Skip to main content Accesibility Help
×
×
Home

Wellspring of Inspiration: The Mandarin Union Version and Modern Chinese Poetry in the Early Twentieth Century

  • JOHN T. P. LAI (a1)
Abstract

Coinciding with the May Fourth new cultural and literary movement, the publication of the Mandarin Union Version, the vernacular Chinese translation of the Bible, in 1919 had a profound impact on the formation of modern Chinese literature. This paper examines the ways in which the Union Version provided a novel source of imageries, poetic genres and worldviews for the experimentation of modern Chinese poetry during the Republican period, particularly between the 1920s and 1940s. Revering the Bible as the Holy Scripture, young Christian poetess Bing Xin (1900–99) spontaneously expressed her religious sentiments and commitment by composing a series of “sacred poems” as her own poetic response to the striking beauty of biblical images. Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967), a renowned May Fourth Chinese writer and intellectual, regarded the Bible as a treasured anthology of Jewish literature and appreciated the humanistic values embodied in the teachings of Jesus. Placing the biblical references of the wilderness, Jesus's universal love and Moses's legalistic position in the forefront, Zhou Zuoren's poem “Qilu,” or “Crossroads,” captured the perplexity of his contemporary intellectuals, Zhou himself included, in their sabbathless search for cultural rejuvenation and national salvation during the transitional and tumultuous Republican era. An ardent admirer of W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot, Chinese modernist poet Mu Dan (1918–77) studied their poetry at the Southwest United University in Kunming during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45). Imbued with biblical allusions, for instance, the fall of humankind and the loss of paradise, Mu Dan's poems, like “She de youhuo,” or “The Temptation of the Serpent,” articulate his penetrating critique of modernity. These works of poetry represent the multiple voices and diverse reactions of the early twentieth-century Chinese poets towards the Union Version which had not only firmly established its canonical status as the predominant Chinese translation of the Bible used by the Protestant Church, but also emerged as a literary tour-de-force to propel the evolution of modern Chinese poetry.

Copyright
References
Hide All
A'Ying 阿英. “Xiandai Zhongguo nü zuojia [現代中國女作家 Modern Chinese Women Writers],” in A'Ying quanji [阿英全集 The Complete Works of A'Ying]. Hefei, Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2003.
Xin, Bing 冰心. “Cong qunian dao jinnian de Shengdanjie [從去年到今年的聖誕節 From the Christmas of Last Year to that of this Year]”. In vol. 3 of Bing Xin quanji [冰心全集 The Complete Works of Bing Xin], edited by Ru, Zhuo 卓如, 397398. Fuzhou, Haixia wenyi chubanshe, 1994.
Xin, Bing 冰心. “Wo de wenxue shenghuo [我的文學生活 My Literary Life].” In vol. 3 of Bing Xin quanji [冰心全集 The Complete Works of Bing Xin], edited by Ru, Zhuo 卓如, 313. Fuzhou, Haixia wenyi chubanshe, 1994.
Xin, Bing 冰心. “Wo ru le Beiman zhongzhai [我入了貝滿中齋 I Was Admitted into the Bridgeman Girls’ School]”. In vol. 7 of Bing Xin quanji [冰心全集 The Complete Works of Bing Xin], edited by Ru, Zhuo 卓如, pp. 458464. Fuzhou, Haixia wenyi chubanshe, 1994.
Chong, Yau Yuk 莊柔玉. Jidujiao Shengjing Zhongwen yiben quanwei xianxiang yanjiu [基督敎聖經中文譯本權威現象硏究 A Study of the Phenomenon of Authoritativeness in the Chinese Translations of the Protestant Bible]. Hong Kong, International Bible Society, 2000.
Daruvala, Susan. Zhou Zuoren and an Alternative Chinese Response to Modernity. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000.
Eber, Irene, Wan, Sze-kar and Walf, Knut, eds. Bible in Modern China: The Literary and Intellectual Impact. Sankt Augustin, Institut Monumenta Serica, 1999.
Eliot, T. S.‘Ulysses’, Order, and Myth.” In Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, edited by Kermode, Frank, pp. 175178. London, Faber and Faber, 1975.
Gálik, Marián. Influence, Translation, and Parallels: Selected Studies on the Bible in China. Sankt Augustin, Monumenta Serica Institute, 2004.
Graham, William A.Scripture.” In vol. 12 of The Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd edition), edited by Jones, Lindsay, pp. 81948205. Detroit, Macmillan, 2005.
Gu, Jun 顧鈞. “Zhou Zuoren yu Shengjing wenxue [周作人與《聖經》文學 Zhou Zuoren and Biblical Literature]”. Suzhou keji xueyuan xuebao [蘇州科技學院學報 Journal of Suzhou University of Science and Technology (Social Science)] 27, no. 2 (March 2010), pp. 3942.
Hsü, Immanuel C. Y. The Rise of Modern China (6th edition) New York and Hong Kong, Oxford University Press, 2000.
King James Bible. Cambridge, Chadwyck-Healey, 1996.
Liang, Shuming 梁漱溟. Dong Xi wenhua ji qi zhexue [東西文化及其哲學 Eastern and Western Cultures and Their Philosophies]. Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1922.
Mak, George Kam Wah. Protestant Bible Translation and Mandarin as the National Language of China. Leiden, Brill, 2017.
Mason, Michael, (ed.) Lyrical Ballads. London and New York, Longman, 1992.
Dan, Mu 穆旦. Tanxian dui [探險隊 Expedition Team]. Kunming: Wenju she, 1945.
Murray, A. H. Jowett. “The New Mandarin Bible.” Chinese Recorder 50, no. 7 (July 1919), pp. 439443.
Oh, Yun Sook 吳允淑. “Mu Dan shige zhong de Jidujiao huayu [穆旦詩歌中的基督教話語 The Christian Discourse in Mu Dan's Poetry]”. Daofeng: Jidujiao wenhua pinglun [道風:基督教文化評論 Logo and Pneuma: Chinese Journal of Theology] 12 (Spring 2000), pp. 213246.
Pollard, David E. A Chinese Look at Literature: The Literary Values of Chou Tso-jen [Zhou Zuoren] in Relation to the Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973.
Robinson, Lewis Stewart. Double-Edged Sword: Christianity & 20th Century Chinese Fiction. Hong Kong, Tao Fong Shan Ecumenical Centre, 1986.
Robinson, Lewis Stewart. “The Bible in Twentieth-century Chinese Fiction.” In Bible in Modern China: The Literary and Intellectual Impact, edited by Eber, Irene, Wan, Sze-kar and Walf, Knut, pp. 237278. Sankt Augustin, Institut Monumenta Serica, 1999.
Wang, Benchao 王本朝. Ershi shiji Zhongguo wenxue yu Jidujiao wenhua [20 世紀中國文學與基督教文化 20th-century Chinese Literature and Christian Culture]. Hefei, Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2000.
Wang, Zuoliang 王佐良. “Yi ge Zhongguo shiren [一個中國詩人 A Chinese Poet].” In Mu Dan zixuan shiji: 1937–1948 [穆旦自選詩集: 1937–1948 Mu Dan's Personal Collections of Poetry: 1937–1948], edited by Mingchuan, Zha 查明傳 et al. , 168175. Tianjin, Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2010.
Welch, Holmes. The Buddhist Revival in China. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press, 1968.
Xie, Wanying 謝婉瑩 [Bing Xin 冰心]. “Shi [詩 Poetry].” Shengming [生命 Life] 1 (March 1921), pp. 13.
Xu, Zhenglin 許正林. Zhongguo xiandai wenxue yu Jidujiao [中國現代文學與基督教 Chinese Modern Literature and Christianity]. Shanghai, Shanghai daxue chubanshe, 2003.
Yang, Jianlong 楊劍龍. Jidujiao wenhua dui Wusi xin wenxue de yingxiang [基督教文化對五四新文學的影響 The Influence of Christian Culture on the May Fourth New Literature]. Taipei, 2012.
Zetzsche, Jost Oliver. The Bible in China: The History of the Union Version, or, the Culmination of Protestant Missionary Bible Translation in China. Sankt Augustin, Monumenta Serica Institute, 1999.
Zetzsche, Jost Oliver. “The Work of Lifetimes: Why the Union Version Took Nearly Three Decades to Complete?” In Bible in Modern China: The Literary and Intellectual Impact, edited by Eber, Irene, Wan, Sze-kar and Walf, Knut, pp. 77100. Sankt Augustin, Institut Monumenta Serica, 1999.
Zhang, Tongdao 張同道 and Dingnan, Dai 戴定南, eds. Ershi shiji Zhongguo wenxue dashi (Shige Juan) [二十世紀中國文學大師 (詩歌卷) 20th-century Chinese Literary Masters (Poetry)]. Haikou, Hainan chubanshe, 1994.
Zhou, Zuoren 周作人. “Shengshu yu Zhongguo wenxue [聖書與中國文學 The Bible and Chinese Literature].” Xiaoshuo yuebao [小說月報 Fiction Monthly] 12, no. 1 (January 1921), pp. 17.
Zhou, Zuoren 周作人. Guoqu de shengming [過去的生命 Past Life]. Shanghai, Beixin shuju, 1930.
Zhou, Zuoren 周作人. Yutian de shu [雨天的書 Book for a Rainy Day]. Hong Kong, Shiyong shuju, 1967.
Zhou, Zuoren 周作人. “Humane Literature.” In Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893–1945, edited by Denton, Kirk A., pp. 151161. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996.
Zhou, Zuoren 周作人. “Wenxue yu zongjiao [文學與宗教 Religion and Literature].” In Zhitang huixiang lu [知堂回想錄 The Memoir of Zhitang], edited by An, Zhi 止庵, 497501. Beijing, Beijing shiyue wenyi chubanshe, 2013.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed