Zbigniew Wesołowski SVD (Wei Siqi 魏思齊):
Lecture “‘A Chinese Tunic for Christ’: John Wu’s Translation of the New Testament”
Organizers: Monumenta Serica Sinological Research Center (Catholic Fu Jen University), Monumenta Serica Institute (Sankt Augustin, Germany), Religious Sciences Department (Catholic Fu Jen University), and the Credit Course of Western Classical Studies and of Medieval Languages and Literature at Fu Jen Catholic University
John C. H. Wu (Wu Ching-hsiung / Wu Jingxiong 吳經熊, 1899–1986) was a lawyer, juristic philosopher, educator, and prominent Chinese Catholic convert in the 20th century. He first became a Methodist Christian, baptized in the winter of 1917 at the Comparative Law School of China in Shanghai, run by the American Methodist Mission, and then converted to Catholicism on December 18, 1937 by means of conditional baptism at the Catholic Aurora University in Shanghai after reading of the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). He authored numerous articles and books on various subjects including law, philosophy, and religion.
Wu Jingxiong was equally at home in both Eastern and Western cultures and languages. That is why translation work drew his attention. John Wu first translated the Daodejing 道德經 / Laozi 老子. He published it in three parts in the T’ien Hsia Monthly (1939–1940), and then as a revised translation in book form in 1961. From November 1, 1942 to October 31, 1944, John Wu was translating the Psalms and the New Testament into Classical Chinese. He published the Psalms in 1946 as Shengyong yiyi 聖詠譯義 (Hong Kong) and the New Testament in 1949 as Xinjing quanqi 新經全集 (Hong Kong). In his autobiographical work Beyond East and West (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951), John Wu dedicated the 19th chapter (pp. 308-324) to the topic of his translation of the Bible, calling it “A Chinese Tunic for Christ.” The present paper especially looks at Wu’s translation of the New Testament and wants to explicate its peculiarity: whereas all other translators at that time wanted to create a translation of the Bible into baihua 白話 (written vernacular Chinese), John Wu weaved his “Chinese Tunic for Christ” with the help of wenyan 文言 (Classical Chinese).