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statesman (died 648), receiving permission to

The decree of 638 is then quoted, except that
it is slightly amplified, that the words " Ta-ts'in
State Great Virtue" are substituted for "Persian
bonze," ^ and the words "scripture and images"
for "scripture cult." It is added that the
Emperor sent his portrait to be hung up in the
new monastery. The scribe cites some facts from
ancient and contemporary history in connection
with the position of Ta-ts'in, and ingeniously
works in interpretations of passages five hundred
years old, so as to leave the impression that
Nestorianism (dates from 431) was in vogue then,

^ In 745 the then reigning emperor had issued a decree explaining
that it had been pointed out to him how Ta-ts'in, and not Persia, was
the true place of origin, and ordering that in future the Nestorians
should receive the more correct appellation.


as also that the words "High Virtue" or "Great
Virtue" were used in the sense of "priest" before
A.D. lOO. He goes on to say that the next emperor
(649-683) created Alopen " Great Lord of the Law,
Protector of the State," and that the new rehgion was
preached in ten Chinese provinces. But the usurp-
ing dowager-empress (698-700) was unfortunately-
infatuated by the Buddhists, who committed certain
shameless acts ; in 712 a contemptible group of
literates made sport of true religion. Happily,
however, two noble priests from the West — one
a head- Buddhist, and the other a " Great Virtue "
named Kih-lieh — succeeded in remedying this sad
state of affairs. The emperor then reigning (712-
756) sent one of his generals (a eunuch, died 762)
to place portraits of the five preceding monarchs
in the temple. Two Buddhist priests and a Great
Virtue from Ta-ts'in were invited to take part, with
fourteen others, in an imperial function ; and in the
succeeding reign (756-762) five more monasteries
were sanctioned. The next emperor again (762-
779) always made a point of presenting incense
and food to the monastery at Christmas-time ; in
the period 779-805 great favour was shown to the
distinofuished bonze I-sz who had come to China
from Badaghis (near Herat), and had been with our
general (died 781) in his campaign against the
Ouigours (757-758) ; this man brought presents
of glass - ware and gold - embroidered tapestry.
Religion now flourished in China as it had never
flourished before, both in the old monasteries and


in the numerous new ones ; within the memories
of the West tah-so, there had never been such
a brilliant time ; but the white - habited king
(Nestorian) scholars are now in our midst, and it
is desirable to commemorate all these facts on
stone (dated 781).

Thus the celebrated Nestorian stone, which
shortly afterwards disappeared during troublous
times amongst the ruins of the city, and was not
rediscovered until the year 1623, itself informs us
with absolute precision what was the nature of the
Christianity introduced, and with what reception it
met in China over a course of one hundred and
fifty years. It will be noticed that no stress is
laid upon damnation, the sacraments, confession,
repentance, the sanctity of marriage rites, the
Immaculate Conception, the Crucifixion, Passion,
Resurrection, life everlasting, and many other
things inseparable from the belief of most
Christians of the present day. Of course it is
very possible that King-tsing, the author of the
inscription, endeavoured to compose a record which
would not shock Confucian prejudices more than
was absolutely necessary, and that he may have
deliberately chosen to state only half the truth,
leaving out all dogmas involving apparent de-
parture from the ordinary course of nature. It
is also likely that, as he was bound (in the absence
of any other ready-made phraseology) to draw upon
Taoist and Buddhist terms, he felt it prudent to avail
himself also of accepted Taoist and Buddhist ideas,


so far as they did not clash with his own teaching.
Even Manicheism is, or seems to be conciliated ;
for the " function " of 762 is described in three
words signifying "good works" {sui - kung - tek)
which twice appear in connection with the
Manichean functions and functionaries [kung-teh-
sht) of 843. Besides, the white garments of the
tah-so alluded to point to a uniformity with the
white caps and clothes of the Mani priests. All
the individuals named in the stone inscription are
historical. The generals who died in 762 and 781
respectively are as celebrated in Chinese history
as Belisarius and Narses are in Byzantine history.
The eminent statesman charged to welcome
Alopen in 635 had had a large part in establish-
ing the new T'ang dynasty in 618. Even the
name of the literary scribe King-tsing has been
found within the last few years in a Chinese
Buddhist book of date 800. It appears from this
book that King-tsing (whose real name was Adam)
was a Persian, and that in 786 he was engaged
with a Hindoo priest named Prajfia in translating
sUtras from the Hu lano-uagre into Chinese. But
the Hindoo knew neither Hu (Persian) nor T'ang
(Chinese), whilst Adam did not understand either
the fam ( Brahm, or the Sanskrit) language or the
Buddhist principles. The result was that the
Emperor ordered Adam to confine himself to the
Mi-shih-a (Messiah) religion, and Prajfia to the
sutras. All these marvellous discoveries would
possibly have remained sealed mysteries for ever


had it not been for the patience and ingenuity of
non-Chinese students, — chiefly French or Penin-
sular Jesuits, and Japanese Buddhists trained to
European ways of criticism. Even Kih-lieh has
been identified in an encyclopaedia of 1013 as a
"Great Virtue bonze" sent from Persia to China
in 732. The stone itself applies two separate
terms, High Virtue and Great Virtue, to Alopen ;
at first sight a distinction similar to that between
"Most" and "Very" Reverend might suggest
itself. But both terms are Taoist, and Laocius in
turn got them from the ancient "Book of Changes"
and Rites of Duke Chou, Even the name of
Laocius' Tao-teh or Way-Virtue (classic) comes
from the venerable "Book of Changes." Great
Virtue bonzes were sent to China from Central
India in 731, Kashmir in 'j'^^'i^, East India
in "ji"], Fuh-lin (Syria) in 719 and 742, and
Little Balti in 745 ; from which it is plain
that Buddhism and Nestorianism enjoyed this
"reverend" title promiscuously; and we have
seen that Adam, the Nestorian, could work as a
colleague with Prajfia the Buddhist. As to the
word tah-so, this seems to be the Persian tarsd,
"a Christian," another form of the word terzai
which has already been discussed.

Not the least interesting part of the Nestorian
inscription is the Syrian part, which has, of course,
been translated by competent specialists. The
very first Chinese words telling us that " Kino -
tsing composed this " are immediately followed by


the Syrian words signifying "Adam, priest, choir-
bishop and pope for Sinestan " (China). He signs
his name in the same Syrian terms at the end of
the inscription, dating it " time of the Patriarch
Hananjesu, CathoHc Lord, Chief over the Bishops."
Even this man has been identified by Renaudot
with Hananiechiiah, the Nestorian patriarch ; more-
over, the standard Chinese histories speak of the
Po-tO'lih (Patriarch), or King, of Fuh-Hn sending
a mission in 643. The Syrian date is : "In the
year 1092 of the Greeks, Jabezbujid, Bishop of
Kumdan (the Arab name for Si-an Fu), son of
MiHs of Balkh in Tokhara, set up this stone."
According to Monsig. Casartelli, the Bishop of
Salford, Yasdbocet is a well-known Mazd^an name
in Pehlvi form, meaning, " God hath deHvered."

It will now be convenient to turn back for a
moment and enquire how far the competing
religions — all four of which, it must be remembered,
had come from Transoxiana, and by the same
route — managed to hold their own against Taoism
and Confucianism. The first emperor (618-627)
of the T'ang dynasty was no sooner on the throne
than two of his leading statesmen held a disputa-
tion touching; the merits and demerits of Buddhism,
the particular moot-points being renunciation of
parentage, celibacy, and withdrawal from lay work
and subjection. One, named Fu Yih, said : —

" Buddha was of the Western Regions ; his
words were mischievous, and he was far away
from us. The Han dynasty had. unfortunately.

The AcbLunau sLonc, willi h)riuc inscription at foot.

{By permission of l\cv. A, CoLOMliiii., S.J.)

[To /ace p. 128.


caused the Hu books to be translated, and had
by this given a free vent to Buddha's false
pretences, thus causing disloyal persons to cut off
their hair, and to give a mere second place to their
prince and parents ; whilst, on the other hand,
idle vagabonds donned the cowl in order to avoid
the usual forced-labour service. They trump
up a system of three inferior transmigrations
and six conditions of sentient existence, thus
incitino' infatuated folk to q-q on a wild-o-oose
chase after virtue's reward. They fear no pro-
hibitory rules, and are always quite ready to break
the laws of their country."

The new Tantra Buddhist power of Tibet
was just then beginning to assail the Chinese
frontiers (623), and this fact may have added
to the alarm. It is evident that the corrupt
form of popular Taoism was now organised on
separatist principles too, for the result of the
Confucianist Fu Yih's denunciations was that the
executive was commanded to make a clean sweep
of all the bonzes, nuns, and Taoist priests in
the empire.

It appears that the supreme test which decided
the Emperor was the failure of a Western bonze
to "strike the Confucianist dead," as he boasted
he could do, by holy incantations : he himself
collapsed. Another test was the alleged inde-
structibility of Buddha's tooth, which, however,
was smashed with a piece of antelope horn. The
second emperor, who afterwards proved so liberal
to the Persian religions, in the year 627 even
ordered the execution of persons who should


clandestinely become priests or nuns. In the
absence of evidence, it is therefore permissible
to suppose that the favour shown to Manicheans
and Nestorians in 621, 631, and 635-8 was partly
in consequence of Fu Yih's campaign, for he died
in 639 at the age of eighty-five. On the
other hand, when the great Buddhist traveller
Hiian Chwang returned from the West in 656,
the Emperor gave him a right royal reception,
and himself wrote a preface to his book.

There was a strain of Tartar blood in the
early T'ang emperors on the maternal side.
Possibly this may account for the third monarch
having taken his father's concubine out of a
Buddhist nunnery to which, as a widow, she had
retired in 649. This Emperor is said to have
sent a number of foreign bonzes back to India,
and to have forbidden monks and nuns from
receiving religious adoration from their own parents.
A well-known statesman, travelling on circuit in the
year 683 in the River Yangtsze region, recom-
mended that the "heterodox places of worship"
there, numbering over 1700 in all, should be
destroyed ; but it is not on record that any of
these were of the Persian group, or that the
recommendation was actually carried out. It is
on record, however, that Great Virtue Bonzes
had (about 710) unauthorisedly established a
monastery at Ting Chou (between Peking and
T'ai-yiian Fu. The usurping dowager mentioned
in the Nestorian stone is none other than the


Buddhist nun, who, on the death of her second
husband, assumed the regency, and finally-
deposed her step-son : she then reigned
brilliantly, if corruptly, in her own name. This
strange woman soon fell under the scandalous
influence of Buddhist priests, one of whom at
least was suspected of something more than
spiritual intimacy. Another tried to persuade
her that she was the Buddhist Messiah, and that
through her divine person China now possessed
de jure the lordship of Djamba Dvipa (India,
Nepaul, etc). She built Buddhist monasteries
on a wholesale scale, squandered forced subscrip-
tions upon a gigantic image, and caused great
indignation amongst the Confucianists. The
statesman last referred to (died 700) remonstrated
very strongly, citing as a warning the two first
emperors of the Liang dynasty : the Dowager
had the good sense to accept his advice, and
stop further extravagances. Her foolish step-
son, on resuming the Throne in 705, issued
commands that every department in the empire
should have both a Buddhist and a Taoist temple ;
fresh bonzes and nuns appeared on every side,
and there was no end to the eleemosynary con-
tributions. It was remonstrated that srdmanira
were as unable to bear weapons as religious
buildings were to stave off the people's hunger.
Curiously enough, Bilga Khagan of the Northern
Turks was at that very time contemplating a
settled life, with towns, and Buddhist and Taoist


temples, after the Chinese fashion. His old
premier Tunyukuk strongly dissuaded his master
from changing the old free nomad habits ; " besides,
this temple business is meant to teach people kind-
ness and softness, and was never the way to make
war and get strong." This incidental remark
proves that since the time of T'apur Khagan
(572-581), who was converted by a kidnapped
sramana from North China, himself submitted
to the disciplines, and at last established a
monastery, religion had made no headway amongst
the Turks. The ancient Turkish custom was to
worship the Spirit of Heaven on the eighth of
the fifth moon. Their other customs, superstitions,
and relisfions were much the same as those of the
Hiung-nu, their ancestors. Moreover, bilingual
stones erected in honour of both Bilga Khan
and his minister Tunyukuk have been discovered
on the River Orkhon during the past twenty years,
an event leading to the resuscitation of the old
Turkish alphabet and language. Nothing is said
in these inscriptions of any religion or temple
except of the ancestral kind. One work of the
eighth century says the Turks in their worship
of the hien spirit have no temples or shrines, but
keep figures, fashioned out of felt, in skin bags :
they carry these with them for receiving sacrifice
at the four seasons, smearing them over with
unguent, and sometimes lashing them to a

Yet another prominent official sent up a


significant remonstrance. This was the governor
of T'ai-yiian Fu (in Shan Si) where, as we have
seen, in 807, Manichean temples were introduced.
But of course in the year 707 there were no such,
and therefore none are mentioned in the remon-
strance : —

" There are disorders on our frontiers, and
we are hard put to it for commissariat ; whilst,
on the other hand, the heavy expenditure on
Buddhist monasteries continues to be unbounded.
Our ancient princes (see Chapter I.) relied
solely upon economy, benevolence, and rectitude
for the establishment of a virtuous reputation.
But from the Tsin and Sung dynasties (see Chapter
IV.) onwards, people have vied with each
other in constructing pagodas and temples ; whilst,
on the other hand, anarchy and dethronements
have followed in wearisome succession ; all of
which results from lavishing the affections on
mistaken objects, to the utter misery of the people.
I think the funds collected for building should be
diverted to the purchase of warlike equipments. We
shall thus stay war's alarms for ever, and at the
same time make the people prosper. In what
better way than this could the ' loving commisera-
tion ' and ' universal sympathy ' attributed to
Buddha be shown?" And another: "Should
drought, flood, or Tartar nomads inflict disaster,
what good can Buddha do us, even if he be
willing ? "

In the year 714, notwithstanding, it is recorded
that princes and nobles vied with each other in
building monasteries and in taking holy orders :
rich families and sturdy knaves shaved the head


in order to evade the calls of public service. It
was represented that

" Buddhochinga was unable to preserve the
Hiung-nu dynasty, just as Kumarajiva failed to
keep alive the Tibetan (see Chapter IV.). Neither
the Liang empire in the south nor the Ts'i in
the north escaped disaster, in spite of their

It was a sramana from this same Ts'i who had
converted T'apur. The Emperor took this advice,
prohibited further building of monasteries, casting
of images, or copying of stitras ; 12,000 persons were
got rid of ; official families were forbidden to consort
with bonzes and nuns, and in future such persons
had to be certificated.^ According to the Nestorian
stone, this monarch (a Chinese Louis XV. in his
profligacy and in his bien-aim^ qualities) was equally
generous to Christians. He had to fly from his
capital ; for the recovery of his throne he was
largely indebted to the Ouigours, to whom
he had to give his own daughter in marriage ;
and it was thus that the Ouigour Manicheans
gained further influence in China. This Emperor's
successor, who erected five fresh Nestorian
monasteries, and sanctioned the buildingf of four
Manichean temples in Central China, " erected
a preaching platform in the inner palace, turned
the palace folk into saints ( Bodhisattva), and

1 The tu-tieh, or " salvation licenses," were only abolished by the
Manchu Emperor K'ien-lung about 120 years ago. The "Six Tu"
are the Paramita, or " ways of salvation."


his own guards into Vadjrapani ; the very-
ministers were called upon to do obeisance on
their knees,"

It would seem from the Nestorian stone that
Christians enjoyed a short innings of favour about
now. It was during the time (808-821) when the
Manicheans were taking a leading part in the
later Ouigour- Chinese marriage negotiations, that
the well-known Buddha's bone episode took place
at the Chinese metropolis. The archimandrite
{kung-teh-sh'i) of a certain neighbouring Buddhist
monastery had, previous to this, prevailed upon
the Emperor to honour one of Buddha's finger
bones which had, for a long time back, been
exhibited in the monastery once in every thirty
years, much to the advantage of the harvests and
the country's peace. It was now brought with
great solemnity to the capital ; the Emperor
himself went out to meet it, kept it for three
days in his private apartments, and sent it round
to each of the monasteries in turn. The celebrated
statesman Han Yii's masterly philippic upon this
piece of mummery is as well known in China as
Cicero's denunciation of Cataline is known all over
Europe. Han Yii was exiled to South China ; his
memory to this day is especially green at and near
the treaty port of Swatow. In the year 828 the
reigning emperor imagined he saw the image of a
saint in an oyster he was eating ; he therefore
issued a manifesto ordering that an image of
Avalokites'vara should be set up and worshipped


in every monastery in the empire. This led eleven
years later to the counting of bonzeries and
nunneries : there were 44,600 of the former
buildings, and 265,000 persons in the latter.
The destruction of the Manicheans in 843 seems
to have whetted the iconoclastic appetite of the
next emperor (brother of his predecessor). There
may have been more in it than a mere political
desire to get rid of Ouigour influence, for the
Emperor had a liking for Taoism ; at all events,
the Buddhists received even sterner measures.

" The Emperor, disgusted at the way in which
monks and nuns were wasting the substance of
the Empire, gave orders that two monasteries
should be allowed to remain in each of the
capitals — upper and eastern, — with an average
allotment of thirty bonzes for each ; and that each
military centre in the Empire should be allowed
one monastery ; the said monasteries to be grouped
in three grades, with an allotment of bonzes accord-
ingly ; and that all other bonzes, and all nuns,
should be constrained to revert to lay life. All
their real and personal property was confiscated
to the State ; the building material was utilised for
ymnens and post-stages. All copper images, bells,
and clappers were to be melted down for coin.
More than 4600 monasteries were thus destroyed,
whilst 260,500 monks and nuns reverted to lay
life. Several hundred thousand acres (English)
of excellent land were appropriated, including
150,000 male and female slaves."

It is uncertain whether any Nestorians were
involved in this trouble, but a work of the twelfth
century says : "In 845 the Emperor ordered the


Ta-ts'in muh-hu great hien and sixty others to revert
to lay capacity." It would be difficult to concoct
a more ambiguous sentence, for Ta-ts'in is Syria,
the Magi are Mazd^an, and "great" hien ("great"
is probably a misprint for "fire," which hieroglyph
closely resembles the other in Chinese) may refer
to the seventy Manichean nuns we know to have

Mention has already been made in this chapter
of Great Virtue bonzes being sent from India to
China; and under the head of "Roman Catholicism "
allusion will be made to the Malabar Rites question,
of 1606, and to Christian missions from Quilon at
just about the time when Mar Sarghiz was founding
churches in Chinkiang and Hangchow : in 1328 one
Jordanus was, in fact, made Bishop of Columbum
in those parts. All this may be lineally connected
with the Syro- Chaldean see of Ernaculam, which
was detached in 1896 and placed under Bishop
Parheparambil, who was this year (1905) on a visit
to Pope Pius X. At Puthenpally, within his vicariat,
he has a printing establishment, known as the Mar
Thoma Sliha Press, which name suggests a lineal
descent from St Thomas of Malabar. Since 1846
there has also been an independent Roman Catholic
(French) Bishop at Mysore, in which State there
are 15,000 native Christians. Careful local enquiry
is necessary in order to ascertain if there is any
history or trustworthy tradition linking these
Christians with the "Great Virtues" of a thousand
years ago. It seems that in 1596 the Archbishop

138 NESTORIANISM [chap. vi.

of Goa had already brought back the clergy and
people from the schism of the Syrians into unity
with the Church, but had left to them their
Chaldaean liturgy. However, in 1838 Pope
Gregory XVI. suppressed the Catholic see of
Cranganore, which had in 1605 replaced the
Syrian see of Angamala ; and in quite recent
times the Syrian Christians there have been sub-
ordinated to the Bishop of Verapoly (a Carmelite).



The religion which has taken firmest root has been the least described.
— Chinese Mussulmans a serious and virile class. — The story
begins with the conquest of Persia by the Arabs. — Embassy to
China from the Caliph Othman. — Chinese historical description
of the Arabs and Mohammed. — Refusal of the Arab envoy to
kneel except to Heaven. — Arab and Ouigour rivalry at the Chinese
court. — Attack upon Canton by sea-borne Arab and Persian
soldiers ; resulting possibility of there being early mosques at
Canton. — Strange silence on the part of Chinese historians. —
First Chinese mention of the only word meaning " Mussulmans."
— How a confusion arose in the terminology. — General sketch of
Mussulman doings during the Mongol dynasty. — General sketch
of Ouigour doings. — No reasonable ground to confuse the two. —
Disappearance of overt Islam from China during the Ming dynasty.
— Continues in vigour along the land and sea roads from Persia
to China. — Probable quiet infiltration of Islam into Yiin Nan and
Kan Suh. — Chinese lesson in tolerance to mediaeval Europe. —
Mussulmans under the Manchu dynasty. — Priestly caste of rulers
under Eleuth suzerainty gradually replaces the old Mongol rulers.
— Chinese conquest of the Mussulman states. — Reaction upon the
Mussulmans (Dungans) of Chinese race. — The Salar Mussulman
malcontents. — The Panthays of Yiin Nan. — Character of Chinese
Mussulmans in Manchuria and North China. — The mosques of
Canton. — Importation of Turkestan Mussulmans into Peking 150
years ago. Peking mosque and imperial dedication. — Extra-
ordinary imperial blunder about Ouigour 7ndni and Mussulman
mollas. — Alleged old mosques at Nanking and Si-an Fu. — General
sketch of the position of Mussulmans in China. — Comparison

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Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 10 of 23)