Children of the demonic West might find Chinese art too quiet. Arthur Waley, born in the same year as Toynbee, was the scholar and translator and member of the Bloomsbury set who brought classical Chinese and Japanese poetry to the English public.
Jonathan Spence, quoted in Wikipedia: “[He] selected the jewels of Chinese and Japanese literature and pinned them quietly to his chest. No one ever did anything like it before, and no one will ever do it again. There are many westerners whose knowledge of Chinese or Japanese is greater than his, and there are perhaps a few who can handle both languages as well. But they are not poets, and those who are better poets than Waley do not know Chinese or Japanese. Also the shock will never be repeated, for most of the works that Waley chose to translate were largely unknown in the West, and their impact was thus all the more extraordinary.”
The Chinese poems are in A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, Constable, 1918 and More Translations from the Chinese, George Allen & Unwin, 1919. The Introduction in the first has a section called The Limitations of Chinese Literature.
“Those who wish to assure themselves that they will lose nothing by ignoring Chinese literature, often ask the question: ‘Have the Chinese a Homer, an Aeschylus, a Shakespeare or Tolstoy?’ The answer must be that China has no epic and no dramatic literature of importance. The novel exists and has merits, but never became the instrument of great writers.
“Her philosophic literature knows no mean between the traditionalism of Confucius and the nihilism of Chuang-tzŭ. In mind, as in body, the Chinese were for the most part torpid mainlanders. Their thoughts set out on no strange quest and adventures, just as their ships discovered no new continents. To most Europeans the momentary flash of Athenian questioning will seem worth more than all the centuries of Chinese assent.
“Yet we must recognize that for thousands of years the Chinese maintained a level of rationality and tolerance that the West might well envy. They had no Index, no Inquisition, no Holy Wars. Superstition has indeed played its part among them; but it has never, as in Europe, been perpetually dominant. It follows from the limitations of Chinese thought that the literature of the country should excel in reflection rather than in speculation. That this is particularly true of its poetry will be gauged from the present volume. In the poems of Po Chü-i [Bai Juyi] no close reasoning or philosophic subtlety will be discovered; but a power of candid reflection and self-analysis which has not been rivalled in the West.
“Turning from thought to emotion, the most conspicuous feature of European poetry is its pre-occupation with love. This is apparent not only in actual ‘love-poems,’ but in all poetry where the personality of the writer is in any way obtruded. The poet tends to exhibit himself in a romantic light; in fact, to recommend himself as a lover.
“The Chinese poet has a tendency different but analogous. He recommends himself not as a lover, but as a friend. He poses as a person of infinite leisure (which is what we should most like our friends to possess) and free from worldly ambitions (which constitute the greatest bars to friendship). He would have us think of him as a boon companion, a great drinker of wine, who will not disgrace a social gathering by quitting it sober.
“To the European poet the relation between man and woman is a thing of supreme importance and mystery. To the Chinese, it is something commonplace, obvious – a need of the body, not a satisfaction of the emotions. These he reserves entirely for friendship.
“Accordingly we find that while our poets tend to lay stress on physical courage and other qualities which normal women admire, Po Chü-i is not ashamed to write such a poem as ‘Alarm at entering the Gorges.’ Our poets imagine themselves very much as Art has portrayed them – bare-headed and wild-eyed, with shirts unbuttoned at the neck as though they feared that a seizure of emotion might at any minute suffocate them. The Chinese poet introduces himself as a timid recluse, ‘Reading the Book of Changes at the Northern Window,’ playing chess with a Taoist priest, or practising calligraphy with an occasional visitor. If ‘With a Portrait of the Author’ had been the rule in the Chinese book-market, it is in such occupations as these that he would be shown; a neat and tranquil figure compared with our lurid frontispieces.
“It has been the habit of Europe to idealize love at the expense of friendship and so to place too heavy a burden on the relation of man and woman. The Chinese erred in the opposite direction, regarding their wives and concubines simply as instruments of procreation. For sympathy and intellectual companionship they looked only to their friends. But these friends were bound by no such tie as held women to their masters; sooner or later they drifted away to frontier campaigns, remote governorships, or country retirement. It would not be an exaggeration to say that half the poems in the Chinese language are poems of parting or separation.
“Readers of these translations may imagine that the culture represented by Po Chü-i extended over the whole vast confines of China. This would, I think, be an error. Culture is essentially a metropolitan product. Chü-i was as much dépaysé at a provincial town as Charles Lamb would have been at Botany Bay. But the system of Chinese bureaucracy tended constantly to break up the literary coteries which formed at the capitals, and to drive the members out of the little corner of Shensi [or] Honan which to them was ‘home.’
“It was chiefly economic necessity which forced the poets of China into the meshes of bureaucracy – backed by the Confucian insistence on public service. To such as were landowners there remained the alternative of agricultural life, arduous and isolated.
“The poet, then, usually passed through three stages of existence. In the first we find him with his friends at the capital, drinking, writing, and discussing: burdened by his office probably about as much as Pepys was burdened by his duties at the Admiralty. Next, having failed to curry favour with the Court, he is exiled to some provincial post, perhaps a thousand miles from anyone he cares to talk to. Finally, having scraped together enough money to buy husbands for his daughters, he retires to a small estate, collecting round him the remnants of those with whom he had shared the ‘feasts and frolics of old days.’
“I have spoken hitherto only of poets. But the poetess occupies a place of considerable importance in the first four centuries of our era, though the classical period (T’ang and Sung) produced no great woman writer. Her theme varies little; she is almost always a ‘rejected wife,’ cast adrift by her lord or sent back to her home. Probably her father would be unable to buy her another husband and there was no place for unmarried women in the Chinese social system. The moment, then, which produced such poems was one of supreme tragedy in a woman’s life.
“Love-poetry addressed by a man to a woman ceases after the Han dynasty; but a conventional type of love-poem, in which the poet (of either sex) speaks in the person of a deserted wife or concubine, continues to be popular. The theme appears to be almost an obsession with the T’ang and Sung poets. In a vague way, such poems were felt to be allegorical. Just as in the Confucian interpretation of the love-poems in the Odes (see below) the woman typifies the Minister, and the lover the Prince, so in those classical poems the poet in a veiled way laments the thwarting of his own public ambitions. Such tortuous expression of emotion did not lead to good poetry.
“The ‘figures of speech,’ devices such as metaphor, simile, and play on words, are used by the Chinese with much more restraint than by us. ‘Metaphorical epithets’ are occasionally to be met with; waves, for example, might perhaps be called ‘angry.’ But in general the adjective does not bear the heavy burden which our poets have laid upon it. The Chinese would call the sky ‘blue,’ ‘gray,’ or ‘cloudy,’ according to circumstances; but never ‘triumphant’ or ‘terror-scourged.’
“The long Homeric simile, introduced for its own sake or to vary the monotony of narrative, is unknown to Chinese poetry. Shorter similes are sometimes found, as when the half-Chinese poet Altun [a sixth-century Tartar employed by the Chinese to train their troops] compares the sky over the Mongolian steppe with the ‘walls of a tent’; but nothing could be found analogous to Mr. T. S. Eliot’s comparison of the sky to a ‘patient etherized on [sic] a table.’ Except in popular poetry, puns are rare; but there are several characters which, owing to the wideness of their import, are used in a way almost equivalent to play on words.
“Classical allusion, always the vice of Chinese poetry, finally destroyed it altogether. In the later periods (from the fourteenth century onwards) the use of elegant synonyms also prevailed. I have before me a ‘gradus’ of the kind which the later poet used as an aid to composition. The moon should be called the ‘Silver Dish,’ ‘Frozen Wheel,’ or ‘Golden Ring.’ Allusions may in this connection be made to Yü Liang [link?], who rode to heaven on the crescent moon; to the hermit T’ang [link?], who controlled the genius of the New Moon, and kept him in his house as a candle – or to any other of some thirty stories which are given. The sun may be called ‘The Lantern-Dragon,’ the ‘Crow in Flight,’ the ‘White Colt,’ etc.
“Such were the artificialities of later Chinese poetry.”
Archive for the 'China' Category
The posthumous ascendancy of Confucius survived the interregnum (circa A.D. 175-475) which followed the break-up of the Empire of the Han; it survived the influx of the barbarians, and the far more revolutionary influx of the Mahayana, into the new Far Eastern World; and it survived the latter-day barbarian invasions of Khitan [medieval Liao dynasty] and Kin [medieval Jin] and Mongol and Manchu [descendants of Jin]. The one power that has ever seriously disputed the hold of Confucius over Chinese minds since the sage’s ethereal reign began is the Civilization of the West, which is making its forcible impact upon the traditional life of China in the present generation. For the moment, maybe, the Western impact has driven Confucius from his millennial throne; yet, even if he has been officially deposed, the unconquerable sage is still contriving to govern where he no longer reigns by ruling incognito. For the essence of the Confucian social system, as it was instituted two thousand years ago, is government by students under the auspices of a sage whose personality and precepts are regarded with all the more veneration since the man of flesh and blood has departed this life and has received his apotheosis; and the lineaments of this system can still be detected in the life of a revolutionary China beneath all the scum and froth that have gathered on its agitated surface. In this twenty-eighth year after the abolition of the Confucian examinations [in 1905], China is still being governed by students in a dead philosopher’s name. The veneration long paid to Confucius has been transferred provisionally to Sun Yat-sen; and the borrowed prestige of the founder of the Kuomintang has secured the long-suffering acquiescence of the Chinese People in the conduct of public affairs by Dr. Sun’s political legatees, who (to China’s undoing) have received their education abroad in the social and physical sciences of the West, instead of being educated in the Confucian Classics like their predecessors for sixty generations. The moral and political bankruptcy of these Western-educated student-politicians of the Kuomintang may conceivably bring King Confucius back into his own again; and thus, even now, we cannot foresee the end of the mighty kingdom which this Sinic sage unwittingly acquired when he lost his official post in the petty principality of Lu.
The official ideology of the Kuomintang, whatever the educational background of its leaders, favoured Confucianism. Was it ambiguous in 1933? Did this aspect of it only become clear with the establishment of the New Life Movement in February 1934?
There had been waves of anti-Confucianism: the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64), New Culture Movement (c 1915-21) and May the Fourth Movement (from 1919). During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the Communists opposed Confucius.
A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934
“Since I lived a stranger in the City of Hsün-yang
Hour by hour bitter rain has poured.
On few days has the dark sky cleared;
In listless sleep I have spent much time.
The lake has widened till it almost joins the sky;
The clouds sink till they touch the water’s face.
Beyond my hedge I hear the boatmen’s talk;
At the street-end I hear the fisher’s song.
Misty birds are lost in yellow air;
Windy sails kick the white waves.
In front of my gate the horse and carriage-way
In a single night has turned into a river-bed.”
This post has information on the Tang poet.
“From my high castle I look at the town below
Where the natives of Pa cluster like a swarm of flies.
How can I govern these people and lead them aright ?
I cannot even understand what they say.
But at least I am glad, now that the taxes are in,
To learn that in my province there is no discontent.
I fear its prosperity is not due to me
And was only caused by the year’s abundant crops.
The papers that lie on my desk are simple and few;
My house by the moat is leisurely and still.
In the autumn rain the berries fall from the eaves;
At the evening bell the birds return to the wood.
A broken sunlight quavers over the southern porch
Where I lie on my couch abandoned to idleness.”
Bai Juyi, After Collecting the Autumn Taxes, in Arthur Waley, translator, More Translations from the Chinese, George Allen & Unwin, 1919, a sequel to A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, Constable, 1918.
This post has information on the Tang poet.
Looking at Arthur Waley’s two collections of translations of classical Chinese poems (links in last post), several themes recur. Separation. Officials and soldiers in a large empire spend time, perhaps most of their lives, away from home. Did they not take their families with them when they were posted to remote places or to a capital? Nature. Solitude. Friendship.
In Bai Juyi (Po Chü-i) especially, laziness, lassitude, drinking, depression, world-weariness, ageing, illness. Nothing overstated.
Perhaps Waley’s translations are regarded as dated and have been superseded or his selections are not representative. But they are enjoyable as poems in English.
“White hair covers my temples,
I am wrinkled and seared beyond repair,
And though I have got five sons,
They all hate paper and brush.
A-shu is eighteen:
For laziness there is none like him.
A-hsüan does his best,
But really loathes the Fine Arts.
Yung-tuan is thirteen,
But does not know ‘six’ from ‘seven.’
T’ung-tzŭ in his ninth year
Is only concerned with things to eat.
If Heaven treats me like this
What can I do but fill my cup?”
Waley tells us that “six” and “seven” (which Yung-tuan certainly would not have known add up to his age) are written with characters very easy to distinguish.
Tao Yuanming or Tao Qian or (as Waley calls him) T’ao Ch’ien (365-427) lived in the middle of the Six Dynasties period (c 220-589), between the Han and the Sui.
Lazy Man’s Song (old post).
Chinese and Mongol battalions were brigaded with Manchu battalions in varying numbers and ratios in the Manchu Power’s army corps known as “banners”. Even when the Manchu Government’s domain was still confined to territories lying outside the Great Wall, the Chinese members of the community outnumbered the Manchus and Mongols; [footnote: See Michael, F.: The Origin of Manchu Rule in China (Baltimore 1942, Johns Hopkins University Press), p. 71.] and, after their passage of the Wall in A.D. 1644, it was the South Manchurian Chinese contingent in the banners that gave the invaders the man-power requisite for completing the conquest of Intramural China. While the Manchus thus succeeded in enlisting Chinese to help them win and hold [Ming] China for a Manchu régime, they were no less successful in dealing with the equally delicate problem presented by the Mongols, martial barbarians with memories of a great imperial past of their own and with a tincture of alien culture that made them no less difficult to assimilate than the intensely cultivated Chinese.
The Manchus attacked their Mongol problem from two directions. On the one hand, in the organization of the Mongol battalions of the banners they anticipated the policy of the British military authorities towards the Gurkhas and Pathans by recruiting their Mongol soldiers individually, and not in tribal blocs, and by placing them under the command of Manchu officers. On the other hand, they handled the Mongol tribes on the Steppe as the ʿOsmanlis had handled the Kurdish tribes in the Zagros Mountains. Without attempting to destroy their tribal organization, they contented themselves with dividing the tribes up into tribal atoms of a minimum size, and with imposing a strict delimitation of the boundaries between their respective pastoral ranges. The Mongol tribes, thus reduced in size and penned within fixed limits, were allowed to remain autonomous under the rule of their own tribal chiefs, while, to save appearances, these Mongol tribal chieftainships were nominally given the status of “banners”, as the Kurdish tribal chieftainships had been officially classified as Ottoman fiefs in the books of the Pādishāh. [Footnote: See Michael, op. cit., pp. 96-97. It will be seen that, in post-Diocletianic Roman terminology, these Mongol and Kurdish tribes were foederati of the Manchu and the Ottoman Empire respectively.] The political success of this Manchu military organization is attested by the fact that, when the Manchu régime in China was liquidated in A.D. 1911, the revolution was not the work of the Manchus’ comrades-in-arms in the Chinese and Mongol battalions of the banners.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
“I was just
in my boat
when I heard someone stomping
and singing on the shore!
Peach Blossom Lake
is a thousand feet deep
but it can’t compare
with Wang Lun’s love
or the way he said
HOT! Festival, Dixon Place, New York, July 7 2010.
Rest also on YouTube. Whole set, in different performances, at iTunes.
Translation of Li Bai by Vikram Seth: White gibbons (post here).
Other poems by him were the source of four of Mahler’s settings in Das Lied von der Erde. Post.
Example of the dozens of speeches and scores of articles about the necessity of World Unity in the Atomic Age given or written after his retirement from Chatham House in 1955.
The Balance Sheet of History, with young audience at UCLA. April 1 1963, while visiting professor at Grinnell College, Iowa for the second time. Unidentified first introducer hands over to Vice Chancellor, Foster H Sherwood, who introduces Toynbee.
The range of allusion one gets in his books is absent. There is nothing that he doesn’t say in other places. The tendency to repeat himself disappointed some of the US institutions which paid to have him as their guest. So did his habit (as, apparently, here) of making side trips in order to give further identical talks to other institutions.
Still, there’s a shape and theme to this. These productions came from a lifelong reaction against the nationalism which had produced the First World War, and were at the same time a response to the Cold War.
What he has to say seems quaint to a generation that has forgotten that it lives in the shadow of the Bomb, and is in the power of new currents which are bringing societies together anyway – and tearing them apart.
He blurs homo sapiens and hominids (a confusion not evident in Mankind and Mother Earth). He says that more than half of the world’s population in 2000 will be citizens of China. His Malthusianism is simplistic. The opening-up of the grasslands of the US, Canada, Argentina, Australia had postponed the food crisis (for the West, so how were others coping?), but the reckoning was now imminent. He shows no awareness of the Green Revolution.
World government would be needed to regulate the supply and distribution of food.
Population growth can be curtailed only by a revolution in human behaviour, not by administrative action. Yet it was controlled by administrative action in China in the one-child policy initiated in 1979.
Religion belongs to a deeper level of human life than politics. There’s a confused passage about different religions appealing to the different psychological types which can be found in every population. In future, he hopes that people will choose their religions, rather than being born into them.
But the identities, iconographies, traditions of religions were developed in geographically-defined communities. So how did they appeal to distinct psychological types? And what is their soil in a cosmopolitan world?
Local loyalties and larger ones. Federal systems. Paul’s loyalty to Tarsus and to the Empire. He makes some comparatively kind remarks about the Pax Romana, but returns to his basic idea about Rome.
The real life of the Roman Empire was in the growth of, and competition between, new religions.
The eastern end of the Old World has tended to be more unified than the western end.
There have been periodic breakdowns of the unity of [China]. The latest of them began in 1911 when the Manchu regime crumbled in China, and lasted till about 1929, when the Kuomintang reunited China. Since 1929, first under the Kuomintang regime and later under the Communist regime, China has been united, which is its normal condition through the ages, a very great contrast to the western end of the Old World, which has never succeeded in uniting itself since the Roman Empire went to pieces there in the 5th century of the Christian Era.
World government will be needed for the regulation of nuclear weapons. Even if nuclear energy is exploited only for peaceful purposes, a world authority will have to deal with atomic waste.
In a unified world, he wants ethical unity, but cultural variety.
Human beings’ relations with their fellow human beings are
the slum area of human life.
He believes in human interaction as the basis for world peace. He sees the value of students travelling, of tourism, of professional conferences, of the Peace Corps (established by Kennedy in 1961), of networks of personal friendships. But he never visited a Communist country unless you count a crossing of Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1930. He could presumably have visited the USSR under Krushchev. Old post.
He mentions Ashoka.
The reference at 17:21 to Professor Pegram may be to GB Pegram, a physicist involved in the Manhattan Project.
The first introducer thanks, summarises the Toynbees’ schedule in LA, and wraps up.
The points in this summary don’t necessarily follow the order in the talk.
Via UCLA Department of Communication Studies archive.
Links to other posts containing film or audio of Toynbee are here.
Gautama Buddha and the founder of Jainism, Mahavira, both lived in a period of wars between local states in northern India in the 6th century BC. Gautama was born in what is now Nepal, Mahavira in Bihar.
What was the extent of Buddhism’s early influence in the Afghan or other domains of Achaemenid Persia?
In 326 BC Alexander the Great crossed the Indus (which the Persians had never done) and then the Jhelum or Hydaspes, the most western of the five rivers of the Punjab. At the Hydaspes Alexander defeated King Porus of Pauravas, an ancient country that soon afterwards fell to the Mauryans.
Another ruler, King Ambhi of Taxila, surrendered his city, already a Buddhist centre.
Alexander’s troops refused to advance further than the Beas, a tributary of the Sutlej, the easternmost of the five rivers.
A Buddhist great power, the Mauryan Empire, emerged in India as the Achaemenid Empire fell.
After Alexander’s death in 323, Chandragupta Maurya (ruled 322-298) conquered Alexander’s briefly-held east-of-Indus satrapies with the help of a largely Persian army. Bactria, between the Hindu Kush and the Oxus, and Transoxiana, remained Greek. Both had belonged to the Achaemenids.
Chandragupta’s capital: Pataliputra (Patna).
Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian satrap of Alexander, established his authority as far as Bactria and the Indus and in 305 BC he fought Chandragupta. Seleucus appears to have fared poorly, ceding large territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta: Arachosia (Kandahar), Gedrosia (Baluchistan), the Paropamisadae (Hindu Kush), but not Bactria or Transoxiana. Post here on the Paropamisadae.
Chandragupta then sold Seleucus 500 war-elephants (who used them to fight Antigonus I) and married Seleucus’s daughter to formalise an alliance. Seleucus sent an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta’s court. Relations continued between their successors.
Chandragupta was Jain. His successor Bindusara belonged to the Ajivika sect.
Bindusara’s successor, Ashoka (reigned 269-32), embraced Buddhism and became a proselytiser of the traditional Theravada Pali canon.
V Greek Bactrians
Meanwhile, the Seleucids were losing control of Bactria. It became the centre of an independent Greco-Bactrian kingdom c 256 BC, which extended into Transoxiana.
Capitals: Bactra (Balkh), Alexandria-on-the-Oxus (possibly Ai-Khanoum).
After the Brahmanical Sunga dynasty overthrew the Mauryans in 185 BC, the Greco-Bactrians invaded and conquered northwestern India with an army led by Demetrius.
The resulting Indo-Greek Kingdom lasted until AD 10 and was opposed in the east for its first century by the Sunga. Buddhism prospered, and it has been suggested that the Greek invasion of India was intended to protect the Buddhist faith from the persecutions of the Sunga.
Capitals: Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus (Kapisa or Bagram, Hindu Kush, north of Kabul), Sirkap (Taxila, Punjab), Sagala (Sialkot, Punjab), Pushkalavati (Charsadda, NWFP).
King Menander (reigned c 160-130 BC) became a student and patron of Buddhism. Were any Greco-Bactrian or Indo-Greek kings before him personally sympathetic to Buddhism?
VII Greeks and Buddhism
The philosophers Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus are said to have accompanied Alexander. During the eighteen months they were in India, they were able to interact with Indian ascetics, described as Gymnosophists, naked philosophers.
At Sirkap, Buddhist stupas stand side-by-side with Hindu and Greek temples, suggesting religious tolerance and syncretism.
Early Mahayana theories of reality and knowledge may be related to Greek philosophical schools of thought.
The Mahavamsa records that during Menander’s reign, a Greek Buddhist abbot named Mahadharmaraksita led 30,000 monks from Alexandria (possibly in-the-Caucasus) to Sri Lanka for the dedication of a stupa.
There are Buddhist inscriptions by Greeks in India, such as that of the provincial governor Theodorus, describing in the Kharoshti script (and Pali language?) how he enshrined relics of the Buddha.
Coins of Menander and some of his successors show Buddhist symbols.
Buddhist tradition recognises Menander as one of the benefactors of the faith, together with Ashoka and Kanishka (below).
The first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are often considered a result of Greco-Buddhist interaction. The earliest Buddhist art was aniconic: the Buddha was only represented through his symbols (an empty throne, the Bodhi tree, his footprints, the Dharma wheel, the triratna).
It was natural for the Greeks also to create a single common divinity by combining the image of a Greek God-King (Apollo, or possibly the deified founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Demetrius) with the attributes of the Buddha.
Stylistic elements in these representations point to Greek influence: the Greco-Roman toga-like wavy robe covering both shoulders (more exactly, its lighter version, the Greek himation), the contrapposto stance of the upright figures, the stylised curly hair and topknot (ushnisha) apparently derived from the Apollo of the Belvedere (c 335 BC), the measured quality of the faces.
During the following centuries, this anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha evolved to incorporate more Indian and Asian elements.
Several Buddhist deities may have been influenced by Greek gods. There are links between Greco-Persian and Buddhist cosmology.
The Buddha was known to the Church fathers. Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have been found in Alexandria in Egypt, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel. The presence of Buddhists in Alexandria at this time is important, since it was to be an intellectual centre of Christianity.
VIII Successors of the Indo-Greeks
Greek rule in Bactria was extinguished c 125 BC by southward-migrating Sakas or Scythians and Yuezhi, both Indo-European speaking. The Yuezhi are later called Kushan.
At the beginning of the first century, the Yuezhi invaded the northern parts of Pakistan and India and founded the Kushan Empire, a contemporary of the Roman Empire.
The Kushan rulers (30-375) displaced the Indo-Greek kings, but their culture was Greek-influenced. They used the Greek script to write their Indo-European language. Their absorption of Greek historical and mythological culture is suggested by Kushan sculptures representing Dionysiac scenes and even the story of the Trojan horse and it is likely that Greek communities remained in India under Kushan rule. Capitals: Purushpura (Peshawar, main capital), Bagram, Taxila, Mathura.
The Greek-influenced Indo-European-speaking successors of the Indo-Greeks:
Indo-Scythian/Saka kingdoms, 110 BC-400 (final extinction)
Indo-Parthian Kingdom, 12 BC-before 100
Yuezhi/Kushan Empire, 30-375
Indo-Sasanians, 3rd century-410
Ephthalite or White Hun Empire, 5th-7th century; they belonged to the Central Asian Xionite hordes and were enemies of the Gupta and of the Sasanians
The Ephthalites controlled present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and territories to the north and are probably the ancestors of modern Pashtuns. Their power was broken by the Sasanians (Khosrau I) in and after 557 and by the Turkic steppe-dwellers.
The full religious mix before Islam has to take account of Buddhism, Greek paganism, Hinduism, Jainism, Manichaeism, Shamanism, Zoroastrianism. Even Judaism and Nestorianism.
IX The Mahayana
The Kushan king Kanishka was famous for his religious syncretism and honoured Zoroastrian, Greek and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha. He convened the Fourth Buddhist Council c AD 100 in Kashmir. His reign sees the earliest representations of the Buddha on a coin (c AD 120), and in a Hellenistic style. Kanishka also had the earliest Gandhari vernacular, or Prakrit, Mahayana Buddhist texts translated into the literary language of Sanskrit.
The sacred texts of Theravada Buddhism are written in Pali, a Prakrit or vernacular which is closely related to Sanskrit and to the language the Buddha spoke. The sacred texts of the Mahayana were translated from Sanskrit into local languages.
Buddhism expanded into East Asia soon after this. The Kushan monk Lokaksema visited the Han Chinese court at Luoyang in AD 178, and worked there for ten years to make the first known translations of Mahayana texts into Chinese. This was also the great age of Gandharan art (area around Taxila, northern Pakistan): subjects Buddhist, motifs Hellenistic. (Gandhara was originally the name of an ancient Vedic kingdom.)
Buddhism probably reached China from the Kushan Empire in the first century CE: from north India via the Punjab, Gandhara, the Hindu Kush, Bactria, Transoxiana/Sogdiana, and the Fergana valley (Kokand, Anijan). Then across the Tien Shan and into the Tarim basin (Kashgar, Khotan, Turfan). In other words, by linking to the Silk Road. A minority view is that it came to China by sea, entering by the Yellow and Huai rivers.
It entered by land via a region which had been partly hellenised. The interaction of Greek culture with Buddhism may have helped to determine the forms which Buddhism took in China. The Mahayana was eventually adopted in China, Siberia, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Mahayana goes beyond (or does it retreat from?) the ideal of the release from suffering, and the Nirvaṇa of the arhats, to elevate the Buddha to a God-like status and to create a pantheon of quasi-divine bodhisattvas devoting themselves to the salvation of their fellow human beings.
X Decline of Buddhism
The interaction of Greek and Buddhist cultures operated over several centuries until it ended in the 5th century with the invasions of the anti-Buddhist Ephthalite or White Huns and later the expansion of Islam. In the Ephthalite empire Buddhism and Hinduism were still widespread, over a layer of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism.
In India proper, the decline of Buddhism is usually attributed to a steady Brahmanical reaction, which gathered pace late in the Gupta era. Invasions by Ephthalites and later by Muslims must have hastened it.
Has the Greek influence been exaggerated by western historians? Have they shown undue interest in it because it is easier for them to understand than complicated autochthonous Buddhist movements and schools?
XI Arrival of Islam
The Arabs completed their conquest of Persia in 651. In Persia and up to the Indus, the Caliphs’ power was gradually lost to local rulers, mainly Sunni, who distantly acknowledged the Caliphate until the fall of Baghdad.
In 661-71 the Arab armies conquered Bactria (by now called Tokharistan), which had passed from the Greeks to the Scythians, Yuezhi (Kushans), Sasanians, Ephthalite Huns and Sasanians again (or had the post-Ephthalite settlement there been Turkish rather than Persian?).
Transoxiana, where the post-Ephthalite settlement had been Turkish, followed in 706-15; here they suffered a setback, but in 739-41 they conquered Transoxiana definitively.
This put the Islamic state astride the overland route between India and China via the Oxus-Jaxartes basin.
The Arabs conquered, further
Baluchistan after Persia
Sindh and the Indus valley in 711 (Muhammad bin Qasim); capital: Mansura; Sindh later came under local dynasties (Habbari, then Soomro)
Southern Punjab from a base in Sindh, occupying Multan in 712.
They failed to occupy the Kandahar-Ghazni-Kabul route to the Khyber Pass. Two small Hindu states in southern Afghanistan, mentioned below, stubbornly defended the approach to the Hindu Kush.
Their foothold even in the Punjab was precarious. A number of Hindu powers resisted them there. The area was eventually controlled by the Turkic Mamluk Ghaznavids and Persian Ghorids.
They tried to invade India, but were defeated by a coalition of post-Gupta Rajput dynasties in 738.
At the Talas River in 751 the newly-installed Abbasids came head to head with the Tang Chinese. If the Chinese had won the battle, they might have captured the Oxus-Jaxartes basin and reclaimed it from Islam or Zoroastrianism for Buddhism. But they lost, and their influence this far west subsided. They did not return to the Tarim basin until the Qing or Manchu; not even the Yuan governed it.
Before the Islamic conquest, Afghanistan was a religious mixture of Zoroastrianism, paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism (near Kabul) and others. There is no reliable information on when Hinduism began in Afghanistan, but the territory south of the Hindu Kush was probably culturally connected with the Indus Valley civilisation in ancient times.
Herat province, near Persia, was Islamised early on, but the Arabs dealt with a number of post-Sasanian, post-Ephthalite rulers who resisted them. South of the Hindu Kush were the Hindu Zunbil and Buddhist (later Hindu) Kabul Shahi dynasties.
We don’t know how much of the Afghan population accepted Islam immediately, but the Shahi rulers remained non-Muslim until they lost Kabul in 870 to the Persianate (old post) Saffarid Muslims of Sistan, capital: Zaranj. Later, the Persian Samanids (old post) from Bukhara in Transoxiana extended their Islamic influence into Afghanistan. Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the arrival of Ghaznavids from Ghazni in the late 10th century.
The Persian Samanids (819-999) presided over a revival of Persian civilisation in Samarkand and later Bukhara. They sponsored the first complete translation of the Quran into Persian.
The Persian Saffarids ruled in Persia and Afghanistan from 891 to 1003. Capital: Zaranj in Sistan, Persia/Afghanistan. They were eventually reduced to vassals of the Samanids.
By the 11th century, the entire population of Afghanistan was Muslim, except in Kafiristan, or Nuristan, in the east, whose inhabitants continued to practise an ancient form of Hinduism until Nuristan was conquered by the Emirate of Afghanistan in 1895.
The Turkic Ghaznavids controlled large parts of Persia, much of Transoxania, and the northern parts of India from 977 to 1186. Capitals: Ghazni in Afghanistan, Lahore in Pakistan. Their most famous ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni (reigned 998-1002), invaded and plundered India east of the Indus seventeen times. Capitals: Ghazni in Afghanistan, then Lahore.
The Tajik Ghorids (before 879-1215), originally central Afghanistan pagan, Sunni from 1011, were later the first Muslim power in Delhi and further east as far as Bengal: Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Indo-Gangetic plain in 1194, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, Delhi. Ghorid capitals: Firozkoh, Herat, Ghazni, those three now in Afghanistan, Lahore as winter capital.
In 1206 a former slave of Muhammad established the Sultanate of Delhi. His Mamluk (slave) dynasty was the first there. The Sultanate ended with the accession of the Timurid Babur, the first Mughal, in 1526. When the Mughals first arrived in India, they spoke a Turkic language. In adopting Persian, they inherited the language of the Perso-Turkic Delhi Sultanate.
Genghis Khan invaded Transoxiana and Bactria in 1219-20. Before his death in 1227, he assigned the lands of western central Asia to his second son Chagatai, and this region became known as the Chagatai Khanate. In 1369 Timur, of the Barlas tribe, became the effective ruler while continuing the ceremonial authority of Chagatai Khan’s dynasty, and made Samarkand the capital of his empire (1370-1507).
The first independent Islamic Kingdom in South India was the Bahmanid Sultanate (1347-1527). It broke up into five states known as the Deccan Sultanates.
The Arab conquests brought the demise of Buddhism in eastern Persia and greater Afghanistan, but in some places in Afghanistan, such as Bamiyan (Bamiyan province) and Hadda (site near Jalalabad), it survived until the 8th or 9th century. The Taliban dynamited two monumental Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan valley (6th and 7th centuries) in March 2001.
XII Old posts:
Picture credit: AfghaniDan; near Jalalabad
Picture credit: Luciana Di Floriano; Silk Road, probably Tien Shan mountains
Buddhism may have reached Balkh, now in Afghanistan, then under the Achaemenids, during or soon after the lifetime of the Buddha.
From the 2nd century Parthians such as An Shigao, were active in spreading Buddhism in China. Some of the earliest translators of Buddhist literature into Chinese were from Parthia.
The Sasanids persecuted the Buddhists when they came to power in AD 224 and promoted Zoroastrianism.
Surviving Buddhist sites were raided by the Ephthalites or White Huns, the nomadic confederation which at the height of its power (first half of 6th century) controlled territories in Transoxiana, Bactria, India, China.
Nevertheless, at the time of the Arab conquests, much of the eastern Iranian world was mainly Buddhist.
The Arab conquests brought the demise of Buddhism in eastern Persia and Afghanistan, but in some places, such as Bamiyan and Hadda (both Afghanistan), it survived until the 8th or 9th century.
In 1295 the Mongol ruler in Persia, Ghazan, was converted from Buddhism to Islam and made it the state religion of the Ilkhanate. He prohibited the practice of Buddhism, but allowed monks to go into exile in neighbouring Buddhist regions.
The Arabs complete their conquest of Persia in 651. Umayyad, Abbasid.
Abbasid power there is lost, except in name, to local kingdoms, some of Persian, some of non-Persian origin. Persianisation a reaction to Arabisation. “Persianate” rulers may or may not have been ethnically Persian.
Samarkand and later Bukhara played a role in a revival of Persian civilisation under the native Persian Samanid dynasty (Sunni, ruled Persia 819-999). The Samanids sponsored the first complete translation of the Quran into Persian.
Mongol invasion. The Mongol House of Hulagu sets up the Ilkhanate. Tabriz is one of its capitals.
Ilkhans are followed by the Turco-Mongol Timurids from Transoxiana (Tamerlane). Capital Samarkand, now in Uzbekistan. (It is a Timurid prince, Babur, who, pursued by a west-Siberian section of the Golden Horde, the Uzbeks, founds the Mughal dynasty in India.)
Then a Persian renaissance. The Ilkhans and Timurids had been Sunni. The Safavis are Twelver Shiite.
For four years (1511-14) the founder of the Safavi Empire, Shah Ismaʿil, threatened the Ottoman Empire with a repetition of the disaster that had been inflicted on it by Timur in 1402.
In 1598, the fifth Safavi, Shah Abbas I, moves his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan.
Afsharid, Zand, Qajar, Pahlavi dynasties follow. Allegiance to the Shia continues, but the Afshar make compromises with Sunni Islam.
The Afshar capital is Mashhad, Zand capitals Shiraz and Tehran. Tehran becomes sole capital in 1796 under Mohammad Khan Qajar. Persia is bled dry by Britain and Russia, but not officially colonised.
Then the revolution, violently Islamic: but Islam has never owned the whole of the Persian soul. Persia is a continuum under successive waves of Greek, Buddhist, Arab, Islamic (Arab and Islamic are not always the same thing), Turkic, Mongol and western culture.
Persia was also connected with China via the Silk Road. The Parthian and Sasanian empires had been in touch with the Han and Tang dynasties.
Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous
The Sarawat mountains run down the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. Sarat al-Hejaz, Sarat Asir, Sarat al-Yemen.
Taʿif is in the Hejaz section, 100 km southeast of Mecca. The ruling family and much of the government are said to go there during the summer to escape the heat of Riyad. Taʿif is cool. Coastal Jeddah, on nearly the same latitude, hot and humid. Inland Riyad is hot and dry.
There are more grapes at Hofuf in the Eastern Province.
Taʿif, like Mecca and like Al-Qullays, was a religious centre which attracted pilgrims before the Prophet: it housed the idol of Allat, the lady of Taʿif, who was also one of the trinity of goddesses worshipped in Mecca.
It was near the site of Muhammad’s victory at the battle of Hunayn in 630. The Sharif of Mecca capitulated to Selim I at Taʿif in 1517, a surrender undone by the British four hundred years later.
Ecbatana. The Achaemenids had the old Median capital as their summer capital. Their real capital was Susa, their ceremonial capital Persepolis. (Seleucia-on-Tigris was the first capital of the Seleucid Empire, though it was officially superseded by Antioch. Ctesiphon-on-Tigris, opposite Seleucia, and Susa were the joint capitals of Parthia. Susa was briefly taken by Trajan and was the easternmost point reached by the Romans. Ctesiphon was also the Sasanian capital, and fell to the Arabs.)
Xanadu. The summer capital (1271-94) of Kublai Khan, the Mongol founder of the Yuan dynasty in China, after he moved his permanent capital from Xanadu (Shangdu) to Khanbaliq (Dadu), present Beijing. Destroyed by the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming, in 1369. Old posts: Xanadu and Jehol and Foreigners in Cathay.
Simla. The summer capital (1864-1939), in the Himalayan foothills, of the British in India. Over a thousand miles away from Calcutta. (Much nearer to Delhi.) Old post. Wikipedia says that before 1864 the summer capital was even further away, at Murree, a pleasant, often snowy, spot in the Margalla Hills, near Rawalpindi, and now in Pakistan. But wasn’t it the regional government of the Punjab province that moved there in the summer? A cool retreat much closer to Calcutta would have been Darjeeling. Was that too inaccessible?
In the middle of the 19th century, San Sebastián, near Biarritz, became a summer capital for the Spanish monarchy. Franco spent his summers there.
The hill station of Baguio in the northern mountains of Luzon was the summer capital of the Philippines during the American occupation (1898-1946).
Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley is still the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The winter capital is Jammu.
Sochi, on the Black Sea, is described as the summer capital of Russia. Before 1991, resorts in the Crimea could play that role. Now they can presumably play it again.
Murree beer was made in Murree when the Murree Brewery was founded in 1860. In (I believe) 1910, the plant was moved to Rawalpindi. There is also one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP), which I thought was too strict nowadays to allow this kind of thing. It was Bhutto, in 1977, not Zia, who made Pakistan dry. The Christian, Hindu, and Parsi communities were not large enough to support the Murree enterprise, and production had to be cut back.
But the laws are not very strictly enforced. The last few times I was in Pakistan (2004-06), I had to sign a declaration in hotels that I required the beer (or the local whisky, also made by Murree Brewery) for medicinal purposes. It was then handed over in a black bag. I don’t recall the form requiring me to state that I was a non-Muslim. The medical ruse, I suppose, allowed it to be sold to anyone, irrespective of religion.
Of course, part of the moneyed middle class, especially in Karachi, and of the military class and the “feudal” class, drinks quite a lot and gets its hands on foreign liquor. Musharraf’s two loves, it has been said, are dogs and whisky.
I am convinced that Murree is how beer used to taste. At least the Murree that I remember (there has been some product diversification). It’s the subaltern’s beer, still being made. But one bottle could (it must be said) taste and look disconcertingly different from another.
It isn’t exported, which doesn’t stop them from producing an Export Pils, but in 2013, Murree Brewery opened a franchise, run by a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, which allows its brewing, bottling and marketing in India.
A family and a few courtiers might go to a summer palace. A large part of a civil service might migrate to a summer capital. This is what I understand happened with Simla and Baguio and happens with Srinagar. What about Sochi? Does it really still happen with Taʿif? Why migrate when there is air conditioning?
Roman and Byzantine emperors had summer palaces. The pope has Castel Gandolfo.
Construction of the complex of gardens and palaces in Beijing known as the Old Summer Palace began in 1707 under the Kangxi Emperor (Qing). He intended it as a gift for his fourth son, the future Yongzheng Emperor, who would expand it in 1725. The Qianlong Emperor (same generation as Elizabeth and Frederick) did further work.
The Old Summer Palace, with its many ancient books and works of art, was destroyed by the British and French in the Second Opium War, causing the Imperial Court to relocate to the Forbidden City.
The vast nearby Summer Palace, also in Beijing, had its origin in a palace built by the Jurchen (Jin dynasty) emperor Wanyan Liang in the 12th century. It remained in use under the Yuan. (What did the Ming do with it?) The Qianlong Emperor built much of what we see now. The Old Summer Palace had been built by his grandfather the Kangxi Emperor (hence, I suppose, “Old”). The Summer Palace was badly damaged by the British and French, but not completely destroyed.
Both of these were outside the walls of the Inner City. Did Summer Palace connote “without the walls”? The Forbidden City was within the walls.
Essences from damask roses grown in Taʿif can cost thousands of pounds a bottle. I was with a friend in a perfumery in Jeddah in summer 2009. I couldn’t understand the Arabic courtesies and chatter exchanged between him and the owner, his friend, and not since childhood have I felt so trapped in a conversation that I could neither follow, nor contribute to, nor end. The light turned rosy as the evening approached, and a few miles away my friend’s plane waited for us on the tarmac at the airport like a patient camel.
A perfect Taʿif rose (image).
Augustus and his successors had made good civil servants out of predatory Roman business men of the “equestrian” class; Han Liu Pang [the first Han emperor] and his successors had made them out of predatory feudal gentry bred by the contending Sinic parochial states; Cornwallis and his successors had made them out of predatory commercial agents of the British East India Company.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary protests:
I was in Hong Kong straight after Tiananmen Square. The city was in a state of shock and almost empty. The most unsettling moment for Hong Kong after that was probably the SARS crisis of early 2003.
There is no direct contemporary evidence for St Thomas the Apostle coming to Kerala, but such a trip would have been possible for a Roman Jew in the first century. Jews lived in India then. The earliest text connecting him to India is the Acts of Thomas, one of the New Testament Apocrypha, written in Edessa early in the third century.
The word Malankara in the name of several south Indian churches derives from the name of the island of Maliankara near Muziris, where Thomas first landed.
According to tradition, he established Seven Churches, the Ezharapallikal: Cranganore (Malayalam: കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്), Paravur (Kottakavu) (കോട്ടക്കാവ്), Palayoor (പാലയൂര്), Kokkamangalam (കൊക്കമംഗലം), Niranam (നിരണം), Chayal (Nilackal) (നിലക്കല്), Kollam (Quilon) (കൊല്ലം).
Thomas of Cana, a Syrian, arrived in Kerala in the fourth century or later. The subgroup of Thomas Christians known as the Southists trace their lineage to him and his followers. The Northists claim descent from Thomas the Apostle’s converts.
Settlers and missionaries from Persia, members of the Church of the East (East Syrian rite), or Nestorian Church (last post), which was centred in the Sasanian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, started to establish themselves in Kerala.
Nestorianism, which insists on the dual nature of Christ, had been condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Many of Nestorius’s supporters moved to Sasanid Persia, from where they spread into Central Asia and China.
Circa 650 Patriarch Ishoyahb III solidified the Church of the East’s jurisdiction over the Thomas Christians. In the late eighth century Patriarch Timothy I organised the community as the Ecclesiastical Province of India, one of the Nestorian church’s illustrious Provinces of the Exterior.
After this point the Province of India was headed by a metropolitan bishop provided by Persia, the Metropolitan-Bishop of the Seat of St Thomas and the Whole Christian Church of India. His metropolitan see was probably in Cranganore, or (perhaps nominally) in Mylapore, the original burial site of St Thomas, before his body was moved to Edessa. Under him were bishops, and a native Archdeacon, who had authority over the clergy and who wielded a great amount of secular power.
For a time the archidiaconate was hereditary in the Pakalomattam family, who claimed a connection with Thomas the Apostle. In the broader Church of the East, each bishop was attended by an archdeacon, but in India, there was only ever one archdeacon, even when the province had several bishops serving it.
The blame for the destruction of the Nestorian communities east of Iraq has often been thrown upon the Turco-Mongol leader Timur, whose campaigns during the 1390s spread havoc in Persia and Central Asia. But in many parts of Central Asia Christianity had died out decades before Timur’s campaigns. The evidence from Central Asia, including a large number of dated graves, indicates that the crisis for the Church of the East occurred in the 1340s rather than the 1390s.
In China, the last references to Nestorian and Latin Christians date from the 1350s. It is likely that all foreign Christians were expelled from China soon after the revolution of 1368, which replaced the Mongol Yuan dynasty with the xenophobic Ming.
India was cut off from the Church’s new heartland in northern Mesopotamia. Nestorian Christianity was now mainly confined to the triangle formed by Mosul and Lakes Van and Urmia. There were small Nestorian communities further west, notably in Jerusalem and Cyprus, but the Malabar Christians of India represented the only significant survival of the once-thriving exterior provinces of the Church of the East.
By the late fifteenth century India had had no metropolitan for several generations, and the authority traditionally associated with him had been vested in the Archdeacon.
In 1491 the Archdeacon sent envoys to the Patriarch of the Church of the East, as well as to the Oriental Orthodox Coptic Pope of Alexandria and the Syriac Oriental Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, requesting a new bishop for India.
The Patriarch of the Church of the East Shemʿon IV Basidi responded by consecrating two bishops and dispatching them to India. These bishops helped to reestablish fraternal ties with the patriarchate, but the years of separation had changed the structure of the Indian church. The Archdeacon was firmly established as the real power in the Malankara community.
When the Portuguese arrived in 1498, the Thomas Christians were in a difficult position. Though prosperous owing to their large stake in the spice trade and protected by a formidable militia, the small community had come under pressure from the forces of the powerful rajas of Calicut, Cochin and various smaller kingdoms. When the Vasco da Gama arrived on the Malabar coast, the leaders of the St Thomas community proffered a formal alliance to their fellow Christians. The Portuguese, keen to implant themselves in the spice trade and to expand Latin Christianity, jumped at the opportunity.
Facilitating the objective, the Padroado Real: the treaties and decrees in which the Pope conferred authority in ecclesiastical matters on the Portuguese secular authorities in territories they conquered. The Portuguese organised themselves in Goa, established a church hierarchy, and set themselves to bringing the native Christians into conformity with Latin church customs and subjecting them to the authority of the Archbishop of Goa.
After the death of Metropolitan Mar Jacob in 1552, the Portuguese became more aggressive in their efforts to subjugate the Thomas Christians. Protests on the part of the natives were frustrated by events in the Church of the East’s Mesopotamian heartland, which left them devoid of consistent leadership. In 1552, a schism there resulted in there being two rival patriarchates, one of which entered into communion with the Catholic Church (was that the Chaldean Catholic Church?) and the other of which remained independent. At different times both patriarchs sent bishops to India, but the Portuguese were able to outmanœuvre the newcomers or convert them to Latin rite Catholicism outright. In 1575 the Padroado declared that neither patriarch could appoint prelates to the community without Portuguese consent, thereby cutting the Thomas Christians off from their own hierarchy.
In 1599 the last Metropolitan, Abraham, died. The Archbishop of Goa, Aleixo de Menezes, secured the submission of the young Archdeacon George, the highest remaining representative of the native church hierarchy. Menezes convened the Synod of Diamper, which instituted a number of structural and liturgical reforms to the Indian church. The parishes were brought directly under the Archbishop’s authority, certain “superstitious” customs were anathematised, and the indigenous liturgy, the East Syrian Malabar rite, was purged of elements unacceptable by the Latin standards. Though the Thomas Christians were now formally part of the Catholic Church, the conduct of the Portuguese over the next decades fuelled resentment in parts of the community, ultimately leading to open resistance.
Matters came to a head in 1641 with the appointments of Francis Garcia as Archbishop of Kodungalloor (pro-Portuguese) and of Archdeacon Thomas, the nephew and successor of Archdeacon George. In 1652, the situation was further complicated by the arrival in India of a mysterious figure named Ahatallah.
Ahatallah arrived in Mylapore in 1652, claiming to be the rightful Patriarch of Antioch who had been sent by the pope to serve as Patriarch of the Whole of India and of China. He appears to have been a Syriac Orthodox (Oriental Orthodox) Bishop of Damascus who was converted to Catholicism and travelled to Rome in 1632. He then returned to Syria in order to bring the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hidayat Allah into communion with Rome. He had not accomplished this by the time Hidayat Allah died in 1639, after which point Ahatallah began claiming he was Hidayat Allah’s rightful successor. In 1646 he was in Egypt at the court of the Coptic Pope Mark VI, who dispatched him to India in 1652, evidently in response to a request for aid from Archdeacon Thomas. Reckoning him an impostor, the Portuguese arrested him, but allowed him to meet members of the St Thomas Christian clergy, whom he impressed. The Portuguese put him on a ship bound for Cochin and Goa. Archdeacon Thomas led a militia to Cochin demanding to meet him. The Portuguese refused, asserting that he was a dangerous invader and that his ship had already sailed on to Goa.
Ahatallah was never heard from again in India, and rumours spread that Archbishop Garcia had had him drowned in Cochin harbour before he reached Goa, or burned at the stake. In reality, it appears that Ahatallah did reach Goa, was sent on to Europe and died in Paris before reaching Rome, where his case was to be heard. In any event, Garcia’s dismissiveness towards the Thomas Christians’ appeals only embittered the community further.
The dismissal of Ahatallah was the last straw for the Thomas Christians, and in 1653 Thomas and representatives of the community met at the Church of Our Lady in Mattancherry. In a ceremony in the churchyard, before a crucifix and lighted candles, they swore an oath that they would never obey Garcia or the Portuguese or Jesuit missionaries again, and that they accepted only the Archdeacon as their shepherd. The Malankara Church and all its successor churches regard this declaration, known as the Coonan Cross Oath (Malayalam: Koonan Kurishu Satyam), as the moment when their church regained its independence.
In the same year, in Alangad, Archdeacon Thomas was ordained, by the laying on of hands of twelve priests, as the first known indigenous Metropolitan of Kerala, under the name Mar Thoma I. Pope Alexander VII sent a Syrian bishop, Joseph Sebastiani, at the head of a Carmelite delegation, to convince a majority of the Thomas Christians that the consecration of the Archdeacon as metropolitan was illegitimate. Palliveettil Chandy Kathanar was consecrated as bishop for the East Syrian rite Catholics with the title The Metropolitan and the Gate of all India, denoting a quasi-patriarchal status with all-India jurisdiction, in communion with Rome.
This led to the first permanent split in the St Thomas Christian community. Thereafter, the faction affiliated with the Catholic Church was designated the Pazhayakuttukar or Old Party, while the branch affiliated with Mar Thoma was called the Puthankuttukar or New Party. These appellations were controversial, as both groups considered themselves the heirs to the St Thomas tradition, and saw the other as heretical.
Initially the terms Malankara Christians or Malankara Nasranis were applied to all Thomas Christians, but following the split the term was usually restricted to the faction loyal to Mar Thoma, distinguishing them from the Syrian Catholic faction.
Out of 116 churches, the Catholics claimed eighty-four and the Archdeacon Mar Thoma I thirty-two. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro-Malabar (East Syrian rite) Catholic Church descended. The thirty-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church and its offshoots have descended.
An Oriental Orthodox affiliation now replaced the old Nestorian one. In 1665, Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India and the Thomas Christians under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him. This visit resulted in the Mar Thoma party claiming the spiritual authority of the Antiochean Patriarchate and gradually introducing the West Syrian liturgy, customs and script to the Malabar Coast.
Jacobites or Syrian Jacobites is a reference to the Syriac Orthodox Church’s connections with a sixth-century bishop of Edessa, Jacob Baradaeus.
Over the next centuries this relationship strengthened, and the Malankara Church adopted a variant of the West Syrian rite known as the Malankara rite (as distinct from the previous East Syrian usage) and entered into full communion with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. These affiliations seem to have been more matters of liturgy and hierarchy than Christology.
In 1912 a dispute over authority between supporters of the Metropolitan and supporters of the Patriarch divided the Malankara church, with the former group becoming the essentially independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church or Indian Orthodox Church under an autonomous Catholicos of the East, and the latter maintaining ties with the Patriarch as the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.
Other groups that split from the main body of the Malankara Jacobite church:
The Thozhiyur Sabha, or Malabar Independent Syrian Church (1772). Independent. West Syrian rite.
The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church (1835). Follows a variant of the West Syrian tradition.
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (1930). Re-entered into communion with the Catholic Church as an Eastern Catholic Church following the West Syrian liturgy. It and the larger Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (East Syrian rite) are among the 22 Eastern Catholic churches mentioned in the last post.
The St Thomas Evangelical Church of India (1961). Derives from a schism in the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
The Nestorian connection survives in the Chaldean Syrian Church, an Indian archbishopric in the Nestorian Assyrian Church of the East (last post).
Syro-Malabar Catholic bishop Mar Mathew Arackal, Bishop of Kanjirappally Eparchy, holding the Mar Thoma Cross, which symbolises the heritage of St Thomas Christians even for Catholics, and other priests, at the tomb of the beatified Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly, St John Nepumsian Syrian Catholic Church, Konthuruthy, via Wikimedia Commons
A few years ago, I was taken into the San Thome Basilica in Chennai by a Hindu friend who crossed himself as he entered. India has been notoriously slow at adopting positions on anything in international diplomacy, which is perhaps a legacy of its standing in the Non-Aligned Movement. If it is seeking a global role now, it should be as the most complex partially-successful multicultural society on earth.
Anyone who has read the last two posts and followed their few links should now be able to answer the trivia questions:
What are the differences between the
Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
Assyrian Church of the East
Greek Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and
Jacobite Syrian Christian Church?
What two churches are Chaldaean?
The widest term for the languages and cultures (rather than racial identities) of Malaya and the islands from Madagascar to Sumatra, Java, Taiwan (before China), the Philippines, Borneo, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Hawaii is Austronesian.
Austronesian languages are not to be confused with the much older Papuan and Australian languages. (New Guinea is outside the Austronesian space.)
It used to be thought that they had originated in Taiwan, from where large-scale migrations began after 5000 BC. The first Austronesian-speaking settlers were said to have landed in northern Luzon, where they intermingled with an older population.
Recently (2009) their origin has been placed further south, in Sundaland, the peninsula, before the end of the last Ice Age, that had extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java. Under this scenario, refugees from the rising seas migrated north to Taiwan.
Austronesian-speakers spread eastward to the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and westward to Madagascar. Sailing from Melanesia and Micronesia, they had discovered Polynesia by 1000 BC, Easter Island by AD 300, Hawaii by AD 400 and New Zealand by AD 1280. They reached South America and traded with Native Americans.
By the beginning of the first millennium CE, the Austronesian inhabitants of maritime Southeast Asia had begun trading with India and China. Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced and Indianised kingdoms established. By the tenth century Muslim traders had brought Islam, which gradually displaced the older religions. The Austronesian inhabitants of Polynesia were unaffected by these cultural migrations and diffusions and retained their indigenous culture.
Map of the Austronesian migrations, Wikimedia Commons, opens in a new window; a couple of the dates differ slightly from ones I have given:
“Into the rainy street I came
And heard the motors swiftly splash away.
Cascades from the eaves like ‘water from a high mountain’ – ]
With my Hangchow umbrella perhaps I’ll saunter forth. …
Water has drenched the endless pavement.
Aloft in a lane there is somebody playing the nan-hu,
A tune of abstract long-forgotten sorrow:
‘Mêng Chiang Nü, to seek her husband,
Has gone to the Great Wall.’”
Lin Kêng, Shanghai Rainy Night in Harold Acton with Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, translators, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, 1936.
As in some shin-hanga prints in Japan, a modern element, here cars, is added to a scene observed with an older sensibility. Chinese and Japanese poetry is more pointillist than Western; the motors create not a jarring note, but a frisson.
The quotation in the third line isn’t explained.
The nan-hu is a southern form of the erh-hu, a two-stringed violin. Is that line rather awkwardly translated?
Mêng Chiang Nü was the heroine of many popular ballads and legends connected with the building of the Great Wall. Her husband was pressed into a labour-gang and sent north to build the Wall. No word came from him, and she set forth alone in search of him.
Lin Kêng was born in Peking in 1910 of a Fukienese family of scholars. “His father, Mr. Lin Tsai-p’ing was an authority on Chinese and Indian philosophy, which he taught at Tsing Hua and Peking National Universities. Mr. Lin Kêng studied Chinese literature at Tsing Hua University and graduated in 1933.” The book prints a note by him about his ideas on modern poetry.
“Say it’s the sadness of the lonely autumn
Say it’s a longing for the far-off sea.
If people ask the cause of my anxiety,
I dare not speak your name.
I dare not speak your name
If people ask the cause of my anxiety,
Say it’s a longing for the far-off sea,
Say it’s the sadness of the lonely autumn.”
“T’ai Wang-shu is now in his early thirties studying European literature in France. His volume of poems entitled Leaves of Wang-shu (Wang-shu T’sao) has had a great influence over the younger generation.” The book prints a note by him about his ideas on modern poetry.
“Through morning rain
Come cries of flower-vendors in the lane;
Dew on the petals,
Mushrooms by the trees,
Along the door-steps, moss.
A tiny snail is creeping up the wall.”
Lin Kêng, Summer Rain in Harold Acton with Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, translators, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, 1936.
According to it, Lin Kêng was born in Peking in 1910 of a Fukienese family of scholars. “His father, Mr. Lin Tsai-p’ing was an authority on Chinese and Indian philosophy, which he taught at Tsing Hua and Peking National Universities. Mr. Lin Kêng studied Chinese literature at Tsing Hua University and graduated in 1933.” The book prints a note by him about his ideas on modern poetry.
The Indic philosopher Siddhārtha Gautama exerted his influence upon the Mauryan Emperor Açoka after a Time-interval of more than two centuries, if the Buddha died in 487 B.C. and Açoka came to the throne in 273 B.C. But perhaps the most extraordinary example of this exertion of influence at long range is Confucius’s effect upon the minds and lives of the two [long-reigning] Manchu emperors K’ang Hsi [the Kangxi Emperor, regnabat 1661-1722] and [his successor but one] Ch’ien Lung [the Qianlong Emperor, regnabat 1735-96].
The first of these two Confucian princes did not begin to reign until more than two thousand years had passed since his mentor’s death; the Far Eastern Society into which K’ang Hsi was born was sundered from the Sinic Society, in whose bosom Confucius himself had lived and taught, by a social interregnum which deepened the gulf dug by Time; and K’ang Hsi himself was not even a native-born son of the Far Eastern Civilization, but was a cultural convert from a horde of recently installed barbarian conquerors. The influence of Confucius upon K’ang Hsi was a brilliant posthumous consolation prize for the disappointment, in Confucius’s own lifetime, of the hopes of a Sinic sage whose offers of service had been rejected by the Sinic princes of the day; and this posthumous reversal of fortune was as ironic as it was extreme, for, in offering himself in the role of mentor, the Sinic sage had not just been making a half-hearted compromise with an importunate conscience in the manner of his Hellenic and Indic counterparts. In Confucius’s eyes the role which Confucius never succeeded in playing effectively until long after his death was no grudgingly paid debt to the ineradicable human nature of the social animal under the sage’s cloak: it was for him the only role in which a philosopher could properly follow his spiritual calling. [Footnote: In Confucius’s view the ultimate purpose of self-cultivation, which was the Superior Person’s first duty, was the purification of his neighbour and of the entire community. Confucius thought of himself, not as a happily detached sage, but as an unfortunately unemployed man of action (see Maspero, H.: La Chine Antique (Paris 1927, Boccard), pp. 466-7 and 543).]
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939
The “Far Eastern Civilization”, according to Toynbee’s scheme, emerged before AD 500, during a post-Han interregnum, out of a disintegrating “Sinic” civilisation. It began to break down in the late ninth century, at the end of the Tang (618-907). Its Time of Troubles was followed by successive universal states founded by barbarians: the Mongol or Yuan (1280-1351) and Qing (1644-1912) empires, with a Chinese restoration under the Ming (1368-1644).
The “Sinic” civilisation had originated in the Yellow River basin c 1500 BC (Shang, Western Zhou, Eastern Zhou). Its Time of Troubles was the period of the Warring States, which produced Confucius and Lao-tse. The universal states which followed were the Ts’in (Qin) (221-207 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) empires. Under the Han, Mahayana Buddhism arrived from India.
Sinologists scorned the two-civilisation idea and Toynbee’s forcing of Chinese history into his Hellenic model of civilisations. See Wayne Altree, Toynbee’s Treatment of Chinese History in MF Ashley Montagu, editor, Toynbee and History, Critical Essays and Reviews, Boston, Porter Sargent, 1956.
Neo-Confucianism, incidentally, was an attempt, starting under the Tang, to reinterpret Confucius in the light of the Mahayana and at the same time to rid Confucianism of superstitious and mystical elements of Taoism and Buddhism that had influenced it during and after the Han.
In the main body of the Far Eastern World the Manchu restoration of a Mongol-built universal state was more to the credit of the forerunner Nurhachi (regnabat A.D. 1618-25), who never set foot inside the Great Wall, than it was to the credit of his fainéant successor Shun Chih (imperabat A.D. 1644-61), in whose reign the seat of the Manchu power was triumphantly transferred from Mukden to Peking.
The [beginning of the] “Indian Summer” which the main body of the Far Eastern World enjoyed under the Pax Manchuana […] is to be equated with the definitive subjugation of the South by the Emperor K’ang Hsi in A.D. 1682, and its end with the death of the Emperor Ch’ien Lung in A.D. 1796.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939
“The year was 1910. The scene was a provincial capital in the heart of China. The city was over 2,000 years old and was proud of its history and its conservatism. Around it was an ancient wall mounted with obsolete cannon. It was criss-crossed with narrow streets which in the day-time were thronged, were redolent with the odours of opium, night soil, and the frying foods of street vendors, streets which resounded with the cries of the hawkers of various wares and the bearers of sedan chairs, the squeak of ungreased wheelbarrows, the squeal of pigs being carried to market, and the pleas of beggars. As one passed along the streets he could look in upon numerous handicrafts – the making of shoes, the dyeing of cloth, the manufacture of paper money for burning on behalf of the dead, and huge pestles operated by human feet for the hulling of rice. Hidden behind blank walls were the courtyards of the mansions of the rich, some of them with treasures of books and of paintings of old masters. Narrow side alleys led to the crowded tenements of the poor. Trade, handicrafts, and even beggars and thieves were organized by guilds. In the city was the yamen of the provincial governor, representative of the imperial power of distant Peking and of the Confucian state, a set of political institutions under which, with modifications, the Chinese had lived for over two millenniums [sic]. There were Confucian temples, symbolic of the moral and intellectual ideas which had been dominant for twenty centuries and the scene of ceremonial gatherings of the scholar-officials who, nurtured in Confucianism and its exponents and guardians, were the élite who by precept and example set the standards of conduct of the country. Near the heart of the city was an open space which until a few years before  had been occupied by rows of small covered stalls in which were given periodically the highly competitive examinations based upon the Confucian classics through which entrance was had to the coveted ranks of the scholar class and the civil service. At nightfall the gates in the encompassing battlements were closed and the streets were empty. The city then seemed like a vast house, with 200,000 or more inhabitants enclosed within a wall which was about a mile wide and a mile and a half long, in rooms of various sizes separated by narrow halls which echoed to the gong and bamboo drum of the night-watchman as he made his rounds.
“Outside the city were countless graves, some of them dating from before the Christian era. Across the river, on the slopes and at the summit of a mountain were a Buddhist and a Taoist monastery, representative of religions which had long been present in China, the one an importation and a channel of Indian influence, and the other native to China.
“Life went on much as it had for untold generations. Here was a great civilization with a long history, the creation and the possession of a proud people who traditionally had regarded all foreigners as crude barbarians. Here was a world seemingly as apart from the rest of mankind as though it were on a distinct planet. [Several clichés.]
“Yet in that year there were evidences of an invasion from another world. On an island in the river were the houses of consuls of Western Powers, the homes of merchants, and the dwellings of British subjects who were managing the customs service, a system imposed on China from the outside half a century and more earlier. On the river bank were the offices of European and American business firms. British and Japanese steamers connected the city with down-river marts through which flowed the products of the factories of the industrialized Occident and of Japan. Lamps fed by the kerosene refined and imported by foreigners were supplanting older forms of lighting. From time to time foreign gunboats lay in the river as a protection for the invaders. Within the walls were homes, churches, schools, and an incipient hospital and medical and nursing school of Christian missionaries from Europe and America [mainly Protestant at this time], vivid evidence that this other world was already effecting an entrance. To the east and south were the beginnings of cuts and embankments which were designed to carry a railway which would form the path for the iron horse, ‘the fire-wheel wagon’, to form a road for additional penetration. The vacant plot where once had been the examination stalls was mute evidence that the old order had been dealt a mortal blow at its very heart.
“Here was an early stage of a vast revolution, a revolution as great as though men from Mars had forced themselves and their civilization upon the inhabitants of the earth.
“By the 1950’s the revolution had proceeded much further. The crenellated wall had long since disappeared. The railroad had been completed, a trunk line between the north and south, with gateways to the invaders at both ends. New streets had been driven through the city. Electric light, the telephone, and the automobile had appeared. The Confucian monarchy had been abandoned and with its going the local representatives of the central government had shifted again and again. In place of the monarchy there had come what was called a republic, but the Chinese had floundered in their attempts to adopt and adapt institutions and ideals with which they were unfamiliar. Civil war had racked the country. In a prolonged Japanese invasion the battle lines had more than once moved back and forth across the city, leaving much of it a smoking ruin. Rebuilding was rapid, but had not been accomplished when a new and even more revolutionary invasion, that of Communism of the Russian pattern, took possession. In all of these changes the schools shared and through them successive student generations were moulded. Confucianism as the standard of education was swept into the dustbin and its passing created a void which for a growing minority was filled by Christianity, but which left the majority empty and dissatisfied, potential converts to the dogmatic ideology of Communism. Social customs, including the relations between the sexes and marriage, were kaleidoscopic. The river still ran and opposite loomed the familiar hills, but had those returned who had known the city only in 1910 they would have been left breathless and bewildered […].”
Kenneth Scott Latourette was one of those American missionaries (Baptist) and later taught at Yale. This is the opening of his A History of Modern China, Pelican, 1954, the first volume in The Pelican History of the World, a series of national histories that was abandoned. Some volumes detached themselves from it and remained in print on their own or never got into it. As far as I can see, it contained only this and (for those who like old Pelicans)
RB Nye and JB Morpurgo, A History of the United States, 2 volumes, 1955
Alfred Cobban, A History of Modern France, 3 volumes, 1957, 1961, 1965
Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, 1959 and
William C Atkinson, A History of Spain and Portugal, 1960.
Attached to it, to this day, is a large portrait of Mao Zedong, wart and all.
Tiananmen Square was laid out in 1651, under the Qing. At its original southern end (where the Mao Zedong Mausoleum now is) stood the early-fifteenth century Great Ming Gate, renamed Great Qing Gate (“Daqingmen” in the map in yesterday’s post), the old southern ceremonial gate to the Imperial City. Gate of China under the Republic.
A short way south of that and built at the same time was Qianmen Gate (or Front Gate; Ch’ien-men, Wade Giles; also called Cheng-yang-men, Wade Giles, and Zhengyangmen, pinyin) into the Outer City. See last post.
The Square in the early twentieth century viewed from Qianmen Gate; Qing Gate in middle distance; beyond it the Imperial Way leading to Tiananmen Gate in the far distance; flanking the Imperial Way on each side is the “corridor of a thousand steps”:
The British and French troops who invaded Beijing in 1860 during the Second Opium War considered burning down the Qing Gate and the Forbidden City. They decided ultimately to spare them and to burn instead the emperor’s Old Summer Palace a few kilometres away.
The Qing emperor was forced to let the foreign powers barrack troops and establish diplomatic missions in the area, resulting in the Legation Quarter to the east of the modern square.
The Legation Quarter was besieged and damaged during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
In 1954, the Gate of China was demolished, allowing for the enlargement of the square. The Qianmen Gate survives.
Modern square, map at chinatouristmaps.com (please visit):
The square in 1900 (old post).
Before the unification of China by the First Emperor in 221 BC, Beijing had been, for centuries, the capital of the ancient states of Ji and Yan.
During the first millennia of imperial rule, it was a provincial city in northern China. Its stature grew in the 10th to 13th centuries when the nomadic Khitan and forest-dwelling Jurchen peoples from beyond the Great Wall expanded southward and made the city a capital of their dynasties, the Liao and Jin.
Beijing as a capital for the whole of China grew out of the Yuan (Mongol) capital Dadu or Khanbaliq. The Ming moved their capital there from Nanjing in 1421.
The walls in the photographs below, built under the Ming, are those of the Inner City. Under the Manchu or Qing Dynasty rulers (1644-1912), it came to be called the Tartar City, in the loose sense of Tartar, because only Manchus were allowed to live there.
The Han Chinese, whose businesses depended on the imperial households, lived in the Outer City, which had its own wall.
Historical names of Beijing (Wikipedia).
The Inner and Outer walls were damaged during the Boxer Rebellion, punctured in various places after 1911 and almost entirely dismantled by the Communists.
Tiananmen Square lies between Tiananmen Gate, the gate into the Imperial City, and Zhengyangmen or Qianmen Gate, the gate into the Outer City.
Walls of the Tartar City via visualisingchina.net:
In the middle of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era, when the T’aip’ing insurrection was on the point of sweeping a degenerate successor of Ch’ien Lung off the Imperial Throne at Peking, the Ts’ing Dynasty obtained a fifty years’ reprieve thanks in large measure to the prowess of a general who came in consequence to be known among his own compatriots as “Chinese Gordon”, but who really – to confess the shocking truth – was a “South Sea Barbarian” whose sword-arm had been hired by the Emperor in his dire extremity though the Son of Heaven knew very well that this mercenary saviour’s barbarous blood had not in it even a tincture of the celestial ichor of the Children of Han.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939
Sir Harold Acton died twenty years ago today.
Tribute by Luca Vidmaker. L’ultimo grande inglese sull’Arno. Music Schumann, Piano Quartet.
I visited the great aesthete at La Pietra, above Florence, the villa in which he was born and died, twice in the ’70s: a story for another time.
The Last of the Medici, Florence, G Orioli, 1930 (translation of a lubricious eighteenth-century memoir, by whom?, of Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, introduction by Norman Douglas)
The Last Medici, Faber and Faber, 1932 (a study of the later Medici Grand Dukes and the first of his own historical works)
The Bourbons of Naples (1734-1825), Methuen, 1956
Ferdinando Galiani, in Art and Ideas in Eighteenth-Century Italy, Rome, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1960 (lectures by various people given in English at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Londra in Rome, 1957-58)
The Last Bourbons of Naples (1825-1861), Methuen, 1961
The Pazzi Conspiracy, Thames and Hudson, 1979
II Florence and Tuscany
Florence, Thames and Hudson, 1960 (photographs by Martin Hürlimann)
Tuscan Villas, Thames and Hudson, 1973 (photographs by Alexander Zielcke)
Edward Chaney, editor, Florence: A Travellers’ Companion, Constable, 1986 (Introduction to anthology)
III Translations from the Chinese; Acton lived in China from 1932 to 1939
With Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, 1936 (young poets)
With Lee Yi-Hsieh, preface by Arthur Waley, Glue and Lacquer: Four Cautionary Tales, illustrated with drawings by Eric Gill interpreted on copper by Denis Tegetmeier, The Golden Cockerel Press, 1941 (selections from the seventeenth-century writer Feng Menglong’s Tales to Rouse the World)
Aquarium, Duckworth, 1923
An Indian Ass, Duckworth, 1925
Five Saints and an Appendix, Holden, 1927
This Chaos, Paris, Hours Press, 1930
Cornelian, The Westminster Press, 1928 (prose fable)
Humdrum, The Westminster Press, 1928 (novel)
Peonies and Ponies, Chatto and Windus, 1941 (novel about expatriate life in China)
Prince Isidore, Methuen, 1950 (novel)
Old Lamps for New, Methuen, 1965 (novel)
Tit for Tat, Hamish Hamilton, 1972 (stories)
The Gift Horse
A Modern Vestal
“A Sketch, Lent by Miss Temple”
“O Thou I”
Resting on His Laurels
An Old School Pal
Tit for Tat
The Machine Is Broken Down
His Serene Highness
The Soul’s Gymnasium, Hamish Hamilton, 1982 (stories)
The Marchesa Carrie
Leo’s Ivory Tower
Fin de race
Flora’s Lame Duck
The Soul’s Gymnasium
A Phantom Botticelli
A Morning at Upshott’s
The Narcissus Elegy
Memoirs of an Aesthete, Methuen, 1948
More Memoirs of an Aesthete, Methuen, 1970
Nancy Mitford: A Memoir, Hamish Hamilton, 1975
Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie, editors, Oxford, China and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on His Eightieth Birthday, Thames and Hudson, 1984 (contributions by John A Wood, David Rundle, John Betjeman, Iris Origo, Sacheverell Sitwell, Anthony Powell, Joan Haslip, John Lehmann, Antony Lambton, Cyril Birch, Charles Wilson, Peter Quennell, Christopher Sykes, AL Rowse, Laurence Sickman, Amanda Lillie, Nicolai Rubinstein, Anna Maria Crinò, Maurice Cranston, Peter Gunn, Edward Chaney, Michael Grant, John Fleming, Francis Haskell, Carlo Knight, Hugh Honour, Denys Sutton, John Pope-Hennessy and Neil Ritchie)
If China were to invade North Korea and, with no rhetoric about human rights, replace an intolerable regime with a merely unpleasant one, the parallel would be the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978.
The man who, at the end of his career, oversaw that invasion, General Giap – Võ Nguyên Giáp – died in October, aged 102. Telegraph obituary.
The Mongols invaded Japan in 1274, and again in 1281, after the completion of their conquest of the Sung Empire in 1279. On both occasions Japanese valour was assisted by storms that made havoc of the invaders’ ships. In 1274 the Mongols’ expeditionary force was small, and it broke off its attack after only one day’s fighting. In 1281 the invading force was on a large scale, and the attack was kept up for two months. The repulse of these two Mongol assaults on Japan had as momentous an effect on mankind’s history as the repulse of the two Persian assaults on European Greece in the fifth century B.C. [492-90 and 480-79] and as the failure of the two Muslim Arab sieges of Constantinople [674-78 and 717-18].
He could have added: “and as the failure of the two Turkish sieges of Vienna” (1529 and 1682-83).
The Persians never set foot on mainland Greek soil again, nor the Mongols on Japanese. The Arabs never returned to the walls of Constantinople, nor the Turks to the walls of Vienna.
Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous
It was Human Nature that Horace had in mind when he wrote that Nature will always keep on coming back at you, even if you drive her out with a pitchfork; [footnote: “Naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret.” – Horace, Epistulae I, x, 24.] and, in the Subconscious Psyche’s repertory of “primordial images”, this Nature that is Man’s inseparable and intractable companion is expressively portrayed as a bull. This creature, far stronger physically than Man, which Man has precariously subjugated by the exercise of his Intellect and his Will, is an apt symbol for those subconscious principalities and powers in the Psyche which are so much more difficult for the Intellect and the Will to cope with than any veritably non-human living creature is.
Two antithetical alternative policies for coping with this psychic bull are commended in two significant myths. In the Mithraic myth a hero slays the monster and staggers forward with his victim’s inseparable carcase weighing on his shoulders. In the Zen Mahayanian Buddhist myth a boy-herdsman makes friends with the great ox and comes home riding on the monster’s back to the music of the rider’s flute. The boy’s deft diplomacy is a more effective way of dealing with Man’s problem than the hero’s crude resort to force; for the force which sometimes recoils upon its user, even when Non-Human Nature is its target, is a wholly inappropriate instrument for dealing with the psychic bull.
An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956
Austerity as a political, rather than economic, tool in China. A little short on historical examples, but the idea rings true. John Delury, Foreign Affairs, August 7.
The Roman Empire and the Han Empire [established 206 BC] had coexisted, not only on the face of the same planet but within the bounds of the same continent, for some two hundred years [27 BC-AD 220] without ever coming into direct military or even political contact with one another – if the diplomatic mission from Marcus Aurelius, whose arrival in A.D. 166 [Footnote: See Franke, O.: Geschichte des Chinesischen Reiches, vol. i (Berlin and Leipzig 1930, de Gruyter), p. 404.] is recorded in the Posterior Han Dynasty’s annals [tenth century], is to be written off as having been in reality perhaps no more than an isolated private commercial venture – and in this classic case even the convulsions of one of the two contemporary empires in its death agony did not impinge upon the survivor, as a post-Sumeric Völkerwanderung had impinged upon the Egyptiac World. When the Han Empire went to pieces at the turn of the second and third centuries of the Christian Era, the inhabitants of the Roman Empire remained unaware that an earth-shaking event was occurring at the opposite extremity of the Old World; and conversely, when, some two hundred years later, the Roman Empire in its turn went to pieces at a time when, in the Far East, a new society was beginning to emerge from the Han Empire’s ruins, this nascent Far Eastern Civilization was not thrown back into chaos by the Roman Empire’s fall. In the days of the Han Empire and the Roman Empire, human destinies had not yet been gathered into one basket, and so, though some eggs were constantly being broken, there were always others left intact.
Romano-Chinese relations: records possible post-Han contact and other matters, but contradicts nothing here.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
“When we were up against the Chinese and our battalion reported to Bremerhaven, I was in the front of the middle unit. We were volunteers, nearly all of us, but I was the only one from Straubing, even though I’d just been engaged to Resi, my dear Therese.
“We were waiting to board ship, the North German Lloyd building at our back and the sun in our eyes. The Kaiser stood on a platform high above us and gave a spirited speech out over our heads. We had these new broad-brimmed hats to keep the sun out. Sou’westers, they were called. We looked real dapper. The Kaiser, though, he wore this special helmet with the eagle shining against a blue background. He talked about solemn duties and the cruel foe. We were all carried away. He said, ‘Keep in mind the moment you land: No mercy shall be shown, no prisoners taken … ’ Then he told the story of King Attila and the Huns. He praised them to the skies even though they wreaked all kinds of havoc. Which is why the Social Democrats later published those shameless Hun letters and made nasty remarks about the Kaiser’s Hun speech. He ended with our orders for China: ‘Open the way to culture now and forever!’ We gave three cheers.
“For someone like me from Lower Bavaria the long sea voyage was hell. When we finally landed in Tientsin they were all there: the British, the Americans, the Russians, even real live Japanese and small troops from minor countries. The British turned out to be Indians. There weren’t many of us to start with, but luckily we had the new five-centimeter rapid-fire cannons, the Krupp ones, and the Americans were trying out their Maxim machine gun, which was one hell of a weapon. So Peking fell in no time. In fact, by the time our company marched in, everything seemed over and done with, which was a pity. Though some of the Boxers were still making trouble. They were called Boxers because they had this secret society they called I Ho Ch’uan or ‘righteous fists’ in our language. That’s why the English – and then everybody else – talked about the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxers hated foreigners because they sold the Chinese all kinds of stuff. The British particularly liked selling opium. That’s why things went the way the Kaiser ordered: there were no prisoners taken.
“For the sake of order the Boxers were rounded up in the square at Tienanmen Gate, right in front of the wall dividing the Manchu city from the ordinary part. Their pigtails were tied one to the other. It looked funny. Then they were either executed in groups or had their heads chopped off one by one. But I didn’t write my fiancée a blessed word about the horrors; I stuck to hundred-year-old eggs and steamed dumplings Chinese style. The British and us Germans we liked using our guns, we wanted to get things over with, while the Japanese followed their time-honored tradition of head chopping. The Boxers liked being shot better because they were afraid of having to run around hell with their heads under their arms. Otherwise they were fearless. I saw somebody licking his chops over a rice cake dipped in syrup just before he was shot.
“There was a wind blowing through Tienanmen Square; it came from the desert, stirring up clouds of yellow dust. Everything was yellow including us. I wrote that to my fiancée and enclosed a little desert sand in the letter. And because the Japanese executioners got a clean cut by chopping the pigtails off the Boxers, who were just young fellows like ourselves, there were lots of little piles of them lying around in the dust, and I picked one up and sent it home as a souvenir. Back in Germany I wore it at Fasching [carnival] and everybody was in stitches until my fiancée threw it in the fire. ‘It could’ve haunted the house,’ Resi said two days before we were married.
“But that’s another story.”
The opening of Günter Grass’s exhilerating My Century (Mein Jahrhundert) (1999), omitting the first few lines. The translation by Michael Henry Heim is idiomatically rather uncertain and not quite up to the voices Grass adopts in these hundred vignettes.
Extract deemed fair use as shorter than an Amazon preview and from front of book: please inform me directly if it infringes copyright and I will remove it.
From review by Michael Scott Moore:
“‘My Century’ tells the saga of German history since 1900 in a noisy fugue of voices, with each brief chapter assigned a single year. The ‘my’ in the title is both personal and paternal. Grass turns up as a character 13 times, but the other voices are his as well, in the sense that Grass regards himself as the voice of Germany. It’s an immodest conceit, but it holds the book together. Soldiers, housewives, cops, journalists, grandparents, activists, a professor, a dirigible pilot, a businesswoman and ravers in the Berlin Love Parade all contribute their little share to a mosaic of the German nation in war and peace. The result is not a novel so much as a scrapbook of commentary […].”
New York Times review by Peter Gay.
In 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm II had commissioned a picture from Hermann Knackfuß showing the Archangel Michael leading the peoples of Europe against an Asiatic threat represented by a golden Buddha and ordered it to be hung in ships of the Hamburg-Amerika and Norddeutscher Lloyd lines. The phrase Yellow Peril, which became popular soon afterwards, may have been coined by MP Shiel.
The Boxer uprising against foreign (especially British, German, Japanese, Russian) domination of China began in 1899. After several months of attacks on foreign and Christian sites in Shandong and the North China plain, Boxer fighters, convinced that they were invulnerable to foreign weapons, converged on Peking in June 1900 with the slogan, “Support the Qing, exterminate the foreigners.” They forced foreigners and Chinese Christians to seek refuge in the Legation Quarter. The Empress Dowager Cixi, urged on by the conservatives of the Imperial Court, decided to support them. Diplomats, foreign civilians and soldiers, and Chinese Christians were under siege by the Imperial Army of China and the Boxers for fifty-five days.
An Eight-Nation Alliance (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States) brought 20,000 armed troops to China, defeated the Imperial Army, and captured Peking on August 14, lifting the siege. Uncontrolled plunder of the capital and the surrounding countryside followed, along with the summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers.
Wilhelm II’s fiery and chauvinistic speech to the departing troops in Bremerhaven on July 27 1900 expressed his vision of German imperial power. He asked them to emulate Attila the Hun. Whence the British term for Germans during the First World War. But the Germans got little prestige from the expedition. Their troops arrived after British and Japanese forces had taken Peking.
The Boxer Protocol of September 7 1901 provided for the execution of Chinese government officials who had supported the Boxers, the stationing of foreign troops in Peking and a large indemnity to be paid over the course of thirty-nine years to the eight nations.
Beijing still has days which are yellow not from pollution but from sand from the Gobi desert.
The Kaiser addresses the troops, July 27 1900
Japanese executes Boxer; other troops look on or look away; perhaps a staged picture, because where is the head?
Forces of the Eight Nations, victory parade, Forbidden City, November 20 1900
German China (old post).
By the year A.D. 1952 the initiative and skill of Western Man had been engaged for some four and a half centuries in knitting together the whole habitable and traversable surface of the planet by a system of communications that was unprecedented in the two features of being literally world-wide and being operated by a technique which was constantly surpassing itself at a perpetually accelerating pace. The wooden caravels and galleons, rigged for sailing in the eye of the wind, which had sufficed to enable the pioneer mariners of Modern Western Europe to make themselves masters of all the oceans, had given way [in the 1840s] to mechanically propelled iron-built ships of relatively gigantic size [some smaller steamships had wooden hulls]; “dirt-tracks” travelled by six-horse coaches had been replaced by macadamized and concrete-floored roads travelled by automobiles; railways had been invented to compete with roads, and aircraft to compete with all land-borne or water-borne conveyances. Concurrently, means of [instantaneous] communication which did not require the physical transportation of human bodies had been conjured up, and put into operation on a world-wide scale, in the shape of telegraphs, telephones, and wireless transmission – visual as well as auditory – by radio. The movement of sea-borne and airborne traffic had been made detectable at long range by radar. There had been no period in the history of any other civilization in which so large an area had been made so highly conductive for every form of human intercourse.
From this perspective, the creation of an electronic World Wide Web (for non-privileged users) in 1994 was the latest stage of a process that had begun with the discovery of Madeira by the Portuguese in 1419.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The key-notes of the fifteenth-century acceleration in the shipwright’s and the navigator’s art were its suddenness and its speed.
“In the fifteenth century … there was a swift and momentous change in the building of ships. It was a great era of architecture. In the space of fifty years the sea-going sailing-ship developed from a single-master into a three-master carrying five or six sails.” [Footnote: Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap), p. 46. […]]
The revolution in navigation was the development of the sea astrolabe.
And this technological revolution in the West not only gave its authors access to all quarters of the Globe by making them masters of Oceanic navigation; it also gave them an ascendancy over all non-Western mariners whom they encountered in any seas.
“At the beginning of the fifteenth century the seaborne trade of Europe was carried in ships markedly inferior in design and workmanship to the vessels used in many parts of the East; but at the end of the sixteenth century the West European ships were the best in the World. They were, perhaps, less handy and less weatherly than the junks of the China seas, but in general, in their combination of seaworthiness, endurance, carrying capacity, and fighting power, they proved superior to anything else afloat.” [Footnote: Parry, J. H.: Europe and a Wider World, 1415-1715 (London 1949, Hutchinson), p. 21.]
This new-fangled Western type of vessel is the most characteristic emblem of a Modern Age of Western history (currebat circa A.D. 1475-1875) during which its unchallenged supremacy was proclaimed in its monopoly of the title “ship”, by which it came to be known par excellence. The “ship’s” distinctive virtue, in which it surpassed its successors as conspicuously as its predecessors, was its power to keep the sea for an almost unlimited length of time on end; and this virtue has been divined and lauded by a nineteenth-century Western man of letters who lived to see the “ship” reach its peak of technical perfection, and all but lived on to see it disappear from the seas as suddenly as it had invaded them some four hundred years earlier.
“L’ancien navire de Christophe Colomb et de Ruyter est un des grands chefs-d’œuvre de l’homme. Il est inépuisable en force comme l’infini en souffles, il emmagasine le vent dans sa voile, il est précis dans l’immense diffusion des vagues, il flotte et il règne.” [Footnote: Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables, Part II, Book II, chap. 3.]
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
The writer of this Study had the good fortune, as a child, to catch a last glimpse of the sailing-ship before she vanished from the seas, and to be initiated into the lore of her divers rigs by the former master of an East Indiaman, his great-uncle Captain Henry Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1819-1909), who had retired from the sea in A.D. 1866 without ever having seen service on a steamship or indeed on any build of sailing-vessel other than a full ship since his first voyage at a tender age on a barque [which is a “full ship”]. On summer holidays in the eighteen-nineties at St. Margaret’s Bay on the English shore of the Straits of Dover, under the eye of the South Foreland lighthouse, the small boy learnt the rigs from the old sailor as the ships came gliding past: schooners and three-masted schooners and top-sail schooners (very common); brigantines and brigs (rather rare); barquentines and barques; and full-rigged ships ranging from classic three-masters to the four-masters and five-masters that were a nineteenth-century revival of a sixteenth-century fashion. He learnt to know and love them all, without ever suspecting that he would live to see the disappearance of this divine work of Man’s hands which, in his uncle’s confident eyes, was as much a part of the eternal order of Nature as the chalk cliff on which they were standing, or as the water which gave the measure of the distance from the shore to the passing ship. In the eighteen-nineties the sailing-ships plying through the Straits were still far more numerous than the steamships (though doubtless steam had by then long since outstripped sail in aggregate tonnage). As late as the summer of 1910, there used always to be several four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, and in the summer of 1911 the wreck of one huge sailing-ship was lying huddled against the cliffs between the South Foreland and Dover. Yet, already, forty years back, sail was being driven by steam off one sea-route after another. The China tea clippers had been put out of business by the opening of the Suez Canal in A.D. 1869, which had deprived them of their advantage over steamships trying to compete with them on the long voyage round the Cape; by A.D. 1875 all routes except the Australian had been captured by steamships; and in A.D. 1881 the Australian route itself was conquered for steam by the S.S. Aberdeen with her triple expansion engines, though the wool clippers went on fighting their losing battle till the end of the decade. The interval between the first two world wars saw the process of extinguishing the sailing-ship completed.
Clippers were very fast sailing-ships that appeared in their classic form at the same time as steamships and competed with them for a generation.
Footnotes refer to three works previously cited:
Clowes, G. S. L.: Sailing Ships, their History and Development: Part I: Historical Notes (London 1932, H.M. Stationery Office) […].
Abell, W.: The Shipwright’s Trade (Cambridge 1948, University Press) […].
Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap) […].
Footnote on Uncle Harry:
“Captain Henry Toynbee was one of the most scientific navigators of his day. … ‘He was always sure of his longitude within five miles,’ writes one of his officers. And his wonderful landfalls were the admiration of his passengers.
“Toynbee … went to sea in 1833 at the age of fourteen as a midshipman in the East Indiaman Dunvegan Castle. … Toynbee’s first command was the Ellenborough; and he had also commanded the Gloriana and Marlborough before he took over the Hotspur, the command of which he resigned in 1866 in order to succeed Admiral Fitzroy as Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office. He retired in 1888, and lived to be over ninety years of age, an example of all that an officer in our mercantile marine should be” (Lubbock, Basil: The Blackwall Frigates, 2nd edition (Glasgow 1950, Brown, Son, & Ferguson), pp. 145-6).
In The Times of the 25th January, 1951, a photograph will be found of “the Pamir and Passat, the last two sailing barques to take part in the traditional grain race from Australia to England, lying at Penarth Docks. They will be taken in tow to Antwerp for breaking up.”
The four-masted barque Petschili in the English Channel between 1903 and 1918; the Petschili was built in Hamburg in 1903 and beached in 1919 in Valparaiso and was a sister ship of the Pamir and Passat just mentioned; Wikimedia Commons
One of those four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, watercolour, Henry Scott Tuke, 1914
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnotes)
Anglican and partly-Anglican cemeteries in non-English-speaking countries:
Bornova Anglican Cemetery, Izmir
British Cemetery, Callao
British Cemetery, Madrid
Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires
Cheras Christian Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur
Christian Cemetery, Dhaka
English Cemetery, Florence
English Cemetery, Malaga
English Cemetery, Naples
Gora Kabristan, Lahore
Feriköy Protestant Cemetery, Istanbul
Mount Zion Cemetery, Jerusalem
Old English Cemetery, Livorno
Old Protestant Cemetery, George Town
Old Protestant Cemetery, Macau
Protestant Cemetery, Rome
Protestant Cemetery, São Paulo
Yarborough Cemetery, Belize City
This, of course not complete, is everything relevant in a Wikipedia list of Anglican cemeteries generally. Apart from Lahore and Dhaka, it has nothing from British India, but it mentions the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia.
The rather user-unfriendly BACSA site says: “People sometimes think that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission [my link] cares for all graves in Britain’s former Empire, but in fact the Commission only deals with the graves of soldiers [of all Commonwealth countries] killed in World War One and World War Two. The graves of European civilians, and soldiers who died before World War One, and between the two World Wars, generally have no-one to protect them, or to record their inscriptions, which is where BACSA comes in.
“BACSA – the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia – was set up in 1977 to bring together people with a concern for the many thousands of British and other European cemeteries, isolated graves and monuments in South Asia. There is no one body or agency responsible for looking after these last resting places in the area from the Red Sea to the China Coast – wherever the East India Company and its rivals from France, the Netherlands and Denmark set foot. An estimated two million Europeans and Anglo-Indians – mainly British administrators, soldiers, merchants and their families – are buried in the Indian sub-continent alone. Without our support many of their graves and monuments – witnesses to centuries of European residence in the area – would disappear.
“We record the locations of cemeteries and monuments, and the inscriptions on headstones. We publish cemetery and church records containing names, inscriptions and biographical notes on individual tombs and gravestones. We support local people active in the restoration and conservation of European graveyards.”
It is run by volunteers and has a membership of 1,400 in the UK and elsewhere.
Another site, indian-cemeteries.org, “is attempting to preserve the images of graves and monuments before they disappear. It covers the area which used to be British India and includes present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Entries are not limited to British citizens. Monuments cover many nationalities. All information comes ad hoc from volunteers, therefore it is not an exhaustive and accurate survey.
“When I [John, site owner] started looking around cemeteries, I was shocked by the state of neglect of most of them. Monuments of British men, women and children, who had sometimes died in the most tragic ways, were crumbling into the dust. Some of the local people had a genuine interest in these cemeteries and were trying to get something done, but much of the money which is awarded for renovation work does not reach the people doing the work.
“The British Government, I was told, contributes nothing. [It does only in so far as it is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.] If this is true, then it is indeed a disgrace.
“This site is a photographic record of those cemeteries and churches which I visited, along with transcriptions of the memorials and gravestones. They are not an exhaustive survey, as time did not permit. Since this site started it has continued to grow as contributions are sent in by other people.”
The overgrown Old English Cemetery at Livorno
The ʿAbbasid Caliphate of Baghdad was […] resuscitated in the shape of the ʿAbbasid Caliphate of Cairo, the Roman Empire in the two rival shapes of the Holy Roman Empire of the West and the East Roman Empire of Orthodox Christendom; the Empire of the Ts’in and Han Dynasties in the shape of the Sui and T’ang Empire of the Far Eastern Society in China. Such ghosts of universal states are conspicuous products of the historical phenomenon of “renaissance” or contact in the Time-dimension between a civilization of the “affiliated” class and the extinct civilization that is related to it by “apparentation”, and, in that aspect, they are dealt with in a later part of this Study.
The four representatives of this spectral species of polity that are here in question display wide differences from one another both in the timing of their evocation and in their subsequent fortunes. Whereas the Sui and T’ang Empire in the Far East and the Holy Roman Empire in the West were not evoked till after an interval of more than four hundred years since the de facto break-up of the universal state of which each of them was respectively a revival, [footnote: The Empire of the Posterior Han became impotent de facto circa A.D. 175; the Far Eastern Society in China was united politically under the Sui Dynasty in A.D. 581. The Roman Empire in the West became impotent de facto after the Clades Gothica of A.D. 378 or, at latest, after the death of the Emperor Theodosius I in A.D. 395; Charlemagne was crowned Emperor in St. Peter’s at Rome on Christmas Day, A. D. 800.] and the East Roman Empire not till after an interval of some hundred and fifty years, [footnote: The Roman Empire in the East ran out between the death of Justinian in A.D. 565 and the overthrow of Maurice in A.D. 602; the East Roman Empire was constructed by Leo Syrus (imperabat A.D. 717-40).] the ʿAbbasid Caliphate was resuscitated at Cairo less than three and a half years after its extinction at Baghdad. [Footnote: See Arnold, op. cit , p. 82, following Suyūtī: Husn-al-Muhddārah, vol. ii, pp. 53 seqq. and 57. The Caliph Mustaʿsim was put to death at Baghdad in February 1258; his uncle was installed at Cairo as the Caliph Mustansir in June 1261.] [The reference is to Arnold, Sir T. W.: The Caliphate (Oxford 1924, Clarendon Press) […].] From the date of their prompt installation in A.D. 1261 by the strong hand of the Mamlūk Sultan Baybars to the date of their almost unnoticed cessation as a result of the conquest and annexation of Egypt by Sultan Selīm I ʿOsmanli in A.D. 1517, the Cairene ʿAbbasid Caliphs were never anything more than the puppets that they were intended to be. [Footnote: When the first of them, Mustansir, showed signs of taking his office seriously, his Mamlūk patron Baybars packed him off to his death, on the forlorn hope of reconquering Baghdad from the Mongols, and installed another member of the ʿAbbasid House in his stead. This lesson was not forgotten by Caliph Hākim and his successors (see Arnold, op. cit., pp. 94-95).] The Holy Roman Empire, after starting as a mighty power in virtue of being imposed upon the Austrasian Frankish state at the culminating moment of its history, shared in the collapse which Charlemagne brought upon his ambitious political structure by recklessly overstraining its resources, and was never more than partially rehabilitated by the successive efforts and sacrifices of Saxon, Franconian, and Swabian heirs of this fatal incubus; yet it survived, at least as a name – the ghost of a ghost – for nearly a thousand years after Charlemagne’s death. [Footnote: Charlemagne died in A.D. 814; the Emperor Francis II Hapsburg renounced the title of Roman Emperor in A.D. 1806 […].] On the other hand the East Roman Empire in the main body of Orthodox Christendom and the Sui and T’ang Empire in the Chinese portion of the Far Eastern World fulfilled the intentions of their respective founders by becoming and remaining solid political realities – the East Roman Empire for more than 250 years [footnote: From the raising of the second Arab siege of Constantinople in A.D. 717 to the outbreak of the Great Romano-Bulgarian War in A.D. 977.] and the Sui and T’ang Empire for not much less than 300 [footnote: From the foundation of the Sui Empire in A.D. 581 to A.D. 878, when the T’ang regime became impotent de facto […].] – but this at the cost, on which their founders certainly never reckoned, of exhausting the strength of the still immature societies on whose life-blood these two lusty vampire-states waxed fat for a season. The common feature, conspicuous above these differences, that concerns us here is the status which these ghosts, like their originals, acquired and retained as founts of legitimacy.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
Nestorian Christianity had reached China by 635 (Tang dynasty). See the Nestorian Stele, set up in 781 at Chang’an. Nestorian Christianity thrived in China for two hundred years, then faced persecution from Emperor Wuzong of Tang (reigned 840-46), and by the beginning of the tenth century had nearly disappeared.
Missions to the Mongols: Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (Franciscan) and Ascelin of Lombardia (Dominican) 1245, André de Longjumeau (Dominican) 1249, William of Rubruck (Franciscan) 1253. The Mongol Yuan (1271-1368) brought their teachings, and Nestorianism, into China. Several Mongol tribes had been converted by Nestorian missionaries in the seventh century.
The Franciscans began sustained missionary work in 1289. Old post: Foreigners in Cathay. All the Christian missions disappeared in the turmoil which followed the fall of the Mongols and the accession of the Ming (1368).
The Jesuits, including Matteo Ricci, arrived in 1582. Old posts: The Jesuits in China, Cold heaven. Russian Orthodoxy was introduced in 1715. In 1721, the Kangxi Emperor banned Christian missions in China.
The next wave came in the nineteenth century. A Protestant mission, led by a Scot, arrived in 1807.