Show Less
Restricted access

The Assyrian Church of the East

History and Geography

Christine Chaillot

The cradle of the Church of the East was in Mesopotamia (between the Tigris and the Euphrates), where it developed its first centre at Seleucia-Ctesiphon, then the capital of the great Persian Empire and today an archaeological site to the south of Baghdad. From the very beginnings of Christianity until the fourteenth century, this Church experienced a remarkable expansion in Asia, its missionaries carrying the Gospel from Persia to India, via the Persian Gulf, and even as far as China. The Church of the East reached China as early as the seventh century via Central Asia and the celebrated Silk Road that linked China to the Mediterranean world. Much later, in the late fourteenth century, the invasions of the Mongol conqueror, Timur Lang (Tamerlane), across Asia brought about a great decline of the Church of the East. Eventually, after the genocide suffered by Christians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, and the massacres that followed in Persia, the Church of the East and its people were on the verge of extinction. In 1940 the patriarchal seat was moved to Chicago (in the United States) and then in September 2015 to Erbil (in northern Iraq). Many of the faithful have left the Middle East and have formed diaspora communities throughout the world. The history of Christianity in the Middle East and well beyond, in Central and Eastern Asia, is very little known. In this book, the reader is invited to travel in time and space and undertake the fascinating discovery of a very ancient apostolic Church, the Church of the East, whose two-thousand year history constitutes an indispensable chapter in the history of the universal Church.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 5 In China under the Tang (635–845) and the Mongols (1206–1368)

Extract

CHAPTER 5

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...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.