Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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Listen that I may reveal to you the prodigious mystery concerning the great King who must come into the world at the end of times, at the moment of dissolutions which will put and end of them, a child will be conceived and born with its members in the womb of a virgin, without any man having approach her.


Among the many documents on religion Xuanzang brought back to China acquired from his nearly 20 years of travel in the western countries, that he considered important religious thought of his time, included documents on Zoroastrianism, or Parsism, which is what they call the religion of Zoroaster today. It was summarized first in Part 5 because  "...it is extremely plausible that Judaism and Christianity have been influenced, at least indirectly, by Iranian (Parsism) currents of ideas." (Hartman p. 5)  Mormons would say, however, that the ancient Zoroastrian teachings reflected a more complete transmission of ancient doctrines than any other country had, and the religion's founding doctrines may be linked to Abraham through his son Ishbak. While there were many religious texts and at least 10,000 scrolls alone on Chinese subjects found in Cave 17 at Dunhuang, those of Zoroastrianism, Nestorians, Manichaeism, and Mandaeans will, in the future, be the most useful in demonstrating ancient doctrines lost for centuries had been restored by Joseph Smith in their pristine glory. Part 6 is on Nestorianism.


In the Spring of 1981, my wife and I had the wonderful experience of visiting the two most famous sites in the city of Xi'an (Ancient Chang' an) in western China, Shensi Province. (Harris pp. 56-57)  These were the main destination of visitors to Xi'an, they were: 1. The preferred destination of most visitors is the famous terra-cotta warriors, lined up in relentless ranks like a ghostly regiments, speaking to the achievements of one of the most brilliant and ruthless Emperors of all antiquity,  Qin Shi Huang, founder of the Qin Dynasty, (221-206 BC). By guile, patience, and sheer brutality, he forced together the first nation of China, one of the great cultural centers of human history, he started the Great Wall, killing hundreds of thousands of laborers in the process. He unified the systems of writing, weights and measures, and buried alive hundreds of scholars of preexisting Chinese culture and political opponents;  his intention was to start a nation from scratch. (Aikman pp. 19-20)  And 2.  The Forest of Steles Museum (formerly the Shaanxi Provincial Museum) is in the heart of Xi'an, Shensi (Shaanxi) Province.  The Museum is nestled close to ancient Xi'an's southern wall, within an old Confucian temple, famous for being the oldest continuously established museum in China, and for its collection of ancient stone tablets with carved inscription,  still on display in the various halls, established more than 910 years ago. The objective of the Song Dynasty was to protect the texts of Chinese Classics that had been carved in stone more than 1300 years ago, during the Tang Dynasty.  (Aikman p. 19)  Tang emperor (626-649) Taizong conquers Turkestan and Korea. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907) under Emperor Kao Trung, China reached its greatest extent.  (Kagan pp. 130-133)  In 644 the Koran was written down and in 691 the Mosque on the Dome of the Rock was built on the temple mount in Jerusalem, and Christianity spread into Europe.  In 656 the schism between the Sunnis and the Shiits was complete, those who did not align themselves with either group were called simply Muslims.  Since then there has been no cessation of conflict.

But these famous sites were not our main destination, it was the city of Xi'an itself.  It was here in 629 AD that the intrepid Monk Xuanzang had retired "to the seclusion of a sacred tower in Chang' an (Xi'an) in order to pray for guidance. He has a dream...he sees Mount Sumeru, a scared mountain at the center of the universe, made of gold, silver, beryl and crystal surrounded by a Great Sea. Lotus flowers ...support him as he crosses the waters, but so slippery and steep is the way up this Asian Mount...that each time he tries...he slides to the bottom...a mighty whirlwind raises him to the summit: the world stretches out as far as the eye can see...an unending horizon, a symbol of the countless lands he hopes to visit. In an ecstasy of joy he awakes; he has been shown a vision of what he must do. He now knows that it is meant for him to go. He will be severely tested but he is ready to depart," (Wriggins p. 11)  Parts 4 & 5 of this series summarizes the details of his journey.  (See also my journal:  JOURNEY TO XI'AN).


NESTORIUS was born of Persian parents, He was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia before becoming a monk and presbyter (Bishop) at Antioch.  Because of the fame he achieved as a preacher, Theodosius II, elevated him in 428 to the Patriarchal See of Constantinople. However, when Nestorius was called upon to pass judgment on the suitability of using the term Theotokos,  (God-bearing, or mother of God) as a title for the Virgin Mary, he ruled that it would be best not to use the title unless it was balanced with the term anthropotokos  (Man [human]bearing), which she was. But he considered the best title for her was Christokos  (Christ-bearing, or mother of Christ), which she was. His doctrine, and the vehement ways in which he expressed it, led Cyril of Alexandria to oppose him and the Council of Ephesus (431)  to excommunicate him as a heretic and to declare him deposed. The emperor exiled him to his monastery in Antioch, and later to the Great Oasis in Egypt, where he died in 451. (Bethune-Baker p.699)  At the Council of Chalcedon at Constantinople in 451 the Monophysites and Nestorians were declared heretics. The Monophysites remained strong in the Middle East, giving rise to the Coptic  Church in Egypt.  Egypt today has less than 17 %  Christians, mostly Coptics, now being persecuted,  harassed and killed, and driven from Egypt by the Muslim and Salifists, both Muslim extremists. The regions of their  ancient monasteries have yielded the documents of the recently discovered Nag Hammadi texts. The Nestorians took root in the Persian Empire and gradually expanded eastwards. (Dowley p. 88) During our second trip to Constantinople, my wife and I visited the ruins where the Council of Chalcedon had been held as one of the interesting areas of the City.  By the time of  Chalcedon the apostasy of the early church was in full progress.  Recent books detail the apostasy now.

Nestorius  always declared that he was no heretic. Because of his accusations little but fragments have been preserved of his writings until in1910 they discovered The Book (Bazaar) of Heracleides, in Syric translation,  which gave a greater understanding of his views. But by then the Apostasy of the Christian Church was nearly complete, he was involved in an arena already filled with distortion, his main error was to compromise.  (Young pp. 230-241)  He is no longer considered a heretic, but guilty of theological errors charged against him by Cyril and others.  He could not conceive of the divine Logos being involved in human suffering or change. But Jesus had lived a truly human life which involved growth, temptation, and suffering. (D&C 19:15-18)  But he argued this would have been impossible if the human nature had been fused  and overcome by the divine nature.  (Bethune-Baker p. 699) This doctrine could not be resolved until the divine revelations and doctrines of the restoration were made available through Joseph Smith.



Of particular intense interest to me, when we visited Xi'an,  was the Forest of Steles Museum.  Central to the  Forest of Steles Museum is "a two-ton stone tablet standing more than nine feet tall and three feet wide and inscribed with 1,900 beautifully carved Chinese characters...an official account of the first major Christian mission to China...in 635 AD, a short seven years after the start of the Tan Dynasty (618-907) , one of the most brilliant eras in China's History. [Xuanzang had been gone from Xi'an for six years]...The Stele had been inscribed in...781 AD at the orders of the Emperor Dezong.  For eight and a half centuries, it lay mysteriously buried in the earth in the countryside outside  Xi'an." (Aikman p. 20)  Workers digging the foundation of a house came across the stone stele.  The magistrate of the area just happened to know of the small handful of Western scholars and priests, the foreign Jesuit community then living in Peking. He realized that the stele said something about the earliest known appearance of Christianity in China.  He sent a paper rubbing to the Jesuit priests who readily saw it as an official account detailing the arrival of Nestorian Christians in China nearly 1000 years earlier. (Aikman p. 20)


As evidence of very early Christian presence in China is the Nestorian Stele mentioned above. "The tablet [stele] stands upright, encased in glass, upon the back of a carved stone tortoise. A cross rising out of lotus lilies tops the arrow shaped heading of the inscription. A heading in large Chinese characters reads: 'The record of the Transmission of the Religion of light of the West in China. The stele inscription sets forth the theology of these early Christian travelers from Central Asia and the story of how they were received by the imperial authorities in Chang an. According to the tablet, an impressive looking delegation of foreigners arrived in the city...in the year 635... their leader was a revered representative of a religion new to the Chinese. He wore a long flowing white robe and was attended by followers carrying various carved images..Alopen  sometimes rendered Aluoben...he had come from Persia via the...trade route of the ancient silk Road, the main thoroughfare of trade between China the Mediterranean world... Alopen  had simply come from da qin, (da chin) the West, referring to China's long  reach into Central Asia and Persia, where there was a large and vigorous Christian community." (Aikman p. 21)

The Nestorian Stele makes it clear that the purpose of Alopen's visit and that of his delegation in 635 was not to bring tribute to the Emperor of China, but to introduce  a new religion into China. The Chinese characters for this new religion is jing jiao, 'religion of light' or 'luminous religion.'  "The Stele describes the beliefs of these visitors from Persia, and other 'teachings' are certainly a recognizable expression of basic Christian doctrine." (Aikman p. 12)  Among other things it tells of a virgin giving birth to the Sacred, of Jesus who became human and came on behalf of the Lord of Heaven to preach the good teachings.  Jesus was condemned to the  Cross so that the people of the four directions can be saved. It tells of Satan in the Garden of Eden and his influence.  But the phrasing and vocabulary in places suggests that "it is a strongly syncretistic version of Christianity...a leading scholar...Martin Palmer asserts that the version of Christianity brought to the Tang court by Alopen had already been deeply influenced by Daoist [Taoist] philosophy." (Aikman pp. 22-23)  The  Stele may reflect a lot of pure teachings of Christ, which when  compared with the teachings of the Taoist are very similar.  But a lot of Christ's teachings are similar to many Philosophical and religious  moral teachings of the world but do not rise to the details of the doctrines and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith.  Palmer believes that Chinese influence had already reached Persia centuries before and the Nestorians adsorbed such teachings. Aikman believes that the Nestorians, especially when utilizing the Lotus Motif were using Chinese symbols and ideas to bring the "religion of light" to the Chinese. (Aikman p. 13)

 "The Christian community from which Alopen had come...was neither Western...Catholic, nor Greek Orthodox.   It was a branch of Christianity that called itself the Church of the East, also known as the "Nestorian Church."  (Aikman p. 21)    

It was a sect of early Christians, founded by Nestorius who maintained the individual distinctiveness of the divine and human elements in the nature of Jesus Christ...this bipersonality as a unitary consciousness.  He had objected to the official church using the term Mother of God, theotokos, in Greek. He believed that the human and divine nature of Christ were not united in one person. (The Mormons believe that he was, but more than that he was the literal Son of God.)  This created a controversy at various councils, until at the Council of Ephesus Nestorius  was banished to Egypt and his followers were banished to Edessa where they flourished spreading into Egypt,  Arabia, India and China. Persecuted by the Orthodox Roman emperor Zeno, the Nestorian Christians fled to Persia and India in 431, bringing with them a number of Greek texts on medicine and astronomy. (Kagan p. 107)  Their influence even increased during the Arabian domination in the East, with a center at Bagdad.  At the  ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, which institutionalizes the doctrines of Christianity as set out in the Nicene Creed, the Nestorians were branded as heretics alienating them forever from orthodox  Christian fellowship.  Their influence  over the centuries has declined but they still constitute an important community of Eastern Christians. (Baldwin p. 167:  Kagan p. 108)

From Nicaea to Chalcedon, the early Church Councils, the three 'orthodox'  Cappodocian Bishops had exerted their control over the Councils and therefore the foundational doctrines and creeds. They were Basil, the great bishop of Cappadocia, his friend Gregory Nazianzen and his brother Gregory Nyssen, who perpetuated Basil's influence, these three had stood by the Nicene orthodoxy,  and their work provided the theological basis for the lasting contribution and definition of Eastern Trinitarianism (Young p. 92) that rules many of the 725 Christian groups today. More than any others  they were responsible for what is called the Great Apostasy. The great religion of Armenia, established in 206 CE, the Syrian Christians in the Levant and the oldest Christian Church, the ancient Egyptian Coptics  (reflected in the great recent discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library), the Manichean and Mandaean groups were never invited to the Nicaean or Later Councils, so their surviving records today provide  rich treasures of doctrine to be mined for proof that the doctrines of the restoration were once had by the primitive  Christian Church. In 2007 we visited Zervan, Armenia and saw some of the 10,000 documents of what remains of some 100,000,000  originally, most carted off as plunge during the many wars. Soon after we left,  BYU began digitizing the records and the Church set up an Armenian Mission.  BYU has also preserved the records of the Syric Christian Church of more than 40 monasteries.

As noted, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Nestorians had been declared heretics. (Dowley p. 84)  One of the basic flaws in doctrine was Nestorius not wanting to acknowledge that Mary was the mother of God. (Young pp. 234-235)  But by 560 they flourished east of Justinian's Empire occupying Persia, today Iraq and Iran.  Their territory was conquered by the Omayyad Empire which by 750 had spread to just east of the Hindus River in India. But Islam was tolerant which permitted Nestorian churches to proliferate along the Silk Road into China. In fact there were Nestorian churches and mission influences from Constantinople, to Cairo and Sana (South Arabia) on the west to Karakorum, Beijing and east coastal China on the East, and northern Turkestan on the north and Bombay and Cranganire in India on the south as well as in Indonesia along the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. (Dowley  pp. 84, 88-89) It is amazing that each theological splinter had its zealots and spread a variety of teachings worldwide.

"According to the tablet [Stele] the Nestorian community gained great favor from the imperial Chinese...When the emperor heard their teachings...he realized deeply that they spoke the truth...[he] then issued a decree: Proclaim the teachings everywhere for the salvation of the people.  Alopen...man of great virtue from Da Qin [the west]...a far land...arrived...to present...teachings and images of his religion. His message is mysterious...wonderful beyond our understanding...the teachings were translated into Chinese...communities were established throughout Tang China."  (Aikman p. 23)

The first 150 years of Christian missionaries in China was a period of great favor and success, though there was a setback in 698 when Buddhist hostile to the Christian success initiated a brief period of persecution.  But by the end of next century they recovered from this setback and even improved their situation, according to the Stele. (Aikman p. 23)  "During the reign of the Tang emperor Xuanzong, a senior Tang general was ordered to attend the consecration of an important church in the vicinity of Changan, referred to as the Five Saints Church. This occurred around A.D. 742. By the time of the inscription of the stele in 781, Nestorian Christianity in China may have been at its apogee." (Aikman p. 23)

Then disaster struck. In Central Asia, the new expansionist faith of Islam was moving rapidly to conquer new areas of the world in 751.  Muslims defeated the Chinese armies in Central Asia. The Turkic-speaking Uighur kingdoms, Christianized for several hundred years, was taken over by Islam. "The Silk Road, along which Alopen and his delegation has traveled, was now in hands unfriendly to Christianity. ..In China...a strong reaction against foreign religions set in.  In      848, an imperial decree, lashing out at any religion considered  'foreign' ordered the three thousand [priests]...belonging to the 'Religion of Light' and the Zoroastrian religion, an ancient Persian faith that had also penetrated China via the Silk road, to return to lay life, 'so that they will not adulterate the customs of China.'"  (Aikman pp. 23-24) This is one of the oldest known references to a community of Zoroastrians in China.  Had some of these teachings been spread as a results of documents brought back by Xuanzang?  Whatever, by Emperial decree an effort was made to excise these two communities from China. 


But, who had carved the Stele? And why was it hidden in the ground for more than eight centuries?  "The Stele itself says that it was carved by the monk Jinging of the Da Qin Monastery.  English scholar Palmer speculates that the Nestorian stele was carved to commemorate the significant event of the founding of that monastery." (Aikman p. 24)  In the 1930's the Japanese scholar P.Y. Saeki, drew a map "in which he indicated that there was indeed a Da Qin monastery, or at least the remaining pagoda of such an establishment still standing, some fifty miles southwest of Xi'an." (Aikman p. 24)  In 1998,  Palmer, "using Saeki's map, ... rediscovered Da Qin, which was visible to the naked eye west of a prominent Daoist monastery. A seven- story pagoda leaning, Pisa-like, dangerously to one side, it was not in any tourist guidebook and had for years been thought of as a Daoist relic. An old Buddhist nun occupying a little hut-like temple close by the pagoda casually told Palmer on his first visit that though the pagoda has been taken over by Daoists, it had originally been established by 'monks who came from the West and believed in one God.'" (Aikman p. 24)

A year later Palmer revisited the site, and in the company of local officials and archaeologists and historians, climbed up into the pagoda to scrutinize two statues, both of them damaged, that had survived from the pagoda's very beginnings back in the eight century. "One of them was of the Virgin and Child, and the other of Jonah in Nineveh.  Palmer realized that he had stumbled upon the oldest  surviving Christian church in China, more than twelve centuries old. The Nestorian stele dug up in about 1623 may well have been at this site, whose establishment it honored." (Aikman pp. 24-25)

In the summer of  2002,  David Aikman, hired a driver and guide and rode out to Da Qin, some ninety minutes from Xi'an. Not allowed to drive up the  hillside to the pagoda still standing there, they parked at the foot of the hill.  On horse-back they made a ride up the lush hillside on a dirt road that wound through fields of corn and Kiwi fruit to the pagoda. He learned that about one hundred foreigners come each year to this earliest location of Christian worship in China. A toothless old Buddhist monk, Li Huixiong,  in a little cubbyhole shrine at the ground level of the pagoda, shuffled out of his hut to insist that they buy Buddhist joss sticks before permitted into this shrine.  In a little one room 'museum' next to the pagoda, there were clippings from 1999, one head-line read: "beyond belief" from the Independent:  "An obsessed Englishman [Palmer] made one of the most important archaeological finds of the century."  (Aikman p. 25)

The official caretaker, Li Huixiong, at that time, an unkempt unshaven man in dirty pants and shirt, says one can enter and climb into the pagoda for a day's notice; in order to put up ladders, and $50.00,  in case anyone plans on making a pilgrimage.  When Aikman asked Li what had happened to the church building that had once stood there, he replied curtly that  it had been "destroyed by Red Guards" (Aikman p. 25)  That would have been during the core period of 1969 to 1979.  Like so many other great treasures of China, the ten year destruction by Mao's young fanatical  "teenage acolytes had not succeeded in eliminating the main building of the Da Qin monastery. ..not even they had been able, or courageous enough, to topple the Christian pagoda."  (Aikman p. 25) 

But it seems that the Nestorians and Zoroasterians had not only survived the anti-foreign purges of the late Tang but even the upheavals during the Mongol conquest of China in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. "Marco Polo and other visitors from the West report the presence of Nestorian Christians in various parts of China. One of the most famous of Chinese Nestorians, Rabban Sauma...of Turkic ethnic background in a China ruled by Mongols, traveled to Western Europe in the thirteenth century in an effort to enlist European cooperation with the Mongols to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims. Rabban Sauma was courteously, even enthusiastically, received by Edward l of England and by Pope Nicholas IV, both of whom received communion from Rabban Sauma, an indication that, at least by this time, the 'Nestorian' Church of the East was not considered heretical." (Aikman pp. 25-26)  However, he was unable to get any help.


"It took more than two centuries [from 1433] before Christianity in any organized form returned to China from the outside. " (Aikman p. 30)  The  Portuguese voyages of discovery in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries brought a growing European demand for access to the spice trade.  The spice trade was one of the motivations that drove Columbus in 1492.  But it was the Catholic response to the European Reformation and the Counter Reformation that renewed interest and efforts to bring Christianity to China. Francis Xavier had been a protege of Ignatius Loyola,  founder of the Jesuits, in 1534.  Loyola sent most of his life evangelizing in Asia, India, the Malayan Peninsula, the Moluccas and Japan, until 1552, when he died on the island of Shangchuan, near modern Guangzhou, waiting in vain for permission to enter China. The Jesuit Matteo Ricci (Li Madou) landed at Macau in 1582.  He astonished his Chinese guests by reading a classical Chinese poem and reciting it back perfectly form memory.  (Aikman p. 31)  Like all Jesuits he was trained in the latest science, so he appealed to the intelligentsia.  At first he dressed in the robes of a Buddhist Priest but soon learned that religious clergy from Buddhism, or Islam, or whatever, were less respected than members of the scholarly gentry class, so he adopted the dress of a Confucian Scholar. Cultural accommodation was always demanding. When Ricci died there were 5,000 Catholics, one convert, Xu Guangqu, was appointed grand secretary to the emperor, one of the highest positions in Confucian bureaucracy. 

The Lasarists had established a retreat in Xiwanzi, China in the 1830s.  By 1844 (the year Joseph was killed) there were more than 240,000 Catholics in China which grew to more than 1,432,000 by 1912.  Lower Chang Jiang was the area first developed by Jesuits in the 1850s  and by 1854 the Jesuits had established a northern center in Hsien-Hsien in Hebei, China. The Scheutveld Fathers from Belgium had a headquarters in Xiwanzi by 1866, The Seminary of Foreign Missions of Milan arrived in Hong Kong in 1858.  The Society of the Divine Word was established in Southern Shandong in 1882, and the Dominicans dominant RC order were doing well in Fujian, Taiwan. The main Lazarists missionary order was established in Chekiang, Kiangsi in 1944.  By 1914, the French missionary efforts were in six areas in China and also in Tibet and Korea. The Franciscans dominant RC order had spread through five provinces and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary became the widespread women's mission. (Dowley p. 129)

There seems to be no record of any Catholic orders going to China during the intense prolonged period of trade of tallow and hides from the large ranches in California  to China for liquid mercury, The liquid mercury was used in the recovery of gold and silver from the vast Spanish mines of the New World. The trade in slaves  began in the 1520's  and extended until 1856.  Large contingents of soldiers, traders and cattle would leave central Mexico with hundreds of horses and guns for trade.  Horses would be traded for slaves captured by the Comanches, Navajos,  Shoshones and Utes from other tribes they had raided, for girls under 12 because they would be malleable, and guns for boys  over six so they could endure the long journey over the so called Spanish Trail, ending up in the California regions of San Bernardino, These accumulated salves were traded for more horses and liquid mercury. The slaves were used in the tallow-hide industry products that were traded to China for liquid mercury. On their return trip at prearranged rendezvous the horses were traded for more slaves to be used in the patio process. Fine  crushed gold-silver ore was spread out in a enclosed patio a few inches or more thick, then flooded with liquid mercury. The slaves then trampled the mercury into the ore with their bare feet. The mercury only recovered gold and silver and any other precious metals, it did not pick up any dirt. This was continued until the mercury was so thick it could be gathered up and be cut with a knife.  It would then be smelted, the mercury would vaporize off at low heat with resultant ingots of precious metals. The male slaves never reached adulthood. They would first lose their hair, then their teeth, and then their limbs would collapse. They died young.  Some women went through many husbands.  The Mormon settlements in southern Utah, under Jacob Hamblin, terminated this practice after the  Mormon Dixie Mission was established in1854 near present day St. George. Utah.  The Spanish appetite for ingot bars was so great they decimated many of the tribes of Mexico for slaves to be used in the Patio Process except the Zapotecs, who resisted persistently. The tribe's pure Zapotec leader, Juarez, friend of Abraham Lincoln, led the La Reforma movement against slavery and to modernize Mexico in 1855.  (Kagan p. 283) 


The Protestant Missions were  no less active in China.  Among the earliest missionary was Scot Robert Morrison, who arrived in Canton in 1807.  However,  China did not open itself to the foreigner in any practical sense until the signing of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, after the Opium Wars. In 1854, Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission,  arrived and set up what became the largest mission in the world with thousands of volunteer missionaries and by 1882 missionaries were resident in all but three of the provinces of China. Countries that sent missionaries included the USA, England, Canada, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the  Irish and others. (Dowley pp. 128-130)  The "five 'treaty ports'- [on the East Coast], Canton, Xiamen, (Amoy) , Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai-were designated cities for foreign settlement. "British and American missions made inroads into China from there...Where the European powers colonized, the missionary societies preached." (Dowley p. 130-131)   


The Peoples Republic of China has a population of nearly l.5 billion that speaks Mandarin, Yue, Wu, Mimbei,  Minnan and Xiang dialects.  The population includes atheists, traditional Confucians, Taoists, Muslims, but mostly Buddhists and Christians. Brigham Young discussed the possibility of sending missionaries to China as early as 1849, soon after the Mormons  were established in the Salt Lake Valley.  By late 1852, Hosea Stout, James Lewis and Chapman Duncan, had accepted calls to serve there. They sailed from San Francisco on 9 March 1853 and arrived in Hong Kong on 28 April, to find China engaged in civil war; the Tai-ping Rebellion made unsafe for elders to labor beyond Hong Kong. They struggled to learn the language, could not afford language tutors, could hardly sustain themselves  and negative press articles and the chilly reception of the small English-speaking population impeded their efforts. They sailed from Hong Kong on 22 June 1853.  The Church  made no further efforts to do missionary work in China during the 19th century.  In 1910  Alma O. Taylor, President of the Japanese Mission, and F. Caine visited Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities. but advised against missionary work because of political unrest that, soon after, led to the collapse of the Ching Dynasty. David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon visited China in 1921, as part of a world tour. (Church Almanac 2012, p. 456)


Neither Rome nor Byzantium,  centers of Christendom for centuries, had any notion what the Nestorians had accomplished in China, until a terrifying threat to the very existence of Europe swept upon them from the East. Temujin, (1167-1227) gifted leader of the Mongols, generally known as Ghengis Khan, (Chingis Khan, 'Universal ruler') united the Mongols by 1206. He, his sons and grandsons  "embarked on some of the most ferocious and broad-ranging campaigns of global conquest that the world had ever seen. By 2115, they had  overrun north China, in 1219, the Mongols decimated Persia.  Chingis died in 1227,  but his sons, Jochi, Chagatai, and Ogedei, and Tului and his grandsons Guyuk,  Mongke,  and Kublai, [note this one] , continued the expansion of the Mongolian Empire eastward and westward. The Russians were initially defeated in 1222, Moscow was taken in 1238,  Keiv in 1240;  in 1241 the German-Polish army was decimated at Liegnitz, the Hungarians were crushed at Mohi in 1241;  everywhere the Mongols slaughtered men, women and children by the millions. After Conquering Herat in Persia, they killed l.6 million, at Khoresm 1.2 million, at Merv l.3 million, and at Nishapur l.7 million; not until World War II was there so many killed in such a short period of time. (Aikman p. 26)  Europe braced itself for another invasion in 1242, but Ogedei, third son of Chingis, died. To select a new great khan the Mongol hoards were withdrawn back to the Mongol Capital for the election of a new Leader. But there was extreme internal divisions which may have saved Europe. In 1243, the newly elected pope,  Innocentius IV,  took the initiative  to keep the Mongols from returning by sending a zealous evangelical sixty-year-old Franciscan friar, Biovannin da Plano Carpini with a message from Christendom  "to Guyuk Khan the new leader of the Mongols warning him that he would be under divine judgment if he attacked the Christians of Europe."  Carpini,  tarveling barefoot because he belonged to a mendicant order, with his chief companion, brother Benedict from Poland, left Italy in 1245, arriving at the capital of the main Mongol army in Karakorum in 1246 in time for the enthronement ceremonies of Guyuk Khan. They delivered the Papal Message and diligently tried to convince the Khan of his errors and the need to become a  Catholic Christian. The Khan was polite in declining to take such a course and sent Carpini back to Rome with a menacing and highly audacious  letter of his own to the pope, commanding the pope to show up at Guyuk's court as the head of a delegation of all of the Kings of Europe. "If you do not observe God's command, I shall know you as my enemy. Likewise if you do otherwise God knows what I know. Whoever recognizes and submits to the Son of God and Lord of the World, the Great Khan, will be saved, whoever refused submission will be wiped out."  (Aikmkan p. 27) The Khan was a Nestorian Christian and considered the Lord Jesus. his God, gave him more power than the apostate Catholic representative.  But Europe was saved from the Mongols because of furious internal divisions in the Mongol Empire and the death of Guyuk in 1248.  Carpini then returned to Europe. But who had converted the Mongol leaders? 

In 1253 the crusader King Louis IX of France, who failed to retake the city of Acre in the Holy Land, sent another Franciscan, Willem de Rubruck, who had been with him on the failed crusade, off to Mongolia.  Louis believed that the Mongols could be recruited to join the Western European nations in their fight against the Saracens.  In 1254, in a inter-religious debate in the presence of the khan, the khan courteously declined Rubruck's vigorous efforts to convert him to a Christian, and also sent him back to the pope empty handed.  Back in Europe Rurbruck reported that Nestorian Christianity was still prominent among the family members of Guyuk, but described the Mongols as absolutely depraved, given to drunken feasts and to marrying multiple wives. (Aikman p. 28) There is very little in the literature as to how and when the leading Mongol family had been converted to Nestorian Christianity, but evidently it had lasted for several generations.  By whom, when and how the Mongols were converted is yet to be learned.  "In the 9th century Nestorians, along with Persian Manichaeans and Zoroastrians, were persecuted and driven out of China, but many of the border peoples, including Uighur Turks and Mongols, converted to the Nestorian creed.  Their presence in Central Asia facilitated contacts between Europe and East Asia during the period of the Pas Mongolica  in the 12th and 13th centuries."  (Vollmer p. 237)  Internal persecution may be part of the answer.  


In 1266 Marco Polo, the young Venetian adventurer, first met Kublai (remember him) Khan, grandson of Chingis Khan, north of Peking.  Marco was a Jesuit, but no missionary, he had started out with two Dominican missionaries assigned by the pope, but they had got cold feet and had left Marco's caravan.  When Marco returned to Europe years later, he brought with him a remarkable request from the Khan.  The Khan would like Europe to send to China one hundred missionaries, wise men of learning in Christian doctrine and religion, who also knew the seven arts of western science and learning and be prepared to teach Chinese and Mongol people,  if the pope would send such missionaries, he and all his potentates would become members of the church. (Aikman pp. 28-29)  This was one of history's  most amazing open doors,  but Rome dithered, instead they sent a solitary Franciscan, Giovanni of Monte Corvino (1246-1329) who arrived in Khanbalik (Peking)  in 1294, after Kublai's death.  Corvino was given support by Kublai's grandson, Timur Oljeitu (who ruled 1294-1307)  " and by Prince George of the Onguts, who had converted to Roman Catholicism from his original Nestorian faith.  Despite furious opposition from China's jealous Nestorians, the Catholics slowly built up a base in China's capital, where Corvino built a church in 1299,  and six years later claimed that at least six thousand Chinese and Mongols had been baptized." (Aikman p. 29)  So Clement V, the pope at that time, appointed Corvino archbishop of Peking. Clerical reinforcements were sent from Rome and the Catholics established a thriving community centered in the port of Quanzxhou, on the coast of Fujian Province. In 1307 the Archbishopric of Beijing is begun.  (Kagan p. 190)

But soon the tide began to turn against Christians in China. The Pax mongolica  that had made possible rapid and relatively safe travel across Eurasia, with Mongol approval, which was distinctly favorable to Christians, ended. The conditions were being altered from within by the growing conversion of Mongols to Islam. The Nestorians had grown into large and powerful communities through to the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty  (1274-1368),  then they suffered severely during the anti-foreign Chinese nationalist  upsurge at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, which replaced the Mongols. With the death of Abu Said Khan, who had no issue, the Mongol Empire in the Middle East was broken.  The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) had originated in Asia in 1330's, now swept through Egypt killing one-third of the people; arrived in Greece and southern Italy in 1347, and by 1351 had killed 75 million as it spread into Europe, outdoing the Mongols for killing power. (Kagan pl 194-195)  Nearly everywhere things had to start all over again.


The Ming Dynasty rode into power in Peking on the back of the peasant rebellion led by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming emperor. Zhu had been part of a revolt against Mongol rule organized by a religious rebellion called the 'Red Turbins.'  Many of these rebels believed the change of dynasty would make  possible the coming of the Maitreya Buddha, a messianic figure, to rule China and the world.  (Aikman p. 29)  Such a Messianic belief was common as well to the Islamic theology,  all Christian expectations,  and certainly the Mormons and many other lesser faiths.   But how to get there was extremely different for each. 

The Chinese had always considered the Christians, by whatever name, and other western religions to be alien and foreign.  There were always nationalistic tendencies that were expressed in religous rebellions and China had its share of them. By the time the "Ming rebel armies swept into Peking in 1368, Chinese culture was already in the throes of one of the periodic paroxysms of anti-foreignism that was hostile to Christianity in either its Nestorian form or the better organized and more recently arrived Catholics. By the end of the fourteenth century, Christianity had all but disappeared from China.  It was not to be the last virtual disappearance."  (Aikman p. 30) The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 ) in China was to astonish the world by its voyages of discovery across the Indian Ocean, and down the South China Sea, and across both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean to America between 1405- and1433, under a brilliant eunuch admiral, Zheng He. Vasco da Gama was not the first to sail to India round the Cape of Good Hope!  Christopher Columbus did not discover America! Magellan was not the first to circumnavigate the world, and Australia was surveyed three centuries before Captain Cook!  The evidence in the cartographic charts made by Chinese Fleets is indisputably genuine. (Menzies pp. 289-290)  Zheng He utilized gigantic, ocean going sailing junks, the largest of them close to 400 feet in length. They bore Chinese wares to all of the trading ports they visited, and returned to China with exotic African animals, precious stones, and ambassadors of the nations the ships had visited. Zheng He leads seven massive maritime expeditions throughout the world. (Kagan p. 198)  But in 1433, the expeditions were suddenly ordered to stop; the ocean going junks were destroyed, along with almost all surviving manuscripts accounts of the voyages.  China once again turned in upon itself. But the real turning point was still centuries away. What had happened,  had prepared China for the easy acceptance of the doctrines and theology of the King James Version touted by zealots of Christianity.  NEXT: Manichaeism in China, PART 7.


AIKMAN, David, Jesus in Beijing, Regnery Publishing, Washington DC., 2003

BALDWIN, James M., Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology,  Peter Smith, New York 1940

BETHUNE-BAKER, J.F., The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, Ed. J.D.     Douglas,  Zondervan Grand Rapids Michigan, 1974

DOWLEY, Tim, Ed., The Baker Atlas of Christian History, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1997

HARRIS, Bill, China, Land of Eternity, Arch Cape Press, New York, 1989

HARTMAN, Sven S., Parsism The Religion of Zoroaster, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1980

KAGAN, Neil, Ed., National Geographic Concise History of the World, N.G. Washington, 2006

MENZIES, Gavin, 1421 The Year China Discovered America, Harper Collins, New York, 2003

VOLLMER, John E., E.J. Keall, E. Nagai-Berthrong, Silk Roads-China Ships,  Royal Ontario      Museum, Toronto, Ontario, 1986

WRIGGINS, Sally H., The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang, Westview Press, Persus Books,      Cambridge, MA, 2004

YOUNG, Frances,  From Nicaea to Chalcedon, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1983 One of the best discussions of the theological position of Nestorius.

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