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Before treating the sources for the 7th c., however, it is worth observing that archaeological evidence suggests that Christianity in fact entered China much earlier, between the 1st and the early 3rd century, under the Eastern Han dynasty AD 25220. These discoveries still need further study, but if confirmed they would strongly support Arnobius’s statement and even Bardesanes’s hint; Boise City Metro Map the end of the Eastern Han dynasty and the death of Bardesanes coincide almost perfectly. One archaeological datum is that in Luling China, during the Ming dynasty, under Emperor Hongwu 13681398, a big iron cross came to light with verses carved on it and a precise date: the ninth year of Chi-wu, Eastern Wu, corresponding to AD 246. This refined Christian handicraft and poetry suggests that Christianity had been present for some time in China at that date. Moreover, several carved stones going back to the Eastern Han period show apparently Christian motifs, such as possibly the Nativity with the Magi, twice in two distinct carvings, and clearly the association of a lamb and a fish neither of these frequent in traditional Chinese iconography or of a lamb and a phoenix, or of two phoenixes and a fish, symbolizing the resurrection and Christ. The decorative stele with the phoenixes and the fish is dated to AD 86. Other representations seem to concern the story of Adam and Eve, and the depiction of heaven and hell: the tree of life with two phoenixes and, below, two serpents enchained. There are also other separate representations of serpents enchained or imprisoned. These portraits are very different from the traditional positive description of dragons in Chinese art and culture. A bronze vessel with the clear representation of two fishes and five loaves of bread, associated with the Chinese word for offering or sharing, also belongs to the Eastern Han period and was probably used for the Eucharist. Many more stone carvings from the same period are extant in China and might hold further surprises. If, as the archaeological evidence analyzed so far and Arnobius and perhaps Bardesanes indicate, the Christian message had reached China already in the 2nd c. or even at the end of the first, as the stele with the phoenixes and the fish may suggest, then it is probable that it did so through a Syriac mission, on the Silk Way, and that the gospel it brought was that of Matthew, the only one for which the patristic tradition explicitly attests an original composition in Hebrew or Aramaic and the only one that recounts the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem. This is also the same gospel that Pantaenus is reported by Eusebius of Caesarea to have found already present in India when in the 2nd half of the 2nd c. AD he went there from Alexandria, upon the request of some Christians who were already established in India, but wanted a more perfect instruction by that learned teacher. If germs of Christianity were in India at the very least by the end of the 2nd c., this makes it more probable that the Christian message was first preached in China under the Eastern Han dynasty. Furthermore, a tradition, per se unverifiable, of the Chinese of Chang’an, is in line with the probably Christian artifacts of the Eastern Han period. It relates that in AD 64 while Nero was reigning in the Roman Empire and persecuting the Christians in Rome the Chinese emperor Ming-ti sent envoys to the West to learn more about a great prophet who had appeared there. The envoys met two Christian missionaries who were exactly on their way to the

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