Skip to comments.Christianity arrives in China 550 years earlier: new evidence
Posted on 08/21/2002 8:23:50 PM PDT by nickcarraway
NANJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- A Chinese scholar has recently discovered a clutch of Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) stone carvings in east China's Jiangsu Province that suggest Christianity entered China some 500 years earlier than it was thought previously.
Wang Weifan, a theologist and member of the China Christian Council, said his study of the stones kept in a museum in Xuzhou city showed some dated back to the year AD 86. Genesis stories and early Christian artistic designs could be seen on the stones, he added.
Before Wang's research, the accepted theory was that Christianity arrived in China in the early Tang Dynasty (618-907).
A few scholars once suggested that Christianity arrived in China in the Eastern Han Dynasty, but no written evidence has been offered.
One by one, Wang, 74, compared the Bible stories with the designs of the carvings, which he said described Christian stories about "the Creation of the world" and "Eve being tricked by the serpent".
The design in one carving shows the sun, moon, living creatures in the seas, birds of heaven, wild animals and reptiles -- images Wang linked to the Bible's "Creation of the world" story.
In another carving a woman takes fruit from "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" and a snake bites her right sleeve. It also shows the angel sent by God to guard the tree.
"It's similar to the 'Eve tricked by the serpent' story in the Bible," Wang said.
Wang noted that the designs also illustrated the artistic style of early Christianity in the Middle East.
Some of the carvings have decorative designs of the Arabic number 8, formed by two rare animals crossing their necks. Wang said that was almost the same as designs on Uruk oval seals found in the Euphrates River and Tigris River valleys in the Middle East.
Stone carvings were major funeral objects in tombs of the Han Dynasty (BC206-AD220), when cultural exchanges between East and West flourished along the ancient Silk Road, according to Ma Huanli, member of China's Han stone carvings research society.
Consequently, those carvings might record a lot of information about religion and theology during that period, Ma said.
There are three theories about the arrival of Christianity in China: it was brought by Christians fleeing Roman persecution during the Eastern Han Dynasty, by two Syrian missionaries also during the Eastern Han Dynasty, or it arrived in China during the Three-Kingdom period (220-280).
Two strong pieces of evidence support the last hypothesis; a Roman book written in 300 which claims that Christianity was already spreading in China at that time, and the excavation of an iron cross in east China's Jiangxi Province with inscriptions showing it was cast between 238 and 250.
"Available history records are too scant to reach any definite conclusions," said professor Xu Rulei, former deputy director withthe Religious Studies Institute at Nanjing University. "But there are signs indicating that Christianity may have been introduced toChina in the Eastern Han Dynasty."
The Cross was already in use by the mystery religions before the time of Christ. It symbolized nearly the same thing before as after.
This has been known for a while. But it poses some problems for the ChiComs.
Christianity already poses problems for them, just as Fulan Gong does. Catholicism in China is as dangerous to the gov't as it was in Poland.
I'm thinking they're trying to do the same thing with Christians as they're trying to do with the Buddhists in Tibet: to put their own guys in, and thereby create a tame church.
The value of stories like this is to suggest a separate, and uniquely Chinese, Christian tradition, which opens the way for the ChiComs to try to drive a wedge between "Chinese" and "Western" Christianity.
I don't know. There is an amulet, a little medallion that is a crucifix, --cross, inscription, and a body being crucified. It's classical, probably pre-Christian 200-300 BC, and the one on the cross is not Jesus, but Dionysus. I haven't seen the amulet itself, but a photograph. It's the kind of thing that wouldn't have survived the Inquisition if they had found it.
I wasn't aware that any Christian symbols besides the swastika were in use prior to Christ's coming. I'll have something to look for over the weekend.
Wouldn't be at all surprising. Alexander reached India, modern day Pakistan, before turning back. There is a reference to India in the Aenead.
Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius sent his emissary to Han emperor. Han emperor also sent his to Rome.
Reading it right now, VERY interesting!
I'm reading about that right now. When I return from lunch, I'll look it up in the book ,The Tarim Mummies, Victor Mair/J.P. Mallory. The Han Chinese are the ones who drove the Caucasians (2,000BC)in east China all the way back to Bactria
What problem does this pose?
I was reading somewhere that the reason the Chinese are putting so much pressure on Tibet is because of the muslim element there and that they do not want at their back door what visited us on September 11.
This seems to make sense when you look at the countries that boarder China to the west.
The situation in Tibet probably has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with security.
But, I think you are correct they want a tame church.
What I'm referring to is some shenanigans that have been going on there with regard to installing "their boys" in important Buddhist positions. For example, in 1995 the Dalai Lama and Chinese government recognized different boys as the true Panchen Lama. (See the links for more detail on the political parts.)
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