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Si-gan-fu Stone

An inscription in Chinese and Syriac discovered in 1625 by Jesuit missionaries. The text believed to be dated between 779 and 781 describes the fortunes of the (Nestorian) Christians since 635 when the emperor T'ai-tsung received Alopen.* Under his successor Kao-tsung, permission was granted to create monasteries in several regions, some monks being supported by the emperor. A bishopric was established in 650. Later in that century there were conflicts with Buddhists and persecutions, but in the early decades of the eighth century Catholicos Selibhazekha became metropolitan of China. Many of the Christians seem from their names to have been Syrian or Persian, but there is evidence for some native names in the inscription. The stone set up by a synod of 779 contains also a confession of the Christian faith: this is noteworthy by its considerable adaptation to the Chinese idiom and religious-philosophical terminology. It may indicate that Christianity had lost some distinctive features in its eastward journey, or that Christians hesitated to speak openly of their mysteries.