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Antonino Forte, The Hostage An Shigao and his Offspring: An Iranian Family in China (1995) [43]

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Chapter Summary

Dr. Antonino Forte deals with a curious enigma that has escaped the attention of practically all historians of early Chinese Buddhism: the mystery surrounding the identity of An Shigao, the first known Buddhist missionary on Chinese soil. An Shigao travelled to China and arrived in Luoyang in 148 CE, where he translated a great number of Hīnavāna texts. Some interesting bits of information serve to shed light upon the vicissitudes of that Iranian family living in medieval China. Apart from the vicissitudes of this Iranian lineage in medieval China, the main point made in this small volume is the interesting fact that in these secular sources An Shigao is mentioned as the founder of the An family, and that in those texts he is not at all represented as a Buddhist monk, but as a hostage sent to the Han court by the king of Parthia.

Keywords: An Shigao; Antonino Forte; Buddhist monk; early Chinese Buddhism; Hīnavāna texts; Iranian family; Luoyang; medieval China; Parthia



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