Book Series China and the Mediterranean World, vol. 1

The Church of the East in Central Asia and China

Samuel N.C. Lieu, Glen Thompson (eds)

  • Pages: 260 p.
  • Size:210 x 297 mm
  • Illustrations:25 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58664-9
  • Hardback
  • Available

A collection of papers on the history of Christianity along the Silk Road and in pre-modern China, pushing back the frontier of knowledge in a fast developing new area of research.


 « Saluons le travail de spécialistes qui, pour faire revivre ces pages anciennes de l’histoire chrétienne en Asie, doivent maîtriser un nombre impressionnant de langues et d’écritures. Saluons également la qualité technique des illustrations et des textes de ce beau volume. » (J.S. dans Nouvelle revue théologique, 143/2, 2021, p. 312)

“This edited volume is a strong contribution to furthering the understanding of the Church of the East in China and the Silk Road. It is completely in step with modern scholarship and in several instances advances that scholarship significantly. Given the expertise of the contributors, this is not surprising, and this work can be recommended for any readers with an interest in the history of religions along the Silk Road.” (Anthony J. Watson, in Church History, 3, 2022, p. 131)

“In conclusion, this book details the Church of the East from Central Asia to China and the complex interactions with different places, cultures, religions, and people, which not only helps us better understand the Church of the East but also deepens our understanding of the history of China and Central Asia.” (Wei Xiong, in Religious Studies Review, 48/4, 20 22, p. 605)

“The articles complement each other and offer a truly valuable contribution, enjoyable by cultured readership as by scholars involved in the topic. The bibliographies are rich, and the use of the book is greatly facilitated by an index, the result of a painstaking work by the editors, to whom any reader will be grateful.” (Pier Giorgio Borbone, dans Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique,  118/1-2, 2023, p. 324)

“In short, The Church of the East in central Asia and China is highly recommended. It confirms how much the plurality of voices and approaches benefits scientific research.” (CHIARA BARBATI, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 73, 2022, p. 633)




Professor Samuel N.C. Lieu is the current President of the Union Académique Internationale (International Union of Academies) and a Bye Fellow of Robinson College Cambridge. Professor Glen L. Thompson is Professor of New Testament and Historical Theology at the Asia Lutheran Seminary, Hong Kong


The diffusion of Christianity along the Silk Road from Iraq and Iran to China in the premodern era has attracted scholarly attention in the West since the discovery of the famous Xian (Nestorian) Monument c. 1623. This initial discovery was dismissed as a Jesuit forgery by Voltaire, Edward Gibbon and many other scholars of the Enlightenment. However, its authenticity has been more than vindicated by the discovery of genuine (Nestorian / Jingjiao) Christian texts in Chinese from Dunhuang and in Syriac, Sogdian and Old Turkish from Turfan (Bulayq) at the beginning of the last century. Besides confirming the existence of a Tang era Chinese Christian church (Jingjiao), additional archaeological and literary evidence has accumulated of a Christian presence in China during the later Song and Yuan periods (Yelikewenjiao). These churches were the subject of a conference of international specialists in Hong Kong in 2015. The current volume of eleven articles has grown out of the papers presented there.


Foreword  (Florian Knothe)
List of Contributors 

Part One: The Church of the East in Central Asia
1. Erica Hunter (SOAS) The Christian Library from Turfan: commemorating the saints in MIK III/45
2. Nicholas Sims-Williams, FBA (SOAS) Sogdian biblical manuscripts from the Turfan oasis
3. Takahashi Hidemi (University of Tokyo) Representation of the Syriac language in Jingjiao documents 

Part Two: The Church of the East in Tang and Yuan China
4. Huaiyu, Chen (Univsity of Arizona) Shared Issues in a Shared Textual Community: Buddhist, Christian, and Daoist Texts in Tang Chin
5. Max Deeg (Cardiff University) Messiah Rediscovered: Some Philological Notes on the So-called 'Jesus the Messiah Sutra  
6. Samuel N.C. Lieu, (Macquarie and Robinson College, Cambridge)  From Rome (Daqin 大秦) To China (Zhongguo 中國):  The Xi’an 西安 (Nestorian) Monument As A Bilingual And Transcultural Document (Keynote Address)
7. Glen L. Thompson (Asia Lutheran Seminary, Hong Kong) Strange Teaching from a Strange Land: Foreignness, Heresy, and Our Understanding of the Jingjiao and Yelikewenjiao 
8. David Wilmshurst (formerly Chinese University of Hong Kong) Interfaith Conflict in Yuan China 

Part Three: The Art and Iconography of the Church of the East
9.  Niu Ruji,  ‘History Is a Mirror:On the Spread of Nestorianism in China from the Newly Discovered Bronze Mirror with Cross-lotus and Syriac Inscriptions
10. Ken Parry (Emeritus Macquarie) Images in the Church of the East: The Textual and Art Historical Evidence in the Light of Contemporary Practice
11. Patrick Taveirne (Chinese University of Hong Kong) The Study of the Ordos “Nestorian Bronze Crosses”: Status Quaestionis 

Addenda to Chapter 3