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sounds almost ludicrous, the acquisition in so short a time of the power
of reading Chinese, but, if ludicrous, surely also suggestive to men of
common sense, of not a few serious thoughts concerning the five to ten
years needful to master a hieroglyphic system which at the best can
never for simplicity, exactness, or force, rival the living spoken language
under an alphabetic form.

"The acquisition of the Romanized vernacular is so easy that a
missionary spending a week or a fortnight at any station can have no
difficulty in urging upon those inquirers who do not yet read Chinese, the
immediate commencement of such a study under his own eye. This prac-
tice has been a common one in Formosa, the ladies of the mission finding
their hands as full of good work in this respect as the male members of
the staff.

" Patients in hospital also, whose hands are tolerably empty, are
encouraged to use the opportunity of mastering the art of reading their
own language; and not a few have, without difficulty, succeeded in the

" So simple is the system that one native Christian can teach
finother, and many of the readers in Formosa have been so taught."

Dr. Maxwell rightly adds :—

"There is not tho slightest need for any violent change. Only in
every province let provision bo made for reaching the humblest and most
illiterate by an alphabetic system, and wo may safely leave time to work
out its own inexorable results."

With reference to the Mandarin-speaking districts the Rev. W,
Cooper of the Chiaa Inland Mission, writes : —

Hay 8th.] eev.^john c. gibsois^ K7

"Notwithstanding the fact that we havo the Scriptures' and other
Christian books in Mandarin colloquial, which, when read in Eev. w. Coo-
the hearing of the congregation aro fairly well understood ; darin districts
nevertheless, the number of our converts who are able to read is so small,
and the difficulty of learning the character so great, that we despair of
getting the Christians, as a body, by this means to read and understand
the Word of God for themselves. As a matter of fact, very few of them
have the time or ability to learn the character sufficiently to enable them
to read intelligently, even after years of attendance on Christian pi'eaching.
Hence Mr. Hudson Taylor was led some years ago to print a few portions
of the Word of God in Romanized Mandarin colloquial ; and althouo-h
this has had but a limited trial, we feel it to have been sufficient to prove
that uneducated persons, either male or female, can with diligence readily
acquire a knowledge of the system in a few months. This, by a little
practice, enables them intelligently to follow the reading at the services
and, what is of still greater importance, it enables them to read the Word
of God in their own tongue claili/ at family worship."

Tn Swatow similar results are easily reached. A school-girl, during
her holidays, taught a preacher's wife to read and write, so that in about
two months the learner wrote a letter to one of the ladies of the mission
to show her attainments and to express her pleasure at having learned.
A woman aged 48, mother of a large family, learned within a Testimony of
few months from some of the younger women. Miss E. Black, ^ofswatow!^
of the English Presbyterian Mission at Swatow, writes : " Women of
average intelligence, between the ages of, say, forty-five and sixty, can
learn to read in three months' time. Younger women of course learn
much more quickly. The wife of one of our chapel-keepers (thirty-three
years of age) read with ease after receiving eight lessons of about an
hour's duration each. A young woman of twenty, a preacher's wife, read
fairly well after a fortnight's instruction. Daring the past few months
classes have been held in the hospital for such of the male patients as chose
to attend. About twenty made a beginning. Of these two or three left
the hospital a few days after, and other two or three became discouraged
and dropped off. Fifteen learned to read with tolerable ease in sis or
eight weeks, and one bright lad read fluently after three weeks* study."

In Formosa, Swatow and Amoy, there are three monthly church
newspapers, which reach a large number of readers. The Swatow paper,
during its first year, was taken and paid for by about IGO native subscri-
bers, and about 50 copies besides were taken for use in mission schools.
Thus over 200 copies were in circulation in a church of about 1,300
members, and a number of these served for more readers than one.
Native ministers, elders, teachers and church members, as well as mission-
aries, write articles and news notes for these papers, and so havo access
to a larger number of readers within the church than they could address
by means of the Chinese characters.

Testimony on this subject could be multiplied indefinitely. In view
of it one cannot but feel that where such a large measure of practical

83 EEviEw OF coLLOQmAL VERSIONS. [Second day^

Bucceas lias been attained, theoretical and a priori objections must count
for little.

Wherever 'Romanized vernacular has been heartily tried it has completely
succeeded without any great expenditure of labor. I empliasize this fact,
and beg every missionary to ponder it.

Two things I have failed to find : —

1. Any church where, by the use of Chinese character, 50, 60, or 70
per-cent. of the members have learned to read and write.

2. Any church where Romanized vernacular has had a fair trial
for a reasonable time, and has been given up as a failure.

The one hindrance which I find to the rapid and complete success of

the Romanized vernacular is the lack of appreciation of its value and

its ease. In the case of the Chinese this arises partly from

j^ 'indolence, partly from the deep-rooted blind reverence for the

native character, which makes many think stumbling and stammering

unintelligently over the characters a far greater attainment than the most

fluent and intelligent reading of their vernacular in Roman letter ; while

others, from simple ignorance, suppose that if the Chinese character be

difficult, a foreign character must be much more so.

Now this hindrance can be taken out of the way if the
How removed. . . ...

missonaries will.

(1.) Let us press it as a primary Christian duty that every follower
of the Lord must read for himself his Lord's words. "Give heed to

(2.) Let ns spread and press home the information that by the.
Roman letter people of moderate intelligence and no leisure learn to read
in from three to six months.

(3.) Let us ourselves use, wherever possible, the Romanized vernacu-
lar for public reading, for letter writing, and in overy way that can
commend it to the members of the native church.

(4.) Let us labor to give to the Christian church in each section
of the empire, not only a faithful vernacular version of the Bible, but a
general Christian literature, such as to create a taste for reading and to
stimulate and reward the effort needed for learning.

. .> If we do these things earnestly, patiently and persistently, the
natural indolence and prejudice which oppose this and all other efforts in
the upward direction will give way. It will come to be recognized
as a disgrace to Chinese Christianity that it remains so largely illiterate,
while the savages of Fiji, Samoa and the New Hebrides, the partially
civilized but illiterate people of Madagascar, and even the wild races
of Africa, have, along with their Christianity, acquired the power of
reading for themselves the book on which their Christian hope is based.

This is a scandal in which we have too long and too easily
acquiesced, and we ought to acquiesce in it no longer.

To gather in those outside is in point of time the first part of our
mission ; to present every man perfect in Christ is the second, and it is
not the easier part. Without the Bible in the mother-tongue of those
entrusted to us. how shall we achieve it ?

l^y 8fch.] RET. a. f. wood in. 89

How can they receive the Word with any readiness of mind unless

they examine the Scriptures daily ? How can they have hope except

through comfort of the Scriptures ? How, except by the Scriptures

inspired of God, can they be wise unto salvation, or furnished completely

unto every good work ?

" Oh ! bow love I thy law ! It is my meditation all the clay.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path.
Thy word is very pure ; therefore thy servant loveth it.
I rejoice at thy Word, as one that fiudeth great spoil."

How long shall we be content to wait for words like these to become
the heart utterances of God's people in China ?
Should not the shepherds feed the sheep ?





Eev. S. F. Woodin, (A. B. c. r. M., Foochow). "

There are a large number of different languages spoken in China. These
all have a common bond of relationship in having one written language,
which is studied in all schools, read by all scholars, used for all standard
books, and for all writing in business accounts, and in all official docu-
ments ; somewhat as the Latin language was used by the nations of
Europe a few hundred years ago. The written language, as
read aloud, is pronounced according to the sounds of the
dialect of the reader, but it is not spoken anywhere in ordinary conver-
sation, even by the most learned scholars. These different colloquial
languages or dialects, the vernaculars of China, probably differ from one
another and from the written classical, also called the Wen-li, quite as
much as the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Wallachian and French differ
from each other and frooa the Latin, to which they all have a close

The whole number of these entirely distinct dialects is not yet
known. Between ihe Southern limit of the Mandarin dialect, in the
Eastern provinces, at Chiukiang in Kiangsu, and Hainan ^. ., ^.

-Tiiij< • -i-r^-i Distribution.

Island, the lour coast provinces with Kiangsu have at least
seventeen distinct spoken languages. There are six others bordering those
of Fuhkieu on the West. A large number of others will doubtless be
found in the five other provinces South of the Yangtse and along the
whole Western and Northern borders of the country. In this enumera-
tion we do not at all consider the numerous changes of patois in the field
of each dialect. The number of these, I suppose, would run up into
several hundreds. Near Kiukiang the patois is said to change materially
a^bout every twenty miles.

90 EEViEW OP COLLOQUIAL vEEsiONS. [Second, day,

We have, then, some knowledge of at least twenty-four distinct dialects
The twenty dialects of the coast provinces, including the
diptiuct Mandarin, with an approximate estimate of the numhera
dialects. speaking them, are as follows : Mandarin, 240 (millions) ;
Soochow, 10 ; Shanghai, U (?) ; Ningpo, 4 ; Taichow, I (?) ; Kinliwa,
1(?); Wenchow, 1 (?) ; Puch^ng, | (?) ; Kienning, 1 ; Swnn Ch'ang
and Tsiangloh, | ; T'aining, | ; Shaowu, ^ ; Foochow 5 ; Hinghwa,
i ; Araoy, 9 ; Swatow, 4 ; Sinning, 2 (?) ; Hakka, 7 ; Canton, 10 ;
Hainan, If (?). Of these, six of the smaller dialects, the Pnch'eng,
T'aining, Kienning, Tsiangloh, Hinghwa and Sinning, with perhaps
one or two partial exceptions, have had no portion o£ the Scriptures
prepared in their vernacnlars. Three others, Kinhwa, Shaowu and
Hainan, each have only one Gospel ; and the Wenchow has begun to issue
its first colloquial Gospels and Acts within the past year. The beginnings
in these last four dialects are in Roman letter and within the past two
years. The Tai Chow dialect has had the New Testament in Romanized
colloquial for several years.

The nine main dialects require a more extended survey. The Man^
Mandarin darin Colloquial has a large and varied native literature in
coiiociniai. c^jinese character, in its own vernacular, while the other
dialects, with the exception of Cantonese, have scarcely any. Ifc is tho
language of Northern, Western and most of Central China. Some of
the Gospels were issued in this dialect in 1854 ; Medhurst's translation
of the New Testament in 1856 ; that of the Peking Committee in 1870,
andlho Old Testament by Schereschewsky in 1875. These versions have
been very extensively circulated and used in all the vast region of this
dialect. Thus far, with almost no exception, all the issues of Scripture, as
also of hymns and other Christian books, have been in Chinese character.
Other versions and revisions are coming into this field in the same form,
but within the past year the New Testament in Roman letter has been
issued in this dialect, after an exclusive use of the other style for a third
of a century.

The testimony of the missionaries from the larger part of the vast
range of this dialect, is, that the colloquial Scriptures are exclusively
used in public and private worship, and for private reading and study by
the Christians and enquirers, except that some of the compai'atively few in
the Christian community who are scholars, use the classical version for
their private reading. The principal instruction of the Christians in the
Scriptures throughout the Mandarin-speaking provinces is now done by
the use of the colloquial versions, and it is almost certain that it will
continue to be so in the future.

The Soochow Colloqiual joins the Mandarin on the South-east, but is
materially distinct from it. The New Testament, translated
by a committee of missionaries, was issued in 1881 in the
Chinese character. No Scriptures have been issued in Roman letter, and
no system of using the Roman letter has been agreed upon by the
missionaries ; most of them prefer the colloquial in Chinese character,
and have never used tho other. The colloauial New Testament in Chinese

May 8th.] key. s. f. woodin. 91'

character is tised in candnctinj^ Chui'ch services— and in private bj the
Church members, in preference to the Wen-li.

The Shanghai Colloquial. — The Grospel of John in this dialect, in
Chinese character, was issued in 184G ; and in Roman letter in 1853.
The !N'ew Testament, both in Chinese character and in Roman lettei-.
Las been in use since 1870 ; as also the Psalms and several ^ , ,


other books of the Old Testament in Chinese character.
Latterly for a number of years the use of the Roman letter has been
declining, and almost entirely ceased. A renewal of interest in it has
recently been manifested and a revised alphabet has been prepared by a
Union Committee. The Shanghai Colloquial Scriptui'es in Chinese are
commonly used by the Christians, but in a variety of styles, the different
missions not having united upon a common version.

The Ningpo Colloquial. — The 'New Testament in Roman letter was
issued in this dialect in 1860. Several editions and revisions have been
issued since ; also several books of the Old Testament. Each

. . . Nmgpo.

of the four missions has shared in the work of translating.

" 1^0 use is made of the colloquial in Chinese character. A majority of

the Christians use the colloquial." In case new converts do not already

road the classical, they are taught the Romanized colloquial. Pupils in

schools are taught to read the colloquial fluently, but iu their study of

the Scriptures the Wen-li is more used.

The Foochow Colloquial joins that of "Wenchow on the Norths Hing-
hwa and Amoy, on the South, and Kienning and Tsiangloh on the West ;
the Shaowu being further West, beyond that of Kienning.
Gospels were first issued in this dialect in 1853, in Chinese
character. The New Testament was translated by a committee from
the two American missions in 1867 ; the Old Testament by a committee
from all the missions in 1883. Several editions of the New Testament
and of some books of the Old have been issued. New translations of
some portions of the Old Testament have also been made, and the whole
Bible is now being revised by a committee from the three missions. All
has been in Chinese character colloquial. But during the last three years
two of the Gospels have been published in Roman letter, and the whole
New Testament will probably be issued in this form within a year or
two. The comparative values of the two forms of colloquial for native
Christian use in this dialect has not yet been decided, very little use
having been made of the Roman letter.

The colloquial Scriptures in Chinese character are now in almosff
universal use by all Christians who can read at all. The Wen-li is
also used in the schools for purposes of study.

Between the Foochow and Amoy dialects is that of Hinghwa^
distinct from them, but having an affinity for the Amoy. It is spoken by
the people of two Hien districts. No Scriptures have been prepared in
this dialect. It is found, however, that the people can make some use of
the Foochow Colloquial books in Chinese character.

The Amoy Colloquial has a wide range, comprising two Prefectures
and two Choio districts on the mainland, and most of Formosa. Amoy,


Gospels were published in tMa dialect in 1853; the New Testament and
Psalms in 1873 ; the Old Testament about 1883 ; — wholly in Roman lettef.
All the missions have had a share in the work of translation. It has not
been found feasible to publish the Scriptures or other books in this
dialect in Chinese character. The use of the colloquial is general in the
mission schools of the Amoy region and in Formosa, but not to the exclu-
sion of the Wen-U. Few of the Christian women can read the classical,
but many of them are now able to read Romanized colloquial. All the
preachers and teachers in mission employ are required to learn to read
it. Many old men and women who could not learn the Chinese character,
have become intelligent readers of the colloquial in Roman letter.

The Sivatoio Colloquial, or Ch'ao Chow language, joins the Amoy
on the South. The Gospels in Chinese character colloquial
have long been in use in this dialect, and were followed by
the whole New Testament in the same form. This is now in course of
revision. The Gospel of Luke in Roman letter was published in 1877 ;
six other books of Scripture haTe been issued in this form, three of them
during the last two years.

The Halika Colloquial. — The Scriptures began to be issued in this

dialect about 1865, both in Chinese character and in Roman

letter. The New Testament in both forms has been in use

since 1883. Elderly persons preferto read the Scriptures in the Chinese

character colloquial, but for school work the missionaries prefer that in

Roman letter.

The Canton Colloquial. — One or two Gospels were issued in this
Canton dialect in 1867 ; the New Testament, translated for the most
part by a union committee, in 1880. Several books of the Old
Testament have been published, and the whole Bible is in preparation for
the press. Except one of the earliest issues, of one Gospel in Roman letter,
all has been in Chinese character colloquial. Until recently the general
opinion in this field has been that the Roman letter would not suit the
Canton dialect ; but latterly many of the missionaries are understood to
favor the idea of making trial of the Romanized. The Scriptures in
Chinese character colloquial are widely used by the missionaries and
native helpers, in schools, preaching, and private reading.

The nine principal dialects of China, together with that of Tai Chow,
each have the New Testament translated and published in their own
colloquial. Three of them have the whole Bible, and most of the other six
have several books of the Old Testament. The prospect is that in a few
Colloquial years every one of them will have the whole Bible in their
T/^r'^'^th" ^"^^ mother tongue. These colloquial versions have already
use of Wen-ii. restricted the use of classical or Wen-li Scriptures to a
comparatively narrow field of usefulness. Of the whole number of pages
of Chinese Scriptures published by the American Bible Society during
the three years ending with 1888, more than ninety per cent, was in the
various coUoquials, and less than ten per cent, (probably less than six)
was iu the classical. The issues of the British and Foreign Bible Society

May 8tli.] eev. s. f. woodin. 93

for the past few years also, I think, are largely colloquial ; but those
of the National Bible Society of Scotland for the same time have been
largely classical.

The common authoritative and constantly-used Bible of the people
speaking these dialects, comprising at least five-sixths of all China,
evidently will be in their own colloquials, the vernacular,
language to which they were born. Hence it is a matter of best°mode^of
great importance to find out and use the best mode of writing ^^'"'i^^g-
and printing the Scriptures (and other books) in these dialects. All
attempts to invent new sets of symbols to express the Chinese sounds
have met with little or no success.

The only two methods that have proved practical are that which
uses the Chinese character and that using the Roman letter. Of the
nine main dialects, five — Mandarin, Soochow, Foochow, t„,o ^ried
Swatow and Canton — formerly used the Chinese character ^c^-iiods— char-

•' acter and

exclusively for printing their colloquial Scriptures. But alphabetic,
within the last three years three of these — Mandarin, Foochow and
Canton — are beginning also to make trial of the Roman letter ; a
fourth — Swatow — having begun the trial ten years ago. Two others —
the Shanghai and Hakka — have had portions of Scripture in colloquial,
in both Chinese character and Roman letter, for more than twenty years :
the only ones that have had an extended common use of the two methods.
The two other dialects — Ningpo and Amoy — have used the Roman
letter exclusively for more than twenty years. The subject is rendered
more complex from the fact that the sounds of some of the dialects are
expressed by Chinese characters with more difficulty than those of others ;
and, again, others admit the use of the Roman letter with comparatively
less facility. The Amoy and Canton vernaculars are examples of the
two extremes. No doubt both forms might be used in every dialect,
but with different degrees of adaptability. The Colloquial Scriptures
are a necessity in all the main dialects, and that method of writing and
printing should be employed in each, which is best fitted for its own
vernacular. Some dialects will doubtless use both forms together.

What are the respective advantages of the tiuo methods ?
. I.— TAe use of the Chinese character in the colloqxdal.

(a.) It is purely Chinese, and accords with the form of the classical,

thus largely avoidincr prciadice. It admits of use at once in

1 •,-. , 1 • •, <• !• ■ 1 • Advantaijes of

any place, without being upon its very lace a foreign thing, character

This is very important, as prejudice is one of our worst foes.

(6.) It is easily learned by all who have been taught in the native

heathen schools. Those who have been a year or two in a nativo school

and who caneot yet read iuteHigibly their classical books, which they

have been studying, have a good foundation for learning the colloquial

in Chinese character easily and rapidly. As the great mass of pupils

in nativo schools reads only from one to fivo years, and not long enough

to bccomo iutclligout readers of the classical, they are a largo class to

whom the Chinese character colloqaial is specially adapted and intelligible

94 BEvxEw OP COLLOQUIAL vERSioNa. [Secoiid day,

to a great extent without other study. Thia is true of the Mandarin
and to a great extent of all but one of the other main dialects.

(c.) It is a help to the knowledge of the classical and can be taught
by any native teacher or scholar. The learner can easily find some one to
tell him the name and meaning of any difldcult characters. Hence the
Gospels and other books can at once be used intelligibly before any one
Las been able to give continuous teaching, and before a Christian or
preacher has been met with.

(d.) It does not involve the use of an additional method of teach-
ing, untried as yet in most of the field, nor require a third form of
Scripture publication.

(e.) In all our boarding schools, and at present in the great majority of
the day schools, it is necessary to teach Chinese youth some of the classical,
to satisfy the parents at least, and as a preparation for more extended
studies. In all such cases the teaching of the Chinese character colloquial
is easy and natural, not displeasing to most of the parents, and is also an

Online LibraryGeneral Conference of the Protestant MissionariesRecords of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China (Volume 1890) → online text (page 18 of 103)