History and Geography
Chapter 5 In China under the Tang (635–845) and the Mongols (1206–1368)
In China under the Tang (635–845) and the Mongols (1206–1368)
First Arrival in 635
Very far from the eastern frontiers of Persia and beyond the territories of the Turco-Mongol tribes of Central Asia, the missionaries of the Church of East, monks and priests, penetrated still further eastwards until they reached the great empire of China. In 635 they arrived at the capital Chang’an (today called Xi’an). Chang’an was then a cosmopolitan city situated at the crossroads of important routes and at the eastern terminal of the Silk Road. Indeed, the history of the Church of the East can be traced in two periods: under the Tang dynasty (in 635–845), and then during the time of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China (in 1271–1368). These fascinating pages of Church history, even though often ignored by many Christians, reveal that missionaries of the Church of the East were the first Christians known to have arrived in China as early as the seventh century, almost a millennium before the organization of the first Catholic missions.
It is thanks to the stele of Xi’an that we know that a monk of the Church of the East, Alopen, arrived in China in 635, in the time of the patriarch Ishoyahb II (628–45) and during the reign of Taizong (626–49), the second emperor of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The empire of the Tang was at that time the greatest...
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