Reading Christian Scriptures in China 9780567638465, 0567638464

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School of Theolo


in 100170

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‘Charmingly entertaining and wonderfully informative...’ R.S. SUGIRTHARAJAH, BIRMINGHAM



Edited by


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The Library of the


1325 North College Avenue Claremont, CA 91711-3199 1/800-626-7820

Reading Christian Scriptures in China



Reading Christian Scriptures in China

edited by Chloé Starr

t&t clark

Published by T&T Clark

A Continuum imprint The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London SE1 7NX 80 Maiden Lane, Suite 704, New York, NY 10038 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Copyright © Chloé Starr and contributors, 2008 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Typeset by Data Standards Ltd, Frome, Somerset Printed on acid-free paper in Great Britain by Biddles Ltd, Kings Lyn, Norfolk ISBN - 0567032922 ISBN 13 - 9780567032928


Vii Vili






49 68























Acknowledgements We would like to acknowledge with gratitude the generous grants towards the conference Reading Christian Scripture in China (7-10 January 2007, Oxford) at which many of the essays in this volume were initially presented as papers: from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, the Universities’ China Committee of London, the Sub-Faculty of East Asian Studies at the University of Oxford and the Centre for the Study of Christianity in China, Oxford. At the conference we benefited greatly from the expertise of two discussants, Professor Sun Yi from Renmin University, Beijing, and Canon Dr Ben Quash of Peterhouse, Cambridge. I would like to thank them for giving their time, and for their scholarly wisdom and good humour. Two presenters, Dr Lars Laamann and Dr Zhou Pingping, whose work is published elsewhere, gave valued papers and participation. Rana Mitter read carefully and provided useful comment on the introduction to this volume. I would also like to thank my colleagues at the Institute for Chinese Studies, Oxford, for support, logistical help and for ever-open doors when querying a Chinese phrase or expression — particularly Fang Jing, Shio-yun Kan, Song Yang and Tineke D’Haeseleer — and to students and colleagues who endured seminar sessions wresting the meaning from classical Chinese prefaces. Please note that Chinese names are given in Chinese format (i.e. surname first) throughout this volume. Exceptions include scholars who live in the west or who have adopted Western format names for themselves, e.g. Sze-kar Wan, K.H. Ting. Chloé Starr St Anne’s College, Oxford, July 2007

List of Contributors Chen Jian-ming is Professor and Director of the Christianity Research Centre of Sichuan University, Chengdu. Current research interests include Christianity and the development of Chinese society, Christian literature in modern China, and Christian roles in Sino-West cultural

interaction. Recent works include Activizing Literature to Spread the Gospels: The Literary Work of Modern Christianity in China? (Taibei, Christian Cosmic Light, 2006) and a translation of Herbert Hoi-lap Ho’s Protestant Missionary Publications in Modern China 1912-1949 (Chengdu: Sichuan University Press, 2004). Fredrik Fallman is a researcher at The Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, in the Chinese Department, Stockholm University. Recent publications include China’s Development and Global Role (Stockholm: Nordic Confucius Institute, 2006 with Torbjérn Lodén) and Salvation and Modernity: Intellectuals and Faith in Contemporary China (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2004). Mark Fang SJ is Professor Emeritus at Fujen Catholic University, Taipei,

Taiwan. He earned his SSD at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, in

1963. Recent publications include Studies on Genesis (Taipei: Kuangchi, 2005; Sth edn); The Three-letter Classic and Holy Scripture (Taipei: Voice of the Catholic Church, 2006).

Lloyd Haft was educated at Harvard and Leiden, and for many years has taught Chinese poetry at Leiden University. His special interests are poetic form as a parameter of expression, and the interfaces of Western and Chinese poetry. Publications include Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006); The Chinese Sonnet:

Meanings of a Form (Leiden: CNWS, 2000); and, with Wilt Idema, A Guide to Chinese Literature (Ann Arbor, MI: Centre for Chinese Studies,

University of Michigan, 1997). Professor Haft has also published ten volumes of original poetry including a Dutch free-verse adaptation of the Book of Psalms. Grace Hui Liang is departmental lecturer in Chinese language and literature at Zhejiang University. Recent publications include Hokmah: The Biblical Passage to the Good Life — Research on the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible (Hong Kong: Wen Wei, 2006); How Do Modern Chinese Christian Intellectuals Read the Bible? — A Study of Wu Lei-chuan’s Interpretation of the New Testament (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2007).

List of Contributors


Chloé Starr is departmental lecturer in classical Chinese at Oxford University. Recent publications include Red-light Novels of the late Qing (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2007) and a co-edited volume, China and the Quest for

Gentility (London: Routledge, 2007). Current research interests include Qing dynasty Christian and liturgical texts.

Thor Strandenaes is associate professor at the Missiology School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, Norway. He is the author of The Principles of Chinese Bible Translation (Stockholm Almgqvist & Wiksell, 1987) and numerous articles on theology, theological education and Chinese church liturgy and hymnody. Tian Haihua is an associate professor at the Christianity Research Centre of Sichuan University. She completed her doctorate in biblical studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2005, and has published numerous articles on Old Testament and gender studies. She is co-author of two books, Holy Mission: Rereading Maritain (Sichuan: Sichuan Renmin,

1997) and Major Religions of the World (Taipei, 1997) Sze-kar





John Norris


of New

Testament interpretation at Andover Newton Theological School and is now Professor of New Testament at Southern Methodist University, Texas. Research interests include Second Temple Judaism, Pauline studies and Chinese Protestant hermeneutics. He is the author of Power in Weakness: Conflict and Rhetoric in Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (London: Continuum, 2000); editor of a Chinese translation of Philo’s De

opificio mundi and Legum allegoriae and co-editor of The Bible in Modern China: The Literary and Intellectual Impact (Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, 1999).

John Y.H. Yieh is associate professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. His academic interest includes gospel studies, history of interpretation, and Chinese biblical hermeneutics. He is the author of A Concise Greek—Chinese Dictionary of the New Testament (Hong Kong: UBS, 1989), One Teacher: Jesus as Teacher in

Matthew’s Gospel Report (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004) and Making Sense of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: Grove, 2007). Zha Changping is associate professor at the Christianity Research Centre of Sichuan University, Institute of Daoism and Religion Studies. Recent publications include a translation of The Imperial System and Christianity in the Transformation of Modern Japanese Society (Beijing: Huaxia, 2007) and numerous articles on Pauline theology. Zha Changping is the chief editor of the Guiyang Journal for Humanities and Art, and, since 2006, chief editor of the Classical Translation Library of Christian Culture, Shanghai.

Richard X.Y. Zhang is director of the Centre for Christian Studies at the Institute of Comparative Religion, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong. Professor Zhang studied at Chicago and the University of Basel and worked as a lecturer in theology in Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.

His publications include works on Culture Christians and Chinese

Christian philosophy.

List of Abbreviations BCP

Book of Common Prayer


China Christian Council


China Ministries International


Chinese Union Version (1919)




Kuomintang (Guomindang)


People’s Republic of China


Republic of China


Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Sinense


Today’s Chinese Version


Three-Self Patriotic Movement

United Bible Societies

Introduction Chloé Starr

The earliest evidence for Christian Scriptures in China derives from a Nestorian stone stele erected in the seventh century in Chang’an (modern Xi’an). Although successive groups of Catholic orders and missionaries lived in China from the fifteenth century onwards and built up a flourishing church in many provinces, it was not until the early 1820s that a full translation of the Bible came to be printed in Chinese. With a wave of Protestant revival throughout Europe and the USA, and with the stimulus of numerous newly created societies dedicated to fundraising for translation projects, the sending of missionaries to China specifically to engage in translating Scripture was a mark of the era. Early Protestant translators made much use of the publications and treatises of their Roman Catholic missionary predecessors, and initial editions of the Bible were in a literary form of Chinese with terminology closely following the choices of the Jesuits and others. Traces of denominational influence remain in Chinese scriptures: to this day, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox editions of the Bible in Chinese use different transliterations and abbreviations for the names of certain books of the Bible. There have been several excellent volumes in English on translations and editions of Chinese bibles, and this study does not seek to reproduce their findings.’ What this volume presents is an exploration of the parameters of the question of how Scripture has been read in China.” Part 1 looks at the history of readings through to the present and of the contextual


of the Bible

in China,


Part 2 focuses


hermeneutics, presenting case-studies of individual Chinese biblical exegetes and their approaches to reading. The volume is joyfully, and necessarily, interdisciplinary: historians, theologians and _sinologists combine their textual knowledge with biblical studies specialists. The volume has not imposed any particular form of discourse on contributors but gathers different approaches to provide an outline of the field. Unlike a volume on, say, Asian-American biblical interpretation, whose contextual hermeneutics are firmly grounded in the contemporary era, many of the essays in this volume concentrate on historical readings. Though not its primary aim, the collection gives a fascinating representation of the last century or two of Chinese history through a Christian lens. That this lens exists is still news to some: both to educated Chinese of the generations which grew up in the People’s Republic and who until recently have had no access to materials documenting 1


Chioé Starr

Christianity in their own country, and to the many students of theology in the West who have had equally little access to works by Chinese exegetes. Extracts from essays, diaries and letters by Christian intellectuals, educators and statesmen give insights into modern history not found in standard textbooks. The tangential representation of cultural change and historic events from a Christian viewpoint reminds us again how official histories suppress threads of individual experience. The presuppositions, and problems, that exegetes encounter show as much about China as the Bible. Given the relative paucity of knowledge on Chinese biblical studies, an introductory volume with a wide purview still seems acceptable, a necessary stage before the many themes explored here are themselves the subjects of fuller studies. A dearth of knowledge on Chinese theologians and biblical exegetes is to the detriment of all: it hampers China from paying a full part in global theology, and it depletes the West. If China is soon to be the nation with the greatest number of Christians on earth, this

alone might render its Christian heritage and beliefs of some import to smaller neighbours in the old Christian heartlands. The Bible as text

The commonly used modern term for the Bible in Chinese, sheng jing (# #€), directly translates ‘Holy Scripture’. The term jing denotes Scripture, as used for Buddhist sutras and Daoist texts, but also signifies a classic,

and is used primarily for the Confucian classics. One of the themes which runs throughout this volume is how Chinese Christians have responded to the Bible as text, within their own textual traditions. How to integrate biblical truths and Chinese custom is tied to the problematic of the text itself, and to the notion of jing as a central civilizing force for the empire. We cannot read pre-twentieth-century Chinese responses to Scripture without some understanding of the framework of imperial scholarship.

The Confucian classics, such as the Odes, or the Book of Rites, as well as

works of philosophers such as Confucius or Mencius, formed the basis of the system of Chinese education and governance. The history of textual scholarship and reception of the classics in China has formed the context for reading foreign jing. Roman Catholic scholars and priests in China had used the term jing for Scripture as early as the seventeenth century, but early Protestant missionaries were not convinced that the Bible should

be so






first Protestant

missionary to mainland China, used in his early translations sheng shu (#24) ‘Holy Book’. This may have differentiated the Bible from the Buddhist and Daoist scriptures, but by the 1830s and 1840s jing was standard usage as Holy Scripture, alongside separate terms for the Old and New Testaments. In using the term jing to translate Scripture, nineteenth-century Chinese Christians were appropriating millennia of textual meaning: both in terms of what the text was — its authority and canonical status — and how it was to be read. The classics were learned from early



childhood, recited by heart, and were so ingrained into the educated mind

that speakers could finish each others’ quotations, retort with

another citation, or pun at will on text and commentary. The state was

institutionally involved in the setting of curricula, the examination of

students and the appointment to office: excelling in office first required a thorough knowledge of the chosen texts. The classics were not just the means to individual advancement through the imperial examination system; they were also the moral and ethical base for Chinese society. Moral and ritual behaviour was so codified under the Confucian textual heritage that knowing the texts was seen as equivalent to embodying them: to be a scholar was to have internalized the precepts of the classics. Christian writings were entering a highly textualized society and one which would apply its own reading practices to them. While Western missionaries were right to understand the import of providing written materials to propagate the gospel in China, they could not expect to govern the terms of their reception. Chinese biblical readings, particularly in centuries prior to the twentieth, have inevitably been a product of interaction between Western and Chinese beliefs, and traces of contemporary debates in Europe can be seen in Chinese writings. For late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chinese readers of the Bible, the matrix from which the text emerged was overlaid with a deep layer of nineteenth-century Western interpretation. The mission context, and the particular concerns and interests of the sending churches, pressed between Chinese readers and their interpretations. This was in part a matter of what was translated, and of what secondary and explanatory texts were printed for the Chinese market. If two cultural matrices are always involved in interpreting biblical texts in the West, for the Chinese this was three.

How Chinese readings and reception of the Bible differed from their teachers’ is raised in chapters such as that of Tian Haihua below, who

exposes the tensions for Chinese Confucians in adopting Mosaic Law. The missionary intermediaries cannot be bracketed out of the Chinese reception since their interpretative traditions as well as the reading materials they produced were all that the great majority of Chinese Christians has access to. The situation cannot, however, be reduced to a simplistic colonialist pattern. In many aspects, as outlined in various essays below, the Bible proved a liberationary force for Chinese radicals — bent on extricating their country not from Western imperialists but from their own imperialist past and the ruling Qing dynasty. To what degree have modern scriptural reading practices in China been influenced by centuries of Chinese thinking on texts and on canons — or is the modern institutional framework of New and Old Testament studies in Chinese seminaries and academy entirely derived from Western curricula and understandings? The question is, in part, about China’s recent Christian heritage. Universities brought a modernizing discourse to China, promoting science, female learning and Western curricula, but most early universities themselves were Christian foundations, set up and often funded through church sources. The reading practices and theological starting-point of educated Chinese theologians


Chloé Starr

reflected contemporary Western concerns. This was, moreover, a time when western learning was widely held by influential young reformers to be the key to China’s future strength. Did older textual practices have any influence on the authority with which the scriptural text was received? A recent mode of examining such questions prior to the widespread introduction of Western learning in China has been championed by Archie Lee (Li Zhichang) in Hong Kong, that

of cross-textual







problem for Chinese in the clash of texts when reading Christian scriptures was one of loyalty. Societal pressure and internal angst governed exegetical and reading patterns. Various chapters in this volume have been influenced by Lee’s textual reading strategies. Essays focusing on the formative period in the first half of the twentieth century, when imperial education traditions had been cast aside, but before the PRC took over an ideological role in guiding textual interpretation, include an examination of the ‘New Culture’ (May Fourth) era Protestant biblical hermeneutics, and studies of seminal figures such as Wu Leichuan or T.C. Chao (Zhao Zichen). These essays consider how scholars trained in classical text interpretation, and writing for Chinese audiences, sought to integrate their Christian identities with their cultural heritage. A further essay by John Yieh extends this pattern, seeking to identify typical Chinese hermeneutical traits in a diachronic comparison of readings of the Sermon on the Mount.

Social and personal readings Two major points of tension are highlighted throughout the volume: the first between traditional Chinese heritage and scriptural mores, and the second between personal and individual readings and institutional or academic ones. The first concentrated minds in imperial and republican China, while the second set of tensions pertain more to the PRC era, and in particular to the time following the period when the Church was effectively shut down. It is notable how many Chinese Christians came to faith through the moral force of Christianity. Chen Jianming’s article cites example after example of late Qing and twentieth-century intellectuals who were drawn to faith because of the compelling moral goodness of Jesus as described in the Bible, and as compared to the exemplars of self-centred or depraved behaviour that they perceived around them. This is not surprising: the entire thrust of Confucian doctrine was aimed at becoming a sage, a morally perfected person, or, the next step down the aspirational rung, a junzi, a gentleman who embodied the highest moral values. The self was to be continually refined and fulfilled through a process of increasing self-awareness. Wu Leichuan, discussed by various scholars in this volume, presents an extreme case of this, one for whom prayer was essentially self-transformation, very much in a Confucian mode. Theologically, the rejection of the divinity of Jesus and of traditional eschatological beliefs by such as T.C. Chao can be seen



as a logical extreme to scholars grafting Christianity onto Confucian thought. For these reasons, the core of much writing by early twentiethcentury Christians, particularly those still schooled in the classical canon, was Jesus himself, the character of Jesus. Old Testament scholarship was rarely acknowledged. Jesus as sage, Jesus as revolutionary hero: these

inspired the first generation of Chinese living outside imperial rule. A tension in biblical readings parallels tensions in early twentiethcentury history. The focus on Christian thinkers and writers from this

period in the volume reflects the extraordinarily creative period in Chinese history as the old ways of society were decried as moribund and collective effort was focused on seeking a new national direction, identity and system of governance. Many Christian writers embodied this tension, being committed

to self-cultivation

or traditions

of holiness

alongside Confucian patterns: to daily reflection, self-examination and reflective self-improvements — and to political engagement. An emphasis on national salvation permeates late Qing and republican writings, and an awareness that the biblical message can be used to encourage citizens to further political aims. A split can be discerned between intellectuals from both May Fourth (1919-c.1925) and communist periods using the Bible as a means of inspiring citizens to revolution, to arms, to programmatic national salvation, and personal non-intellectual readings. Elite, educated readers have not slotted themselves neatly into a history of scholarly interpretation and continued the philological and philosophical debates that preoccupied their missionary forebears a generation or two earlier. The reasons for this were twofold, both because neutral scholarship is difficult in the face of national peril, the

overriding concern of the late Qing and early twentieth century, and because the education system was itself under attack by those same radicals and intellectuals. Since classical learning, its syllabus and the privileges it entailed, were part of what was being overthrown in an attempt to modernize China and prevent economic collapse and Western occupation and exploitation, Bible scholarship among Chinese academics was unlikely to reprise Greek and Hebrew historical criticism. The intellectual appreciation of the Bible which emerges is evidently tied to the historic situation of China, and to an overriding concern with deliverance from national ills and humiliation. The theme of a socially useful Christianity has remained remarkably constant, reappearing under different guises as circumstances change. In part a defence against Marxist charges against religion, for Bishop Ding Guangxun and a generation of Three-Self Patriotic movement (official) church leaders from the 1950s onwards, Christianity was to be geared towards the building of a socialist society, contributing to the common good by encouraging believers to love each other, and encouraging the personal development of the ‘new human’ (xinren) in China. In the late 1980s and 1990s, a number of newer scholars, often cultural Christians, or

academics sympathetic to Christianity, have continued these calls for a socially useful religion. Many, from government ministers downwards, have acknowledged that Christianity can bring benefits to society in encouraging a dutiful workforce (the Protestant work ethic as a source of


Chloé Starr

economic success is often mentioned, rather wistfully) and promoting harmonious relationships and social good works; this line reappears in academic texts on Christianity. The ‘spiritual vacuum’ that worries commentators

on contemporary


is a factor encouraging


ardent communists to consider the social gain from organized religion. Academics such as Yng Huilin at Renmin University in Beijing have recently advocated a ‘non-religious’ interpretation of Christianity, suitable to the Chinese cultural situation.

Contemporary readings The Bible in contemporary China cannot be studied outside institutional contexts, and the institutional context of the Chinese Church has as its backdrop the political movements and campaigns which have dominated Chinese social life through the PRC era. It is well known that at the height of the communist period in the 1950s through to the 1970s (now officially in a phase of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, which includes such aspects as a market economy), Christianity was anathema to the state, and professing Christians suffered much, in line with, and sometimes beyond, the sufferings of other ‘non-Red’ categories of people. Many would argue that the sufferings of the Church were the seed-bed for the remarkable growth of recent years. With disbanded churches and seminaries throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, survival was a priority for the Church, and serious theological or biblical studies an inconceivable luxury. One of the greatest needs articulated by the Chinese Church today is for well-trained leaders and a new generation of academic theologians. Tendencies to a very narrow evangelical faith, and to the appearance of heterodox sects, are two outcomes of the paucity of trained pastors and clergy. A deep fault line runs between more liberal and more literal biblical readings, which equates to a very general division between proponents of China Christian Council (CCC) and house church theologies. Academic theologians have in general more in common with official church thinking than with the experiential or pastoral concerns of much house church writing. The division between registered and unregistered churches is painful for many, predicated as it is on a sense of betrayal among those who chose not to register their churches with the government on ideological grounds in the 1950s and 1960s, and who may have served long prison sentences, suffering greatly in comparison with those who both registered and acceded to the party line on religious matters. The sense of betrayal on the part of the underground or family churches means many are deeply suspicious of sanctioned theologians. Just as in many contemporary debates in the West, the authority of scripture is at the heart of the tension. The Chinese academic scene is closer to the American divide between university and seminary than the European one, where theology is taught in universities and ordinands may take MAs with a confessional outlook within the university system. Where once the Church was



considered to be the only authority for reading the Bible and discerning its meaning, the Chinese academy has assumed this responsibility to itself, and appropriated the mantle of authority: the text is to be read as academia sees fit. Even Bishop Ding Guangxun has conceded that better theology is being done outside the Church in China than within it: academic departments in universities are better equipped, often with better educated, more intellectually gifted students, than seminaries, some of which, as Fredrik Fallman points out in his article, are in essence Bible schools, taking students who may not have completed senior high school. The ‘lost generation’ of those who missed out on education during the Cultural Revolution are now at the age when they would be running departments and institutions. Even after the Opening-up and Reform period (1978— ) hastened the rebuilding of universities, theology faculties were still regarded as suspect. Many of the 40 or so university MA programmes in Christian theology across Chinese universities which began in the late 1990s and early 2000s come under the rubric of philosophy departments, although some are within religious studies or sociology of religion programmes. Because of the emphasis on state needs




in line with

its atheistic


legitimate study of religion has concentrated on the sociology of religion, on comparative philosophies, and on safely distant church history. Biblical studies has been critically neglected. Today, university departments in Chengdu, Jilin, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong and elsewhere do have biblical studies specialists, but this is an area of very recent growth, and many scholars are relatively junior. Some mainland Chinese are currently studying for doctorates in New Testament or Old Testament in the West, but the number of scholars trained in biblical languages is comparatively minute. The biblical illiteracy of undergraduate students means that extant courses are also less advanced, more like overview courses in Western culture. While -isms may have dominated biblical studies elsewhere in the world, the Chinese academy has until now been too small to have the luxury of such sub-fields. Contemporary approaches do encompass the whole range, from literary to contextual, liberation to feminist, but scholars often work in isolation.

For these institutional reasons, when we discuss reading Christian scripture in China, we are talking less about exegetical scholarship and more about a range of readings, from commentary tomes through to sermons and diary jottings. The Chinese Church throughout the course of the twentieth century has only briefly had access to scholars trained in biblical languages, and research tools and facilities to engage in hermeneutical, or particularly, historical-critical scholarship. Application of the Bible has been of much greater concern, among both elite and provincial Christians. There have been few academic theologians among exegetes (though they have inevitably had a disproportionate influence in written texts), and the majority of Chinese biblical study has been confessional, by the Church for the Church, in sermons, tracts and (rarely) in monograph form. The emergence of Sino-Christian studies as a research field on the mainland and in Hong Kong has recast some of the questions of


Chloé Starr

scriptural hermeneutics in the past decade. The strong presence of nonconfessional biblical readings in mainland academia has led to the dominance of a certain strand of intellectual enquiry. As recent scholars have noted, the institution of Sino-Christian studies as a discipline has aimed to construct a branch of Chinese theology that emphasizes the humanistic and academic character of the subject. The restriction of

‘Chinese language theology’ (Hanyu shenxue a8 #2) to a paradigm of ‘humanitarian studies’ (renwenxue\ WB. Hill, Introduction to the Life of Christ;* Shirley Jackson Case, Jesus: A New Biography;> Walter Bell Denny, The Career and Significance of Jesus; Henry

Burton Sharman, Records of the Life of Jesus;° Basil Mathews, A Life of Jesus; J. Middleton Murry, Jesus: Man of Genius; Emil Ludwig,’ The Son of Man: The story of Jesus;> Dmitri S. Merezhkowsky, Jesus the Unknown,” Ernest Renan, Life of Christ; James Moffatt, Every Man’s Life of Jesus.'° Among these and other titles, T.C. Chao held only five or six in high esteem,

namely those by Case, Denny, Moffatt, Sharman and Mathews.’ The question still remains: with so many excellent works already published in different languages, why should T.C. Chao attempt another? What was unique in his Life of Jesus? What impresses a contemporary reader is how T.C. Chao consciously applies particular approaches to the biblical texts, especially the gospels, while reconstructing the life of Jesus: approaches which serve as his end purpose. Chao explains clearly in the Introduction that he wrote this life of Jesus entirely for the sake of China and the Chinese, as an effort to present the life and work of Jesus contained in the four Gospels to the Chinese mind, enumerating four reasons for publishing: But since there are already so many books on the life of Jesus in the world, why should I busy myself adding more trouble by producing another copy? To justify my work, the reasons are as follows. First, so far no one else among us Chinese has been original enough to write the life of Jesus with their own insight and understanding, completely free from the conventions formed in the


Richard X.Y. Zhang

Western scholarship ... Secondly, I have a feeling that few of us Chinese, especially among the followers of Jesus in China, really know Jesus. The Bible is difficult to read, and its interpretation

varies so widely, often far-fetched, full of nonsense and pure guesswork ... In the third place, I’d like to do my bit to help the younger generation of Christians in China ... among whom are quite a few young friends who want to know Jesus, but who are frustrated when they begin to read the Bible and cannot find a way to make sense of what they are reading ... Fourthly, it is my own belief in and adoration of Jesus that encourages me to write the book ... I adore Jesus; therefore I must tell those around me his life

as I understand it. This is the reason of paramount importance why I should work on this Life of Jesus.” In the introduction, T.C. Chao explains the threefold approach he has applied to the biblical materials, namely, historical, imaginative and existential methods of interpreting the Bible. He discusses each aspect of the approach at considerable length and cites many biblical passages to illustrate his points of view. This part of more theoretical interest requires closer attention. At this point, the question might be raised: did T.C. Chao achieve what he aspired to? The answer is yes: he had good reason to regard his work as head and shoulders above works written by past and contemporary Western authors on the same subject. His Life of Jesus stands shoulder to shoulder with other works produced several decades later, such as Michael Grant's Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels.'° In the following section I provide a preliminary analysis of T.C. Chao’s biblical exposition as demonstrated in his composition of The Life

of Jesus.

2. T.C. Chao’s approaches to the biblical texts In writing The Life of Jesus, Chao did not claim to be a theorist in biblical interpretation or exegesis. But when we read this outstanding work carefully and critically, we encounter numerous impressive passages, and New Testament characters vividly depicted with a personal touch. From these passages and characters we can draw out some underlying ideas. Since T.C. Chao has never theorized his methodological ideas, we might use the term ‘principles’ instead. The following presentation attempts to draw out the basic characteristics of his approaches to biblical texts. A thorough and comprehensive analysis awaits further research: at this stage I merely offer some illustrations from the book, annotated with

my personal interpretation.

The first most obvious trait in T.C. Chao’s interpretation of the gospels is its theocentric, instead of christocentric, nature. In this Life of Jesus, the famous confession made by Peter (‘You are the Messiah’)'* occurs only in Chapter 11, and the seven remaining chapters do not emphasize the identification of Jesus with Christ, as one would expect. Let us read what T.C. Chao actually writes about this great event of Peter’s confession:

Representing the Gospels to the Chinese Mind


Jesus acknowledges this confession of Peter in front of the apostles, and the fact that others do not raise any disagreement implies that what Peter has confessed is also what they have understood in their mind and have not spoken out. Therefore Jesus asks them not to spread this word to the outside — for his time has not yet come — lest it should cause pointless disputes. The Christ Peter has confessed is clearly not the Christ his contemporaries, those who belong to the flesh, would have expected. But for God’s direction, but for his spiritual and upright intuition, Peter should never have obtained so profound an insight as this. This insight is the rock, for the heavenly kingdom should be based upon the life of Christ. Wherever there is a fellowship with the life of Christ shared by Jesus, there is the heavenly kingdom, to which the key is love, the love of sacrificing self and life.15 The popular concept of Christ during the time, as T.C. Chao saw it, falls in the category of the eschatological: the Christ of this nature must appear as a militant and conquering Messiah rather than a loving and crucified Christ."° T.C. Chao made numerous criticisms of this kind of eschatology,” and also described emphatically an exalted doctrine of God preached by Jesus.’® Chao’s shift from a traditional Christian standpoint which is both trinitarian and christological, is primarily based on his own theological conviction. But comprehensibility for the Chinese mindset must also be taken into consideration. Another point worth

noting, is the background against which T.C. Chao wrote his Life of Jesus. In the late 1920s and early 1930s some Christian intellectuals were

preaching a new ‘ism’, that is ‘Jesus-ism’ (Yesu zhu yi HK#+ \X), laying emphasis entirely on the human side of Jesus and rejecting any articulation of his divinity. In the wider international context, personalism was in full swing. T.C. Chao evidently came under the influence of this trend of thought, stressing the significance of concepts of person and personality for ethical and religious life. T.C. Chao applies this approach also to other biblical texts, for instance, in interpreting the critical passage of Mt. 12.46-50:

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. This passage is particularly difficult for the Chinese reader who holds in high regard the traditional Confucian or Ruist value of filial piety (xiao). T.C. Chao esteems highly the ethical demand of filial piety, often interpreting the scriptural texts in the light of Chinese tradition. For instance, after the description of the story of the 12-year-old Jesus found


Richard X.Y. Zhang

by Joseph and Mary in the Temple ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Lk. 2.46 NRSV), Chao writes:

Soon they went out of the Temple, and set out for Nazareth in the company of some others. During this time Jesus had gained deep inspiration, received a profound enlightenment and understood an unfathomable love. He is all the more filially pious towards his parents and obedient unto them. Jesus is gone, but those who are in the Temple, the preaching doctors and the audience alike, are left astonished, all praising the child as lovely and bright, with wisdom of God in him.’? The text of Lk. 2.52 ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour’ supports the author’s theocentric approach to the gospels. In his narration of the story of the Prodigal Son, T.C. Chao

also reads into the text the typical Chinese idea of filial piety.” The

ethical, rather than the metaphysical, is a noticeable characteristic of T.C. Chao’s work of biblical interpretation. The third important characteristic of this work is its poetic nature. It is difficult to imagine that this life of Jesus was written by a systematic theologian, given its absence of dogmatism. Chao was well aware of its forerunners. Take Papini’s The Life of Christ, for example; a book which earned its author international fame as a bestseller and was regarded as a religious novel. T.C. Chao mentions in his Introduction that imagination plays an important part, and is even the prerequisite,’ for writing his life of Jesus, and anticipates criticism from those who do not appreciate this way of writing a biography or who would identify the use of the imagination with fiction. To such an imagined criticism, T.C. Chao retorts:

This remark is right and wrong. It is right because I originally planned to write a novel, but was too timid to try due to my lack of competence for the task. But if I were to produce finally a dull historical book, who in the present-day China would want to read it carefully? Human beings are fond of concrete humans and events. What Jesus has said and done is all poetry and also full of elements of a novel, for first-class novels are most like religious works. The remark is wrong, since the present Life of Jesus was written in accordance with historical order: all the recorded words and deeds of Jesus are based on scriptural texts which have undergone strict criticism. If a reader forgets this point, it is better for him to close

this life-story at once. No matter who writes a Life of Jesus, the

author cannot help letting imagination fly. However, it is not 100 per cent correct to let imagination fly, for imagination should be baptized in the blood of Jesus. For instance, Renan’s Life of Jesus, Murry’s Jesus: Man of Genius, Ludwig’s The Son of Man are all works

set free from imagination, but these authors all make guesses from within a secular mindset and as a result, without exception, they do not really understand Jesus.

Representing the Gospels to the Chinese Mind


In connection with this imaginative approach to the biblical texts is what we might term T.C. Chao’s sympathetic interpretation. Chen Yinke (18901969), the great historian of twentieth-century China, insists on a ‘sympathetic understanding’ when evaluating a historical figure. T.C. Chao was applying a strikingly similar method when he reads and interprets texts in the gospels. Chao terms this method of sympathetic interpretation ‘seeking imagination and sympathy for understanding’.”® This is best illustrated in his treatment of Mary Magdalene. But one wonders whether even in this case, sympathetic could more appropriately be replaced by the Einftihlung, or its English equivalent ‘empathetic’. In T.C. Chao’s mind, Mary Magdalene is one of the most significant figures recorded in the gospels. He mentions her in several places in The Life of Jesus. The most detailed description is in Chapter 2, where the key passage reads as follows: One day, when

she was making a big fuss over nothing, Jesus

passed by. Having heard other people talking about her, Jesus stopped and looked at her among the people. As she noticed his eyes fixed on her, she stopped laughing and tears came immediately, gazing with wide-opened eyes she cried after a moment loudly “That’s it!’ She then ran swiftly home. In Jesus she received life at that eternal moment, the life of the cosmic heart, of the man’s innermost, which was not available to all other ordinary women. Jesus met her several times later, talking with her about his own aspiration and cause. She became calm again and started to behave as a gentle and tender person. Therefore it was said that Jesus had cured her by driving out the seven demons that used to dwell in her body. Mary Magdalene, the woman who followed Jesus to the very end, do we still remember her? She feared not suffering and hardship; she served Jesus and provided him with daily necessities

and followed him wherever she was able. She was present at the cross, she was present at the tomb gate, and is bound to have her presence in today’s most beautiful life in the world.”

T.C. Chao admits in the Introduction that the paragraph on Mary Magdalene judged by historical records may be called sheer fiction, whereas he cannot but regard her as a marvellous lady ‘judging by common sense and measuring by reasonable criteria, having seen the loyalty she demonstrated in her lifelong following of Jesus’.”* It is worth noting that T.C. Chao’s depiction of such a remarkable woman in the early Christian community, whose life was utterly changed by Jesus, came several decades earlier than Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Needless to say, Dan Brown was no biblical scholar or historian or theologian, and he drew heavily upon sources mentioned in Chapter 60 of his novel. But none of these, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library were available to T.-C. Chao when he wrote his

Life of Jesus and represented Mary Magdalene. Truly, such writing is


Richard X.Y. Zhang

impossible without great imagination and guesswork, as T.C. Chao acknowledged.”© The next trait of significance evident in reviewing T.C. Chao’s reading of biblical texts is his unswerving preference for a historical over a mythological interpretation. There are many examples of this sort in the book, such as the explanation of the miracle of five loaves and two fish?” or the raising of Lazarus.”* This does not mean that T.C. Chao completely denied the possibility of miracles. Far from it. We can read some moving passages he wrote on miracles,” such as where he affirms the healing power of Jesus by saying: ‘The wholehearted compassion, the marvellous personality, the pure faith, and the touch full of love, what all these can

accomplish is though unexpected often not un-natural ... °° Finally, there is a humanist element in T.C. Chao’s biblical reading, and this can be taken as the sixth characteristic of his approaches to the biblical texts. True, Jesus is a religious figure and the gospels are mainly religious documents. But in order to understand Jesus and to interpret the gospels one cannot confine oneself to strictly religious perspectives. There are countless examples in this regard, with the following paragraph giving a good illustration:

Among the problems of human life the most fundamental are those concerning food and sex. In the heavenly kingdom, human beings are to extend God’s love to the relation between sexes, and to the economy. God is the Father, humans are therefore all relatives;

among humans one ought to demonstrate a respect for personality in everything. The starting-point of Jesus’ thought is faith in God and faith in humans, therefore he sets up the highest and ideal standard for all relationships, such as, loving your enemy and turning the other cheek.**

To T.C. Chao’s mind, the precondition for understanding Jesus’ inner life is ‘compassion and magnanimity’.** Another illustrative interpretation T. C. Chao provides in his Life of Jesus is his harmonizing of the difficult account of a sinful woman who came to weep at Jesus’ feet during the banquet offered by Simon (Lk. 7.36-50). This woman is often identified with Mary Magdalene with little solid reason. In T.C. Chao’s narration, ‘She approaches, and disciples look at her, having a feeling that she looks like a shadow of Mary Magdalene, resembling her in manner and appearance, though looking older, thinner and more pallid than Mary Magdalene.” Jesus’ words to Simon sound strange, ‘Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little’ (Lk.

7.47, NRSV). T.C. Chao adds an explanation here which draws on Confucius’ Analects: ‘A gentleman will keep respectful rituals in daily

life, wouldn’t the God-—man

do better?’ Jesus here does not want to

embarrass Simon directly, but adopts an oblique approach so as to encourage Simon to recognize his own problem. Such an explanation is

typical of the humanist tradition nourished in Confucianism in China. T.

Representing the Gospels to the Chinese Mind


C. Chao’s treatment of Judas is another example which betrays his humanist mode of interpretation. In sum, Chao’s Life of Jesus provides a rich example of how a Chinese Christian’s interpretive effort brings the gospels to the mind of his compatriots. Chao’s biblical readings remind us of hermeneutical practices developed simultaneously and later in the West, such as Bonhoeffer’s non-religious interpretation of the Bible. The Life of Jesus by T.C. Chao reveals its importance as a depository of hidden treasure, that calls for further unearthing to test theories in biblical reading in

particular and in hermeneutics in general.” Notes

1. Regrettably the editors of Zhao Zizhen wenji [Works of T.C. Chao], Vol 1 and 2 (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2003), omit all the sources the author provided for these quotations in earlier editions. Nevertheless, I will refer to this edition throughout this

essay as it is a more accessible and recent reprint. 2. For instance, from the perspective of a comparative study, Chs 5 and 6 in T.C. Chao’s An Interpretation of Christianity (written in 1943, first published in 1947) are significant and worth frequent quoting. An overall evaluation of T.C. Chao’s interpretation of the Bible and of christology would require a more thorough examination of his other works. 3. Giovanni Papini (1881-1956), an Italian writer. The English trans. of his book The Life of Christ was acclaimed as a huge bestseller (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1923). 4. W.B. Hill (New York: Charles Scribner, 1911).

5. Shirley Jackson Case, Jesus: A New Bibliography (Westport, CO: Greenwood Press, 1927). 6. Henry Burton Sharman (1865-1953), a University of Chicago scientist and theologian; his book was first published in New York by Harper & Row in 1917; a new edition has appeared using the RSV. 7. J. Middleton Murry (New York: Harper, 1926).

8. Emil Ludwig (1881-1948), a well-known writer originally from Austria. This book was translated from the German by Eden and Cedar Paul, with illustrations after Rembrandt, and published in 1928.

9. Also spelt as Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (New York: Charles Scribner, 1934). 10. James Moffatt, Scottish biblical scholar and translator (1870-1944).

11. Works of T.C. Chao, Vol. I, pp. 458, 463. (Hereafter Works, Vol. I) 12. Works, Vol. I, pp. 455-6. All quotes from The Life of Jesus are my own translation. 13. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977. One will note many resemblances between

Chao’s and Grant’s treatment of materials contained in the gospels. 14. ‘He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’’’ (Mt. 16.16, NRSV). In Ch. 9, Christ is mentioned as

one of guesses the masses have made when they have heard and seen what Jesus has said and done (Works, Vol. I, pp. 545f.). 15. Works, Vol. I, p. 567. 16. Works, Vol. I, p. 568. 17. For instance, Works, Vol. I, p. 462, 476.

18. Works, Vol. I, p. 502. 19. Works, Vol. I, p. 484. 20. While

the Lukan

text never


filial piety in this case, Chao


in an

introductory sentence, ‘# LAI [A dutiful son does not show filial piety] (Works, Vol. I, p. 511), in an attempt to reproduce a similar effect to sin (Lk. 15.18) or transgression (Lk. 15.29) on the non-Chinese mind.


Richard X.Y. Zhang

2s Works, Vol. I, p. 456. . Works, Vol. I, p. 466.

23. Works, Vol. I, p. 456. Chao explains the expression with another pair of phrases, namely,

kuiging #8 and duoli E#2 (Works, Vol. I, p. 456; the latter two phrases usually form a set phrase: ‘to weigh the pros and cons’, or ‘judging by common sense and measuring by reasonable criteria’. 24. Works, Vol. I, pp. 487-8. p45% Works, Vol. I, pp. 464-5. 26. T.C. Chao made use of the Apocryphal New Testament, ed. M.R. James (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924). A recent reprint of this collection is under the title The New

Testament Apocrypha (Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press, 2004). T.C. Chao cites on several occasions passages from Enoch (Works, Vol. I, pp. 475, 495). D7 28. 29. 30.

Works, Vol. I, p. 556.

Works, Vol. I, pp. 551-2. For instance, Works, Vol. I, pp. 527-8. Works, Vol. I, p. 527.

. Works, Vol. I, p. 538.

32. Works, Vol. I, p. 531. 3c Works, Vol. I, p. 531. . Works, Vol. I, p. 532

35: Such as, for instance, whether the theory of ‘Heritagist readings’ holds for this work: see

R.S. Sugirtharajah, Postcolonial Criticism and Biblical Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 55-60.

9 Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China: A Hermeneutical Enquiry into its History of Reception John Y.H. Yieh In Chinese intellectual history, moral discourse has always occupied a seat of honour. Moral tradition has been, and continues to be, developed through education and policy to shape the ethos of the people, as testified by the vast and growing literature of commentaries on Confucian classics, Daoist philosophy, Buddhist scriptures and communist ideology. Tales of zhong, xiao, jie, yi (loyalty, filial piety, chastity, integrity) are celebrated and enjoyed in popular novels, song and theatre. In a culture that reveres moral values as its social fibre and believes in the power of moral ideas to change personal life and create social good, how is Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’, the great charter of Christian ethics, read

and received? In this essay, I examine the writings and sermons of three leading Chinese Christian figures of the twentieth century, Wu Leichuan, Wang Mingdao and Ding Guangxun (K.H. Ting), to see how they each used the Sermon on the Mount to present their theological views and address their particular concerns. The three have different educational backgrounds, ecclesial responsibilities and groups of followers, so their readings of the Sermon on the Mount offer a limited but useful sample to see how traditional Chinese reading practices and recent Western hermeneutical theories might have shaped their interpretive works. They hold diverse theological perspectives on the nature and function of the Bible and advocate contending views on the Church’s relationship with the state, so they represent a broad spectrum of theological positions among ordinary Chinese Christians. Furthermore, precisely because they are so diverse in educational background and theological outlook, the similarities they share in cultural presuppositions, reading strategies and basic concerns may then offer significant clues for us to identify some common - perhaps even typical — hermeneutical traits, which may be called ‘Chinese’. In short, this essay seeks to understand how Jesus’ ‘sermon’ as reported in Mt. 5-7 has been read and received among Chinese Christians, to whom preaching a sermon (jiangdao) means proclaiming the way (dao) or expounding moral principle (daoli). By investigating the works of three influential Chinese interpreters on the Christian sermon par excellence, it is my hope to explore some of the ways in which Chinese Christians read 143


John Y.H. Yieh

the Scripture and to engage in a cross-cultural reflection on the uses and effects of their readings, the result of which may challenge and enrich the critical discipline of biblical hermeneutics across cultures and deepen mutual understanding between the churches in the global North and the global South. It is important to note at the outset that these interpreters did not seek to explain the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount in the format of ‘critical commentary’ that ‘professional’ biblical scholars in the West are used to (verse-by-verse annotation, etymological, form-critical, redaction-critical, or theological notes). Rather, they cite or refer to pertinent texts in the Sermon, giving brief comments on their meanings without explicit references to literary or historical contexts, only to promote or support their discussion of particular issues or themes, such as Jesus’ idea of the Kingdom of heaven, the Christian way of life, or the Church’s

civic responsibilities. Instead of offering detailed exegesis, their aim was to construct a larger argument or thesis. In other words, they approach the Sermon in each case as historian, preacher and theologian rather than a biblical scholar in textual studies. To evaluate their use of the Sermon fairly, we shall ask whether or not their understanding of the text is justifiable within the range of semantic possibility, without requiring them to demonstrate the whole exegetical process of considering text and context. More to the point, we shall ask whether or not their application of the text to their larger argument is coherent, without prejudging their theological conclusions. In order to construct a hermeneutical analysis of their use of the Bible, I have adopted the probing device that David Kelsey designed. In his book, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (1975), Kelsey raised four ‘diagnostic’ questions to help him analyse seven influential theologians from a wide spectrum of persuasions on their construal and use of biblical texts in the constructing of their theologies.’ 1. 2. 3. 4.

What What What How

aspect(s) of scripture is (are) taken to be authoritative? makes this aspect of scripture authoritative? sort of logical force is ascribed to this aspect of scripture? is the cited scripture brought to bear on theological


These four questions provide a common frame of reference to compare and contrast the ways in which the three selected Chinese Christian leaders appropriate scripture. They are heuristic questions concerning the hermeneutical assumptions and logical arguments that a reader or interpreter makes while making sense of the text. They are also methodological questions for procedural analysis to show what strategies or rationales a theologian or preacher adopts while appropriating certain aspects of the text to construct theological arguments.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


1. Wu Leichuan (1869-1944)

Wu Leichuan acquired the degree of jinshi and served as an academician in the prestigious State Hanlin Academy. Later, he taught Chinese literature at Yenching (Yanjing) University in Beijing and became its first Chinese chancellor. Writing chiefly for academic readers in the 1920s through to the 1940s, he was particularly concerned about the challenges of anti-Christian nationalism and scientism on college campuses. Wu lived through a tumultuous time in modern China. In 1911 Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty to establish the first republic in Asia and abolished several unequal treaties with other countries. The Chinese people proclaimed a renewed measure of self-confidence. Before long, however, the jubilation was shattered by continuous fighting among war-lords, such as Yuan Shikai, who made a brief attempt to reinstate the imperial system. Civil war between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) ensued. The aggression of Japan, a new colonial power in the East, led to eight years of Sino-Japanese War (193139). During the republican era, the Chinese people suffered so many devastating wars that the survival of the nation preoccupied everybody’s mind, and nationalism rose to new heights.’ This was most dramatically demonstrated in the May Fourth movement

(1919) and its aftermath,

which began with a student demonstration against the handing-over of Germany’s colony in Shangdong to Japan at the Paris Conference without regard to Chinese sovereignty.* Nationalism was expressed in the ‘Non-Christian

Alliance’ (1922-24), a nationwide

student protest

against the World Student Christian Federation, which held its annual meeting at Tsinghua (Qinghua) University in Beijing on 1 April 1922.° Students in Shanghai, soon followed by those in Beijing, voiced their objection to allowing foreign student delegates to meet at a Chinese university. They condemned Christianity as co-conspirator with the Western colonial powers. Calling for educational sovereignty, they demanded to take over church-run universities and eliminate religious curricula.° Cai Yuanpei, President of Peking (Beijing) University, was a key supporter of this alliance, and he proposed replacing religious studies with aesthetics. Scientism posed another serious challenge to the Chinese Church in the twentieth century. Since modernization was understood to be Westernization, the ‘new knowledge’ of the West, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, Marx’s materialistic view of history, Russell’s

economic socialism and Dewey’s pragmatism, was insatiably absorbed and indiscriminately transported to China by scholars trained in Europe and the USA. Most of these new ideologies or theories were critical of the Christian tradition. Their proponents in China also condemned the Chinese Church as outdated, pre-scientific, anti-modern and detrimental to the progress of a new China. Most notable was the ‘New Culture Movement’ (1917) led by Hu Shih (Hu Shi), a philosophy professor at Beijing University and a leader of the Baihuawen (vernacular language) movement. Hu Shih believed that only science and democracy could bring progress and save China from poverty and weakness. He


John Y.H. Yieh

advocated re-evaluating traditional culture and criticized Christianity as a superstitious religion, though tolerable for its moral teaching.” To show the traditionalists that Christianity did not conflict with Chinese culture, Wu Leichuan introduced Jesus as ‘Sheng tianzi’ (holy son of heaven), the sage-king who performed the functions of king, prophet and priest.* He also compared

the Holy Spirit to the idea of ren

(benevolence), the highest virtue in Confucianism in terms of function in

the life of believers.’ In response to scientism which prized ‘reason’ as the yardstick for a progressive mind, Wu once wrote, ‘religious emotions are inspired by the recognition of reason’.’° In Wu’s view, the purpose of religion was not simply to offer personal

salvation but to reform society (gaizao shehui), a leitmotif in his writings.”

By transforming believers’ moral character with the virtue of love and sacrifice that Jesus has demonstrated

in his life, Wu believed that the

ethos of the whole society would be improved. So, an authentic church that follows Jesus as the moral paradigm could play a crucial part in shaping China’s future by training capable leaders with moral character

and by rejuvenating good Chinese culture.'? Wu’s proposal of saving the nation through character formation (renge jiuguo), vis-a-vis Hu Shih’s saving the nation through science (kexue jiuguo), reveals a deeply held conviction in Confucian tradition, namely that of becoming a sage inside and governing society outside (neisheng waiwang), which regards selfcultivation of moral character as the first step in the ordering of family, the ruling of the nation and finally the peace of the world.’*

Wu’s view of the Bible Wu read the Bible as a historical text and adopted a historical-critical approach. He regarded prophetic claims, the virgin birth and miracle stories as literary expressions of faith experience,“ and focused on Jesus’ renge (character) because it was the perfect paradigm for reforming human hearts and human society.” He considered Jesus’ teachings universally valid, because they were attested by numerous parallels found in Chinese classics. Some ancient laws and customs were culturespecific, however, so should be reinterpreted or removed according to ‘modern’ or ‘progressive’ views. Wu was most interested in Jesus’ life and teaching, so the four canonical gospels were his favourite texts. He rarely referred to the Old Testament, and favoured James’ emphasis on the work of love over Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. Wu’s reading of the Sermon on the Mount Wu’s readings of the Sermon on the Mount are mostly found in his summary of Jesus’ teaching in three major books: Jidujiao yu Zhongguo

wenhua [Christianity and Chinese Culture],”° Jidutu de xiwang [The Hope

of Christians]!” and Modi yu Yesu [Mozi and Jesus].’® The following are

three texts in the Sermon that Wu most frequently cited. 1. The Lord’s Prayer. Wu considered the Lord’s Prayer the most important teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He published a

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


series of six articles in Zhenli zhoukan [Truth Weekly] in 1923-24,!? and

discussed it at relative length in the three books mentioned above.”° This model prayer was not given simply as a liturgical text for worship, Wu insisted, but as a blueprint for the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ followers should reflect on it everyday until it is internalized and becomes the common goal of the Church. For a genuine follower, it should serve as the ‘basic method for the cultivation of renge’ and the ‘practical guideline

to the reforming of Chinese society’.”” Wu interpreted the opening address to God, ‘Our Father’, to mean that

believers should love others as their brothers, if they confess God to be the father of all humanity. To pray ‘Hallowed be thy name’ means to make a commitment to honour God by loving justice and obeying truth, because those are what please God. To pray ‘Thy kingdom come’ means to serve society so well that God’s mercy and justice may be realized in this world; that is, to transform the old society and make it new. To pray ‘Thy will be done’ means to make every effort to ensure the success of social reform. To pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ means to abolish all unfair political and social systems that have caused poverty and injustice, and to be content with necessary provisions without greed; in other words, to redistribute material goods fairly. ‘Forgive our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors’ means to forgive and be reconciled with each other, with the Confucian idea of shudao (forgiveness, reciprocity), that we may find peace in our hearts and promote peace in the world. ‘Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil’

means that we need to resist temptations and prevent disasters in order to create a safe environment for all people. Wu emphasized that these petitions may be regarded as the creed of social reform and the programme of psychological reform. It was very wise of Jesus, Wu thought, to turn these petitions into a liturgical text for communal use, so his followers could recite and internalize it together to shape their common vision and values. Wu’s view of the Kingdom of heaven as an ideal society to be realized in this world by following Jesus’ teaching of love and sacrifice may very well have been influenced by the ‘Social Gospel’ movement made popular by Walter Rauschenbusch in the USA,” and promoted in China by Wu Yaozong.”* 2. The first beatitude (‘Blessed are the poor’) and ‘Strive first for the

kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all that you need will be added to you’ (Mt. 6.33). (Note that Wu cited the beatitude from Lk. 6.20

instead of the spiritualized version of Mt. 5.3.) Wu often cited these two texts together to emphasize that the Kingdom of heaven that Jesus envisioned was a society of economic equality, where all work hard and receive what they need, without disparity between the rich and the poor,

and is indeed an ideal communist society without private ownership.”

Wu believed that, by building a new society with economic justice for all, collective wealth would increase and every member will be guaranteed to receive what is needed. He also cited Mt. 6.24 on not serving Mammon to declare God’s special concern for the poor.” It is noteworthy that the immediate context of Mt. 6.33 on striving first for the kingdom of God


John Y.H. Yieh

encourages believers to trust a loving God to care for their needs, but Wu

used it to highlight economic reform in the Kingdom of heaven. Wu may have in mind the brutal oppression and heavy taxation of the Roman masters over the Jews in ancient Palestine, which might be the historical context of these dominical sayings. He may also be thinking of the refugees and the farmers suffering from hunger and deprivation in wartorn China. 3. ‘Do not resist any evil doer’ (Mt. 5.39). This is another verse

discussed more than once. On resisting no evil, Wu agreed in theory that Christians should demonstrate their love even for their enemies, but he

considered the principle of ‘non-resistance’ unreasonable and useless. It should be used rarely under special circumstances, he contended, because, in reality, it could encourage evil doers’ aggression against the innocent. Wu understood this saying as concerning the principle of the great love, and conceded that it might be adopted in making individual ethical decisions, but he insisted that it should not be applied to the law at the level of the society or the state. Perhaps Wu had seen enough lawlessness and injustice in human lives and in government actions; the experience of China being bullied and robbed by the Western colonial powers may have convinced him, as it did other intellectuals, of the need to fight back for survival rather than show weakness in submission. Wu believed that bloodshed might sometimes be necessary because social reform, being revolution, requires political power, and political power can be acquired only through the use of force or violence. The ends of greater good justify the means, so Wu felt no constraint in refuting this principle as self-indulgent.”° It would be interesting to find out what he might have to say about Gandhi's successful use of non-violent resistance in gaining independence from the British empire for India and Pakistan. In Wu’s interpretive scheme, it seems

that reason and

experience take priority in deciding whether or how one should follow the plain sense of the text. Reason is given the royal throne, so even Jesus’ teaching needs to be critically judged for its applicability. In both his comments on the Lord’s Prayer and the non-violent-resistance principle, there is also a tendency to appropriate the text pragmatically. A Chinese Christian per Confucian scholar, Wu’s hermeneutic circle always begins with the concerns and needs of his nation suffering in stress and crisis. A hermeneutical analysis How did Wu interpret and use the Sermon on the Mount to develop his argument of social reform and salvation through strength of character? We will now use David Kelsey’s four questions to reflect briefly on the three samples we have just examined. 1. What aspect(s) of scripture is (are) taken to be authoritative? Wu read the Sermon on the Mount as a historical source of Jesus’ teaching, which he deemed to be valid and valuable across cultures and times. In most cases, he accepted the plain sense of the dominical sayings as authoritative and instructive, but took them out of Matthew’s literary context and placed them in Jesus’ ideological context. The Lord’s Prayer,

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


a liturgical text, was read as Jesus’ social programme for the Kingdom of heaven. Wu did not accept every saying of Jesus as authoritative for modern times: resisting no evildoer, for instance, was judged to be unreasonable and unfeasible. 2. What makes this aspect of scripture authoritative? Wu regarded the text as authoritative, because they were teachings of Jesus, the sheng tianzi (Holy Son of Heaven) whose wisdom had been time-tested for

almost two millennia and endorsed by similar ideas found in Chinese sages. For Wu, Jesus’ sayings carried authority not because Jesus had divine prerogative as the Son of God but because his sayings had high moral value. In fact, Wu bracketed out Jesus’ divinity and miracles from discussion in his book, claiming they were too mystical to fathom and too controversial to be helpful. 3. What sort of logical force is ascribed to this aspect of scripture? Wu stood on a sound exegetical ground, when he used Jesus’ central message, the Kingdom of heaven, as the hermeneutical key to unlock the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount. He was right to place those sayings in the religious, social, political and psychological contexts of Jesus’ time, even if some of his historical knowledge was debatable. Evidently, he assumed that Jesus was committed to one central theme —

the Kingdom of heaven - in all his teachings, in the same manner that a Chinese shengren (sage) or junzi (gentleman) would have held ren (love)

or yi (integrity, righteousness) at the core of his belief system. Confucius, for instance, once declared, ‘Wudao yi yi guanzi’ (My doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity).”” So, Wu felt justified in correlating various sayings of Jesus with that central theme. Obviously, NT scholars in the West might have asked some more questions, such as the composition of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew in comparison to the Sermon on the Plain in Luke, the earlier form of the Lord’s Prayer in Q, the meaning of the Kingdom of heaven in Matthew, Luke and Jesus, before they would

endorse the connection that Wu made between the Sermon on the Mount and the Kingdom of heaven. One should not accuse Wu of eisegesis too hastily, however. He was not writing a critical commentary on the Sermon on the Mount: he was using it to construct, as it were, a biblical

theology of Jesus. Like Karl Barth in debate with Rudolf Bultmann over the proper way to interpret Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Wu’s reading of

the Sermon took the approach of Sachkritik, not Formgeschichte.8

In his letters, the Apostle Paul often used Jewish ideas and scriptural language from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) to explain Jesus’ significance for the Gentile Church. In a similar manner, Wu often used Confucian concepts and terms from Chinese philosophy to introduce Jesus’ ideas to the Chinese elites. Because of his distin-

guished educational background in traditional culture, ‘cross-textual reading’ (between Christian Scripture and Chinese classics) was a natural way for Wu to process the reading of biblical text, to find its relevance for contemporary issues, and to construct a new faith narrative for his Chinese readers. His cross-textual method can be properly called ‘indigenization’ or ‘inculturation’. His effort to use Jesus’ teachings to construct a reform programme for Chinese society, additionally, is


John Y.H. Yieh

‘contextualization’ seeking to meet the challenges of the May Fourth

movement, which many of his friends in the Life Fellowship, such as Zhao Zichen (T.C. Chao) and Xu Baogian, were doing in varied ways.” 4. How is the cited scripture brought to bear on theological proposals? First of all, Wu understood Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount to be the ideals of the Kingdom of heaven. Convinced that the Kingdom could be realized in the present world, he interpreted Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as workable guidelines for constructing a new society for the Chinese people. Finally, because Christians were supposed to follow Jesus’ renge (character) and commandments, he urged all genuine followers of Jesus to participate in the reconstruction of society in the endangered China.

2. Wang Mingdao (1900-91) Wang Mingdao was a well-known preacher in conservative circles, who founded a large independent church in Beijing (starting in his home in 1925).°° Never attending a seminary, he taught himself theology through disciplined and meticulous reading of the Bible. He published a wellsubscribed journal called Lingshi jikan [Spiritual Food Quarterly] and travelled nationwide to lead Bible studies and retreats. Because he refused to sign the Christian Manifesto and register his church with the Bureau of Religious Affairs in 1950, he was jailed for 23 years. As a result, however, he won worldwide recognition and respect as a symbol of religious persecution and faithful leadership. Wang was keenly aware of the challenges of nationalism and scientism to Christian

faith, but he did





as Wu

Leichuan, Zhao Zichen, or Wu Yaozong and his social gospel agenda provided the right answer. Wang did not consider them true church leaders, because some of them accepted the liberal ideas of H Fosdick*! and questioned such doctrines as the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection and the second coming of Jesus. Wang called them buxinpai (faction of unbelievers) and criticized them as worse than outsiders, because in Wang’s view they were leading believers astray from the truth of faith.°* He refused to be united with them, and justified his criticism by quoting such scriptures as: ‘Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?’ (2 Cor. 6.14), and ‘Be aware of false prophets, who

come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves’ (Mt. 7.15, from the Sermon on the Mount).** Wang did not agree with their social gospel agenda. Recognizing the sinful tendency in human nature, he did not believe moral character (renge) could save anyone, let alone the nation. Wang insisted that it was not possible to build an ideal society, because humanity had become so depraved by sin that it could only wait for divine judgement. Only through chongshen (being born again) can a sinner be made a xinren (new person) inside his or her jiuren (old person), and only by striving daily to overcome the sinful habits of

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


the old person will this new person grow strong enough to bear good fruit and honour God. When the final judgement comes, only saved souls

will be raised up to live with God forever. With a strongly negative view of human nature and society, Wang believed the only purpose of Christians living in the world is to preach the gospel to others so that they may be rescued by God’s grace to escape from the divine wrath. Thus, he saw his mission as to save souls, not to reform society.»

To ensure that his followers will receive eternal life at the final judgement, Wang urged them to study the Bible earnestly and carefully so that they may find God’s will to obey and be able to overcome the temptations of sin. To help them mature spiritually, his sermons were always biblically based and aimed at cultivating spiritual virtues. They typically address specific issues and concrete cases of human nature, habits, attitudes, behaviours and relationships, and provide practical lessons for spiritual growth, in a way very much like the Western tradition of psychagogy (Seelsorge) or spiritual direction. Wang’s view of the Bible In Wang’s view, the Bible is the Word of God. It reveals the saving grace of God to us and that knowledge leads us to believe in God and his grace through Christ, so is the foundation of our faith and salvation. Wang also

believed the Bible to be divinely inspired, and tried to prove this in eight ways.”° Since the Bible is divinely inspired, it is inerrant except for the mistakes made by scribes and interpreters. It is also historically reliable as a record, including the report of miracles. As the Word of God, every single word of it should be accepted. To deny or question a part is to deny and question the whole Bible. Because it has absolute authority, Wang wrote, ‘The Bible is the only criteria by which I preach and minister the church.’”” Wang’s reading of the Sermon on the Mount Liberal scholars of Wang’s time were so impressed by Jesus’ moral character, religious experience and wise teaching that the Sermon on the Mount became a favourite text for many of them. Besides Wu Leichuan,

Wu Yaozong had given a moving account of his first encounter with the Sermon, which became an experience of conversion for him.** The Sermon struck him like a thunderbolt, he wrote, waking up his soul. Suddenly, he was enlightened and could see Jesus’ renge and noble teaching shining through those three chapters of Matthew. Wu Yaozong was overjoyed and tearful, and that night accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. It took a whole lifetime for him, however, to figure out why the Sermon struck him so deeply. The Sermon on the Mount, he said, offered him a very satisfying philosophy of life and revealed Jesus to him as a genuine sage who practised his teaching. Wang Mingdao agreed that the Sermon was given to show the world how high the standard of spiritual and moral life should be, but he maintained that it was not the only teaching worth following. The whole Bible contains God’s will and every


John Y.H. Yieh

teaching therein should be obeyed. In Wang’s view, the Sermon was given to the disciples, ie. born-again believers, because only those given new life would be able to attain the high moral standard that Jesus set.*” Wang argued that the Sermon on the Mount revealed not only Jesus’s renge, but also his divinity and his mission. Let us look at a few examples of his comments on the text of the Sermon. 1. ‘You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world ... In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Mt. 5.13-16). Wang preached a sermon on this passage, entitled ‘The Christians who glorify God’.*° He started by asking ‘Who are the Christians who can bring glory to God?’ Not those who pray three times a day, not those who read a few chapters of the Bible every day, and not those who attend every church meeting, but those who show good behaviour to others. These religious practices are indeed indispensable for Christians, Wang admitted, but people outside the Church pay no attention to such religious things. They pay close attention to Christians’ behaviour, however, because it has most to do with their own lives and with God’s

glory. Wang talked about how some pious Christians had become stumbling-blocks to outsiders, because their behaviour did not match

their faith. From there, he began to lament the fact that some church leaders were to blame for not teaching and admonishing Christians to pursue a pious life, with behaviour that can bring glory to God. In this sermon, Wang did not explain the metaphors of salt or light, but focused on the purpose of the saying. By showing how not all pious Christians have good behaviour, he urged his followers to take seriously Jesus’ injunction to behave well and do good in order to glorify God. In another sermon, entitled ‘The light of the world’, Wang spoke to a passage from Jn 8: ‘Jesus said: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (Jn 8.12) side by side with Mt. 5.14-16: ‘You are the light of the world ... give glory to your Father in heaven.“ He began by describing how Jesus enlightened people by revealing God’s love and truth to those who were searching in darkness. Jesus also disclosed and condemned human sins and was therefore rejected by the wicked. Now that Jesus has returned to God in heaven, who shall continue his mission as the light of the world? Of course, it is we who are redeemed and called his disciples! Thus,

Wang moved from Jn 8 to Mt. 5: ‘What a great mission! What a noble status! And what a dignified identity that has been given to us, when we are called to be the light of the world just as Jesus our Lord has been!’ After urging his audience to behave like Jesus so that they may reveal God’s love and lead those who live in darkness into the life of light, Wang ended the sermon with another scriptural citation, ‘Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like stars forever and ever’ (Dan. 12.3). Here we see

how he used Mt. 5.14 like a pearl set in a string of scriptures to create a beautiful necklace linking Jesus to Christians today. With three passages about ‘light’ punctuated at the beginning, middle and end of the sermon, the theme of imitating Christ becomes resoundingly clear.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


2. The first beatitude: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (Mt. 5.3). A

sermon Wang once preached with this verse as title4? begins by saying that, since this is the first beatitude, every pious Christian would know it by heart. But can we assume that every Christian has the virtue of humility? No! In reality, it is precisely the pious ones who are not humble enough to accept advice from others. They tend to get angry at those who criticize them, too. Wang reminded his followers that only those who

truly love them will give them criticism. So, they should accept criticism with thanks. If they can accept and learn from their critics, they will be able to make progress in their spiritual life to reach perfection. When Christ comes again at the end of days, they will receive heavenly rewards. Thus, humility leads to the Kingdom of heaven. The message of this sermon is clear: be humble, just as there is no ambiguity in Mt. 5.3. It addresses an attitude problem commonly seen in Christians, while trying to explain the logical connection between the virtue of humility and its final reward. The homiletic logic is straightforward but effective. 3. The last beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake’ (Mt. 5.10). In a long sermon with this verse as title, Wang gave five reasons why true Christians today will suffer persecution from the world:** 1. Christians believe in God, but atheists see them as superstitious. 2. Christians obey God’s will and conduct business with honesty, but the world often lies and cheats for the sake of self-interest. 3. Christians strive for good behaviour, but the world has a lower standard of conduct. 4. Christians have higher purposes for their lives, but the world cannot understand them. 5. Christians testify against evil because of their faith, but the world does not take advice or criticism well.

For these reasons, true Christians cannot avoid being hated and persecuted. Why, then, are there some Christians admired by the world? Because they do not belong to Christ, but to the world. Their popularity proves their problem: as Jesus said ‘If you belong to the world, the world will love those who belong to them’ (Jn 15.19). Wang continued: We have indeed seen many so-called Christians who have shown no difference from the world in everything they do, except for their name as a Christian. They do not believe the doctrines in the Bible, and want to talk about nothing but Jesus’ personality, morality, spirit, love and his good teaching. Since they have no faith, the world will not attack or slander them. The world will not call them superstitious, but will praise them as reasonable Christians.” There is no doubt that here Wang Mingdao was rebuking the liberal scholars of his time. He calls them ‘Satan’s spies’, the false believers who

have caused true Christians to be persecuted by unbelievers. To conclude the sermon, he encouraged his followers to stand strong in the power of


John Y.H. Yieh

the Lord, and reminded them of God’s promise of the crown of life with a catena of three passages (Mk 8.38; 1 Pet. 4.12-16; Rev. 2.10). In this sermon, Wang began with the last beatitude and let the theme of persecution and blessing carry forward as he discussed the impact of the threats that had been exerted on the safety and faith of his church. Again,

he used several scriptures, by thematic association, to relate, explain and reinforce the key idea of his biblical passage. A hermeneutical analysis How did Wang use the Bible to construct his sermons? Typically, he focused on one theme in the passage that has to do with the reality of life. He paid close attention to the plain sense of the words in their grammatical, literary and historical contexts, asking how certain things happened and why certain words were used in the text. He often selected several passages and used them as cross-references to interpret obscure words or ideas, following the principle of scriptura scripturum emphasized in the Reformed tradition. An interpretation thus argued can be very persuasive indeed, because it gains the weight of multiple witnesses and the extra sense of coherence. Particularly noteworthy is the principle of linyi jiejing (spiritual exegesis)."” Wang emphasized that only Christians, who are born again and led by the Holy Spirit, can correctly discern the meaning of the Word of God, so he advised his followers to wait in silence for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whenever they fail to understand Scripture. Only the Holy Spirit knows God’s will. Wang liked to compare reading the Bible to eating spiritual food. He often remarked that the Word of God should be chewed repeatedly, swallowed joyfully and digested internally until it nurtures spiritual life.

3. Ding Guangxun (K.H. Ting, 1915- ) Bishop K.H. Ting has a long and distinguished career as a national leader of the Protestant Church. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1942, and ministered to the churches in Shanghai during the war with Japan (1937-45). He then served

as a mission


for the Canadian

Student Christian Movement and later for the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva. He returned to China in 1951 and became in 1953 principal of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, a post he held until recently. Consecrated as bishop of the Anglican diocese of Zhejiang in 1955, Ding became a well-known interpreter of the Chinese communist

revolution and the Christian response to it. After the Cultural Revolution

(1966-76), he emerged as the leader of the Three Self Patriotic Movement

(TSPM) and the China Christian Council (CCC), the major state organs

for the supervision of Protestant Christian churches in China. Since 1980 Ding has been instrumental in reopening theological seminaries, rebuilding ecumenical ties, and founding the Amity Foundation to

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


print bibles in Chinese. He retired in 1997, but continues to lead a nationwide campaign for theological reconstruction in the Church.

Ding’s view of the Bible As a church leader Ding has worked hard to consolidate the so-called ‘post-denominational’ Protestantism in communist China. As a theologian he has tried to promote a conversation with the world beyond the Church, especially with the Communist Party, and he has addressed extensively social and ecumenical issues facing the Christian Church. His goal has always been to make Christianity less offensive and more accessible to all people, and for that purpose he regarded it necessary to de-emphasize the doctrine of ‘justification by faith’ that presumes human sinfulness and to construct a new ‘Chinese indigenized theology” based on the welcoming and all-inclusive love of God. As preacher, he has constantly sought to make model citizens of Christians with the message of love and service.*® And in his use of the Bible, he has regarded it his task to complete a hermeneutical circle that would connect what he called the two ‘Cs’: Christ and China.* Ding’s reading of the Sermon on the Mount One of the key themes in Ding’s theology is ‘love’, so it is no surprise to see many of his sermons and speeches emphasize the need to love others. He often discusses the theme of love with direct references to the texts from the Gospel of John (Jn 3.16, ‘God so loved the world’) and the Epistles of John (1 Jn 4.16, ‘God is love’). There is no doubt that the

Gospel of John is his favourite biblical book, which also provides basic materials for his notion of the cosmic Christ who reveals God’s universal love to all people in the world.” It is quite possible that the factions and schisms of the church reflected in the Epistles of John present a comparable social context for Ding who, as leader of the Protestant Church in China, faces the challenges of dissidents from unregistered

house churches. For all his efforts to reconcile liberal and conservative Christians, and the Church with the society, it is surprising, however, that such sayings as ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged’ (Mt. 7.1) or the golden rule ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets’ (Mt. 7.12) have not been cited in his sermons or speeches more often.” A detail mentioned in passing in an opening address, entitled ‘Creation and Redemption’, at Nanjing Seminary (1955) proves significant in a reading of Ding’s theology.>? In the address, Ding began by saying that one should not separate believers from non-believers by saying believers are ‘born of God’ and non-believers are ‘created of God’. He cited several NT texts to emphasize that the same Christ is Lord of both creation and redemption. He further cited Rom. 8 to say that creation contains redemption, and the purpose of redemption is to fulfil God’s creation. For this reason, Christians should enlarge the scope of their concerns beyond personal salvation to include the well-being of all


John Y.H. Yieh

creation. Having seen so many suffering people in the Third World, Chinese Christians should offer a moral message to the world. Then, he lamented: ‘How much the Old Testament prophets lifted up social righteousness and social justice! [Yet] We seldom hear sermons preached today on the Old Testament prophets or on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Christianity has become an immoral, amoral religion.’° Following this outburst, Ding exhorted the graduates first to unite all those around them before styling themselves as local prophets trying to solve all problems. The most important thing he wanted them to remember is that the Gospel of Christ is not merely one of personal blessing. The Church should announce a moral message, a message of service to people. In Ding’s view, the Sermon on the Mount has not been widely preached and its moral message has largely been ignored. We may wonder why this would be so, but since no extended interpretation of the Sermon by Ding has been found, we cannot comment in terms of hermeneutical analysis. Conclusion

We have seen three influential Chinese leaders reading the Sermon on the Mount for very different purposes. They each come to the text with different views on its nature and authority, and use it to construct different sets of arguments. Their remarkable differences in hermeneutical presupposition reveal contending views of biblical authority, echoing debates between the modernists and the conservatives in the USA in the 1920s. Wu Leichuan saw the Bible as a historical document that needed to be studied critically with scientific knowledge and reason. Wang Mingdao honoured it as the inspired Word of God that only bornagain Christians with the help of the Holy Spirit can truly understand. Ding Guangxun held similar liberal views to those of Wu. Their differences in appropriation further reveal opposing views on human nature, society and christology. Wu, following traditional Confucian scholarship, believed that renge can be transformed, and society can be reformed. For him, Jesus was a wise sage holding the key to the right teaching. Wang drew attention rather to the depth of human sinfulness and social corruption. For him, Jesus was the redeemer who alone could

give us new life. Holding a much more positive view of human nature, Ding placed his hope on the Cosmic Christ whose love may move people to embrace each other across lines of division. Among the three, Wu Leichuan’s proposal to use the Sermon on the Mount as a social programme to rebuild the moral culture of China, in which Christians were an absolute minority, was particularly remarkable. In the history of interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount in the Christian West, the general tendency has been to read Jesus’ teachings as rules for individual morality and guidelines for ethics of motivation, and the debates often fall on the soteriological question of works and righteousness versus faith and grace. Aquinas, for instance, interpreted the Sermon as ‘precepts’ for all believers to obey, with some ‘evangelical

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


counsels’ for the pious few seeking spiritual perfection. Luther argued that the Sermon, with its high standards, really functioned to make the

readers realize their deficiency and thereby compel them to creep to the feet of Christ for grace. Anabaptists tried to live literally by the Sermon as the new law of Christ, but they did so voluntarily as personal commitment. In comparison, Wu’s proposal to use the Sermon as a social programme for the new China stands out as bold and confident for a Christian leader facing anti-Christian movements on college campuses. There might be several reasons why he thought so highly of the Sermon, but



it seems

to me,


his strong


of social

responsibility as a Chinese educator and his deep belief in the power of moral teaching to reform society, both of which have long been valued in the Chinese intellectual tradition. The sharp differences among the three leaders and their readings indicate not only the vast diversity of theological views within Chinese churches but also the enormous riches and universal appeal of the Sermon on the Mount. As a theological and moral text, it challenges all believers in all times to respond to Jesus and his radical teachings, and it has garnered as many interpretations in China as it has in the West.*° In these three Chinese readings as well as in many others across cultures, the reader’s hermeneutical presuppositions, theological convictions and social or pastoral concerns are always woven together as an interpretive web on which his or her peculiar interpretation of the Sermon is sustained and makes sense. To state the evident: every interpretation is culture-specific and universal at the same time. Some similarities in the three Chinese Christian leaders’ reading strategies and interpretive goals also deserve a brief comment. All three of them take seriously the plain sense of the text and try to apply Jesus’ teachings literally and analogically to their contemporary life-settings. All three seek to instruct their readers and benefit the society, reading the Sermon on the Mount pragmatically as a programme for social reform, a guide for spiritual life or a call to Christian witness. Most significantly, even as they differ greatly in their theological views of biblical authority, human nature and Jesus’ identity, they share a similar assumption, taking the formation of moral character as the necessary basis for a new life that will enable Christians to rebuild the society that is morally bankrupt, to be the light of the world to reveal the darkness of sin, and to share the love of God generously with everyone else. In other words, they treat the Sermon on the Mount first and foremost as a morality text and take it for granted that character formation of the reader is the very final goal of their biblical interpretation. This shared concern for ‘character-formation’ is typical, if not unique, of Chinese intellectual tradition, especially in the educational programme of Confucianism. So, is the ultimate concern for character-formation one of the characteristics of ‘Chinese’ hermeneutics that we hope to identify in this study? It is certainly a hermeneutic tendenz evident in the three otherwise very different readings of the Sermon on the Mount. To determine whether or not it is a distinctive feature of ‘Chinese’ hermeneutics, however, more

representative samples of Chinese readings need to be studied and some


John Y.H. Yieh

critical comparisons with Western readings need to be made. This brief study of three Chinese readings of the Sermon on the Mount is merely a

first trial, and serves

simply as a pointer of what a large-scale

comparative project might yield for the quest for ‘Chinese’ biblical hermeneutics. Moreover, our study of the readings of the Sermon on the Mount by

Wu, Wang and Ding offers a glimpse into the vibrant life of the Chinese

churches in times of national turmoil and social change. The Bible played a critical role in the Chinese Christians’ varied efforts to express their faith, define their relationship with others and make their contribution to society. We also discover an interesting trajectory of this important biblical text as it was used in twentieth-century China. Earlier in the century (the 1930s), the Sermon on the Mount was highly prized as the best synopsis of Jesus’ idea of the Kingdom of heaven by elite scholars such as Wu Leichuan and Wu Yaozong, who used it to present their programmes for reforming Chinese society. In the 1950s it was cautiously interpreted as a call to discipleship, for believers to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world, by the conservative preacher Wang Mingdao, who urged his followers to imitate Jesus in their lives so that their good behaviour might reveal God’s love and expose human sin. Finally, in the 1980s, it was largely ignored, even though Ding Guangxun thought the Sermon ought to be preached more often to give the broken world an opportunity to hear a badly needed Christian moral message of love. Why did the interest in the Sermon on the Mount gradually decline and wane among Chinese interpreters during the twentieth century? This trajectory may reflect a change of general ethos in Chinese society. During the course of the twentieth century Chinese attitudes towards moral tradition have changed fundamentally. Earlier in the century, even as the new republic attempted to modernize itself by importing Western science and social systems, some intellectual elites continued to argue for the usefulness of traditional culture at least for cultivating moral character. Thus Wu Leichuan advocated renge jiuguo (saving the nation through character). When so many government officials and community leaders, educated in traditional culture, proved to be stunningly incapable and easily corrupted, many people became disillusioned

with moral values, the core curriculum

in traditional Confucianism.

Training in reason and science became more important than studies in moral texts. When lijiao chiren (moral propriety eats people) became a popular slogan, it was evident that ordinary people were disgusted by the hypocrisy of moral education and its inability to produce good character or good people. Throughout the Cultural Revolution (1967-77), the Red Guards deliberately destroyed any respect that might remain for moral values in the traditional culture. When China reopened its door to the West in the reform era of the 1980s, it took a revised socialist direction

and looked towards economic prosperity. Moral formation was no longer

an issue. As such, there seems to be a correlation between the decline of

interest in the Sermon on the Mount as a moral text and the demise of the social respect for moral discourse in the China of the twentieth century.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


Secondly, the decline of interest in the Sermon may also be a result of the fierce theological debates waged between progressive and conservative factions on human ability to achieve moral standards. It is interesting to note that in the face of corruption and brutality that jeopardized national interests, liberal theologians remained relatively optimistic about human ability to improve character and reform society. They believed that people could be made good if they were enlightened by Jesus’ wisdom. So they were attracted to the moral ideals in the Sermon on the Mount and read it as a road-map to social reform. On the contrary, conservative preachers held a very negative view of human nature. They saw how, in reality, selfishness, greed and violence were hurting human lives and creating distrust, anxiety and fear in society. The only hope for a better life was to be born again, transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As for the immoral society where evil reigns, it can only wait for doom at the final judgement. So, Wang Mingdao did not invest as high a value in the Sermon as did Wu Leichuan. Ding Guangxun shared the liberal view of human potentiality, but having seen the destruction caused by the extreme ‘Leftists’ during the Cultural Revolution, overlooked the possible impact of the Sermon and turned his attention to emphasize the all-encompassing love of God. Finally, the decline of interest in the Sermon on the Mount may also reflect a paradigm shift in the dominant view of christology. For Wu Leichuan, Jesus was a ‘social reformer’, so the epitome of his teaching on the Kingdom of heaven in the Sermon was treasured as the most important blueprint for an ideal society where all people are brothers (sihai zinei jie xiongdi) and economic equality (datong junfu) is ensured. For Wang Mingdao, Jesus was a ‘divine redeemer’ who came to reveal God’s love and confront evil as light dispels darkness, so the Sermon calls true followers to imitate Jesus and glorify God. But a lot more in the Bible should be studied, such as salvation, justification, sanctification and eternal life. Thus, the Sermon became one of the many important texts to

study. For Ding Guangxun, Jesus was a ‘cosmic Christ’ whose revelation of love may bring reconciliation between people across classes and religions. The Sermon on the Mount does reveal Jesus’ moral vision, but it is his selfless love, not his ethical mandate, that is the focus for Ding. Thus, it seems, as the Chinese understanding of christology moves from

a lower perspective to a higher one, and from an emphasis on humanity to divinity, the Sermon on the Mount receives increasingly less attention. Notes 1. Two recent scholarly monographs dealing with a wide range of hermeneutical issues in Buddhism and Confucianism are also very helpful: Donald Lopez, Jr (ed.) Buddhist Hermeneutics (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 1988); J. Henderson, Scripture, Canon,

and Commentary: A Comparison of Confucian and Western Exegesis (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991). In both books, general hermeneutical assumptions and specific hermeneutical strategies used in those two religious and scriptural traditions are well discussed.


John Y.H. Yieh

22 David Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1975), p. 15. S: Zha Shijie, Minguo jidujiaoshi lunwenji [Essays on the History of Christianity in the Republic Period] (Taipei: Cosmic Light, 1994). Fuk-tsang Ying, Jidu xinyang yu jiuguo shijian — ershi shiji qiangi de gean yanjiu [Christian Doctrine and the Praxis of National Salvation: A Case-Study of the First Half of 20th Century China] (Hong Kong: Alliance Bible Seminary, 1997). . Tse-tsung Chow, The May Fourth Movement: Intellectual Revolution in Modern China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960), pp. 84-116. J.W. Israel, Student Nationalism in China, 1927-1937 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966). . Ka-che Yip, Religion, Nationalism, and Chinese Students: The Anti-Christian Movement of

1922-1927 (Bellingham, WA: University of Washington Press, 1980). . Wing-hung Lam, Fengchaozhong fengi de zhongguo jiaohui [Chinese Theology in Construction] (Hong Kong: Tian Dao, 1980), pp. 154-66. . Hu Shih, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo’ [Christianity and China], Life Monthly, 2 (March 1922); 7: 3-4. D.W.Y. Kwok, Scientism in Chinese Thought, 1900-1950 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1965). Yu-ming Shaw, ‘The Reaction of Chinese Intellectuals toward

Religion and Christianity in the Early Twentieth Century’, in J.D. Whitehead (ed.), China and Christianity: Historical and Future Encounters (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), pp. 154-82.

- Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua [Christianity and Chinese Culture] (Shanghai: Youth Association, 1936), pp. 82-98. . Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua, pp. 56-9. - Wu Leichuan, ‘Lun zhongguo jidu jiaohui de giantu’ [On the Future of Chinese Christian











Interpretation: History and Issues’, in Mary Foskett and Jeffrey Kuan (eds), Ways of Being, Ways of Reading: Asian American Biblical Interpretation (St Louis, MD: Chalice, 2006), pp. 23-4. lulls Wu Leichuan, ‘Jidutu de xiwang’ [The Hope of Christians] (Shanghai: Youth Association,





1940), pp. 12-15. See also Tsai Yen-zen, ‘Jingdian quanshi yu wenhua huitong’ [Scriptural Interpretation and Cultural Exchange], in Papers for an International Conference on Religious Scripture and Interpretation (Taipei: Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at National Chengchi University, 2000), pp. 180-200, esp. p. 7. Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua, p. 292. John Yieh, ‘Cultural Reading of the Bible: Some Chinese Christian Cases’, in Daniel Smith-Christopher (ed.), Text and Experience: Toward a Cultural Exegesis of the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), p. 135. The same assumption can be found in many other Christian scholars of the time. It may be called the ‘Zeitgeist’ of that generation when the deeprooted Confucian tradition and the strong desire to reform the society still resided in Chinese scholars. Tsai, ‘Jingdian quanshi yu wenhua huitong’, p. 18. Fuk-tsang Ying, Jidu xinyang yu jiuguo shijian, pp- 399-412. Noteworthy is that his view was close to the historical-critical approach of D.F. Strauss, Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf von Harnack and the demythologization of Rudolf Bultmann, popular in the Western scholarly circles shortly before Wu’s time. Wu Leichuan, ‘Tienguo shi shenme?’ [‘What is the Kingdom of Heaven?’] (Part Iand II), Truth Weekly, 3.9 (1925): 11. Yieh, ‘Cultural Reading of the Bible’, pp. 130-6. Shanghai: Qingnian xiehui, 1936.

16. ae Shanghai: Qingnian xiehui, 1940. 18. Shanghai: Qingnian xiehui, 1940. 19: Wu Leichuan, ‘Zhudaowen yanci’, in Zhenli zhoukan [Truth Weekly], 1.37 (1923), 1.38

(1923), 1.40 (1923); 1.41 (1924); 1.46 (1924); 1.47 (1924).

Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China


. Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua (pp. 62-5), Jidutu de xiwang (pp. 30-8) and Modi yu Yesu (pp. 126-8). . Wu Leichuan, Jidutu de xiwang, p. 31.

. See James C. Livingston, Modern Christian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Vatican II (London and New York: Macmillan, 1971), pp. 262-8. . Wu Yaozong, ‘Preface’ to Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua, p. 5. . Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua, pp. 70-2; Modi yu Yesu, pp. 294, 324. . Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua, p. 75. . Wu Leichuan, Jidujiao yu Zhongguo wenhua, pp. 290-2. . Analects, Book IV, Le Jin, Ch. 15.

. Karl Barth, ‘The Preface to the Second Edition’ and ‘The Preface to the Third Edition’, The Epistle to the Romans, trans. from 6th edn by Edwyn C. Hoskyns (London: Oxford University Press, 1933), pp. 2-21. 29: Five examples of contextualization in twentieth-century China are analysed in Ng Lee Ming, Jidujiao yu zhongguo shehui biangian [Christianity and Social Changes in China] (Hong Kong: Chinese Christian Literature Council, 1981). . Wing-hung Lam, Wang Mingdao yu zhongguo fiaohui [Wang Mingdao and the Chinese Church] (Hong Kong: China Graduate School of Theology, 1982); Wing-hung Lam, Shuling shenxue: Ni Tuo-shen sixiang de yianjiu [The Spiritual Theology of Watchman Nee] (Hong Kong: China Graduate School of Theology, 1985). SE A modernist professor at Union Seminary, New York in the 1920s, whose works were translated into Chinese and published by The Association of Press in China through Wu Yaozong who had studied at Union for three years. . Wang Mingdao, ‘Zhenli ne? Dusu ne?’ [Truth? Poison?] (1954) and ‘Women shi weile xinyang’ [We are for the Faith] (1955), Wushi nian lai [The Fifty Years] 11th edn (Hong Kong: Bellman House, 1996), pp. 1-23; 24-66.

. Wang Mingdao, ‘Zhenli ne? Dusu ne?’, pp. 7, 8. . Wang Mingdao, Yesu shi shei? [Who is Jesus?] (Hong Kong: Hongdao, 1927; repr. 1962),

pp. 3-4.

. Wang Mingdao, Ren nen jianshe tianguo ma? [Can Man Build the Kingdom of Heaven?] (Hong Kong: Hongdao, 1933; repr. 1962), pp. 9-12. . Wang Mingdao, ‘Wo weshenmo xin shengjing shi shen suo moshi de?’ [Why Do I Believe the Bible is Divinely Inspired?] in Wang Mingdao wenku [Treasuries of Wang Ming Tao] (Taichung: Conservative Baptist, 1977), Vol. 7, pp. 163-218. . Wang Mingdao, Wushi nian lai [The Fifty Years], p. 71. . Wu Yaozong, Heian yu guangmin [Darkness and Light], p. 76. . Wang Mingdao, “Xiixin de ren youfu le’ [Blessed are the poor in spirit], in Wang Mingdao wenku, Vol. 3, pp. 138-42; ‘Wei yi shoubipo de ren youfu le’ [Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness], in Wang Mingdao wenku, Vol. 4, pp. 202-10. . Wang Mingdao, ‘Rongyao shen de jidutu’ [Christians who glorify God], in Wang Mingdao wenku, Vol. 3, pp. 25-30. 41. Wang Mingdao, Women de zhu [Our Lord] (Hong Kong: China Alliance, 1961), pp. 105-10. . Wang Mingdao, Women de zhu, p. 107.

43. . 45. 46.

Wang Mingdao wenku, Vol. 3, pp. 138-42. Wang Mingdao wenku, Vol. 4, pp. 202-10. Wang Mingdao wenku, Vol. 4, p. 208. Ka-lun Leung, ‘Huaren jiyaozhuyi jidutu de lingyi jiejing’ [The Spiritual Exegesis of Chinese Fundamentalist Christians], in Chaogian yu luohou: bentu shijing yu shenxue yanjiu [Far Ahead and Lagging Behind: Studies in Contextual Hermeneutics and Theology] (Hong Kong: Alliance Bible Seminary, 2003), pp. 1-58.


John Y.H. Yieh

47. Talk by Ji Jian-hong, chair of the Committee of Three Self Patriotic Movement, in Hong Kong, published in Shidai luntan [Times Tribune], 796, 1 December 2002).

48. His sermons and writings can be found in Tianfeng and Nanjing Theological Journal. See, e.g. Ting Kuang-hsun, Ding Guangxun wenji [Writings of Ting Kuang-hsun] (Nanjing: Yi Lin, 1998), pp. 32, 108, 214. 49. Ting Kuang-hsun, How to Study the Bible (Hong Kong: Tao Fong Shan Ecumenical Centre, 1981); Ting Kuang-hsun, ‘Zai zhongguo wei jidu zuojianzhen’ [To Testify for Christ in China], Union Theological Journal, 1 (1984): 11-17; Ting Kuang-hsun, ‘Guanyu woguo de shenxue jiaoyu — wei yichi huiyi zhunbei de fayen’ [On Theological Education in my Country — a prepared paper for a conference], Union Theological Journal, 1 (1984): 46-9. 50. Ting Kuang-hsun, ‘The Cosmic Christ: Address to Friends of the Church in China, England, 1991’, in Janice and Philip Wickeri (eds),


Se 53 .


A Chinese Contribution to Ecumenical

Theology: Selected Writings of Bishop K.H. Ting (Geneva: WCC, 2002), pp. 91-101. I have yet to find whether he has commented on the famous verse on loving enemies in Mt. 5.44 (‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’) in his discussion of loving others, including opponents to the Church. Janice and Philip Wickeri (eds), A Chinese Contribution to Ecumenical Theology, pp. 101-6. Janice and Philip Wickeri (eds), A Chinese Contribution to Ecumenical Theology, p. 105. John Yieh, Making Sense of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: Grove, 2007), pp. 11-14. Warren S. Kissinger, The Sermon on the Mount: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography (Metuchen, NJ.: Scarecrow, 1975); Ursula Berner, Die Bergpredigt: Rezeption und Auslegung im 20. Jahrhundert (Géttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979); Robert A. Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding (Waco, TX: Word, 1982), pp. 14-23; Daniel Tin Wo Chow, Shanshang baoxun de yanjiu [Study of the Sermon on the Mount] (Hong Kong: Daosheng, 1984).

10 Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue: A Case-Study of Cross-Textual Reading Tian Haihua



of the





in the

Confucian context of the late Ming and early Qing period serves as a good example of cross-textual reading. As an interpretive method, crosstextual reading, as developed by Archie C.C. Lee, is based within an Asian context of rich and multi-religious texts and cultural traditions, by which Asian peoples have been continuously nourished and nurtured, and on which Asian spirituality and religiosity have largely depended. Asian Christians have to be reminded constantly that they have two texts: the Asian text (text A) inherited from their own Asian cultural—

religious traditions, and the biblical text (text B) received from JudaeoChristian communities. Cross-textual reading entails reading one text in terms of a second text and ‘crossing’ from one to the other with a view to grasping the broader meaning of the two texts. Through this process, creative integration, or enriched transformation of the two is achieved.

The Confucian converts had to engage with alien Christian texts as well as the native Chinese classics in seeking to integrate the familiar Confucian classics (text A) with the Decalogue (text B). How did these Chinese converts appropriate the Decalogue in Confucian terms which

were different from the understandings of the Jesuits who converted them? Based on textual evidence of the Decalogue by both Jesuits and Confucian


this essay will not only illustrate


reading as a methodology, but will also contribute to the understanding of the history of Christianity in a specific cultural context. The essay examines some catechetical writings on the Decalogue, showing textual practice and identity-making in the process of interpretation, and delineates the impact of the sixth commandment on Chinese Christians and traditional Chinese morality. It further shows how Confucian Catholics negotiate, or even transform, traditional Chinese ethical norms. The essay demonstrates that cross-textual reading involves both inculturation and acculturation, and presents the argument that, in the particular context of Chinese culture, Confucian readers adopt a different hermeneutic position on the Decalogue and thus appreciate its significance in a different way.



Tian Haihua

1. Introduction to the Decalogue: the writings of early Jesuits Towards the end of the Ming dynasty, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610)

initiated a new Christian era in China. He entered into, and attained, a deep and comprehensive communication with Chinese traditional culture. At that time, the Jesuits faced a society with a strong and



of textual


classical exegesis.



however, a curious absence of translations of the Bible. The Jesuits did

not set out to translate or commentate on the Bible, and consequently there was no Catholic version of the Bible in Chinese. The first full Catholic translation of the Bible was printed only in 1953, while several Protestant translations had been available since the nineteenth century. However, this does not mean the absence of translation of passages from

the Bible. On the contrary, the Jesuits wrote numerous articles on Christian doctrines, moral teachings, liturgy and the life-story of Jesus Christ. As Nicolas Standaert writes, Proselytizing by means of books, the Apostalat der Presse, formed an integral part of the Jesuits’ missionary policy in China. Through the printing of books, the Jesuits hoped to attain a much broader public than was possible by oral evangelization. Moreover, this method suited the stress on the preaching of the evangelical message to the intellectual elite.* The Jesuits believed that to convert to Christianity meant not only to be baptized but also to receive a copy of the text (shoujing, 52) at the altar during a ceremony.” The various texts written for catechumen or transmitted by them are mostly catechetical writings, which focus on the interpretation and understanding of basic doctrines.” Among such catechetical literature, Tianzhu jiaoyao [Catholic Doctrine] is a typical example, the earliest Roman Catholic catechism to be translated into Chinese, published by Matteo Ricci in early 1605.° As Standaert notes, Tianzhu jiaoyao exerted a continuous influence, becoming ‘the basis for catechetical literature during the seventeenth century and beyond (even during the nineteenth century). It is remarkable that the formulation_of the texts included in these writings changed little over the time.’” The Decalogue is an important topic of catechetical writings. This essay explores seven catechetical writings of the Jesuits, and discusses how they introduced the Decalogue in Chinese. These seven writings are: the Single Page on the Commandments [Zuchuan tianzhu shijie];> the Doctrine [Tianzhu shilu];? the Solid Doctrine [Tianzhu shengjiao shilu];‘° Catholic

Doctrine [Tianzhu jiaoyao];"* Short Doctrine [Tianzhu shengjiao yueyan];'? the

Doctrina [Shengjing yuelu];'* and the Complete Doctrine [Jiaoyao jielue].\4 The translations of the first four commandments are as below:

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue First Commandment




Solid Doctrine



Catholic Doctrine Short Doctrine Doctrina


Second Commandment

DW aR FM ihe a. BOY BARE FM ihe A



URE A i Hehte




FEUER 4% Miae ie FEUER Z i axe5 ihe


HIP RE A Miae5 ie

Complete Doctrine

Third Commandment

Single Page

Fourth Commandment



Solid Doctrine


ByEB be

Catholic Doctrine







Short Doctrine Doctrina


Complete Doctrine

If we analyse the expression of form and language in the Decalogue, Catholic Doctrine, Short Doctrine, the Doctrina and the Complete Doctrine

have the same fixed wording and form, and are almost identical with the early version of the Decalogue used by Chinese Catholics. We can see that Catholic Doctrine (1605) became the model for rendering the Decalogue into Chinese, influencing the later Jesuits and even other Catholic societies in their interpretation. The first three texts, the Single Page, the Doctrine and the Solid Doctrine, were all related to Michele


Tian Haihua

Ruggieri (1543-1607). These three can be seen as the earliest texts on the Decalogue with consistent expression in the late Ming, and are different from the later four in word usage and writing format, showing that during the new encounter of the Decalogue with the Chinese culture under the Jesuits, ambiguity was introduced, and a process of change initiated in the translation of terms. The first draft of the Doctrine was completed in 1581, based on a Latin

text. Many manuscripts were distributed while the text underwent corrections. Ricci also collaborated on the correction of this text, and the final edition (1584) was called Xinbian tianzhu shilu [New edition of the Doctrine].'° Here, I take the Doctrine to be the original edition, and the Solid Doctrine as the second edition. In their chapters dealing with the

Decalogue, both texts seem more concerned about the method of promulgation. The Doctrine asserts that ‘The bonze says: Catholic teaching comprises two things’, namely to love God and neighbour.’® The Solid Doctrine [Tianzhu shengjiao shilu] meanwhile states: ‘A true

Catholic has to know two things ... ’’” one of many instances in which

references to Buddhism have been removed. The move away from Buddhist nomenclature began in 1592, after the missionaries discovered the downside of referring to themselves as bonzes.’® In the original edition of the Doctrine, Ruggieri declares himself a

‘bonze from India’ (tianzhuguo seng, RK“ Bd {#). Tianzhuguo is a term used

by the Chinese to indicate any country west of China, mainly India and sometimes including Europe; seng means bonze. In rendering the first commandment, the character wei ({iZ) is omitted in the second edition for

fear that its presence might obscure or even negate the concept of the

Trinity (sanwei yiti, ={1—#8). The original edition uses jie #K (to guard against, or a commandment

in Buddhism) to express negative com-

mandments, whereas in the second edition, all negative commandments

begin with the same character # (wu, you shall not), which is prohibitory but does not have overt Buddhist overtones. This usage continues to the Decalogue in the modern Catholic Bible. The 1581 Doctrine says: ‘On the Sabbath day, you shall not do any work, you shall go to a temple to recite

the Bible, and worship the Lord’ calling the Sabbath day libai zhi ri(#8F¥

A), ‘day of worship’, whereas the second edition revises it to zhanli zhi

ri (B#E-Z H), ‘day of reverence’; the original edition translates the sacred

place as si (=, temple), whereas the second edition corrects it to tianzhutang (K+, Hall of the Lord of heaven, or Catholic church). In

the fourth commandment, the original edition adopts the term xiaojing (44M, filial piety), while ai (#, love) is used in the second edition, later

thought to be inappropriate and revised back to filial piety. Although these differences are not substantial, the terminology of the second edition is more succinct.'? What can be seen is something of the problematic which faced the Jesuits in compiling new editions of catechisms incorporating biblical texts, and a gradual sinicization of terms,



of terms





Chinese-Catholic. The use of Buddhist terms evidently reflects the context of the time. The early Jesuits’ introduction to the Decalogue went through a historical process of change, which was also a process of self-

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


definition, a continuous probing of the most appropriate way to express biblical terms. Both the epilogue and prologue of Ruggieri’s The Simple Page treat first the method of promulgation of the commandments, and then the retribution for observing or betraying the Decalogue, whether heaven or hell.” The expression of retribution constitutes the essential part of the Decalogue in Chinese, and is present either in the epilogue (the Short Doctrine, Catholic Doctrine and the Doctrina) or in the prologue (the Complete Doctrine). Its basic form differs only slightly. The division of the Decalogue and the number of commandments on each tablet is absent from the Single Page, but discussed in all other catechisms. For example, the Doctrine says there are three commandments in the first tablet, which all declare that you should love the Lord, while in the second tablet, there are seven commandments, which all state that you should be in harmony with people.”" The most detailed and distinctive interpretation made by the Jesuits is seen in the text The Ten Commandments [Tiazhu shengjiao shijie zhiquan], written by Emmanuel Diaz Jr (Yang Manuo, 1574-1659).”” Its literary style is difficult and obscure, fitting for a literati audience.’ This work comprises two volumes, which discuss the first three commandments and the last seven commandments separately, with prefaces by Dong Guogqi and Zhu Zongyuan. In the table of contents, Emmanuel Diaz Jr claims that ‘The Decalogue is the commandment of natural teaching’, meaning that the Decalogue was promulgated to human beings in ancient times, and so had universal validity.

2. Identity reconstruction: Confucian Catholics’ interpretation of the Decalogue During the late Ming and early Qing period, the meeting between Christianity and Chinese culture produced a series of dialogues. If ‘understanding is present in a creative dialogue’,™ then mutual understanding can overcome barriers in cultural communication. A dialogue always takes place between two (or more) partners, and is never onesided. In the past four decades, scholarship about dialogue between Catholic and Chinese cultures during the Ming and Qing period has mainly focused on the study of the texts and activities of the missionaries, exploring the presentation of Western culture by the missionaries and their acculturation to Chinese culture, based on Western perspectives. Comparatively little attention has been paid to Chinese converts and their responses. This situation began to change with a paradigm shift at the beginning of the 1960s. Standaert speaks of the transformation in the field, First, there has been a paradigm-shift which consists in a change from a mainly missiological and Eurocentric to a sinological and Sinocentric approach, characterized by the use of Chinese texts as primary sources for research and thus taking the Chinese actors as


Tian Haihua

primary subjects. Second, there has been an important shift downward: attention is moving from the converts belonging to Chinese elite or the missionaries who worked at the court to the common Christians in the provinces and the itinerant missionaries who were engaged in pastoral work. Third, because of the

intercultural and interdisciplinary character of this field of research, there is a growing interest in questioning basic notions, which are at the very foundation of these studies.”°

A focus on the Chinese reception of Christianity represents a clear shift.7” As noted above, when Chinese converted, they had to accept Christian texts. However, this kind of acceptance did not mean that they simply gave up their own Confucianist, Buddhist and Daoist texts. These texts and traditions constituted part of their life, constantly nourishing them. Chinese Christians embraced the two textual traditions in their possession, the Chinese classics (text A) and the Christian texts (text B). The two

texts met at the conjunction of religious conversion experienced by Chinese Christians. How did they move between two texts, canons and traditions? And how did they integrate and transform them? The process has been summed up as one of acculturation, but this is surely not the right term: inculturation from the perspective of the local context is perhaps more appropriate.”® Besides their textual heritage, Chinese Christians also possess a dual identity, the identity of traditional Chinese culture, and their Christian identity. Text is one important part in the formation of identity, and in the experiences of introspection and identity struggle that Chinese Christians have undergone. As Archie Lee writes, ‘Chinese converts tried

to express their cultural and religious identity through their interpretive writings on a particular text. Through these they configured and refigured their own identity in their continuing appropriation of their own

cultural-religious resources.’”” In this next section, I explore the

connection between textural practice and identity-making in terms of reading and interpreting the Decalogue. In Xixue shijie chujie xu [Simple preface on the Western Decalogue] composed in 1624, Ye Xianggao (1559-1627), a sympathizer of late Ming Christianity, stated that Yang Tingyun (1562-1627) had written a commentary on the Decalogue.*” Ye Xianggao’s preface has been preserved in his collection Cangxia yucao. He writes:

Merely to say that the Lord of heaven descended and was born, and his Kingdom is close at hand, is strange. In the birth of sages and worthies, each has his place, from the minor ones who are kind to others, who must be ranked with the mountains and stars, to the

great ones who control creation and who instituted a great peace

which endured for ten thousand generations, such as Yao, Shun and Confucius. If they had not been sent down and given life by God, how could they have had so much power? And since they were born in the East, how do we know they could not have been born in the West???

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


It is interesting that this quotation is revised in another context. This preface was added to the Fujian reprint of Alfonso Vagnone’s (1568Jesuit reprint, Vagnone quotes this preface and redacts it as follows: Only the chapter on the Master of heaven who descended and was

born seemed at first odd. The birth of sages and worthies all have their origin. The minor ones who are kind to others must be chosen and given in silence. How much more are the major ones, who dominate over creation and bring great peace to ten thousand generations, such as the one who is called Master of heaven? The fact that He descended and was born to save the world seems strange, but is real. How could there be any suspicion of it?%”

The differences between the two quotations are very clear, reflecting the fact that Confucian Catholics and Jesuits stood on different ground over how to introduce and interpret the Decalogue. The opinion of Ye Xianggao has been revised completely. As a well-known important official, Ye Xianggao’s preface was used by the Jesuits to enforce their

mission, and was changed to represent their own intentions.” Yang

Tingyun’s commentary on the Decalogue was never published, probably because Niccol6 Longobardo (1565-1655) vigorously opposed this commentary. Ye Xianggao questioned the doctrine of incarnation, interpreting it differently. He argues that as Jesus Christ was in Europe, Confucius, and other Chinese sages, were born of God. He puts Jesus Christ on a level with Yao, Shun and Confucius, and interprets Christianity through his own cultural tradition. Interpreting Christian faith selectively in terms of local Chinese culture became an important facet of Chinese Christians reconstructing their own identity. As Archie Lee states: ‘Identities are largely constructed by the various means of imaging/re-imaging through the powerful act of interpretation and the

process of textualizing.’““

When Confucian Catholics considered the first and fourth commandments they created a new word da fumu (KX, the Great Parent or Great Father and Mother), a word embedded deeply in the Chinese cultural milieu and one which came to play an important role in the inculturation process of Christianity in China. They held Tianzhu to be the creator of all things. Tianzhu is precisely the same as the ancient Chinese expression, Shangdi or Tian, in the Confucian classics The Book of Documents (Shangshu) and the Book of Odes (Shijing), where it states that ‘heaven gives birth to human beings’ (tian sheng ren).°> This was to be the source of later controversy among Protestant translators, concerning the question of whether or not the ancient Chinese had a sense of one supreme, omnipotent deity. Han Lin, a scholar baptized around 1620, comments on heaven (tian)

as ‘our Great Parent’ in reflecting on the commandment to honour your father and mother:** We should know heaven is our Great Parent. The Book of Odes says ‘Vast heaven on high, this is called our Father and Mother!’ This is


Tian Haihua

not referring to the blue heavens. Above there is a controlling force, who produced heaven, earth, the spirits, humankind and living things: this is the God whose name was passed on in the Five classics, in the time of the three dynasties of Tang and Yu.” Han Lin Christianized the Shangdi (Lord) or tian (heaven) of the ancient

classics, and referred to the highest one as God in Christian texts. He transformed the term tianfu (Heavenly Father) of Christianity into the

term da fumu of Confucian patriarchy, to render it more acceptable to Chinese. Another Confucian Catholic, Wang Zheng (1571-1644), in discussing the concept of da fumu, claimed that Tianzhu (Lord of heaven)

was our ‘original true parent’ (yuanchu zhen fumu, JAP).


Confucian thought, the term da fumu is based on the concept of yin

(female) and yang (male) elements. In Chinese, the term Father—Mother could also be used for individuals; regarding the universe as one’s parents created an ethical imperative to regard all humans as brothers and sisters.°? In both New


and Christian

doctrines, fu (Father) is a

metaphor about the image of God, endowed with masculine connotations. Michele Ruggieri follows this tradition in regarding Tianzhu as da fu, Great Father, in his The Doctrine.*° The Western image of God that is

presented as ‘Father’ is received and transformed by Chinese Christians, where the Chinese God becomes ‘Great Parent’, which reflects ‘how the

imported concept was expressed in a new way by the local church, with elements from Chinese anthropology and cosmology being integrated in the term’.*’ On the one hand, the human relation of child—parent is transposed into the supernatural relation between human being and God in terms of Chinese anthropology, expressed in the phrase ‘The Lord of heaven rears humans as fathers and mothers rear their children.” This reflects the important notion of the closeness of God with humankind;

and the term also connotes the principle of heaven and earth, which constitute the male and female elements of the myriad creatures. This notion can be found in Zhou Dunyi’s (1017-73) Taiji tushuo [Explanation of the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate], and further development of the universal Father and Mother is seen in Zhang Zai’s (1020-77) Ximing [Western Inscription]. Zhang Zai states that one should regard the universe in the way one regards one’s parents, and serve it in the same manner as one serves them. One should furthermore regard all people of the world as one’s own brothers and sisters, and all creatures as of one

kind.** Aside from Han Lin and Wang Zheng’s use of Great Father and Mother

to refer to the Christian

God, Confucian



Tingyun,“ Li Zhizao (1565-1630),4° Xia Dachang (Mathias Xia)** and

Zhu Yupu” also use it in the same way.

There is a close cooperation here between






missionaries with


and the


benefiting too. For instance, the missionaries’ Chinese writings show signs of having been enriched by the first fruits of the inculturation effected by the Chinese converts. Returning again to the example of terminology, after Michele Ruggieri, this typically Chinese expression of

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


God as Great Father and Mother can be found in various Jesuit works. Matteo Ricci, Giulio Aleni, Francesco Brancati, Diego de Pantoja,

Emmanuel Diaz Jr and Alfonso Vagnone all adopt this term to express

the Christian God.*

In the late Ming and early Qing, on the question of the division of the Decalogue, the Jesuits adhere to Roman Catholic tradition, namely eliding the commandment ‘you shall not worship idols’ with ‘you shall worship only one Lord (Tianzhu)’.*? Chinese culture is basically polytheistic in its religious outlook. Strenuous debates on the first commandment ensued between Chinese converts and the Jesuits. Aleni,

for example, argues that the first commandment is about worshipping only one Master, and therefore converts should not serve any image of gods

or Buddha,



be destroyed.°°



Christians had some reservations on the question of worshipping gods, influenced by ancestral cult traditions of Confucianism as well as the polytheistic notions of Buddhism, Daoism and Chinese popular religions. Matteo Ricci accepted ancestor worship as a social-moral rite, not a religion, and did not regard it as a violation of the first commandment. He argued that those performing ancestor worship are showing love and a grateful spirit towards their ancestors. Yang Tingyun likewise refers to the first and third commandments in his ‘Tianshi mingbian’.”’ Ricci’s approval for the veneration of ancestors was challenged by the Franciscan and Dominican missionaries as well as other Jesuits such as

Nicolas Longobardo who saw it as a superstitious practice.” In conclusion, the interpretation of the Decalogue by Chinese Christians differed from that of their Jesuit teachers, and these differ-

ences can be traced to their separate textual traditions. For Chinese Christians, their interpretation expressed their respect and enthusiasm for traditional Chinese culture, and they sometimes applied their own cultural traditions in questioning or criticizing Christianity. These attitudes were continuously present in the process of their interpreting and understanding the texts of Christianity. The act of interpreting is one way to reconstruct and reshape their identity, and struggle was inevitable. Chinese local culture influenced the ‘inculturation’ of Christianity in China. Throughout its history in China, it has remained hard to change the image of Christianity as a marginal religion, which reflects one aspect of a fundamental contradiction from which late Ming Christianity suffered. When seen in a Chinese perspective, Christianity was torn between two mutually opposing orientations: On the one hand, it consciously tried to associate itself with Confucianism, a rather rational doctrine, without revelation, with-

out the concept of a personalized God, without elaborate ideas

about life after death and the retribution of good and evil deeds, without priest, and without miracles; on the other hand, by its very

nature, by its salvation, and by its liturgical practices it was doomed to be drawn away from Confucianism and to be identified with

Buddhism and popular religion.”


Tian Haihua

3. Acculturation of the Decalogue into Chinese traditional morality In addition to the forces of inculturation which focus on the local culture,

there is also a corresponding acculturation, where Christianity has exerted influence on, and to some extent transformed, Chinese culture. In the late Ming and early Qing period, the most obvious acculturation of the Decalogue into Chinese traditional morality is seen in the sixth commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ This commandment challenges and affects the moral order of Chinese tradition; criticizing and transforming the custom of concubinage, and advocating monogamy. This was a new challenge to the practical reality of male domination and female subordination in Chinese culture. In the late Ming period, many ‘morality books’ emerged, reflecting the moral chaos caused by social turbulence and crisis. These books usually consist of two lists: one of good deeds for which one is awarded merit points, and one of bad deeds for which one earns demerit points. Different deeds correspond with different numbers of points, and a reader can calculate a final balance, which provides an indication of the degree of good or bad fortune in the future, and measure what progress is being made in morality.°° The social setting of morality books was similar to the textual context of the Jesuits at that time: the various

catechetical writings or texts about Christian ethics introduced and interpreted, with a large portion devoted to the Decalogue. Jesuits who arrived in China for the first time soon agreed that the practices of Buddhism and Daoism should be considered ‘false religions’. As

Standaert writes, ‘The first Jesuits, however, were so impressed by the

Confucian moral teachings that they had difficulty in calling them ‘false’, though they were unable to recognize them as fully “true’’. This Confucian morality was then to be supplemented with revealed Christian doctrine.’5¢ The contact between Christianity and Chinese culture is a complex phenomenon. The image of weaving is apt: it highlights the complexity of the diffusion, how borrowing is often like the interweaving of many different threads and fibres. An existing fibre (concubinage) is taken

away without replacement, while another fibre (monogamous marriage) is reinforced; a new thread is integrated, some Chinese Christians accept the moral but not the eschatological dimension of the Christian notions of heaven and hell.” The writings of the Jesuits are also selective, for instance, condemning the phenomenon of concubinage, which is seen as betrayal of the commandment on adultery. Concubinage was a major

practical issue among the literati, and the Jesuits were unwilling to

compromise on this. According to their rule, any man seeking baptism had to first get rid of his concubines, and there are a number of wellknown examples where this indeed happened. Since the sixth commandment directly challenged the family morality of the Confucian tradition, converts experienced great struggles in accepting it. The great Confucian philosopher of the third century BCE, Mencius,

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


says ‘The greatest of the three unfilial acts is to be without male heir.’*® Not producing a male heir was considered the gravest among the major offences against the core Confucian value of filial piety. This is why celibacy is criticized by many Chinese, since the line of ancestor worship can not be continued.°? According to Ming dynasty law, common people over 40 without a male heir should take a concubine, and if not, they

should be punished.© Literati who had passed the state civil service exams were persuaded to take a concubine in keeping with their new social status.61 There were three underlying reasons for this system: obedience to filial piety (the most important reason), manifestation of social status and fulfilment of sexual desire. Christian criticisms over concubinage were regarded as a threat to the existing social order and Confucian orthodoxy, and became an important source of anti-Christian resentment. Concubinage was widespread during the Ming and Qing, where it was held that the sage Shun had two spouses and King Wen had about 24 concubines. The Chinese were deeply offended to hear that Jesuits put these sages in hell because they had committed adultery. For instance, Huang Zhen from Zhangzhou writes of his argument with Aleni in a letter to the censor, Yan Maoyou, dated around 1639. Huang Zhen remonstrates that Aleni ‘slandered sages, his crime cannot be endured’, arguing that In their doctrine there is also the Decalogue, which says that if one takes a concubine when one has no son, one is violating a great commandment and will certainly go to hell. That comes down to saying that, of all our saintly sovereigns and enlightened kings throughout the entire history of China who had concubines, not one has escaped the hell of the Lord of heaven. So I put this question to him: ‘King Wen had many concubines. What do you make of that?’ Aleni sighed deeply for a long while and made no reply. The following day I put the same question to him. Once again, deep sighs and no answer. The next day, I questioned him again and said: ‘The matter must be discussed in depth and clarified. A great record of all the past should be set up and only then will people understand and be encouraged to rally to you, no longer harbouring any doubts.’ At this, Aleni sighed again for a long time and then said slowly: ‘I didn’t want to pronounce on this, but now I will.’ Then he sighed again for quite a while and solemnly announced: ‘I will tell you, my old brother, but I would not tell it to others: I am afraid I would have to say that even King Wen himself has been cast down into hell.’ Such a rebuttal originated in Jesuit attacks and criticisms. Alfonso Vagnone sharply criticized various evils which resulted from breaking the sixth commandment. He argued that ‘one male and one female are the right way’, and ‘there is no connection between filial piety and a male heir’.63 Diego de Pantoja stated that concubinage would bring trouble in the family,64 and ‘women are the source of disasters, so the more concubines, the more harm’.


Tian Haihua

In feudal China, for those who enjoyed political and social privilege, concubinage was a common phenomenon. As ‘three pillars of Christianity in China’ and officials at the court, Xu Guangqi (15621633), Li Zhizao and Yang Tingyun were no exception in this. All of them took, or wanted to take, concubines, owing to problems with a male heir. Christians with a concubine faced a difficult position because the Jesuits prohibited Chinese converts having more than one wife, and according to stipulations, those who wanted to be baptized must give up their concubines.” Xu Guangqi claimed that the hardest commandment to observe was the prohibition on taking concubines. In 1603 he planned to take a concubine to produce another male heir because he had only one son and no grandson. The Jesuit Jodo da Rocha (1565-1623) instructed

him patiently. After that, he changed his mind and got baptized.” Li Zhizao requested baptism in 1603. Because he had already taken a concubine, Matteo Ricci refused to baptize him until March 1610, when

he accepted monogamy by abandoning his concubine, getting baptized just before Matteo Ricci’s death. Yang Tingyun faced the same problem. He experienced internal struggles because at the same time as accepting the strict moral code of Christianity, he thought that giving up his concubine was against natural law, and violated the moral principle inherent in being a gentleman (junzi). After much deliberation, however, he overcame his misgivings and placed his concubine at a ‘separate dwelling’ and they no longer lived together.” Another famous case is that of Wang Zheng. In 1622, he passed his jinshi examination at the age of 52. At that time he had already been baptized, but as yet he had no son. When encouraged to take a concubine, he refused, saying he had been given grace from the Lord of heaven, Tianzhu, who helped him pass the examination, so he could not violate Tianzhu.”” Wang was highly praised by the missionaries for this. However, under pressure from his family he changed his mind and secretly took a 15-year-old concubine in order to produce a male heir and so extend his family prestige. In 1625 Wang Zheng confessed his sin to Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628), but was told that he could not be forgiven unless he got rid of his concubine. He considered letting his concubine marry another man, but she was extremely sad, and his legitimate wife urged her to stay, and the concubine promised to lead a life of chastity, swearing not to remarry. In this situation, Wang Zheng dragged out an ignoble existence.” By taking a concubine, Wang Zheng betrayed the commandment on committing adultery. As a result, Nicolas Trigault and other Jesuits refused to forgive him. In 1634 Wang Zheng started to live in seclusion to remedy the sin of concubinage. When he recalled how he discussed the Decalogue in his work On Fearing Heaven and Caring for Humans [Weitian

airen ji lun,

RAZA bhi], and Aleni’s praise in Diary of Oral

Admonitions [Kouduo richao] for his promise to avoid concubinage, he was thoroughly ashamed. When in 1636 he decided to dissociate with his concubine, he issued A Draft Confession Request [Qiqing jiezui gigao]. His moving public confession reads:

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


Once an evil thought sprang up in my mind, I could not observe commandments. After this, I realized the seriousness of my sin, so I confessed to missionaries, who all said: ‘Your sin is hard to remove

unless you can eradicate it!’ In consequence of that I felt remorseful for myself, and decided that my concubine should marry in order to atone for my crime. My wife wept and begged me to keep the concubine, and we nearly had a quarrel. The concubine too was so distressed that she expressed her wish to become a Christian and observe chastity. Throughout the whole night I reflected that I am nearly 70, and my behaviour is no better than that of a youth of 17. Furthermore, the Lord of heaven blessed me though hundreds of dangers. Even if I made strenuous efforts, and broke off all earthly things, how many contributions do I have to repay the Lord’s kindness? And why not part with my concubine? Indulging in the sea of desire speeds up grave punishment. Now, I promise before God that in the future I will treat the concubine as a friend, and if afterwards I again commit sin with her, the angels will be my witness that I am willing to pay the penalty of death. I prostrate myself and hope you missionaries will bestow compassion on me, and rid me of my previous sin. I am also praying wholeheartedly for absolution from the Lord of heaven. In 1644 Wang Zheng went down with the Ming dynasty. He starved himself to death in the tradition of Confucian moral integrity, and 35 years later, as an act of protest his concubine committed suicide on her 70th birthday. Wang Zheng dreaded punishment for his sin of concubinage, and his story, filled with personal struggle and suffering, ended tragically. From this tale, and those of Xu, Tang and Li, we can see

the conflict between the Decalogue and traditional morality in China, and the acculturation of the Decalogue into the Chinese social and moral order. These three ‘approached Christianity in different ways, with different needs and questions, but they each found in it a moral discipline based upon an external, universal source’.”* The moral notions of Christianity affected and changed their ways of life, and this was manifest in their attitudes to concubinage. In the sphere of moral practice, Christian culture did influence marriage practice in feudal China. Conclusion

In interpreting the Decalogue in the late Ming and early Qing context, the Jesuits and Confucian Christians seem to have adopted approaches that are not in accordance with each other, as seen in the language, form and content of their interpretations. The differences can be accounted for in terms of their adherence to different cultural traditions and their priorities of cultural identification. This essay has paid primary attention to and highlighted the Confucian Christians’ contribution to the hermeneutics of the Decalogue, particularly that of Han Lin and Wang


Zheng. It has focused

Tian Haihua

on the Confucian


to Chinese

Christianity, and how the Chinese reconstructed their identity in this hermeneutic process of cross-textual reading. At the same time, it explores how the Jesuit interpretation of the commandment not to commit adultery criticized the custom of keeping concubines among the Confucian officials and exerted a significant impact on Chinese traditional values. This study suggests that the formation of the hermeneutical tradition closely correlates to the interpreter’s cultural tradition and identification. The interaction between the Decalogue and traditional Chinese culture presents a complex and interwoven picture, in which one can see both resistance and reception, concealment and disclosure, inculturation and acculturation, adherence and reconstruction of individual identity, as

well as transformation of social and moral values and customs in traditional China. Hence, the hermeneutical tradition of the Decalogue in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties gives us a rich and vivid image rather than a one-dimensional picture which can be summarized. Moreover, the variety manifest in the hermeneutical history of the Decalogue in the context of the late Ming and early Qing periods has also demonstrated the vitality of interpreting and reconstructing the Decalogue in different contexts. Notes I would like to thank Dr Chloé Starr for her comments on an earlier draft of this essay. 1. Archie C.C. Lee has expounded this method with examples in a number of articles. See e.g. Archie C.C. Lee, ‘Biblical Interpretation in Asian Perspective’, Asia Journal of Theology, 7 (1993): 35-9; ‘Cross-Textual Hermeneutics’, in Virginia Fabella and R.S. Sugirtharajah (eds), Dictionary of Third World Theologies (New York: Orbis, 2000), pp. 60-2; ‘CrossTextual Reading Strategy: A Study of Late Ming and Early Qing Chinese Christian Writings’, Ching feng, 4 (2003): 1-27; ‘Naming God in Asia: Cross-Textual Reading in Multi-Cultural Context’, Quest, 3.1 (2004): 21-42. 2. See Nicolas Standaert, ‘The Bible in Early Seventeenth-Century China’, in Irene Eber, Sze-kar Wan and Knut Walf (eds), The Bible in Modern China: The Literary and Intellectual

Impact (Sankt Augustin: Monumenta Serica, Monograph Series, 43, 1999), pp. 31-54, pisk. 3. Nicolas Standaert, ‘Note on the Spread of Jesuit Writings in Late Ming and Early Qing China’, in China Mission Studies (1550-1800) Bulletin (1985): 22-31, 22. Production was prolific; as Dudink and Standaert write of the seventeenth century, ‘in addition to some 120 texts dealing with the West and its science, some 470 texts can be identified which are

mainly related to religious and moral issues (‘Apostalate through books’, in Nicolas

Standaert (ed.), Handbook of Christianity in China, Vol. 1 [Leiden: EJ. Brill, 2001], p. 600).

4. ‘Shoujing’, or ‘chengjing’ (AK#E), is probably the inaugural ceremony of the catechetical instruction in which the catechumen received a copy of texts. Similar ceremonies of transmitting texts in Daoism and Buddhism can be found. See Standaert, ‘The Bible in

Early Seventeenth-Century China’, p. 46, n. 46. . As Standaert writes, in the late sixteenth century catechisms for Christian initiation were both important and popular, following the medieval structure of the four pillars of education: Symbol of Apostles, Our Father, Decalogue and Sacraments: see Standaert, ‘The Bible in Early Seventeenth-century China’, p. 34.


Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


6. On Tianzhu jiaoyao (K+:#%#), see Adrian Dudink, ‘Tianzhu jiaoyao [The Catechism] (1605) Published by Matteo Ricci’, Sino-Western Cultural Relations Journal, 24 (2002): 3850, 38. . In the seventeenth century, more than 20 catechetical writings were published by the Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans; see Dudink and Standaert, ‘Apostolate through Books’, p. 610.

. At the end of Tianzhu shilu, the Zuchuan tianzhu shijie 413K =+ wi was inserted, and its style and form are different from the former, notably the zuchuan ‘handed down by ancestors’ of the title, and emphasis on retribution and meaning of the Decalogue. See Michele Ruggieri, ‘Zuchuan tianzhu shijie’, in Nicolas Standaert and Adrian Dudink

(eds), Yesuhui Luoma Dang’an’guan Ming-Qing Tianzhujiao wenxian [Chinese Christian Texts from the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus] (Taipei: Taipei Ricci Institute, 2002), Vol. 1, pp. 82-3. Fredric F. Weingartner argues that this was probably by Michele Ruggieri c. 1582 and was one of the earliest catechetical writings in Chinese, moreover,

later doctrines were duplicated from the Single Page. See Fredric F. Weingartner, ‘Sources for a Treatise on the Ten Commandments Based on the Writings of Early Jesuits in China’, in International Symposium on Chinese—-Western Cultural Interchange in Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the Arrival of Matteo Ricci, SJ in China (Taibei: Furen University Press, 1983), p. 831. The English translations here of the titles of

catechisms are mainly Weingartner’s.

. Tianzhu shilu

K+ %$%, an early work by Michele Ruggieri on Christian doctrine,

probably edited 1583 or 1584. The title says it is a new edition edited by a bonze (missionary) from the West: see Ruggieri, ‘Tianzhu shilu’, in Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol.1,

pp. 1-88. Fang Hao and Gianni Criveller claim that this is the first Chinese catechism. See Fang Hao, Zhongguo tianzhujiaoshi renwuzhuan [Biographies of Famous Chinese Catholics] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1988), p. 153; Gianni Criveller, Preaching Christ in Late Ming China: The Jesuits’ Presentation of Christ from Matteo Ricci to Giulio Aleni (Taipei: Taipei Ricci Institute, 1997), p. 36. 10. Tianzhu shengjiao shilu

Ki: AU $ is the 2nd edn of Michele Ruggieri’s Tianzhu shilu,

completed after 1634. See Wu Xiangxiang (ed.), Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian xubian (Taiwan: Xuesheng shuju, 1966), Vol. 2, pp. 755-838. 1k Several versions of Tianzhu jiaoyao K+:#& exist: see Dudink, ‘Tianzhu jiaoyao’, pp. 38-

50. The Tianzhu jiaoyao used here is the text from Society of Jesus Roman archives: see Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol. 1, pp. 307-74. r2 See Joao Soeiro, ‘Tianzhu shengjiao yueyan’

K+ 2A FA, in Standaert and Dudink (eds),

Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol. 2, pp. 253-80; Nicolas Standaert et al. (eds), Xujiahui Cangshulou Mingging Tianzhujiao Wenxian [Chinese Christian texts from the Zikawei Library] (Taipei: Fangqi, 1996), Vol. 2, pp. 939-54. 13. See Ricci, ‘Shengjing yuelu’, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol. 1, . 87-116. 14.

Thetext of Jiaoyao jielue #-E/#"S gives Alfonso Vagnone as the author and notes that this is a third impression. See ‘Jiaoyao jielue’, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma

Dang’an’guan, Vol. 1, pp. 117-306. = $k see Gianni Criveller, Preaching Christ in Late Ming 15. On Xinbian tianzhu shilu #r4tK China, p. 91.

16. 17. . 19. 20.

Ruggieri, ‘Tianzhu shilu’, pp. 67-8.

Ruggieri, ‘Tianzhu shengjiao shilu’, p. 827. Weingartner, ‘Sources for a Treatise’, pp. 832-3. Cf. Fang Hao, ‘Zhongguo tianzhujiaoshi renwuzhuan'’, p. 71. Ruggieri, Zuchuan tianzhu shijie, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan,

p- 83. 24, Ruggieri, Tianzhu shilu, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan, p. 68. Cf.


Tian Haihua ‘The right ten commandments can be summed up as two: loving the Lord above all and loving your neighbour as yourself’, Anon., ‘Tianzhu jiaoyao’, p. 326.

. There are six editions of Tianzhu shengjiao shijie zhiquan

KE 24+ MA, the earliest

redacted in 1636. See Lauren Pfister, Zaihua yesuhuishi liezhuan ji shumu, trans. Feng Chengjun (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1995), p. 113. I refer to the edition from Hong Kong Catholic Diocesan Archives. 23. When the Jesuits arrived in China at the end of the seventeenth century they were concerned with evangelization of the elites. The Bible and the Confucian canon belonged to core elite culture. In order to enter into a dialogue with another culture, the Jesuits adapted


. 26. 27. 28.


. 31. O23

to the Chinese






stressed that ‘erudite language’ be applied in Bible translations. Cf. Standaert, ‘The Bible in Early Seventeenth-century China’, pp. 46-8. Emmanuel Diaz Jr, Tianzhu shengjiao shijie zhiquan, in hk/books, Vol.1, p. 3. Nicolas Standaert, ‘Lushan zhen mianmu-women nengbuneng liaojie biede wenhua’, in Ershiyi shiji [Twenty-first Century], 16 (1993): 115-18, 118. See Nicolas Standaert, ‘Christianity as a Religion in China: Insights from the Handbook of Christianity in China: Volume One (635-1800)', Cahiers d’Extréme-Asie, 12 (2001): 1. This can be found in a series of questions raised by Nicolas Standaert: see Standaert, ‘Christianity as a Religion in China’, p. 2. Accommodation concerns the adaptation of language and external elements, such as liturgical music and dress; but the evangelical message itself is considered as invariable. In contrast, inculturation brings about ‘a new creation realized through the contribution of the local culture’. See Nicolas Standaert, ‘Inculturation and Catholic-Chinese Relations in Late Ming and Early Qing’, in Bernard Hung-Kay Luk (ed.), Contacts Between Cultures, Vol. 4: Eastern Asia: History and Social Sciences (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), pp. 330-1. Archie C.C. Lee, ‘Textural Confluence and Chinese Christian Identity: A Reading of Han Lin’s Duo Shu’, Chakana: Intercultural Forum of Theology and Philosophy, 2 (2004): 89-103, 90. Ye Xianggao, ‘Xixue shijie chujie xu’, in Siku quanshu jinhuishu congkan, Vol. 5 (Beijing: Beijing Press, 2000), p. 449. Ye Xianggao, ‘Xixue shijie chujie xu’, p. 449. Zhang Fengzhen, ‘Xixuefan yu tianzhu shijie jielue’, in Shenxue luncong, 11 (1972): 1534; see also Nicolas Standaert, Yang Tingyun, Confucian and Christian in Late Ming China: His

Life and Thought (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), p. 187. 33% Standaert, Yang Tingyun, pp. 187-8. . Archie Lee, ‘Textural Confluence’, p. 89. 35. ‘Shangshu Zhonghui zhi gao’, Shisanjing zhu shu [Annotated Thirteen Classics] (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1997), p. 161. . On Hanlin, baptized in 1620/21, see Fang Hao, Zhongguo tianzhujiao renwuzhuan, Vol. 1, pp. 253-4. 37, Han Lin, ‘Duo shu’, in Xujiahui cangshulou, Vol. 2, pp. 638-9. . Wang Zheng, ‘Wei tian ai ren ji luni’ [On Fearing Heaven and Cherishing Human], in Andrew Chung (ed.), Ming mo Qing chu yesuhui sixiang wenxian huibian (Beijing: Beijing University, 2000), p. 21. 39. Nicolas Standaert, ‘Inculturation and Catholic-Chinese Relations’, p- 332. . Michele Ruggieri, Tianzhu shilu, pp. 84-5. 41. Nicolas Standaert, ‘Inculturation and Catholic-Chinese Relations’, p- 332. - Yang Tingyun, “Tian shi mingbian’, in Wu Xiangxiang (ed.), Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian xubian, Vol. 1, p. 272. 43. Zhang Zai, Zhang Zai ji [Collected works of Zhang Zai], ed. Zhang Xichen (Beijing:

Zhonghua shuju,1978), pp. 62-3. The equivalent in Confucius is from Kongzi jiayu: ‘The

Confucian Catholics’ Appropriation of the Decalogue


benevolent man serves his parent like Heaven, and he serves Heaven like his parents.’

Conversely, the care of God towards human beings is the same as that of parents towards their children.

. Yang Tingyun, ‘Dai yi pian’, in Wu Xiangxiang (ed.), Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian, p. 567. 45. Li Zhizao, ‘Tianzhu shiyi chongke xu’, in Li Zhizao (ed.), Tianxue chuhan, Vol. 1 (Taibei:

Taiwan xuesheng shuju,1965), p. 353. 46. Mathias Xia, ‘Jili paozhi’, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma dang’an‘guan, Vol.10, peg. 47. Zhu Yupu, ‘Shengjiao yuanliu’, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma dang’an’guan,

Vol. 3, p. 137. 48. Matteo Ricci, ‘Tianzhu shiyi’, in Tianxue chuhan, Vol. 1, p. 420; Giulio Aleni, ‘Sanshan

lunxue’, in Wu Xiangxiang (ed.), Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian xubian, Vol. 1, p. 437; Francesco Brancati, ‘Shengjiao sigui’, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol. 5, p. 283; Diego de Pantoja, ‘Qike’, in Tianxue chuhan, Vol. 2,

p. 829; Tianzhu shengjiao shijie zhiquan, p. 83; Alfonso Vagnone, ‘Tianzhu shijie jielue’ (Tokyo: Neige wenku, 1956), p. 1, quoted in Standaert, Yang Tingyun [Confucian and Christian], p. 171, n. 39. 49. There are three different methods of enumerating the Ten Commandments. Orthodox

Judaism counts the introduction to the Decalogue, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’ (Ex. 20.2). The second commandment is a combination of the first and second commandment of the Protestant Reformed tradition: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make yourself a graven image’ (Ex. 20.3-4). Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions also take the above two commandments as one. See Eduard Nielsen, The Ten Commandments in New Perspective: A Traditio-historical Approach, trans. David J. Bourke (London: SCM Press, 1968), pp. 10-13. . Giulio Aleni, ‘Kouduo richao’, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan,

Vol. 7, pp. 389-91. 51. ‘In the exposition of the first commandment, he says, we are to worship heaven and earth; and in the exposition of the third, that sacrifices may be offered to our saint, as is done in China



. 55. .


to heaven, earth, master and other dead persons’ (Standaert, Yang

Tingyun, pp. 201-2). See also Yang Tingyun, ‘Tianshi mingbian’, in Wu Xiangxiang (ed.), Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian xubian, Vol.1, pp. 229-417. Under the leadership of Matteo Ricci, the Jesuits approved the veneration of ancestors, hoping in this way to penetrate China and convert the Chinese more easily, just as they assumed the appearance and names of Buddhist monks. When Matteo Ricci introduces Chinese customs and religions to the West, he writes: ‘Confucians do not practise idol worship, in fact, they have no idol.’ Li Madou (Matteo Ricci) and Jin Nige (Nicolas Trigault), Li Madou zhongguo zhaji, trans. He Gaoji, Wang Zunzhong and Li Shen (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2001), p.101. As one of three issues of Chinese rites controversy, ancestor worship has been discussed for a long time. For a good introduction, see Li Tiangang, Zhongguo liyi zhi zheng: lishi, wenxian he yiyi (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1998). Erik Ziircher, A Complement to Confucianism: Christianity and Orthodoxy in Late Imperial China, p. 91. Standaert, ‘Inculturation and Catholic-Chinese Relations’, pp. 332-3. Cynthia J. Brokaw, The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit: Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 1-2. Nicolas Standaert, ‘Christianity in Late Ming and Early Qing China as a Case of Cultural Transmission’, in Stephen Uhally and Xiaoxin Wu (eds), China and Christianity: Burdened Past, Hopeful Future (New York: East Gate, 2001), pp. 95-6. Nicolas Standaert, ‘Christianity in Late Ming and Early Qing China’, pp. 81-105.


Tian Haihua

58. Mencius, 4A, 26. 59. The most serious criticism of the Jesuits was that they did not enter into the five basic

human relationships (wulun, fff): they do not marry, therefore they neglect the relation of husband and wife; they leave home, thus the relationship with their parents and

siblings is broken; and by leaving their own country they lose the relationship with their ruler, so that only the relationship with friends remains. See Sun Xueshi, Shengshui jiyan, in Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol. 8, pp. 17-18. Also Standaert, Yang Tingyun, Confucian and Christian, p. 158. . Li Dongyang, Law Code of Great Ming, rev. Shen shixing; redacted Zhao Yongxian (Taibei: Dongnan shubao she, 1963), Vol. 106, pp. 6-7.

61. Huang

Yinong, ‘Mingmo zhongxi wenhua chongtu zhi tanxi: yi tianzhujiaotu Wangzheng quqi weili’, in Diyijie quanguo lishixue xueshu taolunhui lunwenji shibian, qunti yu geren (Taibei: Guoli Taiwan daxue lishixue xi, 1996), p. 218. 62. Huang Zhen, Qing yanzhuanggi xiansheng pi tianzhujiaoshu, in Xia Guiqi (ed.), Shengchao poxieji, Vol. 3 (Hong Kong: Jiandao shenxueyuan,1996), pp. 150-1. Cf. Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 177.

63. . 65. .

Alfonso Vagnone, Jiaoyao jielue, pp. 164-5. Diego de Pantoja, ‘Qike’, pp. 1045-6. Diego de Pantoja, ‘Qike’, pp. 1408-9. According to Pan Feng-chuan’s study, there were three ways to solve this problem. The most common solution was that the convert was asked to separate from his concubine(s) forever: this was adopted by converts such as Yang Tingyun, Li Zhizao and Han Lin. A second way was to divorce: Chen Zheng, a disciple of Aleni, gave his concubine in marriage to another man along with a large amount of money and clothes. A third way was to marry the concubine (or one of the concubines) after the death of the legitimate wife: Qu Rukui and Wei Yijie did this. A more questionable solution involved the Jesuits allowing the convert to marry one of his concubines if the legitimate wife refused to become a Christian. (See Pan Feng-chuan, ‘Moral Ideas and Practices’, in

67. . 69. 70.

71. We Te

Standaert (ed.), Handbook of Christianity in China, Vol. 1, p. 661.) Huang Yinong, Mingmo zhongxi wenhua chongtu zhi tanxi, p. 220. George H. Dunne, Generation of Giants: The Story of the Jesuits in China in the Last Decades of the Ming Dynasty (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1962), p. 99. Dunne, Generation of Giants, pp. 113-14. This story was recorded in Aleni’s preaching work, Kouduo richao, Vol. 2, in Standaert and Dudink (eds), Luoma Dang’an’guan, Vol. 7, p. 106. Wang Zheng, one of the earliest Catholic Confucians who knew Latin, assisted Nicolas Trigault to edit a Latin-Chinese dictionary entitled Xiru ermu zi. (See Huang Yinong, Liangtou she: Mingmo gingchu de diyidai tianzhujiaotu [Xinzhu: Qinghua University Press, 2005], pp. 136-7.) Huang Yinong, Mingmo zhongxi wenhua chongtu zhi tanxi, pp. 223-4. Wang Zheng, ‘Qiging jiezui gigao’, in Wu Xiangxiang (ed.), Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian sanbian, Vol. 2 (Taibei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju, 1972), pp. 835-7. Willard J. Peterson, ‘Why Did they Become Christian? Yang T’ing-yiin, Li Chih-tsao, and Hsii Kuang-ch’i’, in Charles E. Ronan and Bonnie B.C. Oh (eds), East Meets West:

The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773 (Chicago, IL: Loyola University Press, 1988), p. 147.

11 Translating and Chanting the Psalms: A Retrospective on the Use of the Bible in the Chinese Catholic Church in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century Mark Fang

The English version of this chapter has a sub-title: looking back at the use the Catholic Church has made of the Bible across the second half of the twentieth century. The main title and sub-title draw together the theme of this paper: reflecting on the use the Chinese Catholic Church has made in its liturgy and prayer of the prayer book of the first covenant, the Psalms. From the 1950s through until the end of the century, the Chinese political arena underwent seismic changes, and every branch of the Christian Church felt the influence of these, in all aspects of life. What is remarkable, is that during this chaotic time the first Chinese-language edition of the Catholic Bible was completed, revised and published. The translation began in Beijing and ended in Hong Kong, and was later transmitted to Taiwan, the Philippines and the diasporic body of overseas Chinese. This essay takes the book of Psalms as a base for reflection, recollection and overview of that 50-year period. It is divided into three parts: (1) On the Studium



(SBF) Book of Psalms’ and Wu

Jingxiong’s First Draft Translation of the Psalms;* (2) On The Psalms printed in versified form with end-rhymes (Hong Kong: SBF, 1968), and revisions to First Draft Translation of the Psalms, reprinted as Translated Psalms; (3) Revisions to the Book of Psalms* made following the second Vatican Council when the SBF Bible became widely used and the Taiwanese Catholic Association published a more polished translation suitable for chanting. 1. The establishment of the Studium Biblium Franciscanum and

publication of the Book of Psalms Fr Lei Yongming (Gabriele M. Allegra, OFM 1907-76) was the architect of the Chinese Catholic translation of the full Bible. As he wrote, ‘Learning Chinese, studying the Holy Scriptures, and beginning to translate the Scriptures into Chinese was the main work of my life at that time, and the start of my missionary life.’” In April 1935, when Lei formally began 181


Mark Fang

work on the translation, he made use of both the Chinese Translation of the Complete Latin Vulgate by the Jesuit He Qingtai, a photo-print of which he had taken the opportunity of a trip to Beijing to acquire, and the incomplete eighteenth-century Chinese translation of the Old and New Testaments by Father Jean Basset of the Société des Missions Etrangéres de Paris.° The labours of former saints were evidently of much help to Fr Lei in his translation work. By the summer

of 1938, however, Lei was

suffering from acute headaches and had to return to his native Italy in order to recuperate. He used his time away from China to deepen his biblical studies at the Jesuit Institute in Rome and at the seminary of the Jerusalem SBF.’ In 1941 Lei returned via the USA and Japan, flying into Shanghai in April of that year, and journeyed by train to Beijing to continue his translation work. On 21 November 1944 he completed his translation of the entire New and Old Testaments, and on 2 August 1945 the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum loaned a dormitory attached to Fu Jen University and began to operate.® In the short space of the three years after the war (1945-48) the Society changed its location four times, ‘but the harmonious atmosphere among members of the society never disappeared’. In September 1946 the first fruits of the Society were finally brought forth, in a 514-page Book of Psalms. In 1947 the Wisdom books were published, and in 1948 the Torah. In autumn of 1948 the Society moved to Hong Kong, where it received the welcome of the local bishop, En Lijue. In the summer of 1948 Fr Lei went to Rome to request assistance, and had an audience with Pope Pius XII, where he obtained

the support of the Holy Father and the Propaganda Fidei to buy No. 70 Jianni Road in Hong Kong. It was here over the next 20 years (1950-73) that the task of translating the Holy Scriptures into Chinese was completed.” When Lei returned to Taiwan, not long after the publication of the Book of Psalms, he sent a volume to the renowned musician Jiang Wenye. Lei later wrote in his recollections: He [Jiang Wenye] didn’t so much read it as swallow it whole; it was as though he felt an irresistible force to set to music the entire psalms of the Israelite people. I cautiously gave him to understand that I couldn’t guarantee any recompense for him, but he insisted that at the time when he had been in prison and felt his case might be difficult to resolve, he had made such a vow to God.?°

The acquaintance and co-operation of Lei and Jiang was indeed marvellous serendipity.’ In the same year that Lei’s Book of Psalms was published (1946), Wu Jingxiong also published the results of his

many years of labour, the First Draft Translation of the Psalms, through the Shanghai Commercial Press. At the front of the volume in place of prefatory remarks was a letter in French that the Bishop of Shanghai, Mgr A. Hawisee, SJ, had written to Wu, followed by prefaces from Bishop Yu Wenzong of Nanjing and Bishop Zhu Ximeng of the Jiangsu Seaboard.” When those who can appreciate the beauty of Chinese poetry read these psalms, translated into old poetic metres, they can only marvel at the

Translating and Chanting the Psalms


skill of Wu Jingxiong and experience the richness and adaptability of the Chinese language. Wu’s translation was greatly welcomed among Chinese speakers, being reprinted three times within the first year.

2. Use of poetry in The Psalms, and the revised draft of the Translation of the Psalms. The Studium Biblium Franciscanum continued its translation and publishing work in Hong Kong: in 1949 publishing a first volume of the Old Testament histories, and in 1950 a second volume. In 1951 they brought out the book of Isaiah; in 1952, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; in 1954

Daniel and the 12 minor prophets; in 1957 the four gospels; in 1958 the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul; in 1961 the pastoral letters and the book of Revelation. At this point, the translations, annotations and reference material for the entire Bible, and guides for individual

books, were all complete, forming eight volumes for the Old Testament and three for the New. The next stage of work was to condense, revise and print the 11 volumes of material into a single-volume edition. This huge task took seven years, and was completed by Christmas 1968.'° The SBF single-volume edition before us is a hefty tome of 2,060 pages. It is printed on thin paper but without the print coming through, the typeface is clear, and the binding is fine and tasteful. The six attachments at the back are valuable reference material, especially the ‘Chronological Table of World Events’ and the ‘Year Calendar, Church Calendar and

Table of Festivals’, which give useful information for daily life. One particular feature of the single-volume edition is that the 150 psalms are no longer printed as prose,!4 but line divisions are made as for poetry. However, the Book of Psalms is the only book in the SBF Bible with poetry printed as poetry. As everyone is now aware, large portions of the Wisdom literature and of the prophets were in poetic form. This will undoubtedly be reconsidered in later editions of the SBF Bible.” During this same period, Wu Jingxiong was transforming his draft translation into a revised edition for publication with the Taiwan Commercial Press. A dedication at the front of the text reads: ‘I respectfully offer this revised translation to the spirit of President Jiang [Jieshi, ie. Chiang Kai-shek] and commemorate his hard work in revising and improving the first draft’. The three prefaces from the first edition have been removed, but in their place is one written by Archbishop Luo Guang in August 1975. In substance it reads:

There are quite a few corrections to the first draft in this edition, to bring it closer to the original sense of the Psalms. It seeks a greater elegance in the verse, bringing clarity to the hidden and obscure,

and fluency to the awkward and difficult ... Wu’s translation of the Psalms began in 1937 when tion. Wu was imprisoned downcast in spirits, and he his heavy spirits. The first

Shanghai was under Japanese occupain the city, alone in his tiny room, translated his first few psalms to ease psalm he selected was Psalm 23: “My


Mark Fang

Lord is my shepherd/I have no need of any fear ... even though I walk in a dark valley/God is with me, what sorrow can there be ...’

Wu was trapped by the enemy, and fearful in his heart, but the words of the psalms calmed his mind. At this time he had no intention of translating the entire book. The remainder of the preface describes how Chiang Kai-shek delighted in correcting the translation of each psalm, and is of certain historic interest. It is worth noting, too, a comment at the end of the preface from

Abbot Lu Weixiang, ‘When Wu Jingxiong wields his pen, the Holy Spirit wields his hand, without thought and without anxiety, in one brush stroke it is completed.’ This sentiment accords with the views of many readers of the translation.

3. Rhyme schemes in psalmody translation and the chanting of psalms The Second Vatican Council closed in 1965, and by 1968 its sixteen documents (four constitutions, nine decrees and three declarations) had

been translated into Chinese. Under the encouragement and guidance of the four constitutions, the Jesuit Institute attached to Fu Jen University had just been transferred back from the Philippines in the summer of 1967 to its motherland in Taiwan. The first year intake at the Institute in 1967-68 still operated in English, but in the new academic year of 196869, Chinese was used for theological instruction, and in the autumn of

1969, with the re-publication of the periodical Shenxue lunji [Collected Articles on Theology], the way ahead was set for teaching and writing theology in Chinese. At this time the SBF Bible and the versified psalms were just coming into circulation: the Bible could be used for teaching in class, and the psalms chanted and sung in the Daily Office and other liturgical settings. The Catholic Church Association edited a Chinese language missal and Daily Office. The missal presented more fluent, polished excerpts from the New and Old Testaments within the Mass,

although there remain occasional places where the sense departs from the original meaning.’® In the case of the Daily Office, the rearrangement of the psalms has been relatively successful.!” The psalms that Jiang Wenye had set to music played a significant part in the vigorous development of the Taiwanese Catholic Church at this key time in the 1960s and 1970s. The success of the Jesuit Guangqi press at Taizhong, for example, is generally recognized as resting on two books: the first was the Complete New Testament, translated by Fr Xiao

Jingshan,’® and the second

Collected religious of Jiang followed

the collected


of ritual songs,

Sacred Songs.’ This was the first such scale edition of collected songs published by Taiwanese Catholics, and included a dozen Wenye’s compositions. The second hymn collection which on from this was truly epoch-making: Shengjing Yuezhang, the

Chinese edition of Biblical Hymns and Psalms, by Lucien Deiss, CS Sp,

edited by the Fu Jen Seminary. This volume was published in September

Translating and Chanting the Psalms


1970 by the Guanggi Press in a run of 5,000, which rapidly sold out, with a revised reprint of 3,000 coming out November. This collection of songs clearly met the needs of the post-Vatican II era. Following the distribution of this collection of hymns, various editions of hymn anthologies came out in Taiwan and Hong Kong, appearing like new shoots after spring rains. In Taiwan alone, at the beginning of the 1970s Fr Yang Shihao SVD printed his Joyful Music over the Years [Huanyue nianhua]. A notable feature of this volume was its addition of

popular songs, in front of the religious songs. Until the third edition in 1974, these songs were greater in number than the religious songs (104 vs 86). By the second reprint of the third edition (1976) the religious songs had increased markedly in number and proportion (145:104). One of the sources of these songs was the earlier Chinese edition of Biblical Hymns and Psalms.” Another hymn collection with a relatively wide circulation was the Hosanna collection edited by the Yongquan Jiaoyi Zhongxin (Eternal Spring Doctrine Centre), which was published by the Catholic Huaming press, collating more than 330 religious songs. There were 20 of Jiang Wenye’s compositions in the collection, of which four were Marian songs, and the other 16 renditions of the psalms.”’ The editor of that volume, Lei Huilang, noted in her preface that she intended, as far as

possible, to include the names of both songwriter and composer. As a result, while the Biblical Hymns and Psalms recorded just the name of the writer, the new volume also included the name of the musical composer,

and it could be seen for the first time that Jiang Wenye was the composer of many of the tunes.” A recent example of hymn collection with a relatively wide circulation is the Light Music to God’s Glory [Qingge zan Zhu rong], edited and published in 1983 by the Taiwan Catholic University Graduates’ Association. This volume, like the Joyful Music collection above, was split into two main sections, with 157 secular songs, and 240 religious songs. While it adopted the form of Joyful Music, the content and format were greatly increased and improved. The 1994 edition was a particularly thick volume, with over 500 songs in total in the collection. The latest development in hymn collections has been the Taizé style of prayer and song. In 1990 Guanggqi Press published Taizé Combined Prayers and Songs. The words of the songs and prayers were from the Taizé community and the music compositor was Jacques Berthler. This volume presented 47 exquisite short songs which were easy to chant and easy to learn, and which could be used in various liturgical and prayer-settings; the volume was extremely well-received. In 1995 three new reprints were made, and in 2000, with a name change to Taizé Praise Songs, another

edition was published with 30 new songs in the same style, with an even wider circulation; the same year saw yet another print-run of the volume. Taiwanese editions of the Psalms have been influential well beyond Taiwan. At the Christian Academy run by the Holy Work Convent Association

in Manila,

for example,



effort is put into

musical training, the chanting of prayers at each morning Mass and

evening office includes stringed and choral accompaniment to the reading of Scripture. Many of the nuns of this group come from old


Mark Fang

Catholic areas of northern China, and have brought with them new tunes and new musical arrangements from their hometowns — the Mass and other settings that mainland musicians had composed after the Second Vatican Council. The multi-part singing of the trained voices has a very particular flavour: one of the successes of the ritual renewal and indigenization advocated by Vatican II. For Evening Prayer, the Christian Academy uses compositions of the Taiwanese nun Chen Meilu, published as Everyday Praise by the Bishops’ Secretariat, with each Magnificat having a different setting. As for the intonation shifts in the songs and chants, apart from the traditional eight Latin tonal changes, they also use Chinese tones which change many times within a tune. It is apparent to a listener how much the Taiwan Liturgical Commission accomplished in its revisions to the Daily Office psalms. The division of psalms into antiphonal pairs, the length of each verse and the rhyme tones, the selection and harmonizing of the four Chinese speech tones — all of these influence the fluency of the singing, and whether or not it sounds harmonious, and all of these are peculiarities of the Chinese written language and tonal systems. The twentieth century was a century of great human conflict. After 1945 and the close of the Second World War, and with the threat of the atom bomb over us, few could imagine what sort of scenario would ensue. Within the sphere of Christian faith, 1948 saw the establishment of the World Council of Churches, and in 1961 its apogee in the 3rd Council meeting in New Delhi, at which was put forward the tripart theme of fellowship, service and witness, or koinonia, diakonia and martyria. The Catholic Church for its part saw the opening of the Second Vatican Council


This Council

did not change Catholic

beliefs or

traditions, but did give the Church a new appearance. For China, the twentieth century was a century of great political questions and extreme change: from several thousand years of imperial rule to the establishment of the Republic; from the Republic of China to the People’s Republic. There was nothing in the previous several hundred years’ experience that could compare in terms of the experiences and pain that the people underwent, and its scope and intensity. What is a cause of surprise now is that it was precisely during this half century of privation and difficulty that the translation into Chinese of the first full Catholic Bible was completed. With a Catholic Bible as their foundation, rituals, theology and precepts all had a sure base. The Vatican II documentation at this time gave stimulus and encouragement for Chinese churches in all places to enter the world current of Catholicism.

Translating and Chanting the Psalms


Notes This essay was translated by Chloé Starr. 1. Beiping: SBF, 1946. 2. Shanghai: Shangwu, 1946. 3. Taipei: Shangwu, 1975. 4. Taipei: Tiandujiao wu xiesinhui, 1982. 5. An Dafu, Lei Yongming shenfu xiaozhuan [Biography of Father Lei Yongming], trans. Han Chengliang (Taipei: SBF Publishing, 1986), p. 13. . Lei Yongming shenfu xiaozhuan, p. 14. . Lei Yongming shenfu xiaozhuan, pp. 16-18. ND . See Lei Yongming shenfu huiyi li [Memoirs of Father Lei Yongming], trans. Han Yongliang (Taipei: SBF Publishing, 1987), p. 122. This incident was, 30 years later, the subject of a special edition of Duosheng [Vox Cleri] journal in August 1975. . Evidence for this paragraph is taken from Lei Yongming shenfu xiaozhuan, pp. 24-5. At his meeting with the Pope, the Pope blessed him with the words: ‘As you started your translation work from “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth’, you shall certainly conclude with the last sentence of Revelation, ‘Lord Jesus, Come!’”’, p. 26.

10. Jiang Wenye, ‘Xieyu "Shengyong" zuoqu ji diyi juan wancheng hou’ [On Finishing the First Volume of Music for Psalms] in Music for Psalms, Vol. I (Beiping: Fanggitang SBF,

1947), p. 151. if Between 1947 and 1948, Jiang Wenye wrote 64 pieces of Chinese religious music. During

this period, every Sunday he came to the Institute chapel to listen to the members sing the Mass, and afterwards talked with Fr Lei Yongming for up to an hour at a time. See Cai Shiya, Jiang Wenye ji qi zongjiao shengyue zuopin jieshao [An Introduction to Jiang Wenye and his Religious Music] (Hong Kong: Zhenli Xuehui Press, 1999), pp. 7-8. 12. Mgr Hawisee’s introduction reflected on the chaotic situation of China at that time, divided against itself, and the role of the psalms as tools in helping people overcome evil and seek peace. Bishop Zhu had been of one six bishops consecrated by Pius XI in Rome in 1926, and was nearly 80 when he penned the introduction. 13; See Lei Yongming shenfu xiaozhuan, pp. 28-9. This method of composition was the same as for the French Jerusalem Bible: first translate, revise and write introductions to each

section, and then combine into one volume.

14. This was not so strange. Even the Old Testament translated by someone born Jewish,

like Samuel Schereschewsky (1831-1906), used prose layout for the Psalms. See Schereschewsky (trans.), The Bible: Old and New Testaments (Shanghai: American Bible Society, 1913; repr. Taiwan Shenggonghui, St John’s Technical University, 2005). On Schereschewsky’s translation, see Cao Jian, ‘The Chinese Mandarin Bible: Exegesis and Bible Translating’, The Bible Translator, Technical Papers, 57.3 (2006): 122-38.

15. The Xiandai Zhongwen yiben shengjing [Modern Chinese Translation of the Bible], rev.

edn of 1995 has Proverbs and Isaiah, etc. in poetic form.

16. For example, changing the two occasions in John (Chs 2 and 19) where Jesus refers to Mary as ‘woman’ to ‘mother’. Ly, These 150 polished and regulated psalms were later turned into a book, which also

included the 26 canticles from the Old Testament and 12 from the New Testament which are sung as part of the Daily Office, including the three daily ones of the Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. See Zhongguo zhujiao tuanti weiyuanhui (eds), Zange [Praise Songs] (Taipei: Tianzhujiao Jiaowu Xiejinhui, 1982). 18. This volume based on the Vulgate was published on the mainland in 1922 as Xinjing quanshu [Complete New Testament] and was well received. The many Taiwanese reprints were published under the title Xinjing quanji. 19: In two editions, one with musical (stave) notation and one with the simplified numerical musical notation. The 1st edn was published in 1962, and the 9th in 1982.


Mark Fang

20. At this point in Taiwanese society, the notion of copyright was not yet regarded as important, and within the Church people would ask even fewer questions, with a certain sense of common property prevailing. Ale The four were: the Magnificat, Tota pulchra es, o Maria; Salve Regina and Regina caeli

laetare. The 16 psalms were concentrated early on in the Book of Psalms: from 10 to 59. . The first sentence of the last paragraph of Lei’s introduction, ‘To sing is to pray twice’, might be expanded upon. This sentence derives from St Augustine’s ‘Qui bene cantat, bis orat.’ Chinese has no means of translating the parallelism of bene-bis, but it can be rendered in Chinese, with assonance and parallelism, as ‘chan ge, chang de hao, shi shuangbei de qidao’ (‘To sing well, is to pray twice’); that is to say, to sing alone is not enough, the singing must be done well for it to be prayer.

12 Perspectives on John C.H. Wu’s Translation of the New Testament Lloyd Haft

The year 1949 was in many ways a Great Divide between seemingly incommensurable periods of Chinese history, and, as was the case with

the Soviet Union and the imperial Russian period which had preceded it, the coming of a new political entity reached down so thoroughly into all sectors of life that even the conventions and styles of writing were changed. In China after 1949, the ‘new’ style continued the existing trend towards marginalization of the old Chinese literary language, the socalled wenyan, while asserting and popularizing stylistic norms much different from those which linguistic modernization was to produce in Chinese-speaking areas which remained outside the jurisdiction of the new state.

But that same year, 1949, which in so many respects was the beginning of a new linguistic era in China, also saw the publication (in Hong Kong) of a Roman Catholic New Testament translation which was grammatically conservative if not positively nostalgic, at the same time that it was daring and distinctive as regards diction and allusion. This was the Xinjing quanji (New Scripture Complete)’ translated by Wu Jingxiong John C.H. Wu, 1899-1986), in which the Gospel of John begins with the words ‘In the beginning was the Dao.’ Wu was not only a prominent specialist in law — he was largely responsible for drafting the constitution of the Republic of China — but one of the twentieth century’s most famous converts to Catholicism.” His translation was first written during the Second World War and then later, while he was China’s representative










Testament, Wu also published, among many other things, an oft-quoted translation of the Daodejing which was reissued by Shambhala as recently as 2005.)

Wu’s translation was heralded as an event in the Chinese-speaking Catholic world. In addition to the imprimatur, the book carried a letter of felicitation by Pope Pius XII. The text of the translation was, and still is, regarded by many native speakers as one of the most elegant, most ‘Chinese-sounding’ Bible translations ever made. Yet it has not been republished for many years and is now of extreme rarity even in Taiwan. (Fortunately, the entire text can now be accessed free of charge at www. The stock reason one hears for the oblivion into

which this translation has drifted is that the ‘classical’ Chinese style used by Wu, beautiful though it be, strikes ‘young readers nowadays’ as 189


Lloyd Haft

objectionably archaic, at times even incomprehensible. It was inevitable, so the argument runs, that Wu’s version should be superseded by the socalled Sigao Bible of 1968, a stylistically less impressive Catholic translation in vernacular language. I suspect another reason is at least as relevant. Wu’s translation was not only financed but also affected by the editorial comments of Chiang Kai-shek. In 1937 Wu was already working on translations of the Psalms; through personal contacts Chiang came to read these and expressed his interest in them. After undergoing various perils and dislocations in the first years of the war, in 1942 Wu arrived with his family in southwest China where Chiang’s government had installed itself (Peking and many other areas of north and east China were occupied by the Japanese invaders). Wu’s financial outlook was uncertain and he had a large family to care for. Song Meiling (or Mayling Soong, Madame Chiang Kaishek) personally proposed that Wu could apply his talents to making a full translation of the New Testament — and that he could receive an appropriate stipend from the ‘personal funds’ of Chiang Kai-shek.* This was the beginning of an arrangement which on the one hand made Wu’s translation possible, yet also gave it a lasting political colouration which in the long-run would be damaging to its reputation in ways which the translator could not have foreseen. Wu started working on his translation towards the end of 1942. As he finished each book of the New Testament, he sent it to Chiang Kai-shek, who duly responded with written commentary and suggestions. Chiang’s suggestions included possible changes to the phrasing, which Wu often adopted. According to Wu’s own later remarks, it was at Chiang’s prompting, for example, that he changed the metrical structure of the prologue to the Gospel of John from five to four syllables per line, a change in form which led to significant modifications in the text. To many readers in the turbulent and patriotic 1940s and the ensuing Cold War years, the association with Chiang Kai-shek undoubtedly seemed less objectionable than to those born and raised in a later era. The

book version of Wu’s translation of the Psalms, in particular, makes a

weird impression on the modern reader, bearing as it does on the front cover the words ‘under the editorial supervision of Chairman Chiang’. But the New Testament, as reprinted in 1967, also contains a foreword by Archbishop Luo Guang in which he praises Chiang and his wife for the role they played in the realization of the translation. It may be that this repeated emphasis on Wu’s cooperation with Chiang Kai-shek has caused the translation to be one of the cultural victims of the disrepute into which Chiang’s name has fallen. Neither in the People’s Republic of China nor in the anti-Nationalist Taiwan of recent years would ‘editorially supervised by Chiang Kai-shek’ be the thing to say to promote a new book. Nor would many young readers — even if they were aware of its existence be interested in — the 265-page book which Wu published in 1975: The Spiritual Life of President Chiang. Detrimental as the connection with Chiang may have been for the survival of Wu’s translation, for the student it has had at least one wonderful result: the complete manuscript of Wu’s New Testament

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu's Translation of the New Testament


translation, including the notes and suggestions pencilled by Chiang and Wu in the margins, has been not only preserved but published in a bibliophile edition. The year 1986, in which Wu Jingxiong died, was also

the centennial of Chiang Kai-shek’s birth. The coincidence of these dates was the occasion for reproduction of the full manuscripts of Wu’s New Testament and Psalms as indeed ‘editorially supervised’ by Chiang. There are no indications in the text as to publisher or date of publication, nor can these data be found in the catalogue of the National Library in Taipei. The afterword, in which 1986 is given as date of publication, is by Qin Xiaoyi, the then chair of the Committee on Party History of the (nationalist) Kuomintang. According to Qin, in 1979 Wu had already turned over the manuscripts to him ‘for the collection’. I strongly suspect that the manuscript was reproduced and brought into small-scale circulation by the Committee on Party History.* 1. Classical echoes

The advisability or otherwise of translating the Bible into literary or ‘classical’ Chinese (wenyan) in the mid-twentieth century is, as I see it, open to discussion. Nowadays we perhaps too easily assume that only a translation into supposedly ‘current’ language deserves, or has prospects of winning, an audience. Perhaps Wu felt it was more respectful or reverent to translate in a style reminiscent of native Chinese wisdom books, whether Daoist, Buddhist or Neo-Confucian. In any case, there is one effect of translation into wenyan that is not often commented upon: that because of the preponderance of one-syllable words in wenyan, there is much more possibility of a given word awakening direct echoes of the same word as used in classical Chinese texts which were also written in that idiom. By comparison, the modern language abounds in twosyllable expressions which sound like, and by native speakers are often explicitly used as, lengthier variants or explications of originally monosyllabic terms. The two-syllable modern words are often much more specific as to meaning; this means that for a translator who wishes to preserve an ambivalence or polyvalence in the original, wenyan may have advantages. A striking example is Wu’s handling, as far as Iknow unique to him, of Jn 17.21: ‘as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee ...’ Where most English

versions show the Father and the Son being ‘in’ each other, Wu writes

‘zheng ru wu Fu ti yu, yu ti wu Fu, EMERY,

PHAR . It is not easy

to give an English crib to this because even native speakers are hesitant as to just what the monosyllable ti, here used twice as a transitive verb, means. It could be ‘embody’ but also ‘be embodied in, be present in’, also ‘have as body’ or ‘cause to have a body’, also ‘fully and empathetically understand’, or yet again ‘enter into’ whether mentally or factually. (The modern Chinese speaker would have to choose among two-syllable expressions which give greater nuance.) An appropriately polyvalent English equivalent would be — deliberately trying to include the possible meanings of the verb ‘realize’ as both ‘be fully cognizant of’ and “bring


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into full effectuation’ — something like ‘just as the Father realizes me and I realize the Father’. The difficulty (hence also the pregnancy) of this word reflects controversies among the old Chinese philosophical commentators as to what ti meant in their own canonical texts. One of its most oft-quoted occurrences (which generations of Chinese scholars and students knew by heart) was from the Zhong Yong [Doctrine of the Mean], one of the ‘Four Books’ which formed a digest of Confucian teachings as reinterpreted in the Sung and Ming dynasties by the so-called NeoConfucian philosophers and maintained as a textbook of orthodoxy up until the end of the Chinese empire. The passage is from Zhong Yong, 16, 1-2, in James Legge’s translation: The Master said, ‘““How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them! We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear them; yet they enter into all things [italics mine, in the original ti wu], and there is nothing without them.”

In his commentary Legge maintains his characteristic deadpan tone, saying that the meaning of the ti phrase in this passage ‘cannot be determined’. He explains that ‘the old interpreters’ take ti to mean ‘to give birth to’, and according to one of them, the ‘spiritual beings’ are themselves the Dao, ‘embodied in heaven’. Couvreur translated this passage more than once: in Les quatre Livres and in Li Ki, both times in French as well as Latin. In Les quatre Livres the phrase I have italicized appears in French as ‘Ils sont en toutes choses .. .’ and in Latin as ‘Unum corpus efficiunt cum rebus ...’”° In Li Ki the formulations are quite different: in French ‘ils constituent tous les étres ... and in Latin ‘Constituunt res ...’” In his Chinese-French dictionary of classical Chinese, Couvreur lists various meanings for ti used as a verb, including: ‘faire partie d’un tout,’ ‘former semble un seul et méme corps’,

‘étre étroitement uni’. One of the examples cited is a phrase from the Zhong Yong in which Couvreur translates ti as ‘considére et traite ... comme ses membres’. Richard Wilhelm in his Li Gi wrote: ‘Der Meister sprach: Wie herrlich sind doch die Geisteskrafte der Gétter und Ahnen! Man schaut nach

ihnen und sieht sie nicht; man horcht nach ihnen und hért sie nicht. Und

doch gestalten sie die Dinge, und keines kann ihrer entbehren.” But this word ti also occurred in the Daoist Zhuangzi, where it was likewise

variously interpreted. In Zhuangzi, Ch. 7, we are advised to ti jin wu

giong. In Grahams translation this is ‘become wholly identified with the limitless’.’° Burton Watson reads it as “embody to the fullest what has no end’.’" In the German version by Richard Wilhelm this becomes a thirdperson statement: ‘Er beachtet das Kleinste und ist doch unerschépflich ...2 The use of the verb beachten (heed, pay attention to) for ti seems to imply that Wilhelm here sides with the interpreters who take the word in a more psychological sense. Comparing these versions, we note two overall tendencies of interpretation. Some translators take fi to mean to be one with, or to

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu's Translation of the New Testament


form a single whole with; others take it more psychologically as a sympathetic or intuitive identification with. Is the most basic reference to a cognitive or psychic process or, on the other hand, to a factual or existential condition of unity? The eminent nineteenth-century sinologists could not easily decide: not only had they found both meanings attested in ancient Chinese texts; the Chinese commentators themselves read the word now this way, now that.’°

I have never seen another Chinese translation which transitive verb in Jn 17.21. In the early seventeenth-century liturgical gospel readings translated by the legendary Jesuit Jr* there is, however, perhaps a suggestive parallel in

uses ti as a collection of Manuel Dias Lk. 6.36 ‘Be

merciful, then, as your Father is merciful.’ Here Dias has ke ti er Fu ai xin

Hy #2M3S232». It seems to me this ti could be taken as meaning either

‘embody (and in that sense show forth) the Father’s mercy’ or ‘be fully in empathetic unison with the Father’s mercy’. John C.H. Wu does not use a ti construction in his own version of this passage. 2. What does one call a Word?

Was it strange in 1949 to see a ‘legitimate’ Roman Catholic translation using a Daoist term for ‘our’ Second Person, the Son who is the Word? No, but again: yes. No, because the use of Dao to translate Logos in the first verse of John was already well known since 1836/7, when it was made public in the New Testament translation by Walter H. Medhurst and Karl F.A. Giitzlaff.’° Yes, because although Giitzlaff and Medhurst’s example was soon followed by many other translators, this was true only in the Protestant world. Wu’s was evidently the first officially approved Roman Catholic translation to adopt this usage which by then had become more or less standard in Chinese owing to the greater numbers and wider distribution of Protestant Bibles. In this sense, Wu was able to profit from

a liberalizing trend which made it possible for mid-twentieth-century Catholic translators to use native Chinese terms instead of the sometimes unwieldy transliterations from Latin which had been obligatory until then. Not many years before, in 1937, the Catholic translator Ma Xiangbo had still begun his Gospel of John with ‘In the beginning was the true word Wuerpeng Wii.’ Wu-er-peng, a three-syllable transmogrification of v-er-bum, had been in use by translators at least since Dias. If it meant anything at all to Chinese readers without additional explanation, it must have seemed to mean more or less ‘A Something which is your friend’. The Jesuit Li Wenyu, in his Church-approved Catholic translation which appeared in 1897, maintains Wuerpeng but adds an intertextual note: ‘Wuerpeng is yan [& ‘word’] in Chinese. It is the Holy Son of the Heavenly Lord. The reason why he is called ‘word’ is that he was/is

brought into being by the Holy Father, just as words come out of the mind of a person.’ Unlike either Dao or yan meaning ‘word’, which was eventually to appear in other versions, Wuerpeng was a newly coined term. As such it at least maintained the creative non-translatability of the


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original: clearly, the prospective convert to Christianity was faced with a new concept which would have to be learned in the actual practice of the new religion. Another difference with yan is that Wuerpeng does not, as yan does, tend to suggest emphasis on what is only one of the possible meanings of Logos: a ‘word’ as actually spoken or written, an element of existing language. This lean towards the ‘word’ as an instrument of proclamation, preaching and instruction may have been one feature of yan which made it attractive to the early Protestant translator Robert Morrison (1813). But

it had already been used in a Catholic manuscript Gospel Harmony (usually attributed to J. Basset, c. 1700?) which Morrison consulted and

can be seen very substantially to have based parts of his own translation

upon.’° Translation of the Word as strictly a ‘word’ is problematical in that it obscures the main point of this gospel: that the Incarnation was not just verbal but personal. John C.H. Wu’s use of Dao was, then, the official Catholic primeur of

what had long been a Protestant prerogative. Wu’s usage may have been one of the influences which led the later translators of the Chinese version of the Pastoral Bible (Muling Shengjing) in the late 1990s to employ Dao rather than the sheng yan 22% ‘holy word’ which had been current in the Catholic world since the Sigao Bible of 1968. In any case,

the translators of the Chinese Jerusalem Bible explicitly refer to Wu’s translation as the precedent of their own choice for Dao.” Was Wu’s use of Dao an indication that he was consciously striving for a vocabulary which could be read in senses other than the Christian? I would rather say, more cautiously, that it can be seen as one of the textual elements which place him in a broader and more ecumenical perspective than that of many other Catholic translators. In Jn 1.14, for example, in the passage ‘the Word was made flesh’, Wu’s phrasing is identical with great Protestant translations into wenyan — the midnineteenth-century Delegates’ Bible and the early twentieth-century CUV — but divergent from his Catholic precedents. It is true that Wu was, and sometimes still is, accused of going rather

far in suggesting parallels between Christian and ‘Chinese’ thought. Some of his own essays, even those written after his conversion, are quite

explicit in this regard. More than once he states that ‘God’ and ‘Dao’ refer to the same thing — which, however, cannot be adequately indicated by any word. In ‘A Comparison of Chinese and Western Cultures’, we read that to call God ‘father’ is to use an ‘analogy’, since God is above all distinction ‘of yin and yang, male and female’."® God and Dao are both terms ‘for an unknown X’. Precisely because of this ‘unknown’ quality, Wu says it is not only permissible but preferable to regard God as a ‘person’ — for exactness the term appears in English in the Chinese text. Since any word we could use would be dubious, says Wu, we might as well use the most ‘respectful’ possibility: and we feel more respect for a person than for an abstraction. In the same essay, John C.H. Wu says frankly that although he is a Catholic, he personally feels that the ‘Oriental’ notion of the ineffability

and ‘mysteriousness’ of the Dao (which again he explicitly equates with

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu’s Translation of the New Testament


‘God’) is an indispensable component necessary to the ‘completeness’ of the God-concept.

3. Neo-Confucian parallels In the world of Chinese language and thought, the word Dao is not limited to what seems to us its most obvious meaning: the Dao of Daoism. A daochang or ‘Dao venue’, for example, may very well be a Buddhist centre. And daoxue, the ‘study of the Dao’ or ‘science of the Dao’, normally refers not to Daoism but to Neo-Confucianism. An indication that John C.H. Wu’s Logos associations went further than the specifically Daoist Dao is found on the first page of the manuscript of his translation of the Gospel of John. There, in a note penned in the margin, he alludes to several well-known Neo-Confucian passages. The note begins: ‘The Dao is inborn perfection; without inborn perfection there would be no things.’ The first clause of this seems a slight revision of Zhong Yong 20.18 (‘Inborn perfection is the Dao of heaven’), while the second phrase (‘without inborn perfection there would be no things’) is a literal quote from Zhong Yong 25.2. The marginal note continues with a passage from the ancient Shujing [Book of Documents] which inspired commentary by the great founder of NeoConfucianism Zhu Xi, to the effect that ‘the thoughts of man are precarious; his sense for the Dao is but rudimentary’. In his original manuscript version of Rom. 12.2, Wu had used a literal quote from the opening sentence of one of the Neo-Confucian Four Books, the Daxue: zhi yu zhi shan (Legge: ‘to rest in the highest excellence’) where the biblical text exhorts to ‘satisfy yourselves what is God’s will, the good thing, the desirable thing, the perfect thing’.2’ This usage disappeared from the published version, but the published version of Col. 3.10 combines the zhi yu of this phrase with the term liang zhi ‘innate wisdom/awareness’ which was one of the most fundamental concepts of Wang Yangming’s Neo-Confucian philosophy. The resulting phrase zhi yu liang zhi, which we might translate ‘stay with innate knowledge/ awareness’, applies to what the Knox version translates as ‘the new self, that is being refitted all the time for closer knowledge, so that the image of the God who created it is its pattern’. Yet another literal adoption of a key term from the opening sentence of the Daxue is Wu's published version of Rom. 3.23, in which ming de (Legge’s ‘illustrious virtue’, which we might rather translate ‘efficaciousness of clarity’) is clearly intended to translate ‘the glory of God’. 4. Dao and context

As mentioned earlier, to translate Logos simply as ‘word’ is, if not to distort, at least to narrow

and confine a concept which even in the

original was of broader than exclusively Christian applicability. We need to remember (as it seems so-called ‘concordant’ translators do not) that in


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translating, we have to do not only with words taken singly, but with the shades, colours and outright changes of identity which they undergo in context and collocation. In Wu’s Johannine Prologue, the Dao at the beginning of v. 1 might still be read as a ‘Daoist’ Dao; but before we have read to the end of the following line, it is clear we are no longer in the

world of the Daodejing. A literal English version of Wu’s translation of Jn 1.1-3 is: In the beginning was the Dao;

[it was] with the Heavenly Lord. The Dao was the Heavenly Lord, was with him from the beginning. If not for the Dao, there would be no things;

things come to be through the Dao. All that there is in heaven and on earth is completed with the help of the Dao. In this opening passage of the Gospel of John, we are told twice not only that the Dao ‘was’, but that it was already ‘with’ something or someone else. This would be strange in the Daodejing, which clearly posits the Dao as precedent to all else. A few examples from John C.H. Wu’s own translation: As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless ... (Ch. 1) ... the common ancestor of all, the father of things. (Ch. 4)

Tao gave birth to One, One gave birth to Two, Two gave birth to Three,

Three gave birth to all the myriad things. (Ch. 42) Reasoning along similar lines, James Moffatt, analysing the use of Logos in the original which has often simplistically been said to have a Stoic flavour, says: the sentence, in the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was theos, might have been written by a Stoic ... it was written by one acquainted with the writings of Herakleitus, though the un-Stoic sentence, and the Logos was with God, at once betrays a Jewish current.”

If we look at this passage in Wu’s original manuscript (‘A’) version, the associations are still more eclectic:

All things come to be through the Dao; apart from the Dao, not one thing exists.

The mere five characters of the second line in Chinese comprise two separate allusions to traditional Chinese texts, as it were ‘baptizing them unto Christ’. Wu’s text reads: Li Dao wu yi wu. In Zhong Yong 1.2, we read ‘One cannot stand apart (li) from the Way (Dao) even for a moment; if

something can be stood apart from, it is not the Way.’ For traditional

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu’s Translation of the New Testament


readers of the Zhong Yong, the meaning of this passage is ethical and

normative. Legge translates Dao at its first occurrence as ‘the path of duty’ with italics, implying that the ethical reading is not inherent in the word Dao itself. Here, Wu transplants the phrase into an ontic context. Wu yi wu (not one thing exists) immediately evokes associations with the well-known phrase ben lai wu yi wu (from the beginning not one thing exists) from the Platform Sutra by Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism. Huineng denied the existence of ‘things’ to assert that it was useless to try to ‘dust off’ the mind through meditation: there was nothing to ‘clean’, since ‘dust’ itself did not exist independently of the mind which constituted it. Wu gives the phrase a dramatically Christian twist: ‘things’ do exist, but never apart from the creative Word.

5. Pedigree of a prologue But if the heritage of Chinese philosophy seems to have been one source of Wu’s vocabulary, another was the fund of precedents already laid down by former translators. I have compared Wu’s version of the Johannine prologue with the equivalent passage in prominent earlier wenyan translations both Protestant and Catholic. Of the latter, based on

detailed similarities in phrasing, I believe Wu can almost certainly be shown to have consulted Dias, Li Wenyu and Ma Xiangbo. Of Protestant versions, I believe the Delegates’ Bible, the CUV and Schereschewsky to be relevant.” In what follows, I shall give examples of several passages from the prologue and what comparison reveals in the way of affinities with other translations. Wu’s manuscript contains two very different versions of the prologue, and both differ strikingly from the version ultimately published in book form. I will call the successive manuscript versions ‘A’ and ‘B’; ‘C’ is the definitive text as published. All three versions are in rhymed verse — a tour de force which, among all versions under consideration here, is a unique feature of Wu’s. B is clearly later than A, written after the decision to change the five-syllable-per-line metre of A to a four-syllable rhythm, the form which is also maintained in C. The text of B also incorporates a number of changes which were already noted in the margin of A. Occasionally I have chosen to use a verb form other than the one to which Western readers are perhaps accustomed. In Chinese texts, the tense or mood of a verb must often be taken or guessed from the context — indeed, sometimes ‘imputed to’ the context where native speakers do not feel definiteness in this regard to be necessary. Are we to say that all things came to be, or come to be, through the Logos/Dao?

Jn 11-3 A In the beginning there was already the/a Dao; the Dao was together with the Heavenly Lord.


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This Dao was the Heavenly Lord,

[and was] together with him from the beginning. All things come to be through the Dao; apart from the Dao, not one thing exists.

In the beginning was the Dao; the Dao was together with the Lord. The Dao was the Heavenly Lord, was together with him from the beginning. Things come to be through the Dao; apart from the Dao, there are no things. Whatever has been given creation has been brought out by means of the Dao. In the beginning was the Dao; [it was] with the Heavenly Lord.

The Dao was the Heavenly Lord, was with him from the beginning. If not for the Dao, there would be no things;

things come to be through the Dao. All that there is in heaven and on earth is completed with the help of the Dao.

When we say ‘In the beginning was the Word’, we are quoting the King James Bible (and via it, the earlier Wyclif). In capitalizing ‘Word’, we are inferring that this line refers to more than just an ordinary word of ordinary language. This ‘Word’ is the Logos — a concept so complicated that some translators have refused to translate it at all, maintaining it in transcription instead. The great twentieth-century translator James Moffatt made of this line: ‘The Logos existed in the very beginning ...’ The Latin Vulgate translates Logos as verbum, but Erasmus in his famous,

or notorious, early sixteenth-century Latin New Testament made it sermo instead: a word which has been translated as everything from ‘word’ to ‘conversation’ to ‘discourse’. In short, this line, crucially important to theology, has always been a focus of argument as to just what the ‘original’ means. As we have seen, by John C.H. Wu’s time, in the Protestant world Dao

had long since established itself as the standard term for Logos in Jn 1.1. It was adopted by the Delegates’ version of the 1850s, which in turn was

a primary influence on subsequent Protestant translations in both the wenyan and ‘vernacular’ styles. Via the (vernacular) Union Bible of 1919, unquestionably the most widely read twentieth-century Chinese version, it has continued in familiarity down to the present day. Ma Xiangbo in his 1937 Catholic version shows an interesting compromise. He duly maintains the traditional Catholic transcription Wuerpeng but adds a preceding zhen yan, ‘the true word’, in apposition to it. In subsequent verses he dispenses with Wuerpeng, using zhen yan

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu’s Translation of the New Testament


instead. Ma’s translation was completed just at an important timeboundary in the history of Catholic terminology in China. In 1936 a number of the old Ibero-Chinese transcriptions from Latin finally disappeared from the official prayer-books and were replaced by more intelligible Chinese versions.25 Perhaps Ma was conscious that his translation was appearing in a time of discussion and transition, and wanted his text to be acceptable to readers from various backgrounds. One feature of Wu’s version which ranges him with the Union Wenli and against most others is his way of saying the Word ‘was with God’. Many of the early versions, including Dias, translate ‘was with’ as zai, which in Chinese means ‘to be at, in, or present’. In other words, it

corresponds to English ‘is’ in a sentence like ‘the book is on the table’, but definitely not when ‘is’ is used as a copula. A subtle feature is that at times zai means not so much a physical location as the fact of depending on or being on account of/being attributable to. There is however another word, xie, which can be used as a verb to mean ‘to accompany, to

be together with’. Of the versions I have seen, Morrison 1813 is the earliest to use this. Undoubtedly it is his usage which is echoed more than a century later in the Union Wenli’s and Wu’s use of the same term. In Wu’s A and B versions the verb is ju {&, again meaning ‘to accompany’, but it is preceded by yu, a preposition meaning ‘with’,

followed by ‘Heavenly Lord’ or ‘Lord’: yu Tianzhu ju 58K{K or yu Zhu

ju. In the C version, the verb changes to xie {# but the construction is

maintained: yu Tianzhu xie. This yu ... xie construction is very suggestive

of the traditional Chinese version of the Ave Maria, in which ‘the Lord is with thee’ is rendered Zhu yu er xie yan. Jn 1.4

A famous locus of controversy is the linkage, if any, between this and the previous verse. Historically there are alternate ways, both well attested, of punctuating and reading quod factum est ‘[that] which was/has been made’. What I will call the one-sentence reading connects these words in a single sentence with the foregoing, giving

... and without Him, nothing was made which was made. In Him was life ... The two-sentence reading takes these words as the beginning of a new thought, thus:

... and without Him, nothing was made. [That] which was made in Him was life ... A variant of the two-sentence reading, upheld in such a venerable source as Ruusbroec, finds in this passage a specific mystical implication by taking ‘life in Him’ as prior to ‘was made’: ... and without Him, nothing has been made. [That] which has been made was [already] life in Him ...

It is unmistakably such a reading which underlies Dias’s version:


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All that which/those who have received creation and have been, from of old, with Him, are one life.

Dias, in an interlinear note, amplifies this: ‘This is basically to say that the

things [wu], irrespective of their intelligence or unintelligence, before being created, were all alive/all a life. At that time all were of a/the

limitless living body of the Divine Son having the ability to create all things ...’ Wu’s translation does not explicitly go as far as this, but it has something of the same flavour. In all three of his successive versions, he

renders ‘[life] was in’ with yun 38, a many-faceted word which carries the sense of holding something in store. In Chinese Buddhist texts, this is a term commonly used for the skandhas, the ‘heaps’ or ‘aggregates’, in Conze’s term ‘constituents of the personality’,”° which carry over from One incarnation to the next and in that sense hold in store the latent future. (In Jn 1.16, Wu uses yun again to translate Christ’s ‘fullness’.) Again I am not aware of any other translation that uses this word. Practically all have zai, which we have already encountered in connection with Jn 1.1.

Jn 110-11 Wu’s handling of vv. 10-11 reveals his affinity with (and I believe conscious indebtedness to) the Catholic translators of an earlier day. Where the King James version has, ‘and the world was made by him, and

the world knew him not’ Wu’s A version has suo zao for ‘was made by’ and shi for ‘knew’. Both of these are identical to Li Wenyu’s phrasing. Both A and B have shi in the collocation mo zhi shi, which is very close to

Dias’s mo zhi zhi. The C version is rather different to both A and B. The change was probably necessitated by the metrical expansion of vv. 10-11 from only two couplets in all (as in A and B) to three, with the attendant need to find new, and different, rhyme words. Verse 11 in particular was

perhaps rather hastily rhymed in the A and B draft versions, ending on an isolated sound which did not rhyme with either the preceding or the following couplet. This aesthetic defect is repaired in the slightly lengthened text of C. In ‘he came unto his own, and his own received him not’, Wu’s final

version uses the word li ¥f (literally ‘to arrive’, but often used in the context of an official arriving at a place with whose affairs he is charged): a striking parallel with both Li Wenyu and Ma Xiangbo. Wu’s A version, in translating ‘his’, uses the very old possessive pronoun jue twice, as does Dias (the Harmony and Morrison both use it once). This word has a venerable, ‘classical’ sound. In his series of historical grammars treating successive stages of the Chinese language, W.A.C.H. Dobson considers this word to belong to one of the earliest attested levels of Chinese writing, which he calls early archaic Chinese;

he describes its later use in what many of us would call ‘classical Chinese’ as ‘sporadic’ and ‘archaistic’.””

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu's Translation of the New Testament


Jn 1.12 This verse in the C version begins with na #4, echoing Li Wenyu. ‘His name’ emerges as jue ming, as it does in Dias and in the Harmony and Morrison.

Jn 1.14 A This Dao took bodily form, dwelt among us humans. We contemplated his glory, worthy to be called the Father’s only child. Wondrous grace and truth abundantly filled his physical presence. The Dao incarnated as a human being, became our neighbour. We personally observed him: of supreme beauty, the only divine child,

the incomparable glory. Wondrous grace and the deepest meaning filled to overflowing his physical presence. The Dao incarnated as a human being, dwelt in our midst. We personally observed him:

the countenance of supreme virtue, the only divine child,

the incomparable glory. Wondrous grace and the deepest meaning filled to overflowing his physical presence.

We have now arrived at the linguistic and theological crux of the whole prologue — the Incarnation. Traditionally, in English the Word ‘was made flesh’. In this context, ‘flesh’ stands for the entire embodied human state. But in other New Testament contexts, ‘flesh’ is set off as only one part of the human experience, which may be positively in opposition to ‘spirit’. How is a translator to capture both the concreteness and the allinclusiveness of Jesus’ incarnation?

Dias treated this line with great economy, saying simply that Wuerpeng yi jiang wei ren ‘[has] come down to be a human being’. I have not been able to determine how his Catholic successor in the Harmony handled it, as the Harmony breaks off John’s prologue after v. 13.78 But Morrison, who very often adopts the Harmony’s phrasing, has bian wei rou, which in unadorned translation would be ‘changed to meat’.

Li Wenyu has jiangsheng wei ren, very literally ‘came down into life as a


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human being’, but in jiangsheng as actually in common use, the sense of ‘coming down’ is often weakened or implicit, as when it simply means (e.g. of a baby) ‘to be born’; on the other hand, it is often used for the birth of avatars. Ma Xiangbo departed strikingly from this Catholic precedent of using ren, saying instead cheng xingluan, which very definitely has a ‘fleshly’ or even a ‘meaty’ sound. Wu’s original formulation in A, cheng xingti, is a somewhat less crass-sounding modification of Ma’s phrase. A xingti can refer to a person’s bodily ‘figure’ or ‘build’, but also to the ‘form’ of an impersonal object like a building. It does not carry the sense of personality. (Xingti, a familiar word in Neo-Confucian texts, is also the word Wu uses for ‘body’ in 1 Thess. 5.23, in the familiar Pauline trio of spirit, soul and body.) One of

Wu’s marginal notes at this point shows that he was already aware of the solution that he chose for B and maintained in C: renshen. Among

Protestant translators, Morrison as we have seen made


‘flesh’ just literally rou. Medhurst/Giitzlaff said dao cheng roushen, ‘the Dao/Word became a flesh/physical body’. The later Delegates and Union Wenli both used dao cheng renshen, which in my view sounds less definitely physical as well as less specifically Christian. This phrase was also John C.H. Wu’s choice in his B and C versions. Superficially, ren (human) plus shen (body) might seem to mean just ‘human body’. But in Chinese, often shen is not so much ‘body’ as ‘self’, sometimes also ‘lifetime’ or ‘life’. Renshen is also a very common Buddhist term meaning a lifetime, literally an in-carn-ation, in human form. Accordingly, I have chosen the translation ‘the Dao incarnated as a human being’. And what did the witnesses say of Jesus? In C, the ‘glory’ (A) or ‘beauty’ (B) has become the ‘countenance of supreme virtue’. It looks almost like a catechistically motivated adjustment. Yet this ‘supreme virtue’ also carries Confucianist and Buddhist overtones. The character kong in kongde is the same as the family name of Confucius. In many combinations it means simply ‘Confucianist’ or ‘of Confucius’, so that kongde would at least subliminally sound like ‘the virtues of a Confucius’. But the Buddhists also sometimes explain this character kong as equivalent to another kong which means Emptiness or sunyata. A subtle but compelling flash of similarity to the earlier Catholics is in the last two words of C: jue gong ‘his physical presence’. This does not correspond directly with any single explicit element in the English (or Latin or Greek) versions, but goes back to Wu’s original paraphrase in the A text. As we have already seen in connection with vv. 10-11 above, jue ‘his’ was an archaic-sounding pronoun favoured by Dias. For ‘his glory’, Dias has jue rongguang. This is shortened to jue rong in Li Wenyu, and also in Wu’s A version. In the B and C versions with their changed metric structure, the ‘glory’ no longer is preceded by a possessive pronoun, but the verse ends with jue gong, not literally echoing Dias but maintaining the characteristic jue. All in all, this 14th verse in Wu’s C version is a remarkable creative distillate from illustrious precedents. In its opening phrases about the Incarnation and the ‘beholding’ of the ‘glory’, Wu echoes the nineteenth-century Protestant Delegates and Union Wenli. In his use of jue, he recalls Dias by way of Li Wenyu.

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu's Translation of the New Testament


In all three versions, I have translated the last word, gong, as ‘physical presence’. Gong is literally either ‘body’ or ‘self’; it occurs adverbially in many collocations where it means ‘in person’. To my sense, Wu’s use of this term is one more indication that in his translation he was trying as much as possible to make the incarnate Dao a human (and not just intratrinitarian) person. The latter versions project a strong feeling of the Gospel’s writer, its readers, and the Dao being together as one community. The Dao is more than just a principle, more than just an assumed metaphysical backdrop: it is a person. This conclusion is supported by the remarkable evidence of Wu’s handling of Jn 14.6. Where Jesus there says ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’, Wu does not, as most Western sinologists would have done,

use Dao as his term for ‘way’! (Was he unaware of, or did he consciously disagree with, Arthur Waley’s 1934 statement that specifically in this line, Dao and ‘way’ could be equivalent?”’) Wu’s early (A) version of this line did contain Dao, but as the translation of ‘truth’. Later it disappeared and the ‘truth’ was translated, as in the prologue, zhendi (deepest meaning, true import). Wu’s word for ‘way’ in Jn 14.6 was and remained tu (way, road, route). The line as published means something like I am the route, am the true meaning, am life.

In other words, the Dao/Word/Logos is not just one of three possible predicate nominatives for ‘I’; it is itself the speaking ‘T’.

6. A text in changing context The above passages give us some idea as to where John C.H. Wu stands in the gallery of Chinese Bible translators, especially of translators into wenyan, whether Catholic or Protestant. Why did Wu choose to translate into wenyan when he did? In practical terms, he first began translating a few psalms out of personal interest; subsequently his Psalms attracted the attention of President Chiang Kai-shek and his wife; and given the

Chiangs’ liking for Wu’s ‘classical’ translation style as seen in the Psalms, the decision would have been obvious to produce the subsequent New Testament version in a comparably classical mode. The alternative — to produce yet another translation in vernacular or ‘spoken Mandarin’ — must have seemed unattractive for many reasons. For one thing, it was already a crowded field. Of the assortment of Protestant vernacular versions which had been made since the nineteenth century, one, the CUV became so well known that it has sometimes been said to have attained almost a ‘King James effect’ in being considered especially authoritative. Since 1922 there had also existed a full Catholic vernacular translation of the New Testament by the Jesuit Xiao Jingshan. It saw many printings and by the time of Wu’s conversion was a well-established text in the Catholic world. As we have seen, when Wu started working on his translation the time

was ripe for a new translation which while specifically Catholic would be free from what Brunner has called the ‘deformity’ of key terms in the


Lloyd Haft

Chinese text being presented in cumbersome and mystifying transcriptions from Latin.3° For Wu this meant, for example, that the Johannine

Logos would be no longer Wuerpeng but Dao. The effect of this shift was to give Wu’s translation a Catholic but not a parochial sound, while the many likenesses between his and the Protestants’ terminology are evidence that he was not straining to avoid parallels. Nor did Wu seek to conceal what he felt to be legitimate echoes of older Chinese philosophy, and wenyan was the natural idiom in which to allude to these. Some of these likenesses were more prominent in the original draft than in the later approved version, but the text as published still contains remarkable instances. I believe this aspect of Wu’s work is especially deserving of further study at the present time when Neo-Confucianist or ‘New Confucian’ authors are seeking to demonstrate theological components in Confucian thought. Even a term like ‘Confucian theology’ is used - at times, one feels, with the implication that Christian theology has new things to learn from Confucian studies but not the other way around. In a time when scholars are seeking to approach books like the Zhong Yong in isolation from their historical context, reading them for a more timeless message, it

may be appropriate to re-examine Wu’s text for its thought-provoking inclusiveness of intellectual elements from widely separate periods, even perhaps from ostensibly separate cultures. Finally, in translating into wenyan Wu was simply doing what he did especially well, and what few others could have done so well. His translation is not analytical but synthetic: choosing evocation over philological exactness, it is in the nature of a personal statement by a translator for whom the New Testament was not an endpoint but a creative further development of various strands in his own development. Though it may indeed not have equalled the broad usefulness of translations which do not make such heavy demands upon the educational level of their readership, surely there is still a place for this creatively wrought translation which invites the reader to probe meditatively into the implications and overtones of passage after passage. Notes

1. The term Xinjing (New Scripture) for the New Testament has often been used by Catholic translators. 2. For biographical information, see Howard L. Boorman (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Vol. 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), pp. 419-22; Matthias Christian, Rechtsphilosophie zwischen Ost und West: Eine vergleichende Analyse der frihen rechtsphilosophischen Gedanken von John C.H. Wu (Vienna: Springer, 1988); and John C.H. Wu’s autobiography Beyond East and West (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1951). Parts of this paper were originally presented in Lloyd Haft, ‘John C.H. Wu en de Vleesgeworden Dao van Johannes’, in Govert Buijs (ed.), Sander Griffioen: Een weg gaan (Budel: Uitgeverij DAMON,

2006), pp. 105-13. I would like to thank Wilt Idema, B.J. Mansvelt Beck,

Nicolas Standaert and Koos Kuiper for their helpful comments.

Perspectives on John C.H. Wu’s Translation of the New Testament


. For background and references, see Francis K.H. So, ‘Wu Ching-hsiung’s Chinese Translation of Images of the Most High in the Psalms’, in Irene Eber et al. (eds), Bible in

Modern China: The Literary and Intellectual Impact (Nettetal: Steyler, 1999), pp. 321-49. . I would like to thank Ye Jingmei, who tried for years unsuccessfully to find me a copy of the commercial edition of Wu’s New Testament and then, in early 2006, procured for me this even rarer version. . James Legge, The Chinese Classics, 7 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893; 2nd rev. edn),

Vol. 1, p. 397.

. F.S. Couvreur SJ, Les quatre Livres (Sien Hsien: Imprimerie de la mission catholique, 1930; 3rd edn), p. 39. . S. Couvreur, Li Ki (Ho Kien Fou: Imprimerie de la mission catholique, 1899), Vol. 2,

pp. 440-1. . FS. Couvreur SJ, Dictionnaire classique de la langue chinoise (Taipei: Kuangchi Press,

1933), p. 1035.

. Li Gi, Das Buch der Sitte; translated with commentary by Richard Wilhelm. (Cologne: Eugen Diederichs, 1958), p. 32.

10. Chuang-tzu, The Seven Inner Chapters and other Writings from the Book Chuang-tzu, trans. A.C. Graham (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981), p. 98. He Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), p. 94.

12. Dschuang Dsi, Das wahre Buch vom Siidlichen Bliutenland; translated with commentary by Richard Wilhelm. (Cologne: Eugen Diederichs, 1969), p. 99.

13. The idea that one or the other sense need be considered more ‘basic’ is dubious. In our own language there might not seem to be any one word which equally evokes both these possibilities, but ‘realize’ comes close, though in actual contexts it is hard to imagine it not seeming to be either one or the other. 14. Dias’s name also appears as ‘Manoel Diaz’, etc. Though Dias did not produce a full New Testament translation, his gospel readings were reprinted at various times right up into the twentieth century; they were a major influence upon later translators including, as we Shall shortly see, John C.H. Wu. 1S See Jost Zetzsche, ‘Giitzlaff’s Bedeutung fiir die protestantischen Bibeltibersetzungen ins Chinesische’, in Thoralf Klein and Reinhard Zéllner (eds), Karl Gutzlaff (1803-1851) und das Christentum in Ostasien (Nettetal: Steyler, n.d.), pp. 155-71, on the use of Dao for

Logos, esp. pp. 167-9. 16. I have examined both in the library of the Sinological Institute, Leiden University. . Jost Zetzsche, ‘Terminologische Einfliisse von Denksystemen nichtchristlichen Ursprungs auf das chinesische christliche Vokabular’, China Heute, xiv (1995), 2. 78: 51.

18. This and following quotes from Wu’s prose collection, Zhexue yu wenhua [Philosophy and Culture] (Taipei, San Min shuju, 2006), pp. 64, 84.

19: My translation of the word cheng here is based on the French ‘perfection innée’ used by

20. 21. .


S. Couvreur on p. 856 of his famous Chinese-French dictionary in citing this Zhong Yong passage as an example. I am thoroughly opposed to the translation ‘sincerity’ which one often sees. As an alternative I suggest ‘full attunement’. Quoted and discussed in The Philosophy of Human Nature by Chu Hsi, trans. from the Chinese, with notes, by J. Percy Bruce (London: Probsthain, 1922), p. 19. Translation mine. Passage quoted from the Knox version. Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching, trans. John C.H. Wu. The translation was republished in 2005 by Shambhala. All citations are from this Shambhala edition. The translation dates from after Wu’s conversion to Catholicism. James Moffatt, An Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T. Clark, 1912; 2nd edn), p. 525.

24. It is difficult to be sure about the dating of these early Bible versions; the literature often gives conflicting dates for the same work. In listing the versions I have consulted, Ifirst


Lloyd Haft give what I believe to be the approximate date of first publication of each item, followed by the date of the version I have been able to use. It should be borne in mind that the later reprint versions (which I have consulted) may contain slight revisions with respect to the original publications. For Dias I have used the text given in the reprint series Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian sanbian (Taipei, 1972). I believe the original to date from within a couple of years before or after 1640. For Li Wenyu (1897/1926), a copy in the Catholic University of Leuven library; the text includes information stating this to be the

fourth printing. For Ma Xiangbo, an edition in the library of Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei; the ecclesiastical approbation is dated 1937 and the publication 1949. The Delegates’ Bible (1852/1918) is from the Leiden University library; the ‘Wenli New Testament, Union Version’ (1919/1925), in my own possession. For Schereschewsky (1910/2005) I have used the magnificent reprint by St John’s University in Taipei (thanks to Dr Peter Yang, President of St John’s University). . Paul


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is re-inserted at some other point in the text. Meanwhile I have been informed by Dr A. C. Dudink of the Catholic University of Leuven that there is in Rome a full manuscript translation of the gospels, very probably by J. Basset, the putative author of the Harmony, in which this phrase reads cheng wei rou: ‘became meat/flesh’. 29. Arthur Waley, The Way and Its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1934), pp. 30-1. . Brunner, L’Euchologe, p. 22.


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Chiang Kai-shek 21, 184, 190-1, 203 China Christian Council 51-7, 60-3, 154 China Ministries International 56 concubinage 171-5

35, 163, 167-8, 172,

175-6 Allegra, Gabriel M. see Lei Yongming Analects

13, 120

ancestor worship 171, 173 anti-foreign religions movement Ark church 60


Confucian thought

baihua (vernacular) 33, 38, 42, 70-1, 124, 145 beatitude 147, 153-4 Bible Societies 13, 20, 21, 72 Bible Chinese Union Version 69, 76, 120 and Christian literature 49, 53

Dao the 83, 86-7, 101-02, 123, 189, 192-8, 201-3 Daoism 14-15, 22, 35, 53, 126, 143, 171-2, 191, 193 Daoist texts 2, 87, 168 Dias, Manuel 193, 197, 199-203 Ding Guangxun_ 5, 7, 51-4, 143, 154-9

commentarial glosses 36, 115 Delegates’ Version 69, 198

dictionaries 33, 38 Mandarin 13, 25-6, 68-71, 124, 203 overviews 39-40

production statistics 13 selections of scripture sentences 40-1, 45


ethical norms


Feng Yuxiang



50, 78n 12

stories and narratives

5, 87, 170, 204

correspondence course Cultural Christians 5, 57-60


Gitzlaff, Karl

22, 40, 42, 45, 193, 202

8, 33, 50, 53,

71 vernacular 25-7, 33, 42, 68, 70-73, 124, 145, 190, 198, 203 wenyan (classical Chinese) 68, 76, 189, 191, 194, 197-8, 203-4 buddhism 15, 22, 87, 126, 166, 171-2, 197



Hong Kong

4, 7, 18, 23, 43, 70-3,

81-2, 129, 181-3

house churches see unregistered churches Hu Shi


hymn books 8, 25, 27, 323-3, 38, 42, 69, 73-6, 109, 184-8

canon formation 2, 3, 5, 16-17, 33, 44, 56, 1134, 168, 192 catechetical literature 42, 164, 166-7 Chao, T.C. see Zhao Zichen Che Yaoxian 17, 25 Chen Duxiu 24, 27-8, 107

inculturation 149, 163, 168-172, 175 indigenous theology 59, 89, 124-7, 129, 149, 155, 186 intellectuals 2, 4,5, 18, 28, 32-3, 51, 57-60, 63, 97, 99, 124-6, 137, 148




Jesuits 1, 13, 128, 163-76, 182, 184, 193-4, 203 Jesus, divinity of

4, 14, 86, 87, 90, 104,

109, 137, 149, 152, 159 Jiang Wenye 182, 184-5 jing (scripture) 2, 21, 35, 37, 45, 105-06, 108, 115, 124, 126, 164 Jinling Union Theological Seminary see Nanjing Union Theological Seminary 15-16, 21, 35, 150-1,

Judgement, final


junzi (gentleman)

Kelsey, David Lee, Archie

Lei Yongming

4, 127, 149, 174

144, 148 4, 163, 168-9



literati 16, 18, 39, 70, 167, 172-3 liturgical texts 8, 32-3, 42, 44-5, 73-6, 147, 149, 171, 184-6, 193 Liu Xiaofeng 58-60, 82 85-7, 193-9, 203

Ma Xiangbo 193, 197-8, 200, 202 Medhurst, W. H. 18, 22, 34-5, 37, 42-5, 193, 202 Milne, William 17 Morrison, Robert 199-202

33, 71

2, 17, 21, 43, 194,

Nanjing Union Theological Seminary 50, 54, 81, 103, 134, 154-55, 182 nationalism 89, 97, 126, 128, 145, 150 Neo-Confucian thought

127, 191-2, 195, 202, 204


social reform 108, 123, 125, 128, 130, 147-8, 157, 159

linyi jiejing (spiritual exegesis)

missionary publications morality books 172

saving the nation 5, 19, 21, 23-4, 97, 99, 106-7, 109, 111, 114, 123, 125, 145-6, 150, 158 Schereschewsky, Samuel 34, 43, 197 scientism 109, 121, 125, 145-6, 150, seminaries 3, 6-7, 33, 53, 55, 150, 155 Sermon on the Mount 8, 19, 143-60 Sino-Christian studies 7-8


Liang Fa 17-18, 21 Liang Gong _ 53, 82, 89 Lin Changyi 14


Bible 1-2, 76, 189, 199 catechism 164 passim hymnal 74-5 and protestant ire 102 Ruggieri, Michele 165-6, 170 rural Christians 50-1, 54-5, 130

State Administration of Religious Affairs


Standaert, Nicolas 164, 167, 172 Studium Biblium Franciscanum Sinense 68, 73, 76, 181-4 Sun Yat-sen 16, 23, 28, 145 Sun Yi 23, 53, 82

Taiping rebellion 21-3 Taiwan 8,54, 56, 59, 69, 72, 81-2, 124, 129

Three-Self Patriotic Movement 5, 19, 51, 81, 154 Tianfeng 55 Tianzhu (Lord) 169-71, 174, 199 Timothy’s family 61 Ting, K.H. see Ding Guangxun university students unregistered churches

61, 145 6, 50, 62-3,

54-7, 60, 155

104, 107-8, Vagnone, Alfonso 168, 170, 173 Vatican Two 72-3, 181, 184-6, 189

prayer books 32, 42-4, 50, 53, 181, 199 primers 8, 32-7, 43

Wang Jishen

Psalms 8, 13, 36, 43, 74-6, 181-6, 190-1, 203

Wang Mingdao 158-9

19 143, 150-1, 154, 156,

Wang Tao _ 16, 18 ren (benevolence) 36, 120, 126, 146, 149 renge (character) 107, 125, 128, 146-7, 149-52, 157-8 Ricci, Matteo 164, 166, 170-1, 174 Roman Catholic

Wang Zheng

170, 175-5

Word 83, 87, 151, 154, 193 passim Wu Jingxiong 21, 181-4, 189, 191

Wu Leichuan passim

19-20, 99, 107-110, 118

Index Wu Yaozong 158

Xi Shengmo

19, 126, 128, 147, 150-1,


xinren (new human)



Yang Huilin


Yang Xiangji


Zetzsche, Jost Oliver Zhu Zhixin 16





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