Miao Bible –106 Years of Waiting

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Miao Christians in their traditional costume singing outside the church. Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan.
Miao Christians in their traditional costume singing outside the church. Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan.

The Big Flowery Miao people live in China’s Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan Provinces. On 5 September 2009, the Miao people — young and old — dressed in their Sunday’s best, were gathered at Daqing Village Church in Yunnan Province for the celebration.  This was the first time in 106 years that the Miao people were finally getting the entire Bible in their own language.  Yunnan CC/TSPM estimated that there are probably 80,000 Miao Christians in Yunnan Province alone but according to China Operations, there are altogether an estimated 200,000 Miao Christians.

The History

The gospel was first brought by a missionary, Samuel Pollard, to the Miao people in 1904. At that time, as the Miao language did not have a written script, Pollard invented one and then taught the people how to read and write.  The Miao New Testament was first published in 1917, but the people never had the Old Testament.

Furthermore, when the people read the 1917 New Testament, they could only understand it partially. Rev Wang Ziwen, a Miao pastor and the leader of the current Miao translation team explained why: “In Matthew 7:6: ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs – they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs- they will only trample them underfoot.’(GNT) In the 1917 New Testament, it was unclear which animals (pigs or dogs) would attack and which animals (pigs or dogs) would trample the pearls underfoot.”

Another Miao preacher and translation team member, Wang Mingguang said, “A lot of our people’s command of the Chinese language is weak. I cannot preach entirely in Chinese or our Miao believers would return home without having any spiritual input for the day. Furthermore, we would like to sing praises to God in our own language. Our hymns are written in the Miao language.”

Rev. Wang Ziwen. Miao Bible translation team leader standing infront of boxes of Miao Bibles at the Thanksgiving Ceremony 2009. Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan.
Rev. Wang Ziwen. Miao Bible translation team leader standing infront of boxes of Miao Bibles at the Thanksgiving Ceremony 2009. Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan.

Mr Wang Mingguang. A Miao preacher & Bible translator working with UBS Translation Consultant (2005). Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan.
Mr Wang Mingguang. A Miao preacher & Bible translator working with UBS Translation Consultant (2005). Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan.

The mounting need and desire for a Miao Bible motivated the people to do something. In 1988, there was a “tryout” to translate the Book of Ruth. In 1990, a group of Miao Church leaders started translating the Old Testament. Thus the journey of having the Bible in the Miao language has begun.

Support

The Miao Bible. Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan
The Miao Bible. Photo:UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan

In 1992, the Miao translation team received official support from the China Christian Council/ Three-self patriotic movement (CCC/TSPM), Yunnan CC/TSPM and the United Bible Societies (UBS). There were many rounds of checking and corrections taking place.

UBS has over the years supported the team in terms of providing training and allowances for office, living and transport. UBS also funded computer equipments and the printing of trial editions. The Miao Bible uses the Today’s Chinese Version as the base text, with reference to the Chinese Union Version.  UBS Translation Consultant, Dr Yu Suee Yan, had over the years worked with the translation team to check the translation against the original languages of the Bible. UBS has also sponsored the full cost of printing and distribution of the Miao Bibles. We are grateful for all the prayers and sacrificial giving of our UBS donors around the world to make all these possible. We thank the Lord for all of you.

Written by:
Ms. YEO Tan Tan, Program Manager
United Bible Societies, China Partnership

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