Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

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Shotenzenjin
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Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Shotenzenjin »

Curious how a replica of nestorian Christianity ended up at Mt koya?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xi%27an_Stele
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Wayfarer »

I don’t know any specifics, but I have always found the story of the Nestorian Christian’s exile and subsequent trek to China very poignant. It also gave rise to many beautiful manuscripts known as the Issa Sutras, (where ‘Issa’ was the sinisized name for Jesus) which re-tell the story of Jesus life and crucifixion using many Buddhist terms and images.

I must say I think the whole subject is fascinating and would make an excellent basis for a documentary.
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Shotenzenjin »

Thank you for your reply wayfarer
Generation's shall pass, our determination shall grow, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Like smoke that reaches far beyond the clouds.--nichimoku shonin. Third high priest of Nichiren Shoshu

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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Caoimhghín »

The Taishō Canon has several Nestorian Christian and Manichaean scriptures at the end of it. Nestorianism was huge in China during the Yuan dynasty, and produced Christian-Buddhist hybrid scriptures, like the "Jesus Sutras," which are published in a horrible translation by Martin Palmer. Funnily enough, the Chinese emperors of the Yuan didn't feel it necessary to distinguish between Christianity and Manichaeism, and would appoint only one governor to oversee both religions. So sometimes, as a Christian, your Chinese bishop would be a Manichaean and you would just have to live with it and vice-versa.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Wayfarer »

Caoimhghín wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:18 am ...published in a horrible translation...
Are there good translations? Any alternatives?
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Caoimhghín »

Wayfarer wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:19 am
Caoimhghín wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:18 am ...published in a horrible translation...
Are there good translations? Any alternatives?
No, as far as I know. Maybe I'll publish one if I ever become a professional. The issue with the Palmer translations is an ignorance of Christianity, not Buddhism though.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Wayfarer »

I think it’s a fertile topic for popularisation. There must be a huge amount of unpublished archival material, all the Aurel Stein discoveries, and so on. As I said, would make a great documentary, it’s full of intrigue plus the romance of the Silk Road.
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by tingdzin »

There is also a beautiful painting of Manichaean cosmology that ended up in Japan. There is evidently some scholarly opinion to the effect that certain Japanese Buddhist schools were influenced by Manichaean teachings. Sorry, due to Covid exile, I don't have the sources with me.
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by humble.student »

Wayfarer wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:19 am
Caoimhghín wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:18 am ...published in a horrible translation...
Are there good translations? Any alternatives?
Good is rather subjective; but alternatives, yes. Riegert did a translation as well, The Lost Sutras of Jesus or something, and there's another version (which I haven't seen) called The Secret Sayings of Ye Su. [Apparently the latter may well be a fabrication, according to some reviewer on Amazon, I don't know.]
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by PeterC »

Caoimhghín wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:18 am The Taishō Canon has several Nestorian Christian and Manichaean scriptures at the end of it. Nestorianism was huge in China during the Yuan dynasty, and produced Christian-Buddhist hybrid scriptures, like the "Jesus Sutras," which are published in a horrible translation by Martin Palmer. Funnily enough, the Chinese emperors of the Yuan didn't feel it necessary to distinguish between Christianity and Manichaeism, and would appoint only one governor to oversee both religions. So sometimes, as a Christian, your Chinese bishop would be a Manichaean and you would just have to live with it and vice-versa.
Does the evidence suggest it was 'huge'? I'm not sure about that. Are you talking about the Yuan or about the broader Mongol empire? There was certainly a meaningful christian component in the latter. But that dynasty did practice religious tolerance and didn't particularly care what people practiced as long as they paid their taxes.

In any case christian legacy communities in China at that point aren't particularly surprising. There was a Chinese Jewish community in Kaifeng as late as the Ming.

I've seen the original of the stele btw. It's not terrible, but far from the best piece in the collection.
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Caoimhghín »

PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 6:14 am
Caoimhghín wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:18 am The Taishō Canon has several Nestorian Christian and Manichaean scriptures at the end of it. Nestorianism was huge in China during the Yuan dynasty, and produced Christian-Buddhist hybrid scriptures, like the "Jesus Sutras," which are published in a horrible translation by Martin Palmer. Funnily enough, the Chinese emperors of the Yuan didn't feel it necessary to distinguish between Christianity and Manichaeism, and would appoint only one governor to oversee both religions. So sometimes, as a Christian, your Chinese bishop would be a Manichaean and you would just have to live with it and vice-versa.
Does the evidence suggest it was 'huge'?
On terms of evidence to suggest it was huge, they had two metropolitan provinces, which are regional divisions of the Church of the East. So it was large enough, but huge is relative. Obviously it wasn't as big as Buddhism, etc. It also looks like I was thinking of the early Tang, not the Yuan, on terms of when it was largest, but the bishop mix-ups come from the Yuan times.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by PeterC »

Caoimhghín wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 3:50 pm
PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 6:14 am
Caoimhghín wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:18 am The Taishō Canon has several Nestorian Christian and Manichaean scriptures at the end of it. Nestorianism was huge in China during the Yuan dynasty, and produced Christian-Buddhist hybrid scriptures, like the "Jesus Sutras," which are published in a horrible translation by Martin Palmer. Funnily enough, the Chinese emperors of the Yuan didn't feel it necessary to distinguish between Christianity and Manichaeism, and would appoint only one governor to oversee both religions. So sometimes, as a Christian, your Chinese bishop would be a Manichaean and you would just have to live with it and vice-versa.
Does the evidence suggest it was 'huge'?
On terms of evidence to suggest it was huge, they had two metropolitan provinces, which are regional divisions of the Church of the East. So it was large enough, but huge is relative. Obviously it wasn't as big as Buddhism, etc. It also looks like I was thinking of the early Tang, not the Yuan, on terms of when it was largest, but the bishop mix-ups come from the Yuan times.
That chronology would make a bit more sense given the age of the stele and it's location in Xian/Changan.

Out of curiosity I looked up the inscription. It's fascinating. The chinese is available here: https://zh.wikisource.org/wiki/%E5%A4%A ... 1%E9%A0%8C
There is an english version here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Nest ... nscription
However the translation looks very questionable in parts.

The first section is a short descriptive summary, which has a few details suggesting a monastic origin, mentioning that they shave their heads, keep long beards, do not keep slaves, purify and practice austerities every seven days, do not seek wealth, etc. It also writes in the expectation that the reader is hearing about this for the first time:
真常之道,妙而難名,㓛用昭彰,強稱㬌教
This true and unchanging path is miraculous and hard to name, as its merits are manifest, [we] reluctantly call it the shining religion.
(The name doesn't translate particularly well)

The second section goes a bit into the history of the transmission. During Taizong's reign, a man called Aluoben arrives from the country of Qin carrying scriptures (not an unusual thing in the early Tang - the court was very open to new ideas, so a lot of people turned up to pitch theirs). He's met by Fang Xuan Ling, who lived from 579-648 and was a scholar and important courtier - he appears in a list of the 24 meritorious courtiers of the period, was a duke, and held one of the top five positions at court. The stele claims that the emperor sent him to the western border to receive this visitor, which I doubt very much, he's way too important to be making a journey to meet some random peddler of a new religion. Anyway Aluoben arrives in Changan, his books are translated, the stele claims Taizong read them (again I doubt that) and ordered their dissemination. However it then cites an imperial proclamation:
道無常名,聖無常體,随方設教,密濟群生。大秦國大德阿羅夲,逺将𦀰像,来獻上亰,詳其教旨,玄妙無為,觀其元宗,生成立要。詞無繁說,理有忘筌,濟物利人,宜行天下。

Paths have no lasting name, saints have no lasting body, religions arise according to the needs of the region to benefit the people. The virtuous Aluoben of the country of Qin has brought texts and images from afar to offer at our capital, considering in detail the principles of his teaching, they are miraculous and effortless; observing its source, it arises from the essential points. Its ritual is clear, its principles transcend its methods, it benefits all people, and is suitable to be widely disseminated.
There's various constructions familiar from Taoism in the text. Presumably whoever wrote this was doing the usual Chinese thing of understanding a foreign religion in terms familiar to them.

Now nobody would dare to make fraudulent claims of an imperial edict, so we should assume that there was indeed an edict of this form. But then again, the edict itself sounds like a fairly perfunctory and low-effort announcement, and we have no other documentary evidence that Taizong was particularly interested in Christianity.

The stele goes on to say that the emperor ordered the building of a temple in Yining with 21 monks. It doesn't make it clear that this was part of the edict, so the writers are probably being deliberately vague on the connection between the edict and the churches. The only Yining that exists today is in Jiangxi, so either there was another location by that name then, or he didn't find favor at court and was being sent a long way away. I'd need to consult some maps on that point. In any case he was given a portrait of the emperor to put on the wall of the temple, which was presumably to signify approval of their religion's existence in the empire.

It then goes on to cite some earlier historical books about the country of Qin - so this stele wasn't written by anyone who'd heard a description from Aluoben, clearly. It has a sea to the south, mountains to the north, forests to the west, and produces pearls, incense and gems. This is slightly at odds with the identification of Aluoben as a Syrian - the geography doesn't work, Persia would be a better fit. But anyway this is clearly filler culled from unrelated sources.

Anyway, the story continues. We continue to the Gaozong emperor, Aluoben seems still to be in China, and the stele describes a somewhat improbable spread of the doctrine: there's a church in every town, and Gaozong elevates Aluoben to a national-level religious figure ("崇阿羅夲為鎮國大法主"). In around 698-700, the Buddhists become unhappy about this and start complaining ("聖曆年,釋子用壯,騰口於東周").

So we continue to Xuanzong - this is by now over half a century since Aluoben was supposed to have arrived, and he's not mentioned in the text at this point, so we can assume he's dead. He restores the churches that have been destroyed ("法棟暫橈而更崇,道石時傾而復正"). So clearly the Buddhists had done more than just complain. This is the first in a few cycles of symbolic restoration mentioned. In the 740s there is another wave of redecoration, spurred by the visit of priests from the country of Qin again. Then again in the reign of Suzong (so presumably between the 740s and his death in 762) there's a rebuilding of churches in four locations, reasons not given. The final emperor mentioned is Daizong, and while it talks about how great he was, it doesn't really show him doing much specific to glorify this particular religion.

It then talks about the person who was the origin of the stele. He was a 殿中監, which in the Tang was a lower third rank official - which is still pretty senior, it's a role at court in charge of protocol I think. It talks a bit about how loyal, modest, clever etc. he was. Then it closes on an interesting section:
更効㬌門,依仁施利,每嵗集四寺僧徒,虔事精供,俻諸五旬。餧者来而飰之,寒者来而衣之,病者療而起之,死者葬而安之。清節達娑,未聞斯美。白衣㬌士,今見其人。願刻洪碑,以揚休烈。

Upholding the Christian religion, he shared his profits as an act of generosity, every year he gathered the monks of the four churches and devoutly sponsored fifty days of purification. He gave food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, healed the sick, and laid the dead to rest. The perfection [of his works] was unheard of amongst other religions. The white-robed Christians, having seen such a person, wished to carve this stele to spread the praise of his deeds.
The stele then recaps all of this in a rather well-written poem.

A lot of the epigraph is written in syriac, so I'll rely on the wikimedia translation here:
This was erected in the 2d year of Jianzhong, of the Tang dynasty (A. D. 781), on the 7th day of the 1st month, being Sunday.
Written by Lu Siu-yen, Secretary to Council, formerly Military Superintendent for Taichau; while the Bishop Ning-shu had the charge of the congregations of the Illustrious in the East.

(The two lines of Syriac are in the Estrangelo character, and run down the right and left sides of the Chinese respectively. Kircher translates this as follows:)
"Adam, Deacon, Vicar-episcopal and Pope of China.
In the time of the Father of Fathers, the Lord John Joshua, the Universal Patriarch."

(The translation of the Syriac at the foot of the stone is given here on the authority of Kircher:)
"In the year of the Greeks one thousand and ninety-two, the Lord Jazedbuzid, Priest and Vicar-episcopal of Cumdan the royal city, son of the enlightened Mailas, Priest of Balach a city of Turkestan, set up this tablet, whereon is inscribed the Dispensation of our Redeemer, and the preaching of the apostolic missionaries to the King of China.”

(After this, in Chinese characters, is)
"Priest Lingbao."

(Then follows:)
"Adam the Deacon, son of Jazedbuzid, Vicar-episcopal.
The Lord Sergius, Priest and Vicar-episcopal.
Sabar Jesus, Priest.
Gabriel, Priest, Archdeacon, and Ecclesiarch of Cumdan and Sarag.

(The following subscription is appended in Chinese:)
"Assistant Examiner: the High Statesman of the Sacred rites, the Imperially-conferred-purple-gown Chief Presbyter and Priest Yí-li."
(On the left-hand edge are the Syriac names of sixty-seven priests, and sixty-one are given in Chinese.)
They use 僧 to refer to most of the people here, which the english translates as 'priest', but there's an interesting question as to what function they're really describing. They use 衆 to refer to the congregation, so again probably borrowed vocabulary from other religions.

If "Balach, a city of Turkestan" refers to modern Balochistan (I'm pretty sure it must) that might tend to confirm my guess that Aluoben didn't come from Syria but from much closer to China. Balochistan has seas to the south and mountains to the north, and has gemstone mines. In any case the epigraph suggests an established episcopal system existing in China in the early Tang. The repeated references to four churches, and the repeated restorations, would suggest it struggled to take root, and obviously it eventually died out.

(Apologies for the lazy translation, I was in a hurry.)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Caoimhghín »

humble.student wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 4:18 am there's another version (which I haven't seen) called The Secret Sayings of Ye Su. [Apparently the latter may well be a fabrication, according to some reviewer on Amazon, I don't know.]
I read the Secret Sayings of Ye Su a few years ago and can verify that it is absolutely a hoax. In the original publication, the translator relays a highly improbable origin story for the text, saying that an anonymous donor simply left the manuscript with him, vanished, and then he translated it. This manuscript has never been produced.
PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:47 pm [...]
This is a lot of information, and I will take a bit to respond to it.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Wayfarer wrote: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:35 am I think it’s a fertile topic for popularisation. ... it’s full of intrigue plus the romance of the Silk Road.
There are some good fictional explorations of the subject, of course, Lost Horizon being one of the earliest and best (I say that as one who knows the book but not the movie). Much more recently and in Japan, Across the Nightingale Floor and its sequels use hidden Christian communities in Japan as one of the narrative threads.

:reading:
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Caoimhghín »

There's a lot of interesting information here. Just this one point:
PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:47 pm
真常之道,妙而難名,㓛用昭彰,強稱㬌教
This true and unchanging path is miraculous and hard to name, as its merits are manifest, [we] reluctantly call it the shining religion.
(The name doesn't translate particularly well)
This "luminous religion" is what Nestorian Christians and Manichaeans called themselves in China (remember: Manichaeism starts as a breakaway sect of Christianity and presented itself as a superior model of the same religion), although Manichaeism historically seems to have preferred 明教 when not transcribing Mānī Ḥayyā's name: 摩尼教.

"Luminous/shining religion" is very likely translating an idiom from Persian.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by PeterC »

Caoimhghín wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:10 am There's a lot of interesting information here. Just this one point:
PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:47 pm
真常之道,妙而難名,㓛用昭彰,強稱㬌教
This true and unchanging path is miraculous and hard to name, as its merits are manifest, [we] reluctantly call it the shining religion.
(The name doesn't translate particularly well)
This "luminous religion" is what Nestorian Christianity and Manichaeism called themselves (remember: Manichaeism starts as a breakaway sect of Christianity and presented itself as a superior model of the same religion), although Manichaeism historically seems to have preferred 明教 when not transcribing Mānī Ḥayyā's name: 摩尼教.
That sounds better. It's a slightly arbitrary choice because we're translating a non-phonetic word assigned by a Chinese translator anyway. The Wikimedia translation, which was not great, went with "illustrious". When you look at the preamble leading up to that, it's clear that they want to communicate the sense of the virtues shining forth for everyone to see, so I went with 'shining', but I'm not a translator.

明教 was actually pretty influential in China for a long time. There was always a close relationship between minority religious sects and popular revolutionary movements (one of the reasons for the general mistrust Chinese governments have always had for religions that weren't part of the official system in some way), and there is a theory that some of the crazy Qing sects like the white lotus were influenced by the legacy of Manicheanism.

Are you sure it was an offshoot of christianity though? I thought it was a derivative of Judaism
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Caoimhghín »

PeterC wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:26 am Are you sure it was an offshoot of christianity though? I thought it was a derivative of Judaism
Mani is post-Jesus and identifies himself as the Paraclete Jesus said his father would send in John 14:16 etc. As his movement grows, he will add other titles to himself like "Buddha," etc., but his initial forays into religion are as a heterodox Christian.

Manichaeism is essentially one of many varieties of Gnostic Christianity -- Gnosticism being a pre-existing wave of religious movements likely from Egypt that incorporated Jesus into itself. Christian Gnosticism is the most famous variety (and Christian Gnosticism is highly decentralized and very diverse), but there were Jewish Gnosticisms and Hermetic Gnosticisms, etc.

The Mandaeans are a modern Gnostic group who follows a Gnosticized version of the religion taught by John the Baptist.

An example of writing from Mani likely from the early stages of Manichaeism, while he was still using materials from the Christian community he was raised in, is this eucharistic psalm quoting the Hebrew psalms:
Taste and Know that the Lord is sweet.
Christ is the word of Truth; he that hears it shall live.
I tasted a sweet taste, I found nothing sweeter than the word of Truth.
Taste and Know that the Lord is sweet.
I tasted a sweet taste, I found nothing sweeter than the name of God.
Taste and Know that the Lord is sweet.
I tasted a sweet taste, I found nothing sweeter than Christ.
Where is there a kind mother like my mother, Love?
Where is there a kind father like my father, Christ?
What honey is so sweet as this name, Church?
Wisdom invites you, that you may eat with your Spirit.
Lo, the new wine has been broached; lo, the cups have been brought in.
Drink what you shall drink, gladness surrounding you.

Eat that you may eat, glad in your Spirit.

The Bride is the Church, the Bridegroom is Christ.
The Bride is the soul, the Bridegroom is Jesus.
Rejoice, and know you are the sons of the Light.
This is the true joy that will endure with us!
Here is words of wisdom, hear:
He that humbleth himself shall be received,
he that exalteth himself in self-glory, shall be humbled.
He that dies lives, he that labours has his rest.
After the labour is the rest, after sorrow there is joy again.
Let us rejoice in this joy from the aeons of aeons.
Glory and honour to Jesus, the Majesty of the holy ones,
and his holy Elect, and the soul of our Church, the Blessed Mary.
"Taste and know that the Lord is sweet," is likely the refrain repeated by the congregation or the deacon and the rest would be chanted by the celebrant priest. Interestingly enough, the Manichaeans had a huge devotion to the Virgin Mary, and most Manichaean psalms end with things to the effect of "Glory and honour to the ascended soul of the Virgin Mary."

I feel the need that to point out that this isn't comparative religion, but just a clarification that Manichaeism comes out of Christianity.
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by PeterC »

Interesting - thanks
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Fortyeightvows »

Thanks to both of you and the op for this great thread.
These are really the threads that make dharmawheel a great site
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Re: Nestorian stele replica at Mt koysan

Post by Bodhiquest »

There's the following passage in Nicoloff's Sacred Kōyasan, pp.203-204:
A short distance beyond the bridge, to the right, is a side path. We go down this side path until we come to another unique monument (located where the path first angles sharply to the left), a large nine-foot-tall rectangular granite stele being carried on the back of a Chinese stone tortoise. The entablature of the stele features two dragons holding a mani jewel. Between the dragons, as the primary object of their protection, is an unmistakable Christian cross. What we have here is one of the cemetery’s greatest surprises, a precise copy of the famed “Nestorian Stone” that was erected near the Chinese capital of Ch’ang-an in 781—just twenty-three years prior to Kōbō Daishi’s visit there. This stele, discovered in 1625 by Jesuit missionaries to China, provided Western historians with evidence that Nestorian Christianity, the so-called “Luminous Religion,” had penetrated China much earlier than formerly supposed. For Victorian Englishwoman Elizabeth Anna Gordon (1851–1925), Christian author and enthusiastic student of Mahāyāna Buddhism, the text carved on the stone (duplicated in Syriac and Chinese) provided evidence that Kōbō Daishi had encountered and adopted elements of the Christian faith while in China. In 1911, with the full cooperation of Kōyasan’s clergy, Mrs. Gordon had this “most valuable historical monument in the World” copied and installed in the forest cemetery.
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