Chinese court and remained at court for six years until their death. During their stay there, they left a writing and Jesus’ logia. The latter, again, is a description that is very close to that of the primitive Semitic Matthew in 2nd-c. Christian tradition. Sure evidence of Christianity in China, however, emerges only in the 7th c. The gap between the 3rd and the 7th c. might be explained by the obstacle posed by the Sassanids in Persia meanwhile, and by the closure of the trade rout through Turkestan. Christians in China could not keep in contact with the Syriac church, which very probably was the mother church of Chinese Christianity. This is manifest in the 7th c.: the evidence for Christianity in China comes from the Eastern Syrian Church, traditionally but infelicitously called Nestorian. It is probable that it depended on the patriarch of SeleuciaCtesiphon, the so-called catholicos. A three-meter stone slab, improperly known as Nestorian Stele, discovered in 1625 and now kept in the Provincial Museum of Xi’an, was erected in the capital of the Tang empire, Chang’an the ancient name of Xi’an, in AD 781. It bears a bilingual inscription, in Chinese and Syriac, titled Memorial of the spread of the Luminous Religion Jing Jiao, the Chinese name for Christianity coming from Syria into China, which describes how Christianity spread and flourished throughout China in the 7th and 8th c. In AD 635, under the patriarchate of catholicos Yeshuyab II, after the Tang had conquered Turkestan, thus opening again the old trade route to the West, the Eastern Syrian monk Alopen headed a Christian mission that reached the Tang capital. The inscription lists the names of a great deal of Persian Eastern Syrian missionaries and includes a compendium of the doctrines of the Syriac church. This shows that the Syriac church of the East was the mother church of Chinese Christianity. The emperor T’ai-tsung, or Taizong 627 649, studied the Christian Scriptures that Alopen had brought, realizing their propriety and truth and specifically ordered their preaching and transmission. He wanted them translated into Chinese; he deemed Christianity excellent, vivifying, and indispensable, and allowed its diffusion in China. The stele reads as follows: The Persian monk Alopen, bringing a scriptural religion, has come to present it in our capital city. If one studies the meaning of his religion, it is mysterious, wonderful, immediate, producing understanding, establishing essentials, for the salvation of creatures and the benefit of humanity. It ought to spread throughout the empire. A church and a monastery were built in Chang’an at the expenses of the court. A portrait of the emperor in the church indicated that it was under imperial protection. The church is still mentioned in the Chronicle of Chang’an in 1076, when it probably still existed. Many manuscripts discovered in northwestern China speak of Christianity in China in the 7th and 8th centuries. In one of these, stemming from ca. 800, is a hymn addressed to the Christian Trinity. After the Arabs invaded Persia in 636, many Persians of high rank, even the emperor, fled to China. Christian missionaries from the eastern Syrian church accompanied Arab embassies to China on Arab sea and trade routes as interpreters and advisers.
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