Artistic syncretism Along the Silk Road
Christian Art in China Before the Jesuit Missions
In the 7th century, missionaries of the Assyrian Church of the East increased their evangelical activities across Central Asia, particularly in Nisibis, Turkey, Arabia, India and China. Known in China as Bodijiao, literally Persian Religion, these early Christian missionaries were well received by the Tang emperors and obtained the consent to translate Christian texts and erect places of worship in several locations within the Chinese empire. A few centuries later, when Franciscan missionaries and European travelers and traders commenced diplomatic relations and trade with the new-established Yuan rulers in China they found evidence of earlier Christian missionary activity and initiated a new episode the Christianity in China under the support of the Catholic Church. In both cases, the use of Christian imagery was an important instrument for the transmission of doctrine and religious teachings as the missionaries recognized the eloquent power of images in religious syncretism. This paper discusses how images were used as a form of convenience exploring the proximity and similarity of forms and meanings between Christian and Buddhist art in China, from the Tang to the Yuan dynasties.
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