This article attempts to analyse the famous ‘Nestorian Monument’ from Xi'an, set up in 781 by Syriac Christians, as a document of cultural translation and integration. Previous scholarship on the monument has tended to privilege either the Syriac or the Chinese sections of the inscription. By combining the two, and by making use of recent advances in the study of Syriac Christians along the Silk Road, this article argues that the Syriac Christians who set up the monument were using their long history, extending from Persia to China, as a means of establishing their community publicly in new political circumstances of China in the 780s. The role of Syriac on this monument was twofold: it signalled to the local Syriac-speaking community their fundamental ties to the world of Persian and central Asian Christianity, while it also allowed, through ideological and linguistic interaction with Chinese, the maintenance of a Syriac Christian identity through the process of translation. The language of Syriac therefore provides the background of a community looking both backward and forward in a foreign, changing cultural environment.