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Chinese Worship Music

A friend recently asked me about music in the church in China. Specifically, he was wondering if churches sing the psalms of lament. To my knowledge, they don’t specifically do so. Generally speaking Three-self churches use the New Hymnal, which is primarily translated western hymns. House churches use a combination of traditional hymns and contemporary praise songs produced in South Korea, Taiwan, or the United States. In the 90s and early 2000s, the Canaan Hymns were quite popular, although not as much in urban churches as they were in rural churches. For the urban churches, the music ministry Streams of Praise has been quite influential.

Our friend Jackson Wu recently posted about a paper written by Scott Callaham for the publication Artistic Theologian, titled “Sing to the LORD a New Song (in Chinese)! An L2 Songwriting Experience at the Intersection of Faith and Scholarship.” 

Writing in the introduction to his paper, Callaham states:

The present study is an outgrowth of my reflections upon writing hymns in Chinese while teaching in a Chinese language seminary program in Asia. The following sections evaluate my songwriting experiences from the twin perspectives of language and music. Other Chinese songwriters can directly apply my findings to their work. Additionally, those who are working in other language environments can adapt the language typology-based approach below to focus and further hone their own craft of L2 songwriting. My aspiration is that the result will be a surge in L2 songwriting that breaks through barriers of language so that every person may sing praise to God.

You can download a pdf version of the paper from Jackson’s blog, here.

It’s a fascinating article examining the history and role of music and worship in the Chinese church.

Callaham has a Vimeo channel, where he posts the songs he’s composed. Here is one of them, titled 加冕:

加冕 from Scott on Vimeo.

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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

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