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xi'an stelae

Xi'an - 1

Xi'an - 2

Xi'an - 3

Xi'an - 4

Xi'an - 5

The most impressive museum in Xi'an, China's ancient capital of Chang'an, houses the Forest of Stelae, a vast collection of ancient literature and calligraphy, all engraved for eternity on huge stone slabs. The sheer physicality of the Four Books and Five Classics is really quite impressive.

One famous specimen is known as the Nestorian Stela, from the eighth century, which documents the spread of the earliest Christian communities in China. The stela states that "the Luminous Religion from Da Qin" (the Chinese term for the empire in the West, i.e. the Roman Empire, and later the Christians from Syria) reached Xi'an in 635 CE.

For more background, the first episode of the BBC's 'A History of Christianity' also explores the early Christian presence in China.

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