Assyrian Archbishop Mar Gewargis Sliwa Visits China

12/17/2012 12:22:00 AM
Daqin Pagoda - Church of the East

The first official Assyrian who visited China in our age is His Beatitude Mar Gewargis Sliwa, the Metropolitan of Iraq and Russia of the Assyrian Church of the East (ACOE). He went to China in 1996 in search of the remains of the Church of the East.

"It was a dream to see the remains and relics of our Church mission in China which been in 635 A.D. Thank God my dream came true in 1996." says H.B. Mar Gewargis Sliwa.

He continues, "The Cross Temple was built in a mountain near Pekin. In this Temple the monks Sauma and Markus lived. Rabban Markus was consecrated Patriarch of the Church of the East by the name Mar Yawalah in 1280s.

In 1986 while digging for the foundations of a wall to be built around this historical site, two new monuments which were erected 500 years ago, the same like the famous Nestorian Monument of 781 in X'ian were discovered. I was told that I was the first visitor to see this Nestorian site."

During his journey, H.B. Mar Gewargis meets with the Committee of the Church of China in Pekin, visits Cross Temple where Rabban Sauma and Rabban Markus grew up, attends church service in Peking and X'ian, meets with the Central Committee of Chinese Church, visits X'ian where our church priests first arrived in 635 A.D. and built the churches and a pagoda tower.

Christianity is thought to have been introduced into China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), but it has also been suggested that the Assyrian Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon created a metropolitan see in China in 411 A.D. It came through representatives of the Assyrian Church of the East. In China, the religion was known as Jingjiao (景教), or the Luminous Religion. They initially entered China more as traders than as professional missionaries. Eventually, the Assyrian Christians spread their faith throughout Turkestan, Mongolia, China and Japan. A stone stele commonly (incorrectly) called the Nestorian Stele, erected at the Tang capital of Chang'an in 781 and rediscovered in February 1625 describes flourishing communities of Christians throughout China, but beyond this and few other fragmentary records relatively little more was known of their history until the late 1900s.

The Assyrian Church of the East sent missionaries east from its base in Mesopotamia into India, Tibet, Mongolia, and China, and then from China into Korea and Japan. Earliest records indicate this may have been as early as the first century to India, and the second or third centuries to Tibet, Mongolia and China, and the eighth to ninth centuries into Korea and Japan.

At the end, H.B. Mar Gewargis is standing next to the church's building called Daqin Pagoda built in 640 by the members of the Church of the East. Mar Gewargis emotionally chants the Holy church ritual in Assyrian language to bring to life the memories of sacrifice and devotion of those Assyrian missionaries who spread Christ's message of love all the way from Assyria (Mesopotamia) to China.