Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland
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This article first briefly examines the textual structure of the
In 1916 P.Y. Saeki devoted a page of his book “The Nestorian Monument in China,” to a short thought experiment which linked a Persian by the name of Li-mi-i 李密翳 who was present in Emperor Shōmu's 聖武天皇 court and whose arrival was mentioned in the Shoku Nihongi 続日本紀 with a priest named on the Nestorian Stele. Since that first suggestion, several scholars have expounded the idea that Li-mi-i and another figure who arrived alongside him, Kōho Tōchō 皇甫東朝, were Christians and/or missionaries. In this paper I assess these claims, returning to the Shoku Nihongi in order to suggest that there is a lack of data to establish them as true. I then seek to explore the origins of this theory situating it within the joint context of Japan's imperial expansion and her modernization. Whilst the latter cannot be conclusive, I hope that it may shed light on the significance of the theory which can be seen as a search to discover Japanese history, a statement of the equality between Japanese and Western histories, or an attempt to justify imperial aims in China academically.