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Guangdong became the first stop for foreign missionaries to enter China Mainland because of its geographical location. In 1579, the Italian missionary Michele Ruggieri sailed on a Portuguese merchant ship to Macau. At that time, Guangzhou used to hold two market fairs a year, taking the advantage of which Ruggieri set foot in Guangzhou together with Portuguese merchants on one of those days.. Catholicism then took its root in Guangdong and spread northward. The Ming Dynasty took a skeptical and restrictive attitude on the foreign missionaries, such that in 1617, the Ming government banned the propagation of Catholicism, and suspended its activities in China.

At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the restriction on Catholicism was lifted and foreign missionaries imprisoned in Guangzhou prisons were released and were allowed to resume missionary work, which particulary promoted religion in the Lingnan area. After the first Opium War, the harsh Tianjin Treaty specified that the foreign missionaries could do missionary work freely on China Mainland. Hence, Catholic-sect missionaries from western countries increased markedly into Lingnan districts and penetrated into almost every county, and in thios way the spread of Catholicism in Southern China made great progress. 

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