Arnobius of Sicca, around AD 300, attests that the Christian message had been preached in China; Cosmas Indicopleustes attests again to this later 6th cent.. But much earlier than Arnobius himself, Bardesanes of Edessa, in the Liber legum regionum composed in the 1st half of the 3rd cent. AD, suggests that in his day there were Christians among the Seres, that is, the Chinese. Cuba Map For he says that Christians are in every land he has described, and that of the Seres is among these, farther than Persia and Kushan, where, as he overtly states, there were Christians in his day. Indeed, Bardesanes’s description of the Seres’ customs is highly positive, just like his description of the Brahmans: The Seres have as laws not to kill, not to fornicate, and not to worship idols. And in their whole land there are no idols, no prostitutes, no one who kills a man, nor anyone who is killed. This is also why Bardesanes could not include China in the list of the countries in which Christians avoided the abominable deeds of nonChristians Neither do our brothers who are in Gaul marry men, nor do those who are in Parthia take two wives nor do our sisters who are among the Gelians or the Kushan have intercourse with strangers, nor do those who are in Persia marry their own daughters, nor do those who are in Media flee from their dead, or bury them while they are still alive, or give them as food to dogs, nor do those who live in Edessa kill their wives who commit fornication, or their sisters, but they separate themselves from them and hand them to God’s judgment. Nor do those who live in Hatra stone thieves, but in whatever land they are, and in whatever place, local laws cannot separate them from the law of their Christ; for in China, in his own description, non-Christians did not commit abominable acts. But his words are quite inclusive: The new race of us, the Christians, whom Christ established in every land and in all regions, of which Bardesanes has just spoken, beginning precisely from China. If the Liber reflects Bardesanes’s words faithfully, seeds of Christianity might have entered China by the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd c. AD Bardesanes died in AD 222. A tradition, mentioned by Ebedjesus, even connects the first evangelization of China with St. Thomas, the apostle of Parthia and India, related with Edessa. While this legend cannot be verified, the Eastern Syriac matrix of the evangelization of China is attested with certainty for the 7th c.
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