In 781, Christians of Tang-China (618–907) erected a monument known as the “Nestorian Tablet” declaring that their religion, named Jingjiao, originated from Daqin, a contemporary loose term referring to the Roman East. Jingjiao Christians were adherents of the Church of the East with Syriac Christian traditions and liturgy. Its adherents in the Roman empire became victims of the 5th-century Christological controversy and were labeled as the “Nestorian” heretics or sect. The suppression of the “Heretics” including the “Nestorians” within the Byzantine empire, which was stated in the Justinian Code, forced many Christians of the Syriac churches to escape from the Byzantine Empire to the Sasanian territory where they joined the already established and independent Church of the East in Persia. In the following nine centuries, Syriac Christian missions expanded from Persia to Arabia, India, Central Asia and China and won converts from various ethnic groups such as Persians, Arabs, Indians, Sogdians, Turks, Chinese, and Mongols.
This lecture introduces the expansion of medieval Syriac Christianity covering the extent, mission strategy, and methods of the Church of the East with evidence from primary sources discovered in Central Asia and China and along the Silk Road, such as Christian manuscripts and tombstone inscriptions from the 7th to the 14th century. It discusses questions such as how the church adopted to various political, cultural, and ethno-linguistic contexts along the Silk Road and what challenges Christians encountered.
EAST OF BYZANTIUM is a partnership that began in 2016 between the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at Hellenic College Holy Cross in Brookline, MA, and the Arthur H. Dadian and Ara Oztemel Chair of Armenian Art at Tufts University and continues with the Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University (from 2022–). It explores the cultures of the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire in the late antique and m