The Daqin Pagoda (Chinese: 大秦塔) is a Buddhist pagoda in Zhouzhi County of Xi'an (formerly Chang'an), Shaanxi Province,[1] China, located about two kilometres to the west of Louguantai temple. The pagoda has been claimed as a Church of the East from the Tang dynasty.[2]

Remnants of the pagoda

Etymology edit

Daqin is the ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empire or, depending on context, the Near East, especially Syria.[3]

History edit

The Daqin Pagoda is first attested in 1065, when the Chinese poet Su Dongpo visited it and wrote a well-known poem about it, "Daqin Temple". His younger brother Su Zhe also wrote an "echoing" poem referring to the monks at the temple. 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.

Features edit

The seven-storeyed octagonal brick pagoda is about 34 meters high (was thought to be 32 in the past). Each side of the first storey measures 4.3 meters.[1]

Speculation about Christianity edit

The Daqin Pagoda was visited by Assyrian Church of the East bishop Mar Awa Royel in 2012 as part of a follow-up visit to China in 2010, upon invitation from the Jingjiao Fellowship and director Mr. David Tam.[4]

In 2001 the pagoda was claimed by Martin Palmer, the translator of several popular books on sinology, including Zhuangzi and I Ching, as a form of Christianity from the Tang dynasty, in his controversial book The Jesus Sutras. According to Palmer, the church and the monastery were built in 640 by early Church of the East missionaries. Daqin is the name for the Roman Empire in the early Chinese-language documents of the 1st and 2nd centuries;[5] by the mid-9th century it was also used to refer to the mission churches of the Syriac Christians.[3]

Supporters of Palmer's claims have drawn attention to details which suggest that the monastery was earlier a Christian church, including a supposed depiction of Jonah at the walls of Nineveh, a nativity scene (depiction of the birth of Jesus) and Syriac graffiti. The east-facing orientation of the complex is also advanced as evidence of its Christian origin since Chinese Daoist and Buddhist temple complexes face north or south.[6]

As a potential stimulus to the district's tourist trade, Palmer's claims have been given wide publicity by the local authorities but have also received approbation by Chinese academics. The exterior of the pagoda and its surroundings were featured in the first episode of the 2009 BBC program A History of Christianity.[7] The program also featured an interview with Palmer by the presenter Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Despite the publicity they have received, Palmer's claims are controversial, and have been dismissed by Michael Keevak, the author of The Story of a Stele, and by David Wilmshurst, the author of The Martyred Church: A History of the Church of the East.[8]

James Morris of the University of St. Andrews has stated of the pagoda that "until more detailed archaeological analysis of the site is undertaken [...] we must be content in maintaining that there are no proven direct archaeological remains for the presence of Christianity during the Táng period."[9]

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ a b Daqin Temple Pagoda at
  2. ^ Martin Palmer, The Jesus Sutras: Rediscovering the Lost Religion of Taoist Christianity, ISBN 0-7499-2250-8, 2001
  3. ^ a b Jenkins, Philip (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 978-0-06-147280-0.
  4. ^ "Bishop Mar Awa Royel Visits China". Assyrian Church News. 2012-12-10. Archived from the original on 2019-10-22. Retrieved 2019-10-22. Following the visit to the Museum of Steles, and on the route to the Jingjiao site to visit the Daqin Pagoda, a stop off was made at our sister Jenny Bai's house who had requested for His Grace to visit her home and offer prayers of blessings to her and her parents.
  5. ^ Hill, John E. (2006). "The Kingdom of Da Quin". The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu (2nd ed.). Retrieved 2008-11-30.
  6. ^ Thompson, Glen L (April 2007). "Christ on the Silk Road: The Evidences of Nestorian Christianity in Ancient China". Touchstone Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
  7. ^ "BBC Four - A History of Christianity".
  8. ^ Keevak, The Story of a Stele, 000; Wilmshurst, The Martyred Church, 461
  9. ^ Morris, James H. (2017). "Rereading the evidence of the earliest Christian communities in East Asia during and prior to the Táng Period". Missiology: An International Review. 45 (3): 252–264. doi:10.1177/0091829616685352. ISSN 0091-8296.

Sources edit

  • Keevak, Michael, The Story of a Stele: China's Nestorian Monument and Its Reception in the West, 1625-1916 (Hong Kong, 2008).
  • Palmer, Martin, The Jesus Sutras: Discovering the Lost Scrolls of Taoist Christianity (New York, 2001).
  • Wilmshurst, David, The Martyred Church: A History of the Church of the East (London, 2011).

External links edit

34°03′32″N 108°18′27″E / 34.05889°N 108.30750°E / 34.05889; 108.30750