« EdellinenJatka »
of Fänyang, first held military command in the north. Suhtsung made him his attendant; and though a chamberlain, always kept him in the military service. . He was the tooth and nail of the palace, and the ears and eyes of the army. He distributed his emoluments, not laying them up at home. Western gems he offered to his majesty. He dispersed, and dispensed with, golden nets. Now he repaired the churches, and now he enlarged the schools of the law. He adorned all the sacred edifices, making them like the flying hwui. Imitating the scholars of the illustrious religion he distributed alms. Annually he held a general assembly of the young clergy from all the churches, and for fifty days exercised them in pure and elevating services. To the hungry, who came to him, he gave food; to those suffering from cold, he gave clothes; he cured the sick and raised them up ; and the dead, he buried and laid down to rest. The refined and circumspect Tahsha never heard of such noble deeds. The white robed and illustrious students, having seen those men, desired to erect a monument to commemorate their good and illustrious acts. The inscription reads thus: “The true Lord is without beginning, silent, serene, and unchangeable. Possessed of creative power, he raised the earth and set up the heavens. The divided Person came into the world. The bark of salvation was boundless. The sun arose and darkness was annihilated. All bore witness to the truth. The glorious civil emperor, in reason joining all that was possessed by former kings, seized on the occasion to restore order. Heaven and earth were enlarged. The bright and illustrious religion visited our Tang dynasty, which translated the scriptures, and built churches. The ship [of mercy] was prepared for the living and the dead. All blessings sprung into existence ; and all nations were at peace. “Kautsung continued the work of his ancestors, and repaired the temples. The palace of Concord was greatly enlarged. Churches filled the land, and the true doctrine was clearly preached. Masters of the law were then appointed; the people had joy and tranquillity, and all things were free from calamities and troubles. “Hiuentsung displayed divine intelligence, and cultivated truth and rectitude. The imperial tablets spread abroad their lustre. The celestial writings were glorious. The august domains were clearly defined. The inhabitants paid high respect to their sovereign. All things were glorious and tranquil, and under his auspices the people were prosperous. “Suhtsung restored celestial reason. Great was his dignity as he rode in state. His splendor shone above the brightness of the moon. Happy winds swept the night. Felicity visited the august mansions. The autumnal vapors ceased for ever. Tranquillity reigned, and the empire increased.
LABORS OF NESTORIAN MISSIONARIES. 297
“Taitsung was dutiful and just, in virtue according with heaven and earth. By his bestowments life was sustained, and great advantage accrued to all. With incense he made thank-offerings, and dispensed charity in his benevolence. Brightness came from the valley of the sun, and the veiled moon appeared in azure hues.* “Kienchung was eminent in all things, and cultivated bright virtues. His martial dignity spread over all seas, and his mild serenity over all lands. His light came to human darkness; and in his mirror the color of things (i. e. their moral quality) was reflected. Throughout the universe, light of life was diffused. All nations took example [from the emperor]. “The true doctrine is great, and all-prevalent and pervading. Hard it is to name the Word, to unfold the Three-One. The sovereign can act, his ministers commemorate. Erect the splendid monument! Praise the great and the happy!” Erected (A. D. 781) the second year of Kienchung, [the ninth emperor] of the great Tang dynasty, in the first month, and the seventh day. The priest Ningshu (King Tsing 2) being special law lord, and preacher to those of the illustrious religion throughout the regions of the east. Written by Lu Siu-yen, court councillor, formerly holding high military command in Taichau.-Chi. Rep., Vol. XIV., p. 202.
This truly oriental performance is the most ancient Christian inscription yet found in Asia, and shows plainly that Christianity had made great progress among the Chinese. Both Kircher and Le Comte claimed it as a record of the success of the Romish church in China, but later writers have had the candor to allow, that it commemorates the exertions of the Nestorians.
Timothy, a patriarch, sent Subchal-Jesus in 780, who labored in Tartary and China for many years, and lost his life on his return, when his place was supplied by Davidis, who was consecrated metropolitan. In the year 845, an edict of Wu-tsung commanded the priests that belonged to the sect that came from Ta Tsin, amounting to no less than three thousand persons, to retire to private life. The two Arabian travellers speak of Christians, many of whom perished at the siege of Canfu. Marco Polo often speaks of the Nestorians, and his mode of referring to them leads us to conclude that they were both numerous and respected as well as long established, though there is reason
* The “valley of the sun” is China, where the sun, the vicegerent of heaven, holds his court, and sends forth light like the rising sun to illumine the world. The “veiled moon” is his majesty's residence. voi,. II. 14*
to suppose they had lost their first energy and purity of doctrine, and had assimilated in practice to the heathen around them. He mentions the existence of two churches at Chinkiang fu, near Nanking, built by the prefect Marsarchis, who was himself a member of that church, and alludes to their residence in most of the towns and countries of Central Asia. The existence of a Christian prince called Prester John, in Central Asia, is spoken of by Marco Polo and Corvino, but of the exact position of his dominions, and the extent of his influence in favor of that faith, little that can be depended upon is known. When the conquests of Gengis khan and his descendants threw all Asia into commotion, the Nestorians suffered much, but still maintained a precarious footing in China during the time of the Yuen dynasty. Mohammedanism was strong during that period, and controversies with Romish priests still further aided to under. mine their churches, which were, moreover, nearly cut off from receiving assistance, and communicating with the mother church in Mesopotamia. Their proselyting efforts ceased on the expulsion of the Mongols in 1369, and the Nestorian churches and efforts gradually fell away and were suspended, until no trace of either remained. At the present time, no works composed by their priests, or notices of any churches belonging to them, or buildings erected by them, are known to exist in the empire, though perhaps some books may yet be found in monastic and other libraries. The Chinese historians seldom narrate anything except what tends to exalt their state and nation, and therefore we need look for nothing in their annals concerning a faith they despised. The buildings erected by the Nestorians for churches and dwellings were, of course, no better built than other Chinese edifices, and would not long remain when deserted; while, to account still further for the absence of books, the Budhists and other opposers may have sought out and destroyed such as existed, which even if carefully kept would not last many generations. The records of futurity alone will disclose to us the names and labors of the devoted disciples and teachers of true Christianity in the Nestorian church, who lived and died for the gospel among the Chinese, and the number of converts, who, through their instrumentality, believed on Him to salvation. The recent revival of pure Christianity among that ancient people, affords encouragement to hope that Nestorian missionaries may again find
ARRIVAL OF ROMAN CATHOLICS IN ChiNA. 299
their way over the Hindu-kush to the Middle Kingdom, carrying the Spirit and power of God with them. The efforts of the Roman Catholics in China have been great; but not greater than the extent and importance of the field demanded. They have met with varied success, and their prudence in the choice of measures, and zeal in the work of evangelizing, have reflected the highest credit upon them; and would ...] if their object had simply been that of preaching the gospel, have gradually made the entire mass of the population acquainted with the leading doctrines of Christianity. The history of their missions is voluminous, and the principles on which they have been conducted can be learned from their own writings, especially the Lettres Édifiantes, and their continuation in the Annales de la Foi. There has been much written about their labors by themselves and others, and the present sketch need embrace only the principal points, for which we shall depend chiefly upon those writers who have already examined these sources. The first epoch of Romish missions in China is the thirteenth century. The only name of note which has come down to us from that period is John de Monte Corvino, who was born in 1247 in Apulia, and was sent in 1288 to Tartary by pope Nicholas IV. Before this period, it would seem, from Marco Polo’s silence, that the Nestorian was the only Christian sect in the dominions of Kublai, though the Romish priests had previously passed into Persia. Corvino arrived in India in 1291, and after preaching there a twelvemonth, during which time he baptized a hundred persons, he joined a caravan going to Cathay, and was kindly received by the khan. The Nestorians opposed his progress, and for eleven years he carried on the work alone, and not till the latter part of this period with much success. He built a church at Cambalu, “which had a steeple and belfry with three bells, that were rung every hour to summon the new converts to prayer.” He baptized nearly 6,000 persons during that time, “and bought 150 children, whom he instructed in Greek and Latin, and composed for them several devotional books.” " Clement V., hearing of Corvino's success, appointed him archbishop in 1307, and sent him seven suffragan bishops as assistants. * Chinese Repository, Vol. III., p. 112. Vol. XIII., passim, from which
most of this sketch is derived, especially from the series of articles entitled Land of Sinim.
Two letters of his are extant, in which he gives a pleasing account of his efforts to preach the gospel; but of the subsequent success of the endeavors made by him and his coadjutors to propagate the faith, there are only imperfect records. Corvino was ordered to have the mysteries of the Bible represented by pictures in all his churches, for the purpose of captivating the eyes of the bar. barians. He died in 1330, and the hierarchy which he had esta. blished gradually fell into weakness under Nicholas de Bentra, who was constituted his successor in the see in 1336, and twentysix additional laborers sent to assist him. The short record preserved of Corvino speaks well of his character, and favorably of the toleration granted by the Mongols to his efforts to instruct them. It is affecting to hear him say, “It is now tweive years since I have heard any news from the west. I am become old and greyheaded, but it is rather through labors and tribulations than through age, for I am only fifty-eight years old. I have learned the Tartar language and literature, into which I have translated the whole New Testament, and the Psalms of David, and have caused them to be transcribed with the utmost care. I write and read, and preach openly and freely the testimony of the law of Christ.” It would seem that during the sway of the Mongol princes, these missionaries carried on their work chiefly among their tribes, and did not labor much among the Chinese ; it is, if such was the case, less surprising therefore, that we hear nothing of them and their converts, after the Chinese troops had expelled Kublai's weak descendants from the country, since they would naturally follow them into Central Asia. After the final establishment of the Ming dynasty, almost nothing is known concerning either them or the Nestorians, and it is probable that during the wanderings of the defeated Mongols, the adherents of both sects gradually lapsed into ignorance, and thence easily into Mohammedanism and Budhism. The second period in the history of Romish missions in China includes a space of one hundred and fifty years, extending from the time Matteo Ricci first established himself at Canton in 1581 to the death of Yungching in 1736. Before Ricci entered the country, there had been some efforts made to revive the long deferred work among the Chinese, but the Portuguese and Spanish merchants were opposed to the extension of a faith which their flagitious conduct so outrageously belied. The Chinese govern.