Zoroastrianism in China

Summary of my two months field research in China
(All Rights Protected)
Dr. Pallan Ichaporia

1.     The decorations  on tomb epitaphs of Ke Jing, a Zoroastrian of Northern Wei

  period has the  names of the Zoroastrian deities identified by scholar Shi   


2.      Unearthed at Anyang in 1920 are the Zoroastrian elements on Qi mortuary, carved on a Sogdian-Zoroastrian ossuary now in the Palace Museum, Peking.

3.     Two recently discovered masterpieces of stone carvings. One  in 1999 from  excavated tomb of Zoroastrian Yu Hong in Taiyun, Shanxi province dated to Sui dynasty. The second major discovery are the stone carvings on the screen surrounding a mortuary divan found during the excavation in May-July 2000 in the tomb of another Zoroastrian aristocrat An Qi  in Xi’an, in Shaanxi province.

4.     The full excavation of Zoroastrian temple in Jiexiu county town, was examined by me.  The inscriptions record its first construction as Xuanshen-lou meaning Zoroastrian Temple. The inscriptions record its construction during the Northern Song dynasty and it was repaired in 1674 during theKangxi period.

5.     The partly excavated Zoroastrian Temple at  Dunhuang, (see Dunhuang Research, Dunhuang Academy, Dunhaung, Gansu, 1999).. The excavation will be completed in 2012. This was also examined on my recent field study.

6.     In 1955 archeologists unearthed The Tomb Epitaph of Lady Ma, the wife ofSu Liang near the western gate of Xi’an. The epitaph was inscribed in two languages – Chinese and Pahlavi. It is the most important bilingual text evidence of the presence of Zoroastrians in ancient China. The Japanese scholar Itoo Yoshinori published a study “A linguistic study of the Pahlavi in the bilingual in the Chinese-Pahlavi epitaph unearthed in Xi’an, 1964”,  and he concluded that the family traveled  beyond Amu Darya (Oxus River)  towards east in the wake of the Arab invasion and arrived in China during early Tang dynasty. This inscription was further studied by W.Sunderman  and T.Thilo in 1966,and J.Harmata in 1971 . Helmut Humbach and Wang Shippimg refined the interpretation of the epitaph, see “Die Pahlavi-Chineseche bilingue von Xi’an”, Acta Iranica, 28, 1988.

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