A History of Christianity in China


Unit 1: The Early Period (pre-1800)

Welcome to Unit 1: The Early Modern Period (pre-1800)

In this unit, we will examine Nestorian Christianity in China, the Mongol Mission, and the Jesuit Mission.

Coming from the West, Nestorianism satisfied the curiosity as well as religious pursuit of the Tang Chinese. It became popular in some areas for about two hundred years. But when a major persecution of “foreign religions” was carried out in the middle of the ninth century, Nestorian Christianity was swept away from central China. 

Then, Christianity would have to wait nearly four hundred years to be brought to China again when the Mongols created the “pax mongolica” that provided Christian missionaries with sufficient security to travel to China. For the first time, European missionaries came to the Mongols, and eventually reached China proper, with a political and religious mission in the middle of the thirteenth century.

The third advent of Christianity in China, in which Christianity in China became a permanent part of the Chinese religious landscape, took place in the sixteenth century. It constituted a key transition in the worldwide serial movement of the Christian faith to parts of the non-West. The “Catholic Reformation,” the expansion of the European seaborne empires, all helped shape Christianity in China this time. The first comers to the China mission field in the sixteenth century, the Jesuits, highly adapted Christianity to the Chinese culture and traditions, and evangelized by means of science and technology.

Continue on in this unit for more insights into these three important historical movements.