INNER MONOGLIA, China - Tong Liao city is situated in the east of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IM). The land area of this city, at 59,535 sq km, is bigger than Denmark. Incidentally, this was home to the Mongolian mother of the first emperor of the Qing dynasty, Empress Dowager Xiaozhuangwen. Today, this is still home to many ethnic Mongolians.
Within Tong Liao city, there is a Mongolian farming community in a town known as Baolongshan. A beautiful church stands majestically, with its bright blue roof tops mirroring the blue sky of the Mongolian summer. The congregation is 2000 strong and 70% of them are Mongolian Christians. This was where the Inner Mongolian Christian Council/ Three Self Patriotic Movement (IM CC/TSPM) had chosen to celebrate and release the Mongolian New Testament (NT) trial edition. This town is also home to three members of the Mongolian Bible translation team.
Some scholars think that the Nestorian Christians were the first to have shared the Christian faith with the Mongolians during the 7th century. Kublai Khan was the first Mongolian emperor who started China’s Yuan dynasty in the 13th Century. His mother, Sorghoqtani, was a Nestorian Christian. Marco Polo also met many Nestorian Christians when he travelled in China at that time. However, Kublai Khan did not convert and Christianity did not take root then. Buddhism was regarded as a more acceptable religion to many emperors throughout China’s history. Even today, many Mongolians still consider Buddhism as their traditional religion.
The first Old Testament to be translated into classical Mongolian was completed by Edward Stallybrass, William Swan and Robert Yuille. It was published by the British & Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) in 1840. In 1846, Edward Stallybrass and William Swan translated the New Testament into Classical Mongolian for publication by BFBS. Now, classical Mongolian is no longer in use and a modern translation is needed.
New Translation Started
In 2005, the IM CC/TSPM leadership, seeing the need for Mongolian Scripture, decided to form a team to begin translation. A New Testament draft was produced using Today’s Chinese Version as a base text. With the support of the National Three-Self Patriotic Movement/ China Christian Council of the Protestant Church in China and IM CC/TSPM, United Bible Societies (UBS) was invited in 2008 to participate in this translation project. UBS sent Global Translation Advisor, Dr Yu Suee Yan, to provide training for a team of Mongolian Christians. Subsequently, Dr Yu worked with the team to check on the NT draft against the Greek Bible and Bibles in other languages.
According to the Chinese Government’s 2010 census report, Inner Mongolia has a total population of around 24.7 million. Out of these, 4.2 million are ethnic Mongolians. Rev Gao said, “Everyone needs the Word of God”. He encourages believers to read the Bible as it is God’s gift to help us know Jesus Christ better and gain knowledge of salvation. In July 2011, UBS sponsored the translation, printing and distribution of 2000 copies of the Four Gospels trial edition. Two years later, on 23 September 2013, UBS again sponsored 5000 copies of the Mongolian NT trial edition.
Rev Gao Youhong, Vice-Chairman of IM CC/TSPM, said that he is thankful to God for calling UBS to translate and distribute God’s Word in many different languages, blessing the people around the world. Special thanks to UBS for the support and help throughout the Mongolian NT translation process.
As the translation team gathers feedback from the readers of the trial edition, please pray for the editing, typesetting and approval for the final official printing of the Mongolian New Testament. Please also pray for the commencement of translation work on the Old Testament.
See more photos here.
If you would like to make a financial contribution towards Bible translation work in China, please contact us or the Bible Society in your country and designate your gift to “UBS China Partnership — Bible Translation in China”.
Story and photos: Ms Yeo Tan Tan
Edited: Angela Tay
2013 © United Bible Societies China Partnership