Besides its economic importance, the Silk Route was also a highway of ideas and faiths, which was used extensively by Muslims, Buddhists, Manichaeans, and of course Christians. From the fifth century through the thirteenth, this was the great missionary road used by the legendary Church of the East, the so-called Nestorians, from their base in Mesopotamia. The Church operated major centers at Merv, Kashgar, Samarkand and Herat (Afghanistan).
Although it is only one Christian site among hundreds that would once have existed, we get some sense of this lost world from the amazing oasis of Turfan, in what is now far north-western China. Its transcontinental connections made Turfan a natural hub for religious groups, who built settlements in the area. Even better, the dry climate allowed the survival of manuscripts that would assuredly have perished in other settings. Modern scholars have been amazed and delighted to uncover whole libraries in the region, including some of the richest surviving evidence for the Manichaean faith.
The article on Genghis Khan on StrategyPage that I linked to yesterday says that the presence of Nestorian Christians in Khan's government (including several generals and allies) was one reason that the French thought the west should join with him (which would have resulted in the end of Islam).
Two recent lecture series have discussed related items in the roots of Christianity in China : The Penn Museum’s Silk Road seminar link and a series of lectures in the UK celebrating the anniversary of Father Ricci.link…
The perception that Christianity is "European" is because the western (especially the protestant) writers of history ignore the Orthodox, Syriac and Nestorian churches of the East. Also ignored: The ancient church of Ethiopia.