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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Early Christians in China

At this evening's meal, Bro. Juniper gave us further details on the early Christians in China, from which the Jesus Sutras were found. The following is from a speech presented to the Asian Society in Hong Kong (2001) by Martin Palmer, who 'rediscovered' the north-central China Daqin Pagoda.

"Let me summarize what we have. We have a site, which according to Chinese contemporary documents was built in 650 AD, the second church to be built in China. It is the only surviving one and thus the oldest surviving Church site. We have statues in a pagoda built in 781 AD and the statues have been tentatively dated to 800 AD. We have Syriac graffiti and a site orientated east to west. In other words, we have the most important Christian antiquarian site in China. What is more, we have this church and pagoda, this monastery, built within the sacred compound of the huge Lou Guan Tai Taoist complex. This was the Imperial Temple of the Tang dynasty and here the Christians were allowed to build a church. Indeed the Emperor must have given them the site. It is as if the Hare Krishnas were given a site beside Canterbury Cathedral, or the Muslims were allowed to build a mosque in the grounds of the White House. It shows that the Church, far from being one amongst a number of strange western religions in Tang dynasty China, had a special place. This has revolutionised our understanding of the Church in China."

Bro. Juniper noted that Lou Guan Tai is the traditional site of Lao Tze's composition of the Tao Te Ching.

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