[St. Pachomius Library]

The Nestorian Inscription at Xian Fu

VIII Century
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 in Syriac.

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.


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