10 September 2008

Christianity popular in Tang Dynasty

Latest research on a tombstone dating back to the ninth century showed Christianity had most probably been popular among Tang Dynasty (618-907) civilians, Chinese archaeologists said.

The incomplete damaged eight-surface tombstone, unearthed in Luoyang City, central Henan Province, in 2006, had scriptures of the Jingjiao, or Nestorian Church, and pictures of crosses, according to Luo Zhao, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences religious researcher.

"To be exact, the Christian text was a China-proper ontological thesis about the Christian theology written by a prelate who had been long living in China in the late eighth century."

Luo said it was the first time to discover such tombstones engraved with Jingjiao scriptures. Tombstones engraved with Buddhist texts were common in the Tang Dynasty.

The significance of the finding is believed by Chinese archaeologists to be nothing less than that of the Jingjiao stone tablet unearthed in 1623 in the Tang capital Xi'an. The tablet, engraved in 781, revealed for the first time the spreading of the religion in half a century after it came to China via the Silk Road, a trade route linking China with Asian and European nations.

"Who would imagine that Chinese Christians had already engraved the lections onto the tombstones in funeral rituals to bless the soul of the dead? " asked Lin Wushu, a Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University professor who has devoted himself to the Jingjiao studies.

Apart from the religious activities of the An family, the tombstone also revealed such important information as the churches and groups of believers at that time, according to the academic.
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