Russian mission to Taiwan developing ecclesiastical Chinese language

Taiwan, December 18, 2020

A cross procession along the streets of Taiwan. Photo: A cross procession along the streets of Taiwan. Photo:     

The representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Taiwan is preparing new translations of the Holy Gospels for publication, for which the translators are developing an ecclesiastical Chinese language.

“In antiquity, the Church Slavonic language was created, which differed from the everyday Slavic language and was necessary for a better translation of the Greek original of Holy Scripture,” explained Fr. Kirill Shkarbul, the head of the Russian mission in Taiwan, in a recent interview with Russky Mir.

“We have developed an approach, which some criticize, but we found it to be the most correct. This approach is that we have begun to create or are trying to create a kind of ecclesiastical Chinese language,” Fr. Kirill said.

As he explains, in translating texts, some elements of classical Chinese were used, but in order to more accurately convey the meaning and remain more faithful to the original, they had to add certain adornments to the language, making it higher than ordinary Chinese speech.

“With this, we killed two birds with one stone—the text became cleaner from any linguistic impurities and became more beautiful and richer in its style, more noble,” the missionary priest explained.

At the same time, the translators managed to develop Biblical terminology, as many concepts have not developed in the Chinese language, such as “to bless” and “be vigilant.”

“’Be vigilant’ could be translated with a long phrase, but we wanted to find one word that could be used and in the imperative mood. And when we came up with it and proposed it, it was accepted by native speakers and it fit with the language very well,” Fr. Kirill commented.

Fr. Kirill and the other translators labored over the translation and preparation for publication of the Gospel of Mark for 8 years and they hope it will soon see the light of day. They are currently working on the translation of the Gospel of Matthew.

A number of other important texts for the Chinese mission have been issued in recent years. A catechism was published in 2017 as well as the life of St. Innocent of Irkutsk, the Book of Hours in May 2018, a Chinese translation of Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov)’s Everyday Saints and a translation of the Sunday Octoechos in 2019, and texts for the feast of Nativity in January of this year.

In addition to Taiwan, Fr. Kirill also serves in the Philippines, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea, where about 1,000 natives are ready to convert to holy Orthodoxy.

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