West Goes East: Nestorianism in China

Nestorian Monument

Nestorian Christians were active in China probably as early as the 6th century. Early in the T’ang Dynasty, the conquering of Turkestan allowed freer travel between Persia and the far East. This opened the door for Nestorian missionaries—though silkworm eggs had been brought to Constantinople from China by Nestorian monks in 551, indicating that some contact had already been made.

The earliest physical evidence of this mission is the famous Nestorian Monument discovered in northern city of Hsingan-fu around 1625. Inscriptions written on the black marble monument speak of the Syrian bishop Olopun (Abraham?) arriving from Persia in 635. Syrian monks produced a book for the Chinese mission, The Sutra of Jesus the Messiah, which was an adaptation of the scriptures.

Nestorianism gained a surprising number of followers and acceptance, but the combination of the persecutions following the collapse of the T’ang Dynasty, and the cutting off from the nexus of Christianity in the West by the followers of Mohammad, ultimately spelled doom for the group.

There is a great collection of links on the Nestorians here.

» Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 | Permanent Link