Shanghai Old Dialect Recorded in First Dialectical Bible Version

The Bible in the Shanghai Colloquial Version published in Shanghai in 1908
The Bible in the Shanghai Colloquial Version published in Shanghai in 1908 (photo: Shanghai United Front Work Department)
By Hua LiJune 17th, 2024

On Friday, the propaganda office of the Shanghai United Front Work Department stated that the Shanghai dialect spoken one hundred years ago was recorded in China's first dialectical Bible version.

The first dialectical Bible version was the Shanghai Colloquial Version, published in Shanghai as early as 1908, according to an article titled “Shanghai Dialect of One Hundred Years Ago Was Recorded in This Religious Classic” posted by the department on WeChat, one of the most popular social media platforms in China. 

Since Christianity was introduced to China in 1807, the Church has translated the Bible into classical Chinese and various dialects, with more than a thousand versions.

Shanghai developed at a very fast pace in modern China, attracting a large population. The post introduced, “In 1847, the Church translated the Gospel of John in the New Testament into Shanghai dialect and then published it, which was the first dialectical version of the Bible. For the whole Bible in dialectical versions, the Shanghai Colloquial Version was published earlier, being more influential. The picture shows the Bible in the Shanghai Colloquial Version, published in 1920.”

The version is now collected in the showroom of sinicization of Christianity in Fitch Memorial Church.

The article continued, “The Church of those years (at that time) translated religious classics into dialects understood by the local people so that the religion could be known, understood, and accepted by the local people. It inspires us that the religious community should be guided to recognize and adapt to the characteristics of society and the time, being a religion with Chinese characteristics, and promote economic and social development positively.”

- Translated by Olinda Wang

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