An abandoned Imperial Russian church in Xita.
Christ the Savior Russian Military Church | Shenyang Travel Guide
In Shenyang’s Xita neighborhood, on the far side of a garbage-strewn urban parking lot, lined one one side with disused brick smokestacks and another by an abandoned Communist Party School, you’ll find a structure out of both time and place — an abandoned Russian Orthodox Chapel. This is Christ the Savior Russian Military Church (沙俄东正教堂), built in 1911-12 on the command of Nicholas II, the last of Imperial Russia’s Tsars.
Christ the Savior was built to commemorate Russian war dead in Battle of Mukden (1905) during the Russo-Japanese War and, despite falling into disuse, has surprisingly survived the tumults of 20th century and the break-neck development of the 21st century in China. The Orthodox Fellowship of China maintains a webpage including numerous early photographs of the church.
In 1945, the site was converted into a Soviet military cemetery, which was later moved to the Korean War Martyrs’ Cemetery to the north of the city in 1995. Today the church forms part of a wall dividing two properties and is only accessible from one side.
The church’s structure is octagonal in shape and made of granite with a plated steel roof, said to represent the armor of a medieval Slavic warrior. The church’s spire is in the shape of a Slavic helmet. A Russian military Cross of St George previously rested was atop the church but has now been lost. The cruciform windows have been filled in with brick and rebar.
With a weathered look, a damaged roof, and rusted metal barring the former windows, the church haunted gothic ambiance. Set among among the modern city, this is one of the stranger sights you will see in China.
If you are in Xita neighborhood — Shenyang’s Koreatown — it is worth stopping by the church to see this bit of unique history amid today’s city. Christ the Savoir church is just a few minutes walk from the local Korean outdoor market and there are great Korean restaurants in the area operated by Korean Chinese, North Koreans, and South Koreans.
There is another Russo-Japanese War Russian cemetery near Dandong, the Chinese city located on the China-North Korean border. Dandong is a one and a half hours south of Shenyang by fast train.
The city of Shenyang in northeast China is a possible departure point for travel to North Korea on a custom independent tour. There are two flights a week (Saturdays and Wednesday) between Shenyang and Pyongyang as well as daily train connections via Dandong.