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Cathedral in Harbin is architectural heritage

BEIJING (AsiaNews): The Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sophia in Harbin has been included in the first edition of the 20th century Chinese architectural heritage list along with 97 other sites.

The China Cultural Relic Association and the Architectural Society of China issued the list on September 29, the Heilongjiang Daily reported. Other landmarks include the Great Hall of the People, the Shanghai Park Hotel and the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge.

Experts say that what is particular about this list is that the chosen monuments have all witnessed important turning points in 20th century Chinese history, representing the historical context of China’s social development and architecture of the last century.

The Russian-style cathedral of St. Sophia was built out of timber in March 1907 as part of a plan to reconsolidate the confidence of the Russian No.4 Army Division with an imposing spiritual symbol.

The 53.3-metre-high cathedral is the perfect example of Neo-Byzantine architecture. Under the bright sun, the church and the square resemble the famous Red Square in Moscow.

In 1996, the building was listed as a national cultural heritage site. A year later, the municipal government repaired and renovated the cathedral and its surrounding environment prior to granting it landmark status.

About 13,000 Orthodox Christians live in China, mostly in Heilongjiang, Harbin, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

In 2013, Patriarch Kirill, from Moscow, was received for the first time by a president of China, when he met with Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People.

In 2015, for the first time in 60 years, the People’s Republic authorised the ordination of Chinese as Orthodox priests.

In the meeting with the patriarch, Xi praised the role of “culture, traditions and the moral factor in shaping the lives of people and individuals.”

Harbin cathedral is not only a prestigious religious symbol for the Orthodox Church in China, but also has political importance as a symbol of Sino-Russian relations.

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