Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

A Comparison of Translation Principles in the Mandarin Union and Wenli Union Versions of the New Testament

Author: MA Hongli, independent scholar



The Mandarin Union Version and the Wenli [classical Chinese] Union Version were both published in 1919, using very different translation principles. From a comparison of their styles, grammatical features, figurative expressions and vocabularies, we see how the New Testament text of the Mandarin Union Version is inclined towards “formal equivalence,” with faithful renderings of the original in an intelligible and colloquial language. This translation principle makes it easily understood and spread among ordinary people. However, this version also displays a “foreignization” in translation. It presents a break with the Chinese language tradition, and highlights the cultural heterogeneity between Christianity and Chinese culture. While the New Testament text of the Wenli Union Version is inclined to “dynamic equivalence,” it retains the characteristics of classical Chinese literatue, with an elegant style, good rhythm and polished language, and gives a clear sense of Chinese culture and philosophy. This version inevitably weakens the cultural and linguistic features of the original and displays a “domestication” in translation.




Mandarin Union Version, Wenli Union Version, Chinese culture, Cultural heterogeneity


Full Text (International Version):

MA HongliSCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

MA HongliSCN JSCC.pdf