In or around 1625, men digging a grave in the central Chinese countryside discovered a two-ton slab of limestone buried deep in the ground. Carved in the front with 1,900 Chinese characters as well as almost 150 personal names and words written in Syriac — a Semitic tongue akin to the language Jesus spoke — this stele measured nine feet high by three feet wide.
The beautiful Chinese calligraphy inscribed on the stele was to be read from top to bottom and from right to left. At the trunk of the slab rested a giant tortoise and at the top stood opposing dragons holding a pearl, adorned with clouds and a cross rising from a lotus flower. Though resembling thousands of others from China’s past, this stele contained a story that those living could scarcely believe: It proved the establishment of Christianity in China around 600 years before previously thought.