A press conference and a visit to a church-supported village for prisoners' children were among the highlights at the end of a 15-22 November visit to China by World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia.we read this:
On 22 November, the WCC delegation visited the province of Shaanxi, whose long history of Christian presence dates back to 635 AD and the Tang Dynasty when Nestorianism was introduced to the area.There's an 1895 article on this text available from JSTOR. And here is a translation of what seems to be the same tablet. I'm not familiar with it, but this and other sources from Google indicate that it dates to 781 CE, which would make it eighth century.
In Shaanxi, the delegation visited a 7th-century Nestorian tablet. Inscribed in both Chinese and Syriac, it is the oldest record of early Christian presence in the area.
UPDATE: Reader Kate Lingley (Asst. Prof., Chinese Art History, University of Hawaii at Manoa) e-mails:
As a Jewish Sinologist I was interested to see your recent blog entry on the Popular Stele of Daiqin Nestorianism, the memorial stele that commemorates the founding of the first (and by no means the last) Nestorian Christian church in China in the 630s.I'm afraid I don't have time to chase this up, but if anyone else has or finds more information on the Dunhuang Library document, please let me know.
I don't know if you know of the various documents in Judeo-Persian and Hebrew found at Silk Road sites in the Taklamakan desert. Here's an image of one that's in the Stein collection in London. It comes from Dandan-Uiliq aka Dandan Oilik, a Khotanese site, and while I don't know the date, Dandan-Uiliq was permanently abandoned (probably due to reduced water supply and invading Muslims) at the end of the eighth century, so it's not likely to be later than that. If I recall correctly it is supposed to be a business letter concerning the sale of inferior sheep.
The more famous document comes from the Dunhuang library. I always heard it was a page from a book of Tehillim in Hebrew, but some sources seem to imply it is a page of Selichot instead. I don't know where this page is located now, but the fact that it's not listed on the IDP page suggests that it may be part of the Pelliot collection in the Bibliotheque National de France (probably the "Pelliot divers" category, which catalog hasn't been digitized yet), since they appear to be doing their own digitization of these documents with the help of the Mellon foundation. Here's a description of the digitization project. Your French may be better than mine (it could hardly be worse) in which case you may be able to track down the document.
It appears that the blogger at paleojudaica dot com address is down again. I will try to get this fixed as soon as possible, but meanwhile you can reach me at my University address, jrd4 at st-andrews dot ac dot uk.
UPDATE (26 November): Rabbi Moshe Rudner e-mails:
Just fyi, I happen to have a copy of the Hebrew page that Kate refers to and it appears pretty clearly to be Slichot (the penitence oriented prayers recited around the High Holidays). The Judeo-Persian document written in Hebrew characters is older than this page by about a century but it is, after all, a rather prosaic business document. This page of Slichot though keeps us guessing as to the character of its scribe. It appears to have been written with a now-defunct vowalization method involving dots and dashes (nekudot) above rather than below the letters and the page may have been written by someone functionally illiterate in the Hebrew language, though obviously not in the Hebrew script (a thing not uncommon among modern non-Israeli Jews as well). This can be seen for example in seeming spelling errors such as the conflating of the words "Mi El" ("who is like God") from two separate words spelled Mem Yud and then Aleph Lamed into one single word spelled Mem Yud Yud Lamed. This would seem to indicate the page as one having been written from memory or from hearing another's recitation of the prayer.
Of course (as always) other explanations are possible, such as an unwillingness to put a name of God into writing or similar explanations, but it does appear to have been a mis-write. All the same, his religious loyalty in packing his carry-on prayers into the Middle Kingdom is impressive.