Biblical Theology and the Church in Syria
Biblical Fragments from the Christian Library of Turfan, an Eastern Outpost of the Antiochian Tradition
• MARK DICKENS •
Biblical Fragments from the Christian Library of Turfan,an Eastern Outpost of the Antiochian Tradition
The modern-day city of Turfan (or Turpan), is located at 42˚52’ N, 89˚12’ E, approximately 160 km SE of Urumchi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China, which is in turn bounded to the north by Mongolia, to the south by Tibet and to the west by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Situated on the northern perimeter of the Tarim Basin and the Taklamakan Desert, the Turfan Oasis was an important staging post at the junction of two branches of the trade route now called the Silk Road which criss-crossed Central Asia, linking the Chinese Empire to the east and the Persian, Byzantine and later Arab Empires to the west.
As a result, Turfan also played a key role in the political, cultural and religious history of the area, particularly amongst the Turkic peoples. After the rise and fall of the First and Second Türk Empires (552-630, 682-742) in what is now Mongolia, the Turkic Uyghurs established their own Uyghur Empire in 744, also centred in Mongolia. They in turn were toppled by the Kyrgyz in 840 and the Uyghurs scattered, fleeing south to form several smaller states.
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