Thursday, October 15, 2009

China | Shaanxi | Xian | Nestorian Stele

I have a big stack of books I have been dipping into, but when my mind wearies and I need a little light reading I turn to The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died (also Kindle Edition). Although not a Christian myself, I do find the advance of Nestorian Christianity into Asia via the Silk Road fascinating from an historical point of view. A few years ago I wandered down to Xian, the Eastern Terminous of the Silk Road, specifically to see the famous Nestorian Stele on display in the city’s Belian Museum.

Grounds of the Belian Museum
Erected in 781 AD, the stele gives a brief description of the introduction of Nestorian Christianity into China in the 8th Century.

At the top of stele is a Nestorian Cross; beneath the cross is the heading “Memorial of the Propagation in China of the Luminous Religion from Daqin”. Beneath the heading—not really visible in the photo—is The History Itself in 1,756 Chinese characters plus a few lines in the Syriac language.

Christianity, along with Islam, was one of the many imports that trodded eastward on the Silk Road. For more on this see the wonderfully informative Religions of the Silk Road. Also see The Great Mosque in Xian.

Of course there is much else in the Belian Museum, including many swoon-inducing Buddhist art works. Here are just two samples:

A Tang Dynasty Buddha

A Tang Dynasty rendering of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, unearthed in Xian in 1952.