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Can I Still Get a Bible in China?

Answering Common Questions

In 2014, I (Joann) wrote a post titled “Where Can Someone Get a Bible in China?” Surprisingly, it has turned out to be one of the most-read posts we’ve published. If you do a Google search on how or where to get a Bible in China, it is often the first link displayed (which is why it gets so many “hits”). In 2020, I followed it up with an update post, noting how things have changed in China and that getting a Bible, especially an electronic version, had become a bit more difficult.

We thought it was time to provide another update, especially since so many people continue to stumble across our posts. Please note that we are focusing our remarks on Bibles in simplified characters.

Let’s first highlight some things about obtaining a Bible in China that have not changed:

  • The issue of Bible availability in China remains complicated.
  • It is still not illegal to own a Bible in China.
  • Since the Bible does not have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), it cannot be sold or distributed within China in bookstores or other commercial markets.
  • New regulations in 2018 prohibited the selling of Bibles online. This affected online sales of print Bibles, as well as electronic versions and Bible apps. Enforcement of these regulations has gotten stricter over the past three years.
  • China remains the largest producer of Bibles in the world. Chances are that the Bible you read every day was printed in China.

However, the reality is obtaining a Bible in China is more difficult now than it was several years ago. To assess the current situation, we will attempt to answer a few key questions:

Where Can Someone Buy a Bible in China Today?

Since the Bible does not have a government-issued ISBN, they can only be sold legally in churches and bookstores affiliated with the CCC/TSPM (China Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement). According to Lydia Law, a woman with long-term involvement and observation in Bible mission work in China and the diaspora, “The process of printing and distributing Bibles is a regulated and systematic procedure that begins with an annual assessment by the CCC/TSPM of the demand for Bibles. The proposed quantity is then submitted to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for approval.”

Once the Bibles are printed by Amity Printing, the only printer authorized to print Bibles, they are distributed to TSPM churches and bookstores. She notes that for the past few years, “the approved quantity has consistently remained around 3-3.5 million per year.”

Anyone can purchase Bibles in these approved places. However, members who worship in house churches may be reluctant to go to the TSPM churches to make purchases for fear of surveillance.

Lydia Law also notes that strict lockdowns during the three years of the COVID pandemic made obtaining a Bible in China considerably more difficult, but that the situation is now returning to normal. Most churches in most cities and towns have Bibles for sale.

What Versions Are Available?

All Bibles produced and sold in churches in China are the Chinese Union Version (和合本), a translation completed in 1919. While other versions and translations have been produced, they are not widely available in China nor widely accepted by Chinese believers.

Is It Possible to Order a Bible Online in China?

During the past few years, online sources to obtain Bibles have disappeared from the Chinese internet. Recent attempts to locate even a website for ordering from one of the official CCC bookstores were unsuccessful.

Where Can I Obtain a Chinese Bible Outside of China?

A great place to purchase Bibles in the U.S. is an organization in Pennsylvania called Ambassadors for Christ.  Another popular source among the Chinese-speaking community in the US is a site called Tian Dao. They can also be purchased on Amazon.

In Asia, Chinese Bibles are widely available in Christian bookstores in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Lydia Law recommends the Singapore Bible Society Bookstore and the Malaysia Bible Society Bookstore in Kuala Lumpur.

A good place to purchase Chinese Bibles in the UK is the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS). In Paris, there is an independent Chinese bookstore called 喜乐书房 that sells Bibles. Chinese Bibles are also available on Amazon sites throughout the EU and in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Where Can I Learn More About the Chinese Bible?

In 2018, we published a ChinaSource Quarterly issue on the Chinese Bible. We took an in-depth look at the history of the CUV, issues in its translation, as well as its staying power among the Chinese Christian community.

That same year, we also published a post, titled “Which Chinese Bible Should I Recommend People Read?” The author looks at the available various translations, noting the pros and cons of each.

We published Dr. Kevin Xiyi Yao’s excellent background article on the Chinese Union Version in 2018. Christianity Today re-published the article and added Chinese translations: “A Century Later, the Chinese Union Version Still Dominant.”  

As we enter a new year, let’s praise God that Bibles are available in China. Let’s also pray together for increased availability and that God’s Word will “run and be glorified” in China.

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Images courtesy of Peter Bryant.
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

Peter Bryant

Over the last 30 years Peter Bryant (pseudonym) has had the chance to visit, to live for extended periods of time, and to travel to almost all of China’s provinces. As a Christian business person he has met Chinese from all walks of life. He has a particular interest in …View Full Bio

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