Author: John T. P. LAI, Associate Professor, Deparment of Cultural and Religious Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Journey to the West (Xiyou Ji), conventionally acclaimed as one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, was partially translated in 1913 by Timothy Richard (1845-1919), for 45 years a Welsh Baptist missionary to China, under the title A Mission to Heaven: A Great Chinese Epic and Allegory. Richard interprets the whole novel as a Christian allegory of pilgrimage, depicting a group of converted sinners who travel to heaven for “the transformation of character from very unpromising materials into saints fit for Heaven.” In this connection, Richard offers an ardently provocative Christian interpretation of Journey to the West for this classical work of Chinese fiction deeply embedded with Buddhist and Daoist symbolism and conception. Being one of the earliest English translations of Journey to the West, Richard’s Mission to Heaven has hitherto received little academic attention, particularly in the English speaking world. By investigating Richard’s Christian interpretation of the Buddhist elements in Journey to the West, this paper attempts to demonstrate Richard’s efforts in promoting the Christian-Buddhist dialogue and comparative study of religions in the early twentieth century.
The Journey to the West, A Mission to Heaven, Timothy Richard, cross-cultural translation, Christian-Buddhist dialogue, comparative religion
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