The 1900s saw the ends of things that had existed since the days of Noah, such as kingdoms, and the beginnings of things that the masses had never witnessed, such as space travel.
One of the things destroyed by modern times was the Border Sacrifice. In 1911, the emperor of China, along with princes and officials, processed to the Altar of Heaven in Peking to offer in sacrifice an unblemished bull to the God named Shang Ti.
In this ritual, the Chinese emperor represented the son of heaven, whose task was to unite heaven and earth by this sacrifice. Symbols of trinities, the number three, were prominently displayed in various ways. Shang Ti was worshipped as the only God ruling all creation.
This had been done every year since the days of Abraham and Sarah some 4,000 years ago, with roots going back 5,000 years, when Chinese history began. But after 1911, it was never seen again by the descendents of China’s parents, fading away as mysteriously as it was faithfully preserved.
Mystery surrounds this ritual, which the ritual itself hints is intentional. Only silence pervaded the air. As the imperial procession went through Peking to the edge of town, everyone had to stay in their homes with all the windows closed. They could not see anything, except hear the good news, the sound of the emperor praying for Shang Ti’s grace.
By the time of Confucius 500 years before Christ, the mystery had become a riddle. No one knew in detail what this ritual was about and Shang Ti was forgotten. All that was known was that Shang Ti was the only creator and lord of all things and that a yearly, general sacrifice to him was necessary for spiritual and physical harmony. As new philosophies, new religions and new gods appeared, Shang Ti barely retained a presence in China’s quest for truth.
If this Border Sacrifice sounds like the Old Testament and the Gospel, there are reasons for the strong resemblances. Some modern Chinese people agree, while others do not.
But some of it is striking. The ancient Chinese writing system used a few symbols to indicate Shang Ti, all of them involving the cross. The most widely used one combined signs and strokes to indicate three persons from above with a cross, signifying the name Shang Ti.
Even some of the thought behind all this is remarkable. In one of the prayers to Shang Ti at the Border Sacrifice, the emperor intones, “Men and things are all emparadised in your love.”
The significance of using paradise as a verb is precisely how the Bible talks about salvation in Christ, as a lifelong process of transformation from a sinful nature into God’s image and likeness. The body of Christ, the Church in the Holy Spirit, is a dynamic unification of heaven and earth.
The Hebrew alphabet of King David’s era also has prophetic meanings that correlate with ancient Chinese astronomical signs and meanings.
All of these profound connections confirm what many Christians believe to be evidence that the first religion of mankind is just as the Bible says it was, a religion of one God. Most ancient religions tell of a single creator who made a single couple, as well as of a worldwide flood.
There are other resemblances between China’s Shang Ti and apostolic Christianity. China’s 5,000 years of philosophy have relevance for understanding prophecy, the Gospel and how the Holy Spirit works in His creation.
The Rev. Andrew Gromm is pastor of St. Michael Orthodox Church in Youngstown.