Manichaeism

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Manichaeism (pronounced /ˈmænɨkiː.ɪzəm/;[1] in Modern Persian آیین مانی Āyin e Māni; Chinese: ; pinyin: Jiào) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia. Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani (in Persian: مانی, Syriac: ܡܐܢܝ, Latin: Manichaeus or Manes) (c. 216–276 AD) have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived. Manichaeism taught an elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light from which it came.

Manichaeism thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire.[2] Manichaeism appears to have faded away after the 14th century in southern China,[3] contemporary to the decline in China of the Church of the East – see Ming Dynasty.

The original six sacred books of Manichaeism, composed in Syriac Aramaic, were soon translated into other languages to help spread the religion. As they spread to the east, the Manichaean writings passed through Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Tocharian and ultimately Uyghur and Chinese translations. As they spread to the west, they were translated into Greek, Coptic, and Latin. The spread and success of Manichaeism were seen as a threat to other religions, and it was widely persecuted in Christian, Zoroastrian, Islamic,[4] and Buddhist cultures.

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