Chinese Church Voices

The Light of the Bible

My Reflection on the Influence of the Bible on China

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


As is well known, the Bible has had an all-pervasive influence on Western countries, leaving an indelible mark on culture, art, architecture, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, festivals, social customs, and values.

After the Bible arrived in China, it underwent a long and arduous journey from translation to publication, and eventually into the hands of every believer, transforming their lives and impacting society. Like a transplanted tree, it had to adapt, integrate, and withstand the harsh winds and rains. Despite countless hardships, this tree continued to grow, bloom, and bear fruit.

Our church elders recount that in particularly harsh times, brothers and sisters found ingenious ways to conceal the Bible: by digging holes in walls to hide it, placing it beneath the fireplace, among the coals, or deep within a water tank. One sister went to great lengths to preserve a single Bible at home, dividing it among many to read. Later, she would meticulously sew the parts back together with thread. They internalized the scripture, drawing strength from the Lord’s words to remain non-retaliatory in adversity, enduring abuse without fighting back, loving God, and loving people. Their faith provided steadfast support through their trials.

Christianity, based on the Bible, has exerted a profound impact on Chinese society, influencing a wide array of areas from the introduction of modern education and the advancement of medical services to cultural exchanges, social reforms, and charitable efforts. Significant initiatives include combating the cruel custom of foot-binding, advocating for gender equality, and establishing orphanages and schools for the blind to provide educational and medical assistance to vulnerable populations. All of these developments are manifestations of the light shed by the Bible. Moreover, people’s thinking, customs, and values have been subtly and significantly transformed.

The Qingming Festival1 holds great significance for the Chinese people. Each year, our church conducts a memorial service to honor deceased loved ones. The pastor delivers a special sermon for Qingming, the choir offers hymns, and the congregation engages in collective prayer. Afterwards, everyone writes down their thoughts and memories of their loved ones on paper, and then collectively posts them on a large white cloth on the church wall, praying silently. The pure white cloth bears the blue characters “Awaiting Resurrection,” with all the papers filled with memories and blessings embedded within, colorful and vibrant, like a beautiful flower blooming in the vast blue sky, or a dance filled with hope, praising God’s mighty power to transform the pale life of the dead into a vibrant, resurrected life, filled with joy and anticipation of a family reunion.

The loss of a loved one is a significant event in life, but believers and non-believers exhibit vastly different attitudes towards death. Christians, though grieving and sorrowful, find comfort in the Bible’s promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). They know that God has the power of resurrection and believe that they will be reunited with their loved ones in heaven, which greatly alleviates the pain of separation and fills them with hope to live each day meaningfully on earth.

In contrast, non-Christians, lacking the hope of future resurrection and the understanding of life and death, often cry their hearts out and grieve inconsolably when a loved one passes away. During the Qingming Festival, as they commemorate their deceased family members, they are still deeply saddened and even spend large sums of money on various paper offerings to burn as a way to express their sorrow. In extreme cases, some individuals, unable to overcome their grief, become depressed and lament that life is meaningless, like a dream, and that “Life is like a dream; a cup of wine is poured as a libation to the moon in the river.2

My first encounter with the Bible was in middle school, when I stumbled upon a thick, black-covered book at a friend’s house. Out of curiosity, I flipped through its pages, thinking it was just a collection of mythological stories, a unique literary work. It didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. Later, I saw another Bible at an antique market—again, with a black cover, old and worn, with yellowed pages, nestled among various antiques. It seemed insignificant, almost invisible.

However, my connection with the Bible didn’t end there. After starting my career, I discovered that one of my female supervisors had a Bible in her office, and she would write down verses with a brush or place them under her glass desktop or hang them on the wall, treating them with great reverence. Out of respect for my supervisor, I began to view the Bible differently. She later took me to church, where I received my own Bible, although I still couldn’t fully understand it.

It wasn’t until I joined a foreign-invested company that the Bible’s invaluable treasures were gradually unearthed, shining brightly and illuminating my previously dark life. A group of devout Christians, who lived out the Bible’s teachings, made its words come alive—tangible, and visible. As I was influenced by them, I began to experience joy, gradually transforming from a person prone to anxiety and worry to one filled with hope. The seeds of truth, life, love, hope, and faith took root in my heart, sprouting, growing, and flourishing, like a person emerging from the hazy, chilly, lonely, and sorrowful moonlight into the warm, bright, joyful, and steadfast sunlight. My body, too, gradually became healthier and stronger, no longer falling ill every few days and requiring frequent injections, medication, and sick leaves. It is truly as the saying goes: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Now, the Bible in my hand has multiplied into many, in various sizes, versions, and covers. I often give Bibles to my family and friends and invite them to church. I hope that the Bible, which has illuminated my life, will also shine a light on theirs—so they will no longer wander aimlessly, searching for the meaning of life, because the Bible has already provided the correct answer: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). May the light of the Bible guide every seeker of truth, illuminating every life and every soul!

Editor’s note: This article was originally written in Chinese and was translated by the ChinaSource team.

Endnotes

  1. Also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, it is a traditional Chinese festival observed on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, usually falling around April 4 or 5. During this festival, Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray to their ancestors, and make ritual offerings.
  2. “人生如梦,一尊还酹江月.” This is a sentence from “Nian Nu Jiao” (念奴娇,) one of the great poet Su Shi’s (苏轼) famous works. It was written at Red Cliff where General Zhou Yu defeated the enemy advancing forces in AD 208.
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Image credit: Christ Liu via UnSplash.

Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee (pseudonym) is a Chinese as a Foreign Language teacher in China. Baptized in 1997, she encountered the truth, the true light, and true love, finding the meaning and direction of life. Her heart is filled with peace, joy, and hope. She is willing to share her experiences so …View Full Bio


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