Oldest Christian Monument in China

The oldest Christian monument in China dates from the eighth century. Few Americans probably are aware that missionaries penetrated into China so long ago as that. Inasmuch as some thirteen hundred years have passed since then, and no marked advance has been made in converting the Chinese, the prospect of eventual success seems poor.

This is the Nestorian tablet or Syro-Chinese monument which stands one mile outside the gate of Singan-fu in Shen-si. The story it tells is that of the fortunes of the Nestorian mission in China between the years 636 and 781. It sets forth the dogmas of Christianity, records the history of Christian effort in China, and adds a sort of metrical thanksgiving to God and to the emperors who favored the Christian cause.

All trace of the mission has vanished except only this monument. It was unearthed in 1625, and copies of its inscription were sent to various capitals of Europe, exciting great interest at the time, and nowhere more than in London. Two lines of Syriac run down the left and right side of the Chinese. There is also Syriac writing at the foot. Recent visitors have found that the stone is in good preservation, and rubbings which have been taken attest its perfection. The Syriac characters composing the signatures of Olopim and his associates add to its interest. In 1859 a Chinaman rebuilt the tablet into the brick wall where it had once stood outside the city. The material is a coarse marble. A considerable controversy has raged round this interesting relic, but the weight of evidence now inclines toward the conclusion that it is genuine.

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June 20, 1901

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