Archimandrite Ilarion (Lezhaisky) was a missionary priest of the Russian Orthodox Church who was the leader in the early eighteenth century of the first mission of the Russian Orthodox Church to Beijing, China.
Following the capture of fort Albazin on the Amur River in 1685, a group of Albazin cossacks were invited to Beijing by the Chinese emperor. The group included a Russian Orthodox priest, Maxim Leontiev, who served the Albazins in Beijing and provided an informal representation for the Russian tsar. Fr. Maxim died c. 1712. During the 1710s, an agreement was reached between the imperial governments of Russia and China to continue Russian Orthodox representation in Beijing. This representation came in the form of the Russian Orthodox Mission in China that was located in the Albazin encampment in Beijing. The first mission team was led by Arch. Ilarion Lezhaisky.
Little is known of Ilarion’s life. He was born in 1657 in Chernigov and attended the Kiev Theological Seminary. Subsequently, he was assigned abbot to the monastery in Yakutsk in Russian Siberia. Arch. Ilarion was selected to lead the mission delegation in what was the first of twenty heads of mission assigned to the Russian Orthodox Mission in Beijing.
In 1714, Metropolitan John of Tobolsk and All Siberia assembled the mission team led by Arch. Ilarion and sent them on to Beijing, China. Arch. Ilarion arrived in Beijing in April 1715, accompanied by a priest, a deacon, and other staff members. The party was welcomed by the Chinese and provided with quarters so that Arch. Ilarion was able to conduct religious services.
The period of Arch. Ilarion’s leadership of the first mission in Beijing was short. He died in 1717, possibly on October 14. The remaining four members of his missionary team continued the work of the mission until the second team, led by Arch. Antony (Platkovsky), arrived in 1729.