Protestant Bible Translation and Mandarin as the National Language of China

This book represents the first monograph-length study of the relationship between Protestant Bible translation and the development of Mandarin from a lingua franca into the national language of China. Drawing on both published and unpublished sources, this book looks into the translation, publication, circulation and use of the Mandarin Bible in late Qing and Republican China, and sets out how the Mandarin Bible contributed to the standardization and enrichment of Mandarin. It also illustrates that the Mandarin Union Version, published in 1919, was involved in promoting Mandarin as not only the standard medium of communication but also a marker of national identity among the Chinese people, thus playing a role in the nation-building of modern China.

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George Kam Wah Mak, PhD (University of Cambridge, 2011), is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. He is currently Research Assistant Professor at David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University.
'This volume is a welcome, well-researched addition to our understanding of the relationship between the translation of the Bible and the promotion of Mandarin as the national language of China during the late Qing and Republican periods. ...highly recommended.'
Reviewed by STUART VOGEL, Auckland, NZJAS 19,2 (2017)

'This book has an extensive bibliography (38 pages), an index of Biblical verses, and a general index. Overall, this is a well-researched monograph, exploring the impact of Mandarin Bibles published from 1856 to 1919.'
T. Timothy Chen, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary west North America, Memphis, TN, American Journal of Chinese Studies (25/1) 2018

'George Kam Wah Mak makes a convincing case that Chinese translations of the Bible enriched and helped standardize Mandarin as China's national language in the Republican Period (1912-1949).(...) George's Mak work is a significant contribution to the study of the modern Chinese language as well as the history of Chinese Protestantism and its relationship to Chinese culture.'
Robert Entenmann, Church History, 88/1 (2019).

'...his argument is sophisticated and compelling. It is worth our attention.Mak's work not only challenges our current understanding but also encourages us to rethink the dialectic relationship between Christianity and China's nation-building.'
John Feng, JRAS, Series 3 (2019)

'George Kam Wah Mak has taken up the admirable job where so many previous researchers into the history of the Chinese Bible have stopped by exploring how the great Chinese Bible, the Union Version, has influenced the development of the modern Chinese language. (...) overall, this book provides the long-awaited next stepping stone in the history of the Union Version, leading us to a better understanding of the undoubtedly great and lasting influence of one of the great Bible translations in the history of Christianity.' Jost Zetzsche, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 70/2 (2019)
List of Figures and Tables
List of Abbreviations


Chapter One: The Emergence of the Mandarin Protestant Bible and the Idea of Tongxing Mandarin in Chinese Bible Translation
Mandarin: The Lingua Franca of the Officials or a Common Language?
Was There a Standard Mandarin?
The Emergence of the Mandarin Protestant Bible
Towards a Tongxing Mandarin: A Prelude to Mandarin as the National Language of China
Chapter Two: Institutional Patronage and the Mandarin Bible as the Tongxing Bible in China
The British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS)
The BFBS in China
How did the BFBS Promote Mandarin Bible Translation and Circulation?
Financial Sponsorship
Honorary Roll
Colportage System
The BFBS’s Ideological Control over Mandarin Bible Translation
Case 1: The Greek Text of the Mandarin Union Version
Case 2: The ‘Without Note or Comment’ Principle and the BFBS’s Translational Helps of the Mandarin Bible
Chapter Three: The Use of the Mandarin Bible and the Promotion of Mandarin as guoyu
The Mandarin Bible, the Building of a Biblical and Literate Chinese Church, and the Promotion of Mandarin as guoyu
How did the Mandarin Bible as a Text Promote the Use of Mandarin as guoyu?
In Church-related Settings
Outside the Church
Chapter Four: Biblical Mandarin and Modern Chinese Lexicon
Fandui 反對
Shijie 世界
Xiaoxi 消息
Yijian 意見
Ziyou 自由
Chapter Five: Biblical Mandarin and Modern Chinese Grammar
The Transposition of the yinwei 因為 Subordinate Clause
The Expanded Uses of the bei 被 Passive Construction
The Increasing Use of ‘yi 一’ as a Marker of Indefiniteness
The Expanded Uses of zai 在


Index of Biblical Verses
General Index

For those interested in modern Chinese history, the Chinese language, Bible translation, Christianity in China, the history of Protestant missions, and the relationship between the Bible and national languages