Christianity first came to China over one thousand years ago but it did not last long. Alopen, a Syrian monk, introduced Nestorian Christianity in the Tang Dynasty and founded several monasteries and churches. Nestorian Christianity reemerged in the Mongol era in the early 14th century.
Nestorian Christianity declined in China substantially in the mid-14th century. Roman Catholicism in China grew at the expense of the Nestorians during the late Yuan dynasty. Franciscan Bishop John of Montecorvino began his evangelization mission of the Mongols in Beijing, but his mission ceased with the end of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in 1368.
With the arrival of Jesuit missionaries, Matteo Ricci and his companions in Ming Dynasty worked until the early Qing Dynasty before the Rites Controversy caused the Chinese emperor to ban Christianity for one hundred years. Prior to the banning, Catholics enjoyed a high profile and respect in mainstream Chinese society, including government officers, royal family members and scholars. The number of Catholics increased.
After the second Opium War in 1842, the Treaty of Nanjing granted more privileges for Christian missions in the ports and eventually in other provinces and the Jesuits entered China for the second time with the political support of the French government. The first Jesuit arrivals were the intellectual leaders of Catholic Church and pioneers of East-West cultural and educational exchange. The second arrival of Jesuits and other missionaries faced a more complicated political, economic, and diplomatic situation that eventually intensified the relationship between Chinese people and foreign religious groups.