I42

in various Central Asian areas, including Kushan. By the end of the fifth century, missionaries including John of Resaina had established churches among the White Huns in Bactria. During this same period there were East Syrian bishoprics established in cities along the Oxus river, in Naishapur, Herat, Gilan and Merv. Other bishoprics were established in Kaskar, Samarkand and Turkmenistan. There were certainly Christians there to support these bishoprics when they were established. In 591, Turkic soldiers with crosses tattooed on their heads, who asserted that they were Christians, were captured by Byzantine mercenaries in northern Persia. The Syriac texts note when these areas were absorbed into the ecclesial structures of the East Syrian church or the arrival of other traditions: Armenian, Melchite, and West Syrian. However, they do not provide data about the earlier developments. It is hoped that scholarly archaeological research in the area might provide more clues to this history.

China34

Early evidence about China is suggestive, but at this time the data still remains fragmentary. Bardaisan suggested, about 180, that there were Christians in China, a not unreasonable possibility given the activity on the trade routes. Certainly there were political/economic embassies between the Chinese and Roman empires during this period. By the late sixth century (c. 578), there was an East Syrian missionary, Mar Sergius, residing in Lint'ao. By 635, another East Syrian missionary, A-lo-pen (Abraham? Rabban? Aba?) arrived in China with a mandate to organise the Christians and to represent them before the emperor. At this point there is no indication of the nature of the communities he found there, although permission was givento establish (and populate!) a monastery during the reign of the Emperor T'ai-Tsung (627-49). The most important source for the period 635-781 is the so-called 'Nestorian stele' at Xi'an, which includes names of Syriac and Chinese Christian leaders in China, as well as a list of Chinese Christian texts. Other early Chinese Christian documents excavated in western China were edited with photographic reproductions by Y. Saeki.

34 Mingana, 'Early spread of Christianity'; P. Yoshiro Saeki, The Nestorian documents; Pelliot, Recherches sur les chrétiens d'Asie centrale et d'Extrême Orient; S. H. Moffett, A history of Christianity in Asia, vol. I; England, 'The earliest Christian communities in Southeast and Northeast Asia'; D. Bundy, 'Missiological reflections on Nestorian Christianity during the Tang dynasty'.

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