tirsdag 12. oktober 2021

How a Forgotten Religion Shaped China

On July 25, UNESCO officially added 22 historic sites in the southeastern port city of Quanzhou to its World Heritage List, including factories, tombs, temples, statues, bridges, and docks dating to the Middle Ages.

Quanzhou rose to fame as a trading port, but it is the city’s unique and curious legacy as a religious melting pot that has caught modern observers’ attention. At its peak from the 10th through the 14th centuries, Quanzhou drew a diverse array of merchants from across Eurasia, including Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and Nestorian Christians. After settling in the city, they dedicated altars to their faiths, built temples, and erected statues — many of which still stand today.

Among the most noteworthy of these sites is the Cao’an Temple and its Radiant Buddha Mani wall carving. Its name is somewhat misleading: The carving does not depict a Buddhist deity, but the third century Persian prophet Mani, the founder of the Manichaean faith. The story of how his likeness wound up on a temple wall half a world away from where he was born is one of persecution, resilience, and the vast networks of exchange that make Quanzhou worth remembering now.