Fourth Bible In China Seminar – Bible and Culture

A group photo of participants at the fourth Bible in China Seminar in Shanghai (photo provided by SASS)

SHANGHAI, China — The fourth Bible in China Seminar was held in Shanghai from 29 October to 1 November. About 40 participants – academicians, researchers, government officials and church leaders from China as well as presenters from Britain and Singapore – gathered at the annual event to discuss on the topic of Bible and Culture.

At the opening address, Rev Xu Xiaohong, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) said that the topic of Bible and Culture is a highly significant one as it plays an important role in the development of Christianity in China. “The Bible is not only a sacred text of the Christians but also an important legacy to the whole of mankind. It should also be interpreted in different cultures and religious context,” he remarked.  He also highlighted that the Chinese Church leadership has been working on localizing Christianity in the Chinese cultural context.

L-R: Mr Zhang Haifeng, Bishop John Chew, Wang Xinhua, Rev Xu Xiaohong, Dr Cristian Romocea

Also at the seminar was Mr Wang Xinhua, Deputy Director General of Shanghai Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission. He commented that unlike usual visits and meetings, these series of seminars since 2011 offer the platform for more in-depth and meaningful discussions amongst participants. He further noted that with the spread of Christianity in China, there is a need for contextualization of the faith in the Chinese culture. Of the five major religions in China, only Taoism is indigenous yet Buddhism has since become an integral part of Chinese culture and traditions. Christianity on the other hand has yet to achieve this level of integration.  Christianity in China while noticeably large in membership is like a giant on the margins. Hence, Mr. Wang was expectant that this was one issue to be addressed in the Seminar.

The event was jointly organized by Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and Centre for the Studies of Religion and Culture (CSRC), supported by United Bible Societies (UBS). A total of 28 papers on the theme of Bible and Culture were presented. The theme rendered what many thought was an engaging and robust exchange of views and perspectives from the participants. Areas covered include Civilizational Dialogue, Christianity and Culture, Christianity and China, Christianity, Visual Art and Culture. Participants were found interacting both during and in between the formal sessions.

L-R: Rev Shan Weixiang, Mr Wang Huaiai and Mr Han Song, Editor-in-Chief of “Religion in China” chairing a session on Christianity, Visual Art and Culture

The organizers were honored to have the participation of the Editor-in-Chief of Religion In China, a publication of China State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) and key leaders of the China Christian Council (CCC)/TSPM.

Bishop John Chew, UBS Global Council member who had participated in the Seminar since it was first launched in 2011, acknowledged the strong support of SARA and CCC/ TSPM. He brought to attention the fact that a fourth seminar could become a reality was no small feat in a hectic world. He also suggested that the seminar should set its sight on a broader horizon, going beyond China, by building on the foundation of friendship and trust that has been established in the last four years.

Director and Research Professor of Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Yan Kejia, the key organizer behind the seminar, said that this was a great platform for interaction and exchange of religious understanding between people in China and Christians overseas, between religious believers and non-believers. He thanked the UBS for its collaborative partnership in the Seminar, and to British & Foreign Bible Societies and Bible Society of Australia for their sponsorship of the Seminar.

L-R: Dr Dominic Erdozain, Ms Naomi Dunn, Ms Xiu Yanbin, Mr Kua Wee Seng, Prof Yan Kejia, Prof Zhang Haifeng, Dr Cristian Romocea, Mr James Featherby, Dr Lim Teck Peng, Bishop John Chew.

Mr Kua Wee Seng, Director of UBS China Partnership added, “We are most thankful to the SASS and CSRC for organizing and hosting another successful Seminar this year.  We are particularly appreciative of the strong support and participation of the Religious Affairs Administration and CCC/TSPM in the Seminar. The presentation and discussion at the Seminar have encouraged the participants to think more deeply and to consider more constructively how Christianity should relate to, interact with, and adapt to the Chinese culture and contexts.  We thank God for this.  We look forward to the Seminar in 2015, with the proposed theme of “Bible and Environment”.


Story: Jock Foo
Edit: Cynthia Oh
2014 © United Bible Societies China Partnership