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Remnants of the pagoda

Daqin Pagoda (大秦塔) in Chang'an, Shaanxi Province, located about two kilometres to the west of Lou Guan Tai temple[1], is the remnant of the earliest surviving Christian church in China. The church and the monastery were built in 640 by members of the Assyrian Church of the East, also referred to as the Nestorian church. Though Daqin is the name for the Roman Empire in early Chinese language documents of the first and second century,[2] by the mid-ninth century it was also used to refer to the mission churches of the Syriac Christians.[3]



Persecution of Christians in China led to the abandonment of Daqin in about 845.[3] Much later, in 1300, a Buddhist temple was installed in the pagoda. An earthquake severely damaged the pagoda in 1556 and it was finally abandoned. Due to the earthquake, many of the underground chambers of the complex are no longer reachable. Daqin was "rediscovered" in 1998[1] and its roots in early Chinese Christianity were recognized.

The pagoda today

Inside the pagoda, artistic works in both Western and Asiatic style can still be found, among them Jonah at the walls of Nineveh, a nativity scene and Syriac graffiti. Many of these artworks are made from mud and plaster, which suffered during prior centuries from exposure to the elements. Seismic activity and flooding endanger the stability of the pagoda. In 1999, the pagoda's exterior was restored, but overall stability was not improved. Further restoration of the site is planned, as well as exploration, most probably by remote probe, of the collapsed underground chambers.[4]

The exterior of the pagoda and its surroundings were featured in episode one of the 2009 BBC program "A History of Christianity"[5], the program also features an interview with Martin Palmer by the presenter Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.

See also


  1. ^ a b Martin Palmer, The Jesus Sutras: Rediscovering the Lost Religion of Taoist Christianity, ISBN 0749922508, 2001
  2. ^ Hill, John E. (2003). "The Kingdom of Da Quin". The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu (2nd ed.). Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  3. ^ a b Jenkins, Peter (2008). The Lost History of Christianity: the Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia - and How It Died. New York: Harper Collins. pp. 64–68. ISBN 978-06-147280-0.  
  4. ^ Thompson, Glen L (April 2007). "Christ on the Silk Road: The Evidences of Nestorian Christianity in Ancient China". Touchstone Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  5. ^

External links



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