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Pro Oriente

East Syriac Christianity

International Conference on Research on the Church of the East in China and Central Asia

Since 2003 this international interdisciplinary project has engaged in the scholarly study of the so-called Nestorian Church of the East, which spread as far as China from the 7-14th centuries.

Historical Background

During the first millennium, any church located outside the Roman Empire was called a Church of the East. As early as the 7th century this church, once called the Nestorian (East Syrian) Church, spread via the Silk Road to India, Central Asia and Tang Dynasty China. In the 13th and 14th centuries, during the Mongol reign, the the Church of the East was the Christian church with the largest geographical territory. Perhaps the most exciting examples of inculturation took place in China, where Christian monks borrowed vocabulary from Taoism and Buddhism in order to preach the Gospel.

PRO ORIENTE’s interest in the Church of the East originated in its dialogue with the churches of the Syriac tradition, which started to include the Church of the East in the mid-nineties. An educational trip to China headed by Univ.-Prof. DDr. Peter HOFRICHTER of the University of Salzburg drew attention to vestiges of early Christianity in the country. Aided by the efforts of sinologist Prof. Dr. Roman MALEK, who lectured on religions in China at the university, the Monumenta Serica Institute in St. Augustin, Germany was convinced to conduct a joint scholarly project. Until 2006 Professors HOFRICHTER and MALEK were also responsible for the project’s scholarly direction.

Mode of Operation and Aims

A series of conferences and publications was planned in order to explore East Syriac Christianity in China. The project focused on the presentation of current scholarly results.

Results and Evaluation

The first conference took place in 2003, and was organised by PRO ORIENTE’s Salzburg Section together with the Monumenta Serica Institute. Experts from various disciplines (e.g. history, theology, archaeology, linguistics) from China, Japan, India, Turkey, the USA, Australia, Germany, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, France, and Austria were invited. More conferences followed in 2006, 2009 and 2013, which were attended by up to 50 scholars.
The conferences dealt with the latest research and excavations, which for political reasons had been unthinkable only a few years earlier in the Soviet Union and China. Since then, the results of the Salzburg International Conference on Research on the Church of the East in China and Central Asia have caused a global sensation.
The results of the conferences have been published; currently they appear in the Orientalia – Patristica – Oecumenica series from the publishing house Lit Verlag.


4th International

The Sacraments

The Glorious Past