By 1681 the Chinese political attitudes to the Christian religion had softened a little. In 1680-81 Alvaro de Benevente O.S.A. of the Philippines Province arrived in China.
With his companion, Giovanni Nicola de Rivera O.S.A. he opened the first Augustinian house in China at Kan-chou (or Kaokingfu), and two years later in Nanshiung.
Benevente was made a bishop and placed at the head of the newly-created Vicariate of Kiang-si (1699), with his residence at Kan-chou.
Soon ten Augustinians served 23 mission churches and at least 7,000 converts to the Christian Faith. Benevente died suddenly at the Portuguese Augustinian priory (house) in Macao in 1705.
Because of their non-compliance with the so-called Chinese Rites prohibition, the apostolic legate ordered the Augustinians to leave China in 1708. They went to the house of the Portuguese Augustinians in Macao
Not until 1734 did another Spanish Augustinian enter China, where he served until his death in 1771.
At least five other Spanish friars entered China in the second half of the century, the last of them being Jose Segui O.S.A. (1773-1845), who went to the Kwangtung area soon after 1795.
The Augustinians had been absent from China in any organised way for sixty years, when in 1879 Spanish Augustinians were sent there by the Philippines Province.
This was made possible by the favourable way in which Pope Leo XIII
regarded and assisted the Order. Once again, the missionaries travelled from Manila: Elias Suarez O.S.A. and Agostino Villanueva O.S.A..
Suarez was appointed as the Vicar Apostolic of Chang-te and Hofu, near Li-chu in the north of the Hu-nan Province of China - right in the centre of China.
(Hunan touches the inland side of the coastal Guangdong Province that surrounds Hong Kong and Macao.)
The Hofu portion was later assigned to the Passionist Order, and in 1931 the Vicariate of Changde was again sectioned, and the Changte portion became the Diocese of Changde on 11th April 1946.
In 1910 the Augustinian mission had 24 members of the Order, two of whom were Chinese.
The mission comprised about 3,000 baptized Christians and 3,500 catechumens (candidates for membership) in a general population of 11 million.
By comparison, in 1891 there had been only 219 Christians and 11 catechumens, as well as 29 schools, with 420 children and 750 orphans.
(Continued on the next page.)