The Nestorian Inscription at Xian Fu
Stela dated 781. It contains a summary of some principal
Christian doctrines written by the Nestorian monk
Jingjing, followed by
an historical account of how the Church of the East
mission led by Alopen had
reached China a generation earlier. Most of the
inscription is in classical Chinese, but a portion is
The stela was apparently buried, perhaps to avoid
destruction during the anti-Nestorian persecution
under Empress Wu. It was accidentally
re-discovered sometime around
1625, and although there was initially some suspicion of
its being a Jesuit forgery, its authenticity has been
almost universally accepted since the early XX Century.
The text of
the inscription is the most famous of the
"Jesus Sutras", expressions of Christian, albeit
usually Nestorian, theology in Chinese.
Interestingly, a copy of the stela is among the spiritual
treasures in the mountaintop temple of the Shingon
sect of Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism,
a group which shows other signs
of Christian influence as well. The date and origin of this
Japanese copy are not known to me.
Norman Hugh Redington
Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.
- Ian Gillman and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit:
The Monument at Sian-Fu,
Christians in Asia before 1500
(University of Michigan, 1999): 271.
Heavily dependent on Saeki infra.
- Frits Holm:
My Nestorian Adventure in China, (1924).
Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias, 2001.
Holm led a 1907 expedition to Xian to study
and copy the stela (and in intention to remove it to the West).
This book narrates his experiences.
- P. Yoshiro Saeki:
The Nestorian Monument in China, (1915).
London: SPCK, 1915.
Copy of Nestorian Stone,
Mt. Koya, Japan.
Photograph. The characterisation
in the caption of
Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon, as an
advocate of "Christianized Buddhism"
is debatable. Similar material about the
Mt. Koya stone may be found on the
Internet, often at sites which claim the
Japanese Hatas were Central Asian Nestorian
immigrants. In some cases, there seems to be
some sort of connexion
with certain nationalistic Japanese "new religions"
which teach that the Japanese are
lost Israelites, that Christ lived in Japan,
and the like.
Inscription of the Nestorian Monument.
Translated by A. Wylie.
The Open Court (23): 35 (1909).
--- Sacred Texts
A Monument commemorating the Propagation
of the Ta-ch'in Luminous Religion in the
Translation and commentary form
Chapters 1 and 2 of
The Nestorian Documents and Relics in China
by P. Yoshiro Saeki,
(Tokyo: Maruzen, 1951).
The Way of Light --- The Stone's Teaching.
This recent translation goes out of its way to
sound different from standard Christianity, so
as to appeal to a certain kind of Western reader.
Chapter 8 of
The Jesus Sutras by Martin Palmer,
(New York: Ballantine, 2001).
Return to St Pachomius Library.