Manichaeism (/ˌmænɪˈkiːɪzəm/; in Modern Persian آیین مانی Āyin-e Māni; Chinese: 摩尼教; pinyin: Móní Jiào) was a major religion founded by the Iranian prophet Mani (in Middle Persian Māni, New Persian: مانی Māni, Syriac Mānī, Greek Μάνης, Latin Manes; also Μανιχαῖος, Latin Manichaeus, from Syriac ܡܐܢܝ ܚܝܐ Mānī ḥayyā "Living Mani", c. AD 216–274) in the Sasanian Empire. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process that takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, whence it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian religious movements and Gnosticism. Manichaeism was quickly successful and spread far through the Aramaic-speaking regions. It 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. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity before the spread of Islam in the competition to replace classical paganism. Manichaeism survived longer in the east than in the west, and it appears to have finally faded away after the 14th century in south China, contemporary to the decline of the Church of the East in Ming China. While most of Manichaeism's original writings have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived. An adherent of Manichaeism was called a Manichaean or Manichean, or Manichee, especially in older sources.


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