Early Christian site revealed in China

Researchers excited by cross find

Archaeologists have identified what may be the earliest indication of a Christian presence in China.

After months of historical research, experts have confirmed that a small niche bearing a carved cross in a wall at the famed Longmen Grottoes in Henan province served as a repository for the ashes and bones of Christians of the Nestorian Church.

Research continues into the site, first uncovered in 2009, but archaeologists have confidently speculated that it dates to sometime between 316 and 907 AD, the period of the Ming and Tang dynasties. It is known that the Nestorian Church was officially recognised by the Tang emperor, Taizong.

The find is also significant as the Longmen Grottoes are strongly linked with both Buddhism and Daoism, attested to by the striking statues carved into the solid rock there.

Jiao Jianhui, a researcher at the Longmen Grottoes Research Institute, who first uncovered the niche has said: “This is the first discovery of a religious relic other than that of Buddhism and Daoism. There are many similar niches at the grottoes, carved with Buddha statues as well as inscriptions to say that the deceased are buried there. So it is certain that the Nestorian site was also for burials.”