Success or Failure? Christianity in China
Xinzhong Yao examines the prospects for Christianity in China based on past performance.
As far as we know, the first contact between Christianity and China was not made until the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). According to the inscription of 1,780 Chinese characters on a stone tablet which dates 781 and was unearthed in 1623, the initiator of this contact was a Syrian Nestorian called A-lou-ben (Alopen). He, with a number of others, came from, or through, Persia and arrived at the Chinese capital in 635, and thus their churches were called Da Qin Si, or, mistakenly, the temples of Persia. Nestorian Christianity won support and toleration from the government, and its success earned it a Chinese name Jing Jiao, the Brilliant or Admirable Religion. As a religion from the West, Nestorianism was taken as a sect of Buddhism, and satisfied the curiosity as well as the religious pursuit of the Tang Chinese. It became popular in some areas for a reasonably long period until the ninth century when a major persecution of 'foreign religions' was carried out and Nestorianism was, partly due to their actual or alleged relation with Buddhism, swept away from central China.