The Attaché at Peking London: 1900, pp 210-213
[pinyin used in this internet edition]

First Visit by a British Diplomat to the Russian Mission

I went a few days ago, for the first time, to visit the Russian missionary establishment (the head of which is the Archimandrite Palladius), in the north-east corner of the Tartar city. It is surrounded by a large open space; the air is fresh; there is no dust, and above all there is immediate egress into the country without having to cross miles of filthy streets. It is such a pity that the Legations were not established up there in 1861. The mission consists of three priests besides the chief; there is a day-school for twenty-four children, whose parents are all Christians; indeed, the Archimandrite told me that the neighbouring population were almost all converts. The Russians have altogether a large congregation here, an important element in which are the Albazines.

The Albazines were originally a small colony of Russian labourers, who settled at the little town of Albazin on the Amoor. In the time of Alexis, father of Peter the Great, the Chinese made war upon this little colony, and after a desperate resistance on their part, which lasted about two years, conquered them and took prisoners those whom they did not kill. On account of the great bravery which they had shown, the survivors were carried to Beijing and made to serve as soldiers. Here they have lived to the present time, having become Chinese in everything save in the matter of their religion, which they have faithfully preserved. From father to son they have been forced to serve as soldiers, and allowed to select no other career. It is only recently that a decree has been issued emancipating them from this rule, and permitting them to follow trade, labour, or letters. There are probably not more than ten or fifteen pure Albazine families left; but as they have intermarried freely with the Chinese and Christianised their women, they largely swell the Greek congregation. The carrying off of people on both frontiers has been an old standing quarrel between China and Russia. It was to settle questions of this sort that Peter the Great sent an embassy to the Emperor Kangxi.

This embassy was the foundation of the two Russian missions, that of the south being the present Legation, and that of the north the Church mission. The southern mission was used by the merchants of the caravans which used to arrive from Siberia once in three years, to transact business between the two countries; it has been recently rebuilt, all except the chapel, which dates from Peter's time, and which still bears the marks of an earthquake which occurred in the middle of the last century. The Archimandrite told me that when he first came to Beijing twenty-five years ago there was no more difficulty in holding intercourse with the people than there is at present.

The priests of the mission could not go beyond the Great Wall in one direction, nor as far as Tianjin in the other; but this was owing to the mandarins, who always were, and probably always will be, obstructive. The people were friendly enough; those who did not know them, seeing strangely dressed figures with fair beards and hair for the first time, took them for Manchu Tartars; so even now it often happens that we Europeans are taken for Mongols by the Chinese who have seen neither race.

A.B. Freeman-Mitford
Beijing, 3rdFebruary 1866