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A Study of W.H. Medhurst’s Translation,Scholarship and Missionary Enterprise

Author: LiuLiYi
Tutor: GuZuoZhai
School: Shandong University
Course: Historical Philology
Keywords: Medhurst Bible version publication compilation of dictionary
CLC: H315.9
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 116
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Among the protestant missionaries to China, W. H. Medhurst is one linking the past and the future. On the one hand, he continues the cause pioneered by Robert Morrison and William Milne through writings and publication—the translation of the Bible, the setting up of the printing office, the compiling of the dictionaries, and the founding and managing the periodicals. On the other hand, he carries these enterprises forward and initiates something new. The purpose of the dissertation is to take his works as the basis to make an analysis of Medhurst’s mission, publication, translation of the Bible into Chinese and his studies in sinology by adopting the historical materials and research findings of modern scholars.Medhurst adopts an adaptive missionary strategy. He puts much emphasis on the flexibiliby and tactic of spreading the Christian docrine, which are partly the legacy inherited by him from the missionary strategy of Morrion and Milne and partly the result of his innovation in response to the concrete historical and cultural context. He disseminates the chritian doctrine by extensive travelling; meanwhile, he writes some secular and religious works. The aim of his secular works is to raise the status of the western civilization among the Chinese and to create an image of Confucian scholar out of the missionaries, with an ultimate aim to pave the way for the mission, which, however, objectively serves the purpose of spreading the western knowledge and enlightening the public. His religious works either borrows the text form of Confucian classics to convey the religious content in hope of canonizing those religious works, or blend the words with Confucian connotations in the sermons with a view to reducing the obstacles of mission. Medhurst is a typical combination of a scholar missionary and itinerant preacher, whose works and ways of spreading Christian doctrine produce a far-reaching influence upon the later missionaries.Medhurst is one nearly omnipresent in the history of publishing and printing Chinese in the19th century. He contributes to Chinese Monthly Magazine and participates in its issuance, founds A Monthly Record of Important Selections, attends to the cease of the publication of Eastern Westerm Monthly Magazine, establishes and manages the Mission Press in Shanghai, and supervises the Chinese Serial. He also makes the important contributions to the early spread of western printing in China.Medhurst is also an important figure in the history of the translation of the Bible into Chinese in the19th century. He is the main translator of the four versions of the Bible, each one of which is fused with his concept of translation different from his comtempories. His concept of translation is a result of his sensible judgment and visionary thinking, as well as a product of his rational response to the concrete historical and cultural field. Just because of his advanced concept of translation, each version of the four can meet and lead the needs of the era for the Chinese version of the Bible. Xin Yizhao Shu, published in1837, ostensibly a revison of New Testament of Shentian Shengshu of Robert Morrison, is in fact a completely new version, which, undergoing a few alterations, is published by Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Although the version fails to be sponsored by BFBS, it is adopted by the missionarie in China for a considerable period of time, and it is very influential on the later Chinese versions of the Bible, especially in terminology.The Delegates’ Version is the most widespread wen-li version, as well as the most influential version before the publication of Mandarin Union Version. Delegates’ Version is superior to Xin Yizhao Shu, and the reason, to a large extent, lies in the proficiency in Chinese of the Chinese translators cooperating with Medhurst and the scope of freedom in translation enjoyed by these Chinese translators. The Nanking Mandarin Version published in1856, the first mandarin Bible in modern China, is another version that demonstrates his concept of translation, following Xin Yizhao Shu and the Delegates’Version. The version is transcribed from the Delegates’ Version, thus pioneering the new method of translating the Bible into Chinese. The version comes from Medhust’s forecasting the value of the mandarin version and its widespreadness is connected with Taiping rebellion. With its publication, it stimulates the imitation of other mandarin versions and is adopted by some later versions as a master version or reference version, and a large number are issued in history. Medhurst is an influential sinologist in the early and middle period of the19th century. Besides having an unusual talent for language, he is also a distinguished linguist. He compiles not a few dictionaries. He displays quite a genius in linguistics, especially in dialectology and makes great achievements, contributing much to the later linguistic studies. Furthermore, he is devoted to the translation of Chinese classics and local topography into English, making contributions to the spread of Chinese culture to the west. The Shoo King, translated by him, is the first version translated from Chinese to English, paving the way for James Legge’s version and Walter Gorn Old’s version in1904.His attidutes towards the Chinese culture is inclined to be accomodationist, a missionary strategy he inherits from the Jesuits, and the attitude is also the product of his in-depth understanding of the Chinese culture. He achieves much in the Chinese translation of the Bible, linguistic studies, the translation of Chinese classics, and his missionary writing. The great achievements and fruitful efforts he makes contribute to the mutual understanding of China and the west, leaving the impressive imprint in the history of cultural exchange between China and the west.

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