More than ever, the voice of the Diaspora needs to be loud and clear…that we embrace our faith and heritage no matter where we live, and how few our numbers are.
    December 14, 2014 will remain a special day for the Armenians in China. A heartfelt thank you to all the organizers.

  7. Mr Mkrtchyan,

    Clearly the headline is referring to The People’s Republic Of China, aka Mainland China.

    Of course no one is belittling anyone, nor are they ignorant of activities in Hong Kong. The Catholicos Karekin II himself attended the opening of the Jack & Julie Maxian Hong Kong Armenian Centre in Kowloon just one year before. Many of us living here in HK have been here for many years if not decades. Clearly this event was different and special.

    Regardless of the tone of your comment, I’m sure you aren’t trying to belittle the significance of what by all accounts was the first Armenian Badarak ever held in the PRC since it was established in 1949.

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