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One sees immediately that these are the same dates that one can also give for the blooming and flourishing of Buddhism in China — and for a good reason. As for , this year marked the final moment of the persecution of Buddhism and all other foreign religions, which had started three years earlier. In fact, the role that Iranians had in the transmission and the diffusion of these foreign religions Buddhism, Christianity, Manicheism and Zoroastrianism 1 was crucial.

Only Buddhism survived the persecution of , but no trace of Iranian contribution to Buddhism can be observed thereafter. As to the peak of Iranian influence in China, between the dates of and , it was situated in the seventh century. A traumatic event in this scheme cannot be forgotten because it marked deeply not only Chinese history but also the destiny of Iranians in China. It was only at the end of that the Tang troops, thanks to the military assistance of the Uighurs, retook Luoyang and abolished the. The hatred for this name was such that the emperor Suzong r.

It would of course be exaggerated — or at least premature, considering the state of our research — to see in An Lushan the champion of Iranianism in China and in the reaction of the Tang an anti-Iranian reaction. History is far more complex than historians often think.

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But one can certainly tell that if the Iranian influence in China did not cease abruptly at this moment, it was simply because many Iranians had the virtue, from the point of view of the Tang, of not having supported An Lushan. Only recently have we begun to understand the rise to economic, military and political power of an Iranian family that considered itself to have descended from An Shigao and that had a long tradition of loyalty with at least one exception to the dynasties that had dominated the north of China up to the unification of the Sui in and, then, to the Sui and Tang dynasties.

If the Iranian element played an important role in the rebellion of An Lushan this is still to be proved , probably An Lushan's greatest mistake was to believe that all Iranians in China — and especially this An family, of which he seems to have been an adopted member — would support him in his dynastic adventure and rally to his cause.


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This was not the case. He took the extreme step of renouncing his family name by asking Emperor Suzong to grant him instead the family name Li, the same name as the imperial family. The emperor consented to this request and showed his appreciation by granting the former An Chongzhang important administrative posts and honorary titles. Suzong 's successor Daizong even.

By taking the Li family name, An Chongzhang lost his identity as an Iranian. Not only were his descendants henceforth called Li, but this name was also awarded to his ancestors — I do not know up to what generation — probably in a selective way in order to exclude from the genealogical tree those members who had supported An Lushan or had been responsible for his adoption into the An family.

Could it be that a member of this branch was a partisan of An Lushan? It is certain, in any case, that the persecution and exclusion of those who had sided with An Lushan, especially when they had the same family name, were such that we now have serious difficulties trying to establish connections. The deletion of these people from history obliges us to advance hypotheses that only lucky finds may one day confirm or deny. Although their influence became gradually weaker, due also to their increasing sinicization, they still had a certain importance for some time.

The fatal blow for them came in This date is usually associated with the persecution of Buddhism. This is certainly true in the sense that Buddhism was the foreign religion most widespread in China, but it would be more correct to speak of a persecution of all foreign religions, or of a xenophobic outburst. In fact, no foreign religion escaped persecution. Buddhism survived because of its great strength and because it had deeply penetrated Chinese society, but the other religions practically disappeared.

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At this moment, very probably, was eliminated also the Christian temple of Chang'an, and its famous stele. This temple, which had been founded by a Persian in and had maintained the name of Monastery of Persia from to , was still in the hands of Persians when Adam Jingjing composed the text of the inscription in It is possible therefore that until the period of the persecution of , things had not changed. One could then even venture to define this persecution as anti-Iranian. It is certainly not chance that it happened when the old Iranian civilization of Persia and Central Asia had suffered blows from Islam on one side and the Turks on the other.

It is true that Uighurs were included in the persecution, but during the revolt of An Lushan, in Luoyang, some Uighurs were converted to the Iranian religion, Manicheism, which became their state religion. It is interesting also to note that the most important propagator of Buddhism in its first centuries in China, was the Iranian An Shigao, whom I have already mentioned several times.

But An Shigao presents problems that are far from resolved and would be better not to address here.


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Some researchers have even doubted An Shigao 's Parthian origin and suggested that he was a Sogdian from Bukhara. This thesis is far from being proven, but there is no doubt that he was a noble Iranian converted to Buddhism and that he contributed grandly to the diffusion of this religion in China.

Il , was a descendant of An Shigao; the. Jizang and Fazang have deeply marked the spirituality of all East Asia, but their role was not limited to philosophical and religious pursuits. It is necessary also to underline that Jizang became in Wude 3 a member of the powerful board of "Ten Bhadantas" who directed the Buddhist church in China,4 meaning that he was also active in the political sphere.

As for Fazang, he was the most important ideologue of his time. Some names of the Sassanian aristocrats who lived at the Chinese court may also be mentioned. Another important Persian also has his statue in the same mausoleum. The pronunciation of this name at the time was Nsm- or Nam- m9J but I have not so far identified him. Shortly after the death of his father, he left China to attempt to recover his territories from the Arabs. In the second year of Jinglong 28 January to 14 February ,. So far I have presented some facts and names that indicate in a very general way the relevance of the Iranian presence in China.

But to have an idea of their importance, we need only recall that they introduced and practiced not only two Iranian religions, Zoroastrianism and Manicheism, but also Christianity and, especially, Buddhism. I have mentioned some names of Buddhist, Christian and Manichean monks. No important name can be mentioned for Zoroastrianism, which certainly was practiced in China. On the contrary, one can say that Aluohan was probably not a Zoroastrian, because he was buried contrary to Zoroastrian practice. Were the Sassanians Zoroastrian at that time? Specialists probably know the answer, but it is certain that no Chinese document so far proves the Zoroastrian faith of the figures I have mentioned.

Nevertheless, even just approaching the problem of the date of the introduction of Zoroastrianism to China immediately produces difficulties. It has usually been stated that Zoroastrianism is first attested in China in the early sixth century. This date was suggested by Chen Yuan Bfcjg in Liu Ts'un-yan in tried to show that Zoroastrianism was practiced in. China before the date suggested by Chen Yuan.

Liu quoted a text concerning the year which might be interpreted as referring to Zoroastrianism. In addition, he thought that the sabao officials must have existed in the north of China before the Northern Qi. Even if he did not cite a date, Liu suggested that the sabao may have been appointed before the Northern Qi because the Bei shi mentions that in about there were envoys of the Northern Wei to Persia.

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He admits, nevertheless, that this is only a conjecture. It is necessary also to consider that the problems of the date of the introduction of Zoroastrianism and of its importance are closely linked to the question of whether the term sabao really designates Zoroastrian officials, as has always been believed. I have not yet examined this question very closely, but I have the impression that the search for traces of Zoroastrianism in China has been dominated by three ideas that have become axioms, taken as self-evident truths. These three ideas are in fact simply unproven proposals that we are asked to accept blindly.

I believe that if we wish to shed some light on the question of Zoroastrianism in China, we need to reconsider.

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Drake in expressed himself clearly enough when he observed that "in the more general use of the term 'God of Heaven' there is nothing to prevent us from including other religions in which a heaven-god was worshipped. Let me now come to the third of the three pseudo-axioms, i.

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It is generally believed that sabao occurs for the first time during the Northern Qi Zhang Guangda , p. This still corresponds to. Epigraphic sources now allow us to establish an earlier date. I doubt, nevertheless, that the equation sabao - Zoroastrianism is absolute. I do not want to say that the function of sabao was not in some way connected with Zoroastrianism, but simply that when we read in ancient documents that a certain figure was sabao, we cannot assume each time that he was Zoroastrian.

The equation, in fact, is far from proven. It is possible that the officials called sabao were charged above all with commercial affairs and in general with the affairs of Iranians practicing international trade.

This is indicated by the very name of the office. What is important for us is the meaning of this term and some other elements that have been neglected until now. I summarize here four points that in my opinion need to be considered by those concerned with this question. The National Library may be able to supply you with a photocopy or electronic copy of all or part of this item, for a fee, depending on copyright restrictions.

Separate different tags with a comma. To include a comma in your tag, surround the tag with double quotes. Please enable cookies in your browser to get the full Trove experience. Skip to content Skip to search. Hou, Ching-Lang. Maisonneuve, Language Chinese French. Author Hou, Ching-Lang. Physical Description p. Subjects Sacrifice. Rites and ceremonies -- China. Sacrifice -- China. China -- Religion. Notes French or Chinese. Errata slip inserted.

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