The oil painting hanging in one of the alcoves of Beijing's St Saviour, or Beitang - meaning North Church - has courted controversy since it appeared six years ago. Painted by a Chinese Christian artist living in Macau, the Madonna and child are dressed in elaborately embroidered Manchu imperial regalia. When the painting was first exhibited, some Christians, more familiar with European-style depictions of the deity, had difficulty accepting it. For some, the Manchu 'mother of the emperor' reminded them of Empress Dowager Cixi, who was known for her taste for luxury and manipulative ways. Cultural acceptance of the Christian image is a difficult task. Missionaries who have promoted Chinese art and architectural styles have had mixed reactions, said Father Gianni Criveller of the Holy Spirit Centre in Hong Kong. 'For traditional Chinese Christians, they think the mother of Jesus, who is not Chinese, should not be artificially cast as Chinese. But a growing number of Christians are trying to harmonise their cultural legacy and the Christian faith. The two identities can be found in this painting,' he said. Sister Mary Agnes Bao, who was overseeing the decoration of the nativity scene at the church, said finding the right representation of the Christian image should be a continuing effort for Chinese Catholic artists. 'A spiritual dimension is not there in the imperial sumptuousness,' she said, referring to the elaborate robes. 'We hope a Chinese artist can one day create an inspired masterpiece like those by Michelangelo and Raphael.'