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and sheep sacrificed to it." In another state, 230
miles south of Bamyan, there were "many lewd
worships. In the Ts'ung-ling (Hindoo Koosh)
Mountains there are some who obey the Spirit
of Heaven, with exceedingly showy forms, a
thousand worshippers appearing daily ; in front
of the shrine is the dorsal bone of a huge fish,
through which a cavalier can ride." A state which

word hien^ originally intended to mean "the Heaven Spirit (of the
Tartars)" that most of the ambiguities in the Persian religions
congregate. Even the above-mentioned "Fire Spirit" of Persia
is, in one of the histories of this period, written " Fire Men Spirit "
in exactly the same specific connection.


seems to be Eptal proper (modern Kunduz), serves
the Spirit of Heaven and the Spirit of Fire. They
go outside the door every day to worship the Spirit
before eating. They are rather short of women,
and therefore practise polyandry ; have no writing
of their own, but use Hu writing, on parchment, in
their deaHngs with Hu : the Eptal country adjoins
Persia to the west ; and the chapter of history
recording this (which, however, is a doubtful one,
and apparently based not on travel but on hearsay),
adds that Persia " has two or three hundred
Buddhist monasteries outside its city," and that
in the year 530, it sent a Buddha's tooth to China.
This can scarcely be true of true Sassanide Persia,
but may be true of some easterly Persian (or Eptal)

From the above it will be seen that, although
up to the end of the sixth century there is no
mention of any Western religion except Buddhism
in China proper, or of any other literary religion
among the Tartars, Tibetans, or other north-
eastern nations, there is specific mention of fire-
worship in Persia, and in the Eptal dominions
which engaged in such prolonged and bloody wars
with the Sassanides. The mention of fire-worship
nearer to China is not determinate ; but there is
evidence of some other religion, perhaps of several ;
and the unexplained Tih-sih is quite etymologically
compatible with the Terzai (Christians and other
non - fire - worshippers) of Persia. Finally, the
Tartars had, from the beginning, never been


without their Spirit of Heaven. It is recorded
in Toba history that the empress who sent Sung
Yiin to the Cabul Valley for Buddhist books, made
a special exception of the " Hu Spirit of Heaven"
when, during a wave of religious repression in
North China, it was a question of persecuting
inconvenient beliefs. Chinese history knows
nothing whatever in detail about the sanguinary
wars between Persia and the Eptals which took
place in the fifth and sixth century ; still less of the
religious struggles which then convulsed Persia,
and of the rivalry there of the Nestorians, Catholics,
Mazdeans, and Mazdekans. But enough has been
said to show that the ground was fully prepared
in China for the import of new doctrines.

The Turks — for so the predominant Hiung-nu
began to be called after the year 550 — possessed
the religious customs of most Tartars ; tents facing
east ; sun worship, soothsayers, funeral wakes ;
service with water of the Spirit of Heaven ; gashing
of the face by way of mourning. Mention is
further made of a hill consecrated to the Spirit of
the Earth. No sooner had the Turks annihilated
the power of the Supreme Khagan of the Joujan,
than they proceeded to crush and annex that of
the Eptals, which brought them at once into
collision with Persia, and thus into relation with
Byzantium. The Chinese had only just begun to
hear vaguely of the Western Empire as Fuh-lin,
and knew nothing of these Turko- Roman relations :
however, the Greek authors, writing of the Turks


of the sixth century, tell us how they honour fire,
venerate air and water, and celebrate the Earth ;
but only actually worship the Author of Heaven
and Earth, to whom they sacrifice horses, cattle,
and sheep ; and, moreover, they possess soothsayers.
The Chinese histories state that the Turks
cremated at least some of their dead, specifically
alluding to a Turkish royal funeral in China.
Dogs from Fuh-lin were brought as presents to
China — presumably by the Turks — by way of
Turfan as early as 622 ; and two or three years
after this the Chinese found the Khagan of the
Western Turks patronising the Hindoo priest
Prabha-Karamitra, who himself visited China in
626. In view of all this we need not be surprised
to read in the local chronicles of Si-an Fu, the then
Chinese capital of Ch'ang-an, that "in the year 621
a Hu-Z^zVw temple had been erected, served by an
establishment of Sapao (Saba), or Hu ritualists,
whose duty it was to manage matters concerning
the W\i-hien Spirit." An editorial note suggests
that this hien Spirit is probably the same as the
Yiw-t'ien (Heaven) Spirit protected by the Toba
empress. A Chinese work on Buddhism says that
in the year 631 a niuh-hu named Holuh brought to
the imperial palace at Ch'ang-an the religion of the
hien Spirit, in consequence of which the Emperor
authorised the construction of a Ta-ts'in temple.
" As to this Fire hien Spirit, once there was in
Persia, a certain Su-lu-chi (Zoroaster), who pro-
moted its worship." The celebrated Buddhist

The cremation of a Buddhist priest in Ikirma.

{To face p. no.


pilgrim Hiian Chwang, who in 630 visited the
Khagan of the Turks at his encampment near
Issyk-kul, found that the West Turks there, in
spite of Prabha - Karamitra's efforts, were still
sufficiently observant of fire-worshipping principles
to abstain from sitting down on inflammable wood ;
the Khagan spoke contemptuously of what he
called the black people of " Indica," but he furnished
the pilgrim notwithstanding with an escort as far
as Kapi9a. A change had taken place in the
relisfion of the states under Western Turk influence.
In 635 the King of Kashgar had married a Turkish
princess, and "it was the custom of the country to
worship the hien Spirit." Khoten was also under
Turkish influence, and worshipped both the hien
Spirit and Buddha. The King of Samarcand had,
previously to this date, married the daughter of
Tardu Khagan, who is actually mentioned under
that name by the Greek authors : the Spirit of
Heaven was worshipped here too ; yet in one
passage it is said: "They honour the Buddhist
religion, and sacrifice to the hien Spirit." But the
strongest evidence of all comes from the official
Chinese history of Persia ;

" They sacrifice to Heaven and Earth, the Sun,
Moon, Water, and Fire. The different Hu people
of the various Western States accept all their rules
for the worship of hien (or, as a second history
words it, ' for the service of the fire hien '). The
Khagan (the one just mentioned) carried war into
Persia, killed the King Khosrou, and sent a
resident to watch his successor Shiroe. But the


Persians after his death were unwilling to recognise
Turkish supremacy, and went to bring back his son
Ardishir who had taken refuge in Fuh-lin (Syria, or
other parts of the Byzantine Empire). Yezdegerd
succeeded him, and in 638 sent envoys to China.
Finally he was attacked by the Arabs and killed."

The history goes on to explain how Yezdegerd's
son, Piruz, took refuge in Tokhara, and sought
assistance from China ; after many years of vain
attempts to recover his throne, Piruz, through
China's assistance, returned to die in the Chinese
capital ; but in the year 677 he obtained as a
solace from the Emperor permission to establish
a Persian temple at Ch'ang-an (Si-an Fu). In
the year 706 the site was wanted for other purposes,
so the Persian temple was transferred to a spot
just west of the hien temple. " Amongst the
Persian functionaries are the moh-hu-Van {magu-
patdn, or Magi)." This last statement appears in
Chinese history at least a century before Piruz'
arrival in China to set up a temple served by
Magi. In the year 694 a Persian, bearing a name
which sounds like Fertadan, arrived in China
from Ta-ts'in on the Western Sea, bringing holy
books upon the Dual Principles (of Mani).

The sum total of the above evidence, deficient
though it may be in precision, is that there were
two Persian religions connected with fire-worship ;
Piruz' religion and temple were presumably the
orthodox Mazdeism ; and, if so, the other religion
and temple which are several times actually called


Manichean, is likely to have been always so. It
is also abundantly clear that it worked its way to
China through the Oxus states subject to the
Western Turks, having already existed there
whilst those states formed part of the Eptal
dominions at secular war with Persia ; the Northern
or Eastern Turks never showed traces of having
admitted any Persian religion. As we shall shortly
see, the Chinese writers, besides being somewhat
vague as to the distinction between Mazdeism
and the artful composition of it and Christianity
propagated by Mani in 270-277, were also inclined
at times to confuse both with Nestorianism, and
to regard all three as heretic or " outer road "
forms of Buddhism. Moreover, the very Chinese
word for Mani is borrowed from the earlier Chinese
word used for the Buddhist mani or "spotless" (as
in the words O^n mmii padnii hum of Tibetan
Buddhism). This confusion therefore is scarcely
to be wondered at when we reflect that Buddhism
reached China from India via the I ndo- Scythians
of the Cabul Valley and Tokhara, whilst all the
other religions came by way of the same Indo-
Scythians (in their later designation of Eptal),
via exactly the same routes. It is further to be
noticed that all persons from Syria or Europe
were bound to come to China either through
Persia or through the Turks ; and as both these
powers were contesting with the Roman Empire
possession of the Upper Euphrates, Black Sea,
and Caspian regions, it was difficult for the



Chinese to say, on information gathered, where
Persia and "Turkey" ended, and where Ta-ts'in
or Fuh-Hn began. Contemporary early Chinese
histories are by no means lacking in definitions of
Manichean tenets ; for instance, standard history
tells us that "they dine at sundown, drink water,
and eat savoury, rejecting kumiss." There is some
doubt about the correct reading of this ninth
century passage, but the religious works of the
eleventh century make things clearer. Thus :

" As to the Dual Principles, men and women
do not intermarry ; they go about common business
in silence ; take no medicine for sickness ; and
are buried naked ; eat no flesh and drink no wine ;
sleep during the day and rise in the evening, and
believe in using perfumes,"

It must be pointed out that Manicheism itself
had been reformed by Mazdek, who made a
convert of the Persian King Kobad. As the
Chinese actually mention this King by name in
518-520, and also mention in 553 (but not by
name) his son and successor Khosrou, who in 533
massacred Mazdek and 80,000 of his converts, it
is of course possible that all Chinese and Tartar
Manicheans were exiled Mazdekians, whose tenets
would be all the easier for them to accept. Thus
Mazdek prescribed fire - worship ; allowed all
sexual unions, irrespective of kinship ; but permitted
no meat, fat, or any food stronger than vegetables,
eggs, milk, and cheese — which, of course, would
admit for use articles made of mares' milk, so


much consumed by the Tartars in the form of
cheeses, wheys, and mixed drinks, fermented or
otherwise. The Dualism of Mani was almost
precisely the yin and the yang of ancient Chinese
philosophy ; the abstinence and continence had
already been introduced by Buddhism, and therefore
would not shock Chinese sentiment, — even though
Mazdek's disciples had not eased these injunctions
down a litde. More light will be thrown on this
point when we come to discuss the vicissitudes
of Nestorianism and Buddhism during the seventh
and eighth centuries. Previous to the end of
the eighth century, the Mazdeism of a state called
Kobadhiyan (on the Oxus) is fully described, and
it is stated that the Arab conquerors were only
prevented by timely emanations of fire within the
temple from destroying it.

In the year 719 Tesh, King of Jaganyan
(north of the Oxus) in Tokhara, sent a letter to
the Emperor of China introducing a great astro-
nomical scholar, and assuring the Emperor that
this mudja would be pleased to answer any religious
questions ; it was also begged that a chapel or
school — a "system hall" — might be established,
where those of the teaching might follow their
tenets. It is interesting to know that " Tesch,
the One-eyed," Turkish Governor or Viceroy of
Tokhara, has been mentioned, and at this date,
by the Mussulman author Tabari. In the
trilingual inscription of Kara-balgassun on the
Orkhon, recently discovered by Mr ladrintseff,


mention is made of a "true religion" having been
introduced into Ouigour-land, and there is further
mention made of 7nudja and their acolytes coming
in great numbers to preach the new faith.
Unfortunately the inscription is imperfect, and
the date doubtful, but other passages in standard
history make the way clear for us. Thus in 766-
779 Manichean temples were constructed at places
corresponding to the modern Ningpo, Yang-chou
(opposite Chinkiang), Nan-ch'ang (capital of Kiang
Si), and King-chou (the Manchu garrison town
of Hu Peh province). Between 768 and 771 an
imperial decree ordered those Ouigours who
practised Manicheism to build " Cloud - bright "
monasteries. Finally, the Ouigours requested per-
mission in 771 to establish " Cloud - bright "
monasteries in the four places above named ; the
officiating priests wore white caps and garments.
Thus the chain of evidence is complete, though
each separate link by itself would be doubtful.
The power of the Northern or Eastern Turks
had been broken in the middle of the eighth
century ; the Ouigours (a tribe of the northernmost
group of Hiung-nu originally known to the Turks
and Chinese alike as Tolos) had moved south
and occupied the Turkish territory ; the Ouigours
had in j62)-777 rendered valuable assistance to
the Chinese against rebels and Tibetan invaders ;
the same Ouigours had become acquainted with
the Manichean doctrine in the two Chinese capitals
(the Si-an Fu and Ho-nan Fu of to-day)


recovered and pillaged by them ; and they had
in a way taken the Manichean religion under their
official protection. The demand for temples in
South China, where there were no Ouigours, was
manifestly made at the instance of Persian priests,
who wished to serve the Persian traders, at Canton
and elsewhere, who had come to China by sea.

The Chinese had much more steady and intimate
relations with the Ouigours than they had ever
had with the Turks ; Chinese princesses were given
in marriage to the Khagans, and were fitted out
with sumptuous establishments ; Chinese princes
married Ouigour girls, who visited the imperial
court with suites of Ouigour matrons ; and emperors
took the field side by side with the Khagans ; on
one occasion an emperor then commanding a
Chinese army, even went down on his knees in
front of his army in order to beg the royal
Ouigour general to refrain from plunder ; and, by
the way, it is curious to notice that on this occasion
the Ouigours set fire to the historical White Horse
Buddhist Monastery, in which the richer classes of
Ho-nan Fu had sought refuge from their licence.
During the marriage negotiations of 806 some
Manichean priests, who, it is distinctly stated, then
enjoyed great and permanent political influence
at the Ouigour court, surprised the Chinese by
appearing in the capacity of official envoys for the
first time ; they took advantage of their favoured
position to connive at various rogueries with the
Chinese merchants in the metropolitan bazaar : this


last passage evidently alludes to the practice of
smuggling girls away with the caravans. In the
following year they applied for and obtained
permission to establish Manichean monasteries in
T'ai-yuan Fu (Shan Si), Ho-nan Fu (Ho Nan),
and Ch'ang-an (Shen Si) ; but it is highly probable
that these three, together with the four of 779,
formed the total in China, for a temple inscription
of that date (810-820) says: "Of the three
barbarian monasteries, Mani, Ta-ts'in (Nestorian),
and hien Spirit (Mazdean) there are not more in
the whole empire than you would find of S'akya
(Buddhist) monasteries in one small city." In 840
the rising Kirghiz power overwhelmed the Ouigours,
and the defeated tribes, having sought refuge in
China, rewarded the kindness of the Chinese in
affording them asylum and relief by shortly after-
wards revolting. After the Ouigours had been
broken up once more by the Chinese, the latter
decided to do away also with their indirect or
Manichean influence at the two capitals, and in
843 a decree ordered both the confiscation of
their property, and the burning of all Manichean
books and images on the public road. The well-
known tendency of Manicheans to accommodate
themselves to the religion of the country in which
they were — their adoption in the West, for instance,
of the divinity of Christ — may account for these un-
explained images ; just as the Buddhist Mahes'vara
was borrowed by the Mazd^ans, or, at all events,
by the "Western Hu," to represent their " Spirit of


Heaven." In that very year (843) four Manichean
priests assisted the loyal portion of the Ouigours
to negotiate for the safe return of the Chinese
princess, who had been captured and recaptured
by various contending parties ; yet a second decree
ordered the suppression of all the Manichean
monasteries within the empire, in consequence of
which over seventy nuns at the capital perished ;
those living amongst the Ouigours were banished
to remote provinces, where the greater part died.
Two years later 2000 Ta-ts'in muh-hu (i.e. mogk,
or Magi), ^ve-kien (Mazdeans), etc., were com-
pelled to revert to the lay life. One reading has
muh-hu-pak {tnag-hu-bdd) instead of "■ nmh-hu fire
hien^' and a third has muh-hu hien priests ; but
these discrepancies do not affect the general sense.
Though Manicheans henceforth disappear from
China, they seem to have continued to exist in
Ouigour-land ; for in the year 951, after the T'ang
dynasty had disappeared, the Ouigours sent a
Manichean envoy to China (later Chou dynasty).
In 961, a Manichean sent some presents from
Khoten to the newly-established Sung dynasty ;
and in 982 the Chinese envoy to the Ouigours
of Turfan, then strongly Buddhist, found there a
Manichean monastery served by Persian priests.



After struggling with Manicheans in Persia, Nestorians renew the
competition in China. — In 638 the Emperor of China formally
admits the Nestorians as " Persian bonzes." — Phraseology borrowed
from Taoism and Buddhism. — The stone still in situ which
defines the Christianity of those days. — The Messiah born from
a Virgin in Ta-ts'in : the Persian Magi come with offerings. —
Shaving of the head. — Historical details strictly corroborated by
standard Chinese history. — The first Nestorian, Alopen, arrived
in 635. — Nestorian priests called " High Virtues," or " Great
Virtues," equal to " Very Reverend." — Many points in the
modern Christian doctrine left out. — Close historical proofs of
the authenticity of the facts given in the Nestorian stone. — The
Syrian inscriptions on the stone corroborate or are corroborated
by Chinese or Western evidence. — Competing religions during
the T'ang dynasty. — Confucian hostility to Buddhism at the time
when Nestorianism flourished. — The Empress of China an ex-
nun. — Favours corrupt Buddhism ; no evidence that the
Nestorians excited any direct hostility. — Religious observances
of the Northern Turks. — Confucianist remonstrances against
Buddhism. — A good-natured Chinese Emperor now favours all
religions. — Manichean opportunities, and Nestorians in favour. —
Denunciation of the Buddha's Bone mummery. — Enormous
increase in the number of Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.
— More persecutions by a Taoist Emperor. — Doubtful if
Nestorians were involved. — "Great Virtues" sent to China from
India. — Malabar Rites question. — Pope Pius X. and the Malabar

It has already been shown that during the sixth

century new religions had appeared all over the

Oxus region, and that possibly Christianity was


one of them. In any case, the Manicheans, even
though they found that it suited their purpose
better in the East to pose as Buddhists, had
shown themselves in the West as disciples of the
Paraclete. It is not to be wondered at, therefore,
that their rivals the Nestorians, with whom they
had been striving so long in Persia, should follow
close upon their heels so soon as there was a
prospect of success in China. The nominal founder
of the great T'ang dynasty abdicated to the real
founder, his son, in 627, and in the summer of 638
there appeared the following decree : —

" Tao has no constant name, holiness no
constant form ; cults are established according to
place, for the unobtrusive salvation of the masses.
The Persian bonze Alopen has come from afar to
submit to Us at Our capital his scriptural cult.
Examining closely into the significance of that
cult, We find it is transcendental and quiescent ;
that it represents and sets forth the most important
principles of our being, just as much as it tends to
the salvation and profit of mankind. It may well
be carried over the Empire. The executive will
therefore forthwith erect in the I-ning ward of this
city a monastery, with twenty-one qualified priests."

Most of the phraseology in this decree is Taoist
and Buddhist ; and, of course, it could not well be
otherwise. The words for "bonze" or "priest"
{shig or samgka), and for "salvation" and
"qualified" ("pass over," i.e. the abyss or river
separating sinful mortals from the happy shores),
are particularly Buddhist. On the Chinese map


published with the Gazetteer of Si-an Fu, marking
the modern changes in the wards of 1300 years
ago, the name "Persian Hu monastery" still
appears on its proper ancient site.

There is no doubt whatever as to the doctrine
taught by Alopen, for the commemorative stone
describing the new religion exists almost intact
to this day, and many rubbings of it are in the
possession of European students. It begins by
defining the mysterious attributes of Aloha
(Elohim), and then proceeds with a rapid sketch
of the Creation as told in the Book of Genesis.
But innocent man was exposed to the wiles of
Sotan (Satan), whence arose unrest, heresy, and
schism. In due course our three - one divided-
body, the high and mighty Mi-shih-a (Messiah) is
announced, and a Virgin gives birth to the Holy
One in Ta-ts'in (all west of the Euphrates and
the Caspian). Persians, noticing the herald star,
come with presents. From the Incarnation the
account proceeds to the Redemption. Having
fulfilled what was written in the " twenty - four
books" (as counted by the Babylonian Jews), the
Messiah founded an "ineffable three-one new
teaching." After confounding the demon and
indicating the way to salvation. He ascended into
Heaven, leaving behind twenty-seven books (the
New Testament) to explain the doctrine. Baptism
and the sign of the Cross are next discussed. The
followers of this faith shave the crown and allow
the beard to grow ; keep no slaves, and recognise


no distinction of persons ; amass no riches ; and
purify themselves in strict retreat by silence,
prayer, and watching. The various other beauties
of the doctrine are then pointed out in detail.

The historical sketch which follows the above
expos^ de motifs on the stone explains to us why
the original decree styled the new faith a "scriptural

" Alopen, the High Virtue of Ta-ts'in, arrived
in the year 635 at Ch'ang-an (still the divisional
name of Si-an Fu) with some true scriptures (the
word used for Confucian and Taoist * classics ' and
for Buddhist stltras). His books were translated,
and he was placed under the care of an eminent

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Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 9 of 23)