lilang holy hill

Today is Grave Sweeping Day, so I thought I’d publish something about an historic cemetery–Holy Hill (圣山), which is located in Buji.

In the late 1840s, the Basel Mission first expanded their mission from British occupied Hong Kong into the Chinese mainland via Chinese evangelicals, who had been converted to Christianity in Hong Kong. These young men then returned to their native villages and converted their families and village relatives. By the early 1850s, European missionaries were also making the trip from Hong Kong Island into Xin’an County (Shenzhen’s name during the Ming and Qing dynasties). In 1852, the Basel Mission set up its headquarters at Buji, moving to the safer (if less accessible) Lilang after the Second Opium War (1856-1860). Known as “Lilong” in English Romanization, the Lilang Station was the headquarters of the Basel Mission for several decades until it moved to Wuhua.

Focusing its missionary work on Guangdong’s Hakka settlements, the Basel Mission established over two hundred stations, large and small. The most famous in present-day Shenzhen is the Longheu Girls’ School. However, there are other sites where one stumbles upon this history. Many of the city’s older Christian churches (基督教堂), for example, are descendants of this early mission, including the Christian Shenzhen Church (the city’s largest).

In present-day Lilang, “Holy Hill (圣山)” was the historical burial site for neighboring Hakka villages, who like their punti (m. bendi 本地) neighbors buried their dead on hills with favorable fengshui (geomancy 风水). After the conversion of these villages and establishment of the Lilong Mission Station, Holy Hill also became the cemetery for missionaries who died in the area. The cemetery was redistricted as a themed park circa 2014. The main entrance to the park, for example, is a shaded public area in the shape of Noah’s ark. Today, there are over two hundred graves in the park, including 20+ foreigner graves. The park itself is comprises a mountain trail that weaves through trees and underbrush, bringing visitors to an unused church building and clusters of gravestones. The park abuts the Shenzhen #3 Hospital and the Buji Church. Impressions of a recent walk, below:

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