In my post here a while back, I asked about whether or not Christianity had any influence on Chinese religion, since I was reading a book by David Marshall (True Son of Heaven) that noted parallels between the two to argue that God was preparing the Chinese people through their own culture to receive Jesus Christ. A commenter offered me information on the history of Christianity in China.
On page 143 of The Cambridge History of Christianity: Constantine to c. 600, David Bundy discusses Christianity in China:
“Early evidence about China is suggestive, but at this time the data still remains fragmentary. Bardaisan suggested, about 180, that there were Christians in China, a not unreasonable possibility given the activity on the trade routes. Certainly there were political/economic embassies between the Chinese and Roman empires during this period. By the late sixth century (c. 578), there was an East Syrian missionary, Mar Sergius, residing in Lint’ao. By 635, another East Syrian missionary, A-lo-pen…arrived in China with a mandate to organise the Christians and to represent them before the emperor. At this point there is no indication of the nature of the communities he found there, although permission was given to establish (and populate!) a monastery during the reign of the Emperor T’ai-Tsung (627-49). The most important source for the period 635-781 is the so-called ‘Nestorian stele’ at Xi’an, which includes names of Syriac and Chinese Christian leaders in China, as well as a list of Chinese Christian texts. Other early Chinese Christian documents excavated in western China were edited with photographic reproductions by Y. Saeki.”