Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/36

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THE CHINESE EMPIRE

4600 Buddhist monasteries to be destroyed, also ordered 300 foreign priests, whether of Tath-sin (the Roman Empire) or Muhura, "to return to secular life, to the end that the customs of the empire may be uniform."[1] The accounts of two Arab travellers of the ninth century (A.D. 851 and 878) also give eloquent evidence of the knowledge of the truth in China, Ebn Wahab and the Emperor holding an interesting dialogue about the facts and history of the Old and New Testaments. Again, Marco Polo in the thirteenth century, and the early Franciscan missionaries also, referred to the Nestorians and their work. In A.D. 1725 a Syrian manuscript, containing a large portion of the Old Testament and a collection of hymns, was discovered in the possession of a Chinese. This is thought to be one of the few relics of this early Church. Being, however, cut off from all intercourse with their mother Church by the rise of Mohammedanism, and lacking the vigour of a pure faith, their work has passed away leaving little trace behind.

 

First Roman Catholic Effort

The first and second efforts of the Roman Catholic Church to evangelise the Far East took place during periods of world-wide activity. While the fervour which was stirring Europe to engage in the Crusades was still burning, while Venice was manifesting her keen commercial activity,—and Marco Polo was a Venetian—and while the zeal of the great orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi was at its height, the Church of Rome commenced what we may now call her first effort to evangelise the Far East by sending her messengers to the court of the great Mongol power. The peace of Europe had just been threatened by the terrible invasion of the hordes of Jenghis Khan, and in return the Church of Rome sent back to Jenghis Khan's successors their messengers of peace.

In A.D. 1246 John de Plano Carpini started upon his journey for the Far East, and in A.D. 1288 Pope Nicholas IV.

  1. Du Halde, China, vol. i. p. 518.