The first and second introductions of Christianity to China (C7-9, 12-14)
Newly discovered evidence shows that Christianity was in China about 1400 years ago. Rev. Dr Ji Zhang, Assembly Theologian-in-Residence has used contextual theology and translated some major inscriptions to recover the intercultural dialogue which took place during the Tang and Yuan Dynasties.
Here is an introduction to his research and a link to his presentation on this subject.
Intercultural dialogue was a means of mission when the Syriac speaking Church of the East took the Gospel to China. Mission began with building mutual relationships with the existing cultural and religious traditions. The Nestorian monks lived in China for more than two generations, learned Chinese classics, and then engaged extensive dialogue with Buddhism and Daoism in the Confucian society.
They then used classic Chinese language, indeed Chinese philosophy and cosmology, to record a history of Christian faith dated between 635 and 781.
The formation of a cross-cultural identity was symbolised in a unique logo. The Cross from the Church of the East is positioned under white clouds and above a lotus. The white clouds signify the final journey of Daoist enlightenment. The lotus is a symbol of Buddhism that rises from muddy water of mundane life yet produces a pure flower.
Instead of placing the Gospel above culture, the success of first and second introductions of Christianity to China is about Gospel with culture. I believe, this lesson on Seeking Common Ground is yet to be learned in today’s post-Christendom world.