My Dear Sir,
It was only a short time ago that I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time the article on the tablet of Xi'an fu, published in vol. v, No. ii, of the Journal of the American Oriental Society, in which are brought together a great number of quotations from Chinese books, to prove the authenticity of the inscription. Will you permit me to add to these quotations one more ancient document.
After the dynasty of the Tang had been overthrown by the Song in the tenth century, the first emperor of the latter dynasty gave orders to the learned Chinese Wáng Pǔ 王溥 to compile from official documents, a review of the acts, institutions, etc. of the preceding dynasty. After Wang Pu had finished his work, it was published under the name of Táng huìyào 唐会要. In the section devoted to the different religions, the same edict in favour of the Christian as found on the tablet of Xi'an fu is reproduced, with some variations however. It reads as follows : "Monastery of Daqin. In the 12th year of Zhēn guàn (A.D. 639), in the 7th month, the following imperial edict was promulgated. 'Religion has not an invariable name; saints are not of constant form; they establish doctrines in accordance with the countries, and mysteriously save living beings. The monk Aluóběn from Bōsī has come from afar with the Scriptures and the doctrine, in order to present them at (our) capital. On examining the spirit of this doctrine, we find it excellent and separate from the world, and acknowledge that it is quickening for mankind and indispensable. This religion succours living beings, is beneficial to the human race, and (therefore) is worthy of being spread over the Celestial empire (天下). We decree a monastery to be built by the appropriate Board, in the quarter of Yìníng fāng 义宁坊, and twenty-one priests to be appointed there.'"
When comparing the text of this edict with that on the tablet, we find that the author of the tablet inscription has given some licence to his style; working out some phrases. But an essential difference in the sense of the two versions can not be properly proved.
At another place in the same Tang huiyao, I find that edict concerning the change of the name of the monastery of Bosi into the name of Dàqín sì, which is mentioned in the paper above referred to. It bears the date A.D. 745.
Let me communicate to you another remark concerning the tablet. At the end of the inscription it is stated, that the tablet was erected on the great day Yào sēn wén 曜森文. This word is intended evidently to render the Persian Yek shamba, i.e. the first day (of the week),—consecrated to the sun. The Persian names of the days are occasionally found transcribed in Chinese Buddhist astrological works, as far as I remember, since the tenth century. In these books Sunday is termed Yào sēn wù 曜森勿. These Persian names of the days found their way also into the Chinese astrological books. Particulars about this fact can be seen in the Qīn dìng xié jì biàn fāng 钦定协纪辨方 (1739), in which the first day of the week is spelt Yao sen wu, as it is in the Buddhist works.
Yours very faithfully,
Beijing, 13th March, 1875. Archimandrite Palladius.
P. S. I find among my notes written about twenty years ago, a curious comparative table of the different names of the cycle of seven days, according to the planets, as found in Buddhist books. I give here the list in European spelling, but cannot give the Chinese characters, as I am not able to find the book from which I drew this note.