Full Text for Christian Missions in China Before Morrison, part 1 (Text)

274 Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. Less than a hali century after Augustine of Canterbury began his work of Ohristianizing the Anglo-Saxons in England; nearly a hali century before Boniface, the so-called Apostle of the Germans, was born; fully two hundred years before Ansgar, the Apostle of the North, began his work of founding the Ohristian Church among the N orthmen; and long before Ohristianity had come to the Moravians, Bulgarians, Bohemians, Hungarians, Pomeranians, Prussians, Poles, Russians, and other peoples that make up the Western Ohristian world to-day, Ohristianity was brought to Ohina, that far-flung land with its teeming millions of inhabitants, which in spite of all the past efforts at the Ohristianization of its people is at the present time still one of the greatest and most important fields for Ohristian mis­sions in the world. We usually think of Ohinese missions as beginning about a cen­tury ago, with the work of men like Morrison, Guetzlaff, Milne, Med­hurst, Parker, and others; but their efforts were really, strictly speak­ing, a reintroduction of the Ohristian religion into a land where it had previously gained a considerable foothold several times, only to be cast out again amid severe persecutions of its adherents. The exact time when Ohristianity entered Ohina is uncertain.* Although there are a number of traditions that would seem to sug­gest various early contacts, one as early as the days of the apostles, they are without sufficient historical proof to deserve acceptance. The first attempt to Ohristianize the Ohinese about which we have reliable information was made in the seventh century. It proved to be highly successful and led to the establishment of a Ohristian Ohurch that flourished in a large territory for over a century and a hali, perhaps considerably longer. Oddly enough, this missionary work was accomplished not by the orthodox churches of the East and West, but by the heretical N estorian Ohurch. The chief evidence of the work of the Nestorian Ohristians in Ohina is found in the inscription of the famous N estorian monument. 1. The Famous Nestorian Monument in China. In the city of Sian-fu, in the province of Shensi, Ohina, there stands to-day, in the so-called Pei-lin, that is, Forest of Tablets, a monument which is 1,150 years old and which is still of perennial interest to Ohristians because it is a memorial of the earliest known attempt to introduce the Ohristian religion among the people of the great Flowery Kingdom. This stele was erected by N estorian Ohris­tians in the year 781 A. D. and in its lengthy inscription tells the * Latourette, A History of Ohristian Missions in Ohina. Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. 275 story of Nestorian mission-work in Ohina between the years 635 and 781 A.D. At that time the Tang Dynasty ruled in the Ohinese Empire (620-907). It was a period of great and far-reaching development, commercially, culturally, and politically. The empire expanded westward as far as the Caspian Sea, farther than it has ever reached before or since. Dr. -Williams says: "China was probably the most civilized country on earth [during this time]; the dark days of the vVest, when Europe was wrapt in the ignorance and degradation of the Middle Ages, form the brightest era of the East. They [the OhineseJ exercised a humanizing effect on all the surrounding coun­tries and led their inhabitants to see the benefits and understand the management of a government where the laws were above the officers." The Emperor T'ai Tsung (627-649), the outstanding member of the Tang Dynasty, "may be regarded as the most accomplished in the Chinese annals, famed alike for his wisdom and nobleness, his conquests and good government, his temperance, cultivated tastes, and patronage of literary men." He seems to have used all his opportunities to make cultural and commercial connections for his empire with the 'Vestern kingdoms. There was a lively exchange of commercial products and inventions between the East and the vVest. He established schools, instituted a system of literary examinations, had the Oonfucian classics published under the supervision of the most learned men of his realm, and took great pains to preserve the historical annals of the previous dynasties. The interchange of products and ideas with the kingdoms of the vVest also opened the doors of China to the religions of the VV cst, such as Islam, Parseelsm, and Manicheism. It is said that the first Moslems came into the Oelestial Empire only six years after the Hegira, seven years before the coming of the N estorians. In the following century a force of Arab soldiers was sent to China to assist in quelling an insurrection, and as a reward for their services these Mohammedan soldiers were allowed to settle in the country, and thus they also helped materially in the spreading of their religion. It was also during the reign of the great T'ai Tsung that Chris­tianity had its first entrance (as far as we know) into China as a result of an organized effort on the part of the N cstorian Christians. That there were earlier attempts to spread the Gospel there certain discoveries seem to indicate. For example, in the province of Kiangsi a St. Andrew's cross has been found bearing the name of the Emperor Sun-Wu (229 A.D.), a member of the Chou Dynasty; in the province of Fokien three St. Thomas's crosses without inscrip­tions have been discovered, and their form and style indicate fourth­and fifth-century origin. These, of course, are only traces that sug­gest a probably earlier spread of Christianity in certain parts of 276 Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. the great empire. The N estorian monument, however, is much more. It definitely establishes the triumphant spread of Nestorian Ohris­tianity during a period covering more than a century and a half and possibly two centuries. The monument is nine feet high, three and a half feet wide, a little less than a foot thick and weighs two tons. It is of blaOk subgranular oolitic limestone. The Ohinese call it Ohin-chiao-pei, that is, Luminous Teaching Stone. The inscription, in Ohinese and Syriac, covers the entire front of the stele. The text was prepared by the Syrian monk Adam, called in Ohinese King-tsing. The m­scription was chiseled into the stone by a certain Lii-hsin-yen. Fortunately the monument, perhaps not many years after its erection in 781 A. D., had been carefully buried, probably to save it from destruction by enemies of Nestorianism. When it was un­earthed in 1625 at the excavation for a building at that spot, it was found to be in perfect condition. The first European who reported on it was Father Alvaro Semedo, a Portuguese Jesuit (1628). The inscription, which has been translated by scholars of various nations, is very interesting and offers much information. It is divided into three parts, the first, dogmatic, the second, historical, and the third, poetical. The historical part describes how the Syrian monk Alopen in 635 came to Sian-fu (also spelled Singan-fu, Hsian-fu, Sigan-fu, Oh'ang-an, etc.), the capital of the Shensi prov­ince. It was once the ancient capital of the Chinese Empire and is one of the most interesting and historic cities of all Ohina. The Emperor T'ai Tsung welcomed him through his minister Hsuan-ling and had him escorted with a guard of honor to the imperial palace. The Sacred Writings which Alopen had brought along were trans­lated into Ohinese and included in the imperial library. T'ai Tsung himself became, first a student of "the Way" and, convinced of its truth, a convert, whereupon he gave special orders for the propaga­tion of the new religion, which in the inscription is called the Lumi­nous Teaching, even as Ohrist Himself is referred to as the Luminous Lord. The succeeding emperors also were mostly favorable to Chris­tianity. The Emperor Kao-tsung had a monastery of the Luminous Religion erected in every prefecture of his realm and gave to Alopen the title Great Patron and Spiritual Lord. Although in 699 A. D. and again in 712 A. D., at the instigation of the Buddhi sta, opposition to N estorianism showed itself at the imperial court, the successors of Alopen succeeded "in restoring the great fundamental principles and uniting together to rebind the broken ties." The "law of our Luminous Doctrine" spread through the ten provinces, and the entire empire enjoyed peace and concord. "Monasteries were built in many cities, and every family rejoiced in the great blessings of salvation." Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. 277 The dogmatic part of the inscription presents various Ohristian teachings, such as the doctrine of the Triune God, who created all things; it relates the story of the Fall caused by Satan and gives an account of the incarnation, the virgin birth, the holy life, and the ascension of the Redeemer, called Messiah; it also describes His work as having abolished death, mentions the necessity of conver­sion, Baptism, and shows the missionary method of His ministers. "Behold, there is One who is true and firm, who, being Uncreated, is the Origin of the origins; who is ever Incomprehensible and In­visible, yet ever mysteriously existing to the last of the lasts; who, holding the Secret Source of Origin, created all things and who, be­stowing existence on all the Holy oncs, is the only unoriginated Lord of the Universe, -is not this our Aloha the Triune, mysterious Person, the unbegotten and true Lord ~ "Dividing the Oross, He determined the four cardinal points. Setting in motion the primordial spirit [wind], He produced the two principles of N aturc. The dark void was changed, and Heaven and Earth appeared. The sun and moon revolved, and day and night began. Having designed and fashioned all things, He then created the first man and bestowed on him an excellent disposition, superior to all others, and gave him to have dominion over the Ocean of created things. "The original nature of Man was pure and void of all selfishness, unstained and unostentatious; his mind was free from inordinate lust and passion. When, however, Satan employed his evil devices on him, Man's pUl'Cl and stainless [nature] was deteriorated; the perfect attainment of goodness, on the one hand, and the entire exemption from wickedness, on the other, became alike impossible for him. "In consequence of this three hundred and sixty-five different forms [of errol'] arose in quick succession and left deep furrows be­hind. They strove to. weave nets of the laws wherewith to ensnare the innocent. Some pointing to natural objects, pretended that they were the right objects to worship; others denied the reality of exis­tence and insisted on ignoring the duality; some sought to call down blessings (happiness or success) by means of prayers and sacrifices; others again boasted of their own goodness and held their fellows in contempt. [Thus] the intellect and the thoughts of Men fell into hopeless confusion; and their mind and affections began to toil in­cessantly; but all their travail was in vain. The heat of their distress became a scorching flame; and, self-blinded, they increased the dark­ness still more; and losing their path for a long while, they went astray and became unable to return home again. "Whereupon one Person of our Trinity, the Messiah, who is the Luminous Lord of the Universe, veiling His true Majesty, ap-278 Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. peared upon earth as a man. Angels proclaimed the Glad Tidings. A virgin gave birth to the Holy One in Ta-ch'in. A bright Star an­nounced the blessed event. Persians saw the splendor and came forth with their tribute. "Fulfilling the old Law as it was declared by the twenty-four Sages, He [the Messiah] taught how to rule both families and king­doms according to His own great Plan. Establishing His New Teach­ing of Non-assertion, which operates silently through the Holy Spirit, another Person of the Trinity, He formed in man a capacity for well-doing through the Right Faith. Setting up the standard of the eight cardinal virtues, He purged away the dust from human nature and perfected a true character. Widely opening the Three Oonstant Gates, He brought Life to light and abolished Death. Hanging up the bright Sun, He swept away the abodes of darkness. All the evil devices of the devil were thereupon defeated and de­stroyed. He then took an oar in the Vessel of Mercy and ascended to the Palace of Light. Thereby all rational beings were conveyed across the Gulf. His mighty work being thus completed, He re­turned at noon to His original position [in Heaven]. The twenty­seven standard works of His Sutras were preserved. The great means of Oonversion [or leavening, i. e., transformation] were widely extended, and the sealed Gate of the Blessed Life was unlocked. His Law is to bathe with water and with the Spirit and thus to cleanse from all vain delusions and to purify men until they regain the whiteness of their nature. "[His ministers] carry the Oross with them as a Sign. They travel about wherever the sun shines and try to reunite those that are beyond the pale [i. e., those that are lost]. Striking the wood, they proclaim the Glad Tidings [lit., joyful sounds] of Love and Oharity. They turn ceremoniously to the East and hasten in the Path of Life and Glory. They preserve the beard to show that they have outward works to do, whilst they shave the crown [tonsure] to remind themselves that they have no private selfish desires. They keep neither male nor female slaves. Putting all men on an equality, they make no distinction between the noble and the mean. They accumulate neither property nor wealth; but giving all they possess, they set a good example to others. They observe fasting in order that they may subdue 'the knowledge' [which defiles the mind]. They keep the vigil of silence and watchfulness, so that they may observe 'the Precepts.' Seven times a day they meet for worship and praise, and earnestly they offer prayers for the living as well as for the dead. Once in seven days they have 'a sacrifice without the animal' [i. e., a bloodless sacrifice]. Thus cleansing their hearts, they regain their purity. This ever True and Unchaning Way is mysterious and is almost impossible to name. But its meritorious Christian Missions in China' Before Morrison. 279 operations are so brilliantly manifested that we make no effort and call it by the name of 'The Luminous Religion.'" All references to the death of the Messiah and his connection with man's sin are lacking. It is noteworthy that a number of Buddhistic, Oonfucianistic, and Taoistic expressions are used, but apparently no Nestorian. Julius Richter suggests that, since the inscription was designed for public use, it intended to present Ohristianity in as inoffensive a way as possible, so that it would find a ready appeal among the Ohinese; and he asks if doctrines such as the vicarious atonement of our Lord and the Lord's Supper were not omitted because they were some of the mysteries of the disciplina arcani, transmitted only to the initiate. In the poetieal ode which forms the last section of tho inscrip­tion the merits of the Ohristian religion are lauded, and the several emperors who were favorable to its dissemination are highly praised. This, then, is a brief summary of the internal evidence this in­scription presents of the work of the Nestorians in Ohina. We also have some fragments of external evidence. A Buddhist document composed about the same time mentions the same Syrian monk Adam, or, as he was called by thc Ohinese, King-tsing. He assisted the Buddhist Bikkhn Prajna in translating an Indian Sutra from the Sogdian (a Persian province) into Ohinese. "But the Emperor T'ai Tsung examined the translation and found that the principles pre­sented therein were dark and the wording confused. Furthermore, since the ministry of the Buddhists is altogether different from that of the Ta-chin (Syria) and their religious exercises are contradictory to one another, King Tsing shall teach the doctrine of the Messiah, while the monks, Buddha's children, shall teach the Sutras of Buddha. The boundaries of both doctrines are to be kept separate, and their respecti ve adherents are not to mingle. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy are as different as the two rivers King and Wei." (Richter.) Richter also gives the wording of some official decretals of this period which refer to the work of the N estorians. For example, one decretal from the year 745 stfltes: "A long time ago came [the teachers of] the Scriptures from Persia out of Syria to preach and to exercise. They spread out in the Middle Kingdom. When they first built cloisters, we gave them [because of their apparent origin] the name Persians. In order that the people might know their [real] origin, we changed the names of both Persian monasteries in the capital to 'Syrian.'" Another decretal is from the year 845, at the time of the great Buddhist persecution by the Emperor Wu-tsang: "Ooncerning the monks and nuns who came as foreigners in order to make known the religions of strange lands, we order that 3,000 Syrian and Mahufa [?] 280 Christian Missions in China Before Morrison. return to lay life and cease to confuse our indigenous customs." That these Syrian monks were the N estorians of whom the inscription speaks is probable. This is the sum total of the information we have about the work of the Nestorians in Ohina during' the seventh and eighth centuries. AppaTently the N estorian Ohurch in spite of its illustrious Tise undeT imperial favor collapsed quickly in the persecutions that followed. ~When 11:arco Polo came to Ohina four hundred years later, he found large N estorian congregations in various cities, but it is not altogether certain that these are to be connected with this early eifort, although it is entirely likely. The question naturally rises, since Buddhism weathered the storms of persecution and Islam also, both religions continuing to flourish down to our own day in the Oelestial Empire, why not the N estorian Ohristianity? It is supposed by some that in the per­secutions many Ohristians associated either with the Buddhists or Moslems and that Ohristian influences may be seen in the "All Souls' Day" of the Ohinese, in the Buddhist doctrine of a "WesteTn paradise of the pure land" and of the Amithabha [the limitless Light -God the Father], Kwanyin [male principle -OhTist], and others. But whatever the reasons fOT the downfall of this great missionary movement may have been, the enterprise itself, as the N estorian stele sufficiently testifies, is a Temarkable monument to Ohristian zeal. It fires the imagination to think of the heroism of that little band of N estorian emissaTies who crossed Asia and in­troduced Ohristianity to the sons of Han more than six centuries before the second Ohristian mission came to Ohina. It is only to be regretted that it was not a purer form of Ohristianity and that It did not endure. Nevertheless it should serve as an example and an inspiration to all Ohristians, especially to those who adhere strictly to the pure Word and SacTament, in the advancement of the kingdom of OhTist here on eaTth both at home and abToad. A few points might be added that pertain to the present histoTY of this famous stone memorial. For nearly three centuTies after its discovery in the fiTst quarter of the seventeenth century it stood behind an old Buddhist temple in Sian-fu. The fact that attempts were made to purchase it for the purpose of removing it to some European or American museum caused the Ohinese authorities in 1907 to have it moved to the Pei-lin, a spot in Sian-fu where all the precious historical monuments of the vicinity have been placed. About that time the Danish American archeologist Dr. Frits von Holm visited Sian-fu with the intention of obtaining either the original monument or a replica of it. The former could not be obtained because of the value which the Ohinese authorities placed upon it. But Dr. Holm did succeed in having a perfect replica 'tIie &:lauvtfcl)tiften ,\Jut~et§ in djtono{ogijdjet lRei~enfolge. 281 made. In his book My N estorian Venture in Ohina he tells us: "This replica is one of the most beautiful pieces of Ohinese work­manship I have ever seen. In the first place, there is not a measure­ment, not a character, not a detail, that differs from the original tablet; even the weight is the same." It was the work of four native stonecutters. This replica Dr. Holm, after many difficulties and hardships, had transported to our country, where it was on exhibit as a loan in the New York Metropolitan Art Museum from 1908 to 1916. He had hoped that some wealthy American would purchase it, so that it might remain in America as a permanent possession of one or the other of our large museums. But as there seemed to be a lack of interest in the matter, it was ultimately sold to a Roman Oatholic, taken to Italy, and placed in the Lateran Palace of the Roman Pontiff. A second replica, made by interested Japanese scholars, stands to-day at the top of Mount Koya, the "holy land" of Japan, where it was dedicated with full Buddhist ceremonies on October 3, 1911. It is located just within the entrance of the wonderful cemetery of the Okuno-in, where tens of thousands of Japanese, from emperors to peasants, have been laid to rest, awaiting the coming of Miroku, the expected Messiah of the Buddhists. W. G. POLAOK. ('1'0 be conoluded.) ~ie ~IlU1Jtfdjfifteu £utljet~ in djtuuo{ugifdjet ffieiljeufulge. Sffiit Illnmcrfun~en. (i)'ottfeimng,) 1518, "mon bet ~taft bes mannes, /I -'tIiefe 6djtift ging 3wifdjen bem 21. unb 31. Illuguft 1518 aus, {ateinijdj, mit ber i'tbetfdjrift Resolutiones Dispu­tationum de Indulgentiarum Virtute. £utl)er unterjdjeibet ~iet nodj 3wijdjen bem mann, bet cine metClllVung ber iiunetlidjen ®emeinfc!)aft ijt, unll bem mann, bet in bet ltat geiftlic!) abjonbed. ~in ~erbotftec!)enber 6a~ finbet fidj in bet adjten lt~cje: ,,'tier mann muii nidjt allein wcgen ~iberf.).lenjtigfeit in ®{auvens~ fadjen (fidei), fonbern tuegen eines jeglidjen iitgerlidjen grooen metge~ens gefiim werben." (6t. Bouijer Illusgabe XIX, 874 ft.) 1519, ,,~inc furoe Untertueijung, luie mun oeicl)ten f oll, /I -'tIiefe forma confessionis fUr vie einriiUigen Baien etfc!)ien fe~t ftil~ im :;Sa~te, ba fie jdjon im :;Sanuat ge.).l!ant tvar. 'tIie 6c!)rift 3ei9t, baii £ut~et fidj melJr unb me~r los~ riii (lon bel' rllmifcf)en Illuffllffung bon 'oCl' meicl)tc; benn fdjon bet erlte 6at [autet: 3um erften foll ein jeglief)er djtiftridjer Sffienfdj, ber beief)ten lui[, fein meiftes unb gtontes mettrauen in bie allerbarmlJcqigfte mer~ei\lung unb 3ujage ®ottes feten unb ~aben unb fcftiglicl) grauDen, bet barm~er3ige ®ott werbe i~m fcine Gilnbe oatm~et3ig!idj bctgeoen. -'tiel' meic!)tf.).licgc{ fc!oet Deigt, wie cin 5JJtenjc!) fief) nadj ben 3e~n ®eooten .).lriifen mag. (6t. £ouifet Illuilgaoe X, 2158 ft.) 1519, "Illuslegung beutjdj bes materunfers filt bie einfiiHigen £aien. -stiieg ift £ut~et§ eigene Qluilgave bon ber 6c!)rift, bie im :;SCt~re bot~er burdj :;Sll~ann Gdjneibcr vejorgt worDen war, 6ie ift in einem j}'affimUebrucf unb ~invanb ~cr~ ausgegeocn tuorben bon Dtto 6eiU.l') *) mUe in Mefet l:!ifte erhJiiljnten @lonoerbtucIe fOnnen OUtd) unfet medag~ljau~ lie30gcn llJctbcn,