Amazing Discovery in China Changes Christian History in Asia
A recent discovery - according to the local is `old news` near the city of
Sian, in Central China has dramatically changed the historical record of
China and Asia.
Asia with China and Japan in particular are thought of as predominately
Buddhist areas. The record of the Church is very limited throughout Asia
with the exception of The Philippines and Korea.
As amazing as it may seem the oldest Christian site in Asia has been
discovered dating back to 638 AD. The site which is near the ancient Chinese
capital of Sian has shattered previous understanding of the role of
Christianity in China, Japan and Asia.
The Nestorian Monument, a stone tablet in the city of Sian which was
discovered in the 1600s was the only testimony to Christianity in China.
What was always a puzzle was that it clearly stated that `monasteries abound
in a hundred cities`. This monument which is often called the `Rosetta
Stone` of Christianity in Asia was the only proof of this past.
The discovery of the Christian site has dramatically changed all this. The
Church is in the center of the Imperial area of the Tang Dynasty and its
location is what is particularly bringing amazement to experts on the Silk
Road. With the Church in the center of the imperial area it confirms for the
first time the stories that have long been passed down and appear
frequently in Chinese narratives which tell of a major Church in China in
the Tang Dynasty from 618-877.
According to The Cross and The Lotus by Lee Shiu Keung in 635, Bishop Alopen
from The Church of the East began his mission in Chang Ang, present day
Sian. Christianity had first come to China in the year 64 when the Apostl Thomas came to Sian, China from India where he had come in the year 52. Other believers are believed to have brought the gospel on to Japan by the year 70 AD.
The Church had lost contact with the rest of the world through the cutting off of the Silk Road by the people of Turkestan and the restoration of the links brought great joy and strength to the Church in China, Japan and the rest of Asia as contact was once more restored with the rest of the Church.
In 630, however the Silk Road was restored and travel between the East and
the West resumed. The Tang Dynasty was a very special period in Chinese
history where there was a broad policy of tolerance and interest in
fostering foreign religions., In 638 Alopen completed the first Christian
book in Chinese The Sutra of Jesus the Messiah.
In this book it was carefully argued that Christianity was part of China's
ancient tradition. In appreciation for the good of the Eastern Christians an
Imperial Degree was proclaimed that provided for the first building of a
Church. Later on The Church of the East was favored by another Imperial
degree and Alopen was promoted to be Great Spiritual Lord, Protector of the
Empire, Metropolitan of Chang An.
The Church encountered ups and downs but following a period of persecution
falling the fall of the Tang Dynasty grew again in the 13th and 14th
Centuries and were again so respected by the Emperor that according to the
ancient Chinese document the Yuan Shi, Chapter 89, the Governor appointed a
special officer to take charge of the affairs of the Church of the East with
the second high-test rank in China.
This office was solely to manage the affairs of the many bishops, priests,
monks and to see that ll the sacraments were carefully observed. According
to the Yuan Shi there were 72 Church of the East monasteries during the
period 1289 to 1320 not to meniton the multitude of churches and believers.