Monday, December 18, 2017

Persian Christians at the Chinese Court: The Xi'an Stele and the Early Medieval Church of the East

Todd Godwin

I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.

Publication Date: 
18 Dec 2017


The Xi'an Stele, erected in Tang China's capital in 781, describes in both Syriac and Chinese the existence of Christian communities in northern China. While scholars have considered the Stele exclusively in relation to the Chinese cultural and historical context, Todd Godwin demonstrates that it can only be fully understood by reconstructing the complex connections that existed between the Church of the East, Sasanian aristocratic culture, and the Tang Empire (617–907) between the fall of the Sasanian Persian Empire (225–651) and the birth of the Abbasid Caliphate (762–1258).

Through close textual re-analysis of the Stele and by drawing on ancient sources in Syriac, Greek, Arabic, and Chinese, Godwin demonstrates that Tang China (617–907) was a cosmopolitan milieu where multiple religious traditions, namely Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Christianity, formed zones of elite culture. Syriac Christianity in fact remained powerful in Persia throughout the period, and Christianity―not Zoroastrianism―was officially regarded by the Tang government as "The Persian Religion."

Persian Christians at the Chinese Court uncovers the role played by Syriac Christianity in the economic and cultural integration of late Sasanian Iran and China, and is important reading for all scholars of the Church of the East, China, and the Middle East in the medieval period.

Table of Contents:

Chapter One: The Late Sasanian Court and Divine Economy
Chapter Two: 'Repairing the Imperial Net' before the An Lushan Rebellion
Chapter Three: The Habitus of Patriarch Timothy I
Chapter Four: The Court of Emperor Tang Dezong as 'Imperial Net,' andthe 
                     Church of the East's Persian Longue Duree

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