An interview with Mitrophan Chin, webmaster of orthodox.cn by Igor Radev, editor of “Sobornost” in October 2005 and first published in the April 2006 issue no. 15 of “Sobornost”, a periodical of the Autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric in Macedonia of the Serbian Patriarchate.
1. Can you introduce us in short with the beginnings of the Orthodox Church among the Chinese, which were the chief sources of the dissemination of Orthodoxy in China at that time, how the Mission progressed and when the Church in China obtained its autonomous status?
1935 group photo in front
of All Holy Martyrs Church
from “Christ the Eternal Tao
courtesy of Hieromonk Damascene.
The Albazin fortress along the Amur River in Siberia was delivered to the Chinese Qing army in 1685. Fr Maxim Leontiev along with Seven Cossacks families were brought to Beijing, where the captives were recruited to join the prestigious Imperial banner guard. They include the following five surnames whose descendents have survived to this day: Romanov (罗Luō), Habarov (何 Hé), Yakovlev (姚 Yáo), Dubinin (杜 Dù), and Holostov (贺 Hè). An abandoned Buddhist temple in the northeast quarter of the Forbidden City was converted into an Orthodox chapel. Thus the seed of the Russian Orthodox Spiritual Mission has been planted. In most cases the Mission was the only official representative of the Russian government in diplomatic relations with the Qing government. Thus the Mission also served a dual purpose of being a political mouthpiece of the Russian Tsar as well as providing for the Orthodox faithful. Missionary activity among the local Chinese was for the most part minimal, other than through intermarriage with the displaced Albazinians. Even so, China gave way to its first Chinese Orthodox martyrs with Boxer Rebellion (Yihetuan in Chinese) of 1900, where uprising sprang up against all foreign religious influence. After the uprising dissipated, the Mission was rebuilt, and even the relics of the Chinese Martyrs was buried in the crypt of a newly built church dedicated to all the Holy Martyrs on the Missions ground. Orthodoxy took on a more missionary spirit with the elevation of the Mission head, Archimandrite Innokenty (Figurovsky) as the Bishop of Pereyaslav in 1902, and subsequently as Metropolitan of Beijing and China. He spear headed many modern Chinese translations of Orthodox liturgical and catechetical books. Under his tenure, many schools, churches, monasteries, convents, and other establishments flourished in almost every part of China to serve the faithful. The Mission at the same time welcomed an influx of white Russians fleeing the Bolsheviks, which swelled the Orthodox population in China in the early 20th century.
2. Getting now to the mid twentieth century, would you explain us the circumstances under which the Orthodox Church found itself after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, how did it go through the “Cultural Revolution”, and finally, what was the state in which the Church was left at the end of the century as a consequence of those events?
When the Communist took control of mainland China, one of the requirements of the new Chinese government was that the Russian Mission be handed over to indigenous Chinese clergy. Archbishop Victor, who was the last head of the Russian Mission at the time, stepped down when the Mission property was turned over to the Soviet Embassy in Beijing. He left Beijing in May of 1956. Most of the churches on the Mission property including the Church of all the Holy Martyrs were destroyed. The relics of the Chinese Martyrs were purportedly smuggled out and buried in the Russian cemetery outside the city wall. In the following year, the elderly Archimandrite Vasily (姚福安 Yáo Fúān in Chinese) was consecrated as Bishop of Beijing on May 17/30 1957 in Moscow’s Transfiguration temple. Thus with the approval of the Chinese government, Moscow granted autonomy to the Chinese Orthodox Church with Bishop Vasily as head. China also had another elderly bishop, Simeon of Shanghai (杜润臣 Dù Rùnchén in Chinese). Both eventually became ill, and Bishop Vasily reposed on January 3, 1962 and Bishop Simeon, on March 3, 1965. Then the onset of the Cultural Revolution was brought about in 1966. At the start of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Church was without a bishop, and the flock was scattered and the clergy persecuted for the following ten years with the destruction of many church temples.
3. In all of that period when religion was being suppressed in mainland China, how did the Orthodox faithful manage to keep their faith, and on the other side, did Orthodoxy in those times succeed to find its way to some of the overseas Chinese?
The Orthodox faithful kept their faith basically through some combination of basic prayers, reader services and the reading of Scripture at home. Most of the daily prayers are in archaic Chinese or Church Slavonic and are very difficult to understand for the younger generation. Thus most of the younger generation may say they are Orthodox because their grandparents are Orthodox. Catechetical instruction is minimal at best. Initiation and participation in the Holy Mysteries is practically impossible without priests. Orthodoxy also immigrated with the flight of white Russians along with some Chinese Orthodox when Communism took over mainland China in 1949. Many ended up in Australia or America. In Australia we currently have an elderly protopresybter Fr Michael Li, who was originally from the Shanghai diocese. A Russian-Chinese Orthodox Missionary Society was also established in Sydney. The Society is currently headed by Sophia Mikhailovna Boikova, to serve the Chinese Orthodox that immigrated there and also to assist those who chose to stay behind in China. In America, we have St John the Wonderworker, who served as archbishop of Shanghai. In 1962 he took up the archbishopric see for the Russian Church Abroad in San Francisco. The oldest surviving Chinese Orthodox priest who served under him and likewise fled to America is Protopresbyter Elias Wen. Fr Elias passed his 108th birthday in November, 2004. May God grant him many more years! There are also a number of overseas Chinese who converted to Orthodoxy in their own spiritual journey seeking for the True Faith.
4. Coming to the present, what would you tell us about the current state of Orthodoxy in the Chinese world? As we know, both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate (In Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan) are making efforts to invigorate the Mission of the Church among the Chinese; therefore, how would you assess those undertakings, and according to your opinion, what more could be done in the interest of the Mission?
After the Cultural Revolution, the Pokrov parish in Harbin in the northeast of the country was the first to reopen on her patronal feast day of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1/14, 1984). In addition, there are three other opened Orthodox churches in mainland China, two in Yining (Ghulja) and Urumchi of Xinjiang autonomous region in the northwest, and one in Erguna (Labdarin) of Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the north. None of these churches currently have a priest, and by law the Chinese government does not allow foreign priests to serve the local population in China without special permission. Only indigenous priests are allowed to serve Chinese citizens. Unfortunately, the last of Chinese Orthodox clergy has recently passed away: Archpriest Alexander of Beijing (杜立福 Dù Lìfú in Chinese), on December 16, 2003, and Fr Gregory of Harbin (朱世朴 Zhū Shìpò in Chinese) on September 21, 2000. As a result, the Orthodox faithful have no active parishes, no liturgical life, and no mysteria. The only thing they can do is to pray at home, before their icons.
5. Speaking now from a broader cultural perspective, can you tell us something on the subject of the compatibility of traditional Chinese culture with the Orthodox Christian worldview? Similar questions have represented a point of discussion and contention since the beginning of the Christian missions in China (one only needs to remember the noted “Chinese rite” controversy among eighteenth century Roman Catholics), and it is also known that among the Orthodox in the twentieth century Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina engaged himself extensively on that topic. What do you personally consider to be the meeting points between ancient Chinese culture and Orthodox faith and practice, and subsequently how these assets could be used in the best way for broadening the outreach of the Church’s Mission to the Chinese people?
Much of traditional Chinese culture is quite compatible with the Orthodox Christian worldview, but also there are key underlying differences. First we need to define what is the Orthodox Christian worldview and its basis. Orthodox means right faith and right worship. Here we are introduced with the ability to discern what is right from wrong. This springs from the revelation of an unknowable and transcendent God the Father who out of love reveals Himself by the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit in the Church. Therefore the Orthodox Christian worldview is a Trinitarian one where we deal with our neighbors and surrounding based on love for one another, but grounded in an absolute Truth. This is tempered and humbled by God’s transcendence which Orthodoxy called the apophatic approach.
In traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism penetrated society deeply with a social structure of filial piety. Social harmony is of utmost importance. Likewise, Orthodoxy stressed the submission of the believer to Christ, who is the Head of the Church. Christ in turn gave His apostolic authority to the local bishop and the pastors by extension to tend the flock as a father care for his children. A key difference of traditional Chinese culture is its pragmatic and syncretic approach to truth. It tries to incorporate what is beneficiary from various religions as long as it promotes harmony, and does not acknowledge an absolute nor personal source of Truth. One religion of significant influence is Buddhism. It migrated from India with various cultural adaptations in China. Its founder Gautama Siddhartha, was a prince that abandon his royalty for the ascetic life. His life was also an inspiration in the Orthodox world and was disseminated by St John of Damascus as an edifying story of the famous and blessed Barlaam and Ioasaph where the love of Jesus Christ is credited in allowing St Ioasaph to reach enlightenment. [a]
In recent Chinese history, secularism and the Cultural Revolution have rooted out much of traditional Chinese culture and religions in the name of economic progress and prosperity. Yet, traditional Chinese customs that may have been lost in mainland China can still be seen practiced in Hong Kong, Taiwan and among the oversea Chinese. I personally see traditional Chinese culture filled with symbolism. Chinese people like to use their physical senses to convey an inner true. For example, red means joy and white means death. The dragon and phoenix means royalty. Numbers may sound like other words, such as the number eight sounds like a word meaning prosperity or nine sounds like another word meaning longevity. Respect for ancestors involves the burning of incense and paper with lighting of candles in front of the grave or family altar. This fits well with Orthodoxy which likewise engage all the human senses, whether sight, sound, touch or smell. This is especially true in liturgical practice to help us come to a deeper worship with the Triune God with the use of incense, candles and holy icons. Unlike Protestantism which threw the bathwater out with the baby, Orthodoxy adopts the local culture that gives birth to each person. For example, Orthodoxy initiates an infant with a period of about 40 days for the mother and new born infant to stay at home to recover from labor, and then welcomes both mother and child at church with the rite of Churching, Baptism, Chrismation and the other sacraments in due time, where they are reincorporated back into the spiritual family. In Chinese culture, there is also a period of about a month where the mother and child stays out of sight. After a full month, they participate in a luscious banquet with extended family and friends which celebrates the milestone that the mother and child have survived, which was considered a big deal in the ancient days where advanced medical care was practically non-existent.
The best method in using these assets is to see where each person is coming from and not to categorically lump everyone into one monolithic group with similar worldviews or values. Once we understand where each person is at spiritually, we can then use what we know of traditional Chinese culture and religions, modern Chinese regional cultures and the Orthodox worldview in guiding them to maturity in their spiritual walk with Christ and their interaction within their local culture.
6. It is encouraging to know that many young Chinese both in the homeland and overseas are embracing Orthodox Christianity as their faith; having in mind this, could you tell us which is the primary appeal of Orthodoxy that is drawing these people to the Church, and if we can say so, what from their experience could be concluded about the competitive edge of Orthodox Faith for its inroad into the world wide Chinese speaking community?
You see, it would be never right to answer such question by a simple quomodo. There are many reasons which spur people to convert to Orthodoxy. That is, if anyone research Christianity seriously, many times one cannot find the final peace or rest of their soul in the Catholic or Protestant churches. If someone wants to become a “Christian” in mainland China, most of the available resources are Protestant. Catholic resources come to a close second. Chinese Orthodox converts usually share a common “typical journey”: They became a Protestant Christian, but later found that they cannot satisfy their spiritual need in such a “church”, since Protestantism does not respect any tradition. Some people left the Protestant community because they cannot bear the madness of the “Pentecostal movement” which is currently very popular in both Protestant and Catholic communities of China; Some because they couldn’t finds any “Apostolic Succession”; Some because they cannot agree with certain Protestant dogma… And the second step logically is to turn to Catholicism, but finally they found that the Roman Catholic Church is the very mother of Protestantism, the matrix of many heresies. In this situation, they call to remembrance of the unacquainted term, the word they may have heard many times but still is unknown to them, the “third great branch of Christendom”—Orthodoxy. And finally, they become cognizant of Orthodoxy as the only truth, and the Orthodox Church as the only true Church of Christ, not merely “a modality of universal Christianity”. And they found the “eternal rest and peace” in this faith, bringing closure to their journey of researching for the truth.
Currently in mainland China, whether in the government or in the society, when people talk about the Christian faith, they either think of Catholicism or Christianity, seeing the two as separate religions. This may be due to the Chinese terms used. For example, the Chinese term for Catholicism (天主教) literally means “Heavenly Master’s teaching”. Protestantism is popularly referred to with the term (基督教) which literally means “Christ’s teaching” which is synonymous with the Christian religion in general. Therefore, Orthodoxy occupies a very small space in mainland China both literally and in the popular mindset. Orthodoxy is commonly referred to with the Chinese term (东正教) that literally means “Eastern Orthodox teaching”. Orthodoxy’s lack of popular exposure is contributed by historical and many other factors. Beginning in the 1980s, China has implemented an open door policy, where new cultures, new perspectives, new technologies, and even new religious cultures have been introduced from the outside.
In the several decades when the Chinese society was in seclusion, many religious practices were abandoned, including traditional Chinese religions like Buddhism as well as Christianity. Ever since the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), China has truly gained much economic progress, but behind the resulting lifestyles of such prosperity was a deep psychological and spiritual void. Some people sought refuge to fill such a void by coming into contact with Christianity, but as mentioned above, this referred mainly to Protestantism.
Xuebin (Michelle) Burican
As for the Orthodox Church, its name presupposes a right faith. Conducting a thorough research and understanding of the Orthodox Church, one will then gain an appreciation of the gem of the Orthodox faith, i.e. its simplicity and legitimacy. For example, Xuebin (Michelle) Burican – the translator for the Prologue from Ohrid, -was exposed to Christianity around 17 or 18 years old. At the time still vivid in memory, during a train journey, she saw about ten elderly ladies. They were filled with extreme joy and optimism discussing about Christ, the topic being the joy of believing in Christ. From that point forward, Xuebin has been introduced to a superficial understanding of Christianity. Later after coming to Beijing, she found out that her landlord happened to belong to a Christian household. They frequently attended Sunday worship together in Haidian District at a Protestant church, which has since relocated. At that time, she felt Christians are caring and helpful to people, a positive distinctive that stood out in Christianity. Later after marrying her husband, she arrived in Romania and discovered the Eastern Orthodox Church. There she realized that the Orthodox Church is the foundation of right faith. In her opinion, Protestantism is based on a superficial introduction to the Holy Scriptures. Perhaps, there may be other Chinese people who have a similar background with exposure to Protestant Christianity who are searching for the right faith and will discover the Eastern Orthodox Church in the process. This is a major trend where Orthodoxy has the ability to attract more and more of the Chinese community worldwide.
7. It would be also interesting to know what the Chinese Orthodox Christians consider to be the main obstacles to the better progress of Orthodoxy among the Chinese; particularly, which impediments the Orthodox Church has to overcome in itself in order to make its Mission more successful?
According to Fr Dionisy Pozdnyaev, who heads the Study Group on Orthodox Affairs in China organized by Department for external church relations of Moscow Patriarchate ( DECR MP), the value of Orthodox Spirituality should be presented and disseminated. Of course, bearers of real spiritual life should be the ones carrying the torch and not outside presenters. More translations of Orthodox literature about spiritual practice of the Orthodox Church will be helpful among the Chinese. Secondly, there needs to be a creation of some kind of so-called ‘supportive strategy’ in social and cultural field, e.g. literature, music, and painting as civil arts, but grounded in Orthodox spiritual roots. Minimally an educational system for catechism about the Orthodox Church is required.
Orthodoxy spirituality should be practiced where possible and not just listened to or read about. If it is not possible to practice in China, there may be a possibility to organize pilgrimage tours (even short term) to monasteries or open summer educational classes abroad taught in the Chinese language. More translations of very different Orthodox books are needed but should be systematic according to a catechetical curriculum.
One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of understanding of the Orthodox Church among the Chinese, even those who are already Catholic or Protestant. Among the Catholics and Protestants, if they can overcome these obstacles, then they will better understand the Orthodox Church. If they feel that the Orthodox Faith is strange, they will not be receptive at all. One example is my Protestant aunt from Hong Kong. She thought the Orthodox Church only believes the Old Testament, and I had to clear it up to her that the Orthodox Church is Christian and believes in both the Old and New Testament. It’s the Jews that believes only in the Old Testament. She also didn’t understand why we venerate icons, and I used the example of family pictures: You would kiss the picture not because you like the paper but because you cherish and love the people depicted even if they are pictures of your deceased loved ones. The Orthodox Church likewise is a family of Christ consists of both the living and the departed and the icons are windows to the departed holy persons, where we can still express our respect through veneration. Others have criticized that icons are not aesthetically pleasing. I responded that they are not meant to be painted realistically like artwork in a museum, but are intentionally done in a way to help us not to dwell on the earthly but to raise us to the heavenly which are not according to the standards of this world.
As for those Chinese who don’t have any Christian faith, according to Xuebin Burican, first they need to understand the basics of the Bible and be introduced to some elementary knowledge of Christianity. Modern Chinese Catholic and Protestant translations of Holy Scripture are easily accessible via the web or at local bookstores in mainland China. If they don’t even know who is Jesus Christ, how will they understand or appreciate what is going on in the Divine Liturgy at an Orthodox Church which is filled with biblical allusions? Xuebin has encountered some Chinese Protestants who think the Orthodox liturgical service is just about singing, and does not take any catechetical instruction of the believers into consideration. In mainland China, people are always confused about the Christian Faith, and many times give some strange explanations. When mainland Chinese people learn much more about Orthodoxy, then they will discover that Orthodoxy is the true and the only right faith.
Another significant obstacle is the lack of clergy. Hopefully the Chinese seminarians currently studying abroad such as those in Russia will be permitted to return and serve the faithful in China after their ordination to the priesthood. Also lacking are enough books in Chinese: liturgical, theological, catechesis, prayer book and so on. In many case, people cannot serve even a simple reader service by themselves, because there are no liturgical books in Chinese. And our faithful are not organized due to many reasons, the most important ones being the lost of the hierarchy of the Chinese Orthodox Church, and the uncertainty of the legal status of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of China.
8. Would you describe for us the life of the Orthodox faithful in China nowadays (especially in the mainland)? In addition, we would like to know what are the chances for obtaining an official registration of the Orthodox Church of China and are we going to see soon native Orthodox clergy worshiping and preaching freely in mainland China?
The current situation is ironic if you take a look at the church state relationship in China. Many underground churches such as the Catholic and the Protestant house churches would not want to be registered, when the authorities insist that they register. Some do not register due to fear of recrimination if their application for registration is rejected, or they may consider registration with authorities as a compromise to living out their faith.
In contrast, the local Orthodoxy communities in China who have been forced underground by the Cultural Revolution, want to apply for official registration, yet the authorities rejected them whether on the local or national level without giving much of a reason. This shows a bit of ambiguity on the religious policy towards Orthodox believers, as the authorities have not made up their minds whether or not the Orthodox communities should be registered. Orthodox believers strive for harmony and unity in social life in China, and when any official rejects application for registration this creates disharmony not only for the Orthodox communities but for the society at large. Moreover, they can not openly and fully express their religious life. One example is that there are four opened churches, but not even one priest. Without the priest, there is no celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Thus, the sacramental life of Orthodox believers is detrimentally deprived and imbalanced without the nourishment of Body and Blood of Christ.
There is another possibility given the status of Orthodoxy in China. Orthodox believers can choose to participate in the sacraments by going abroad. Then they can participate in holy illumination of baptism and chrismation, in confession, in marriage, in funeral, and in partaking of Holy Communion according to the rubrics of the Church. Even though the authorities support at state expense the reconstruction and opening of Orthodox churches, without a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, having the buildings will not serve the spiritual needs of the faithful. If this persists unchanged, then the Orthodox Church in China will dwindle to non-existence because of the limited possibility for the believers to fully practice their spiritual life. Thus the onus is on the Chinese government to do their part in accepting the registration of the Orthodox Church in China, and allowing the ordination of indigenous people to the priesthood or priests from abroad to serve the faithful. Ultimately, the revival of the Orthodox Church in China is in the hands of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. By His grace and blessing, through the intercessions of the Holy Martyrs of China and the diligent prayers and efforts of the faithful in China, we do hope one day to see the glorious resurrection of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in mainland China.
9. Can you tell us now something about your own background, how did you encounter Orthodox Christianity and how did you find your way to the Church?
Mitrophan Chin and
his son Tobias
I was born in a Cantonese-speaking Evangelical Christian household in Boston, MA, USA. I graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and Geography in 1995, but my work experience is mainly system administration in Internet startups. I was raised up and baptized in the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church. In my college years, I was involved with summer missions to Taiwan, Macau and Paraguay. What led me to the Orthodox Church was actually the Internet when I was at B.U. I was reading up early Church Fathers and found that their reverence for liturgical life and the hierarchy, which was foreign in the Evangelical Christianity. Orthodoxy claimed to be the True Church with Apostolic Tradition and Succession from the times of Jesus and the Apostles. I found such claims arrogant, but at the same time sparked my curiosity to investigate its claims. I went to visit a local Orthodox Church. It blew my senses away with the incense, candles, the vestments, the lack of pews, and the visual bombardment of icons of all the saints. It took a while to digest as I was used to bare white walls of Protestant churches. Someone also emailed me to try visiting another Orthodox Church. This time it was St Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA, where the friendly parishioners explained to me what’s going on in the service, and what the icons depicted. In the virtual world, I was also exposed toDynamis, which is a commentary and meditation on the Orthodox Church lectionary of the assigned daily Scripture readings. It was filled with quotes from the Church Fathers, and introduced me to the Orthodox mindset which I noticed was filled with humble self-reflection and examination of one’s sin and asking God for mercy. Never did I encounter such humility in Protestantism which taught that once yours sins are wiped away by the blood of Jesus on the Cross, you’re assured your salvation, and you should go preached to the world this Good News. My curiosity also landed me in the Holy Land to see for myself what the Bible talks about, such as the old city of Jerusalem, or Bethlehem where Jesus was born. In all theses places were marked by Orthodox churches whose parishioners were direct descendents of Jewish and Gentile converts of Jesus’ time. The Orthodox Church gave me a continuity of God’s involvement in the history of mankind especially between the apostolic age and modern times, which Protestantism was silent about. After being convicted that Orthodoxy is the Faith of our forefathers, I was received into the Holy Orthodox Church.
10. How and when sprung out the idea of creating a Chinese Orthodox Christian web portal such as orthodox.cn, what are its primary goals and what impact do you think is making at the moment on the Chinese Orthodox community as well as beyond it?
The portal site started out as a parked domain name acquired by a sponsor of the Chinese Translation Project. In October 2003, he gave me an opportunity to use the domain name prologue.orthodox.cn as an easier to remember web address to promote the Translation Project of the Prologue. The sponsor also gave me the privilege to use www.orthodox.cn to build up a destination portal for everything related to Orthodoxy in China. Fr Dionisy gave the original outline of how the site should be categorized and flowed in Russian, which I then had him translate into English, and then I translate into Chinese, so the site launched with a tri-lingual focus. He has also contributed much of the Russian content and news to the site. Nina Dimas also has been helpful in translating much of the Russian language news into English as a courtesy to our international English readership of the portal site. She also translated the accounts of the Chinese Martyrs from the Russian, making available for the first time in English one of the inspirational turning points of Chinese Orthodoxy history. Reader Seraphim Lim of Singapore designed the site logo which incorporate both Chinese and Orthodox elements in a catchy design. I basically shared some of my online research of scouring the internet looking for Chinese Orthodox resources and linking to them from orthodox.cn. At the same time, permission was granted from various sources to host the content locally on the portal so that it has a permanent archive. This also allows the ability to burn CDs of the freely distributable content to give to those interested in Orthodoxy in China. The portal has also opened a discussion forum which has been proven useful for catechumen and the faithful in China to discuss about the Orthodox Faith with anonymity. The forum also includes a private messaging functionality where forum members can communicate off-line to follow-up in greater detail.
11. “Translation work is at the heart of missionary effort” – used to say St. Nicholas Kasatkin; drawing from this, would you inform us on the present state of Chinese liturgical texts and other Orthodox materials, their availability and their use in the cycle of services of the Church? Also, which are the translation projects that are currently going on and can we expect to see some of the works of the Holy Fathers translated into Chinese? What do you regard as most important and most necessary to be done at the moment?
Currently, the Chinese Orthodox Translation Project is focusing on completing the translation of the Prologue from Ohrid, including all sections found in each day’s entry such as the lives of saints, hymns, contemplation, reflections and homilies. Such effort is made possible by a $3000 matching grant of the Order of St Ignatius of Antioch along with numerous sponsors and donors worldwide. We have finished revised translations from January to April, and the work is still ongoing. As each day’s reading is completed, it is immediately posted to http://prologue.orthodox.cn for reading and feedback. Those without reliable internet access can request a CD to be burned and shipped to them with the latest translations plus all the freely distributable material on orthodox.cn. The Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (OMHKSEA) is also aggressively putting out translations of theological and spiritual works on their Taiwan website (http://orthodox.com.tw), the latest book translated being Orthodox Spirituality: A Brief Introduction by Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos. Also the Brotherhood of the apostles Sts Peter & Paul in Hong Kong is actively seeking sponsors to support various translation and publication projects including the account of Staretz Siluan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) and a Russian-Chinese dictionary of Orthodox terms. Also ongoing are modern translations of liturgical texts. Some of the preliminary efforts such as daily and occasional prayers are already downloadable fromhttp://orthodox.cn/liturgical. All the mentioned translation projects are crucial, and there are many other spiritual works of the Holy Fathers that can be placed on the pipe-line. This will be a slow process due to limited qualified translators who knows both modern Chinese theological language and the topic of the book or text they’re translating. Much of the existing translations that are already online will need to be read over and updated again by theologically-trained mainland Chinese Orthodox translators to produce consistent and accurate translations in Chinese.
12. Finally, we would like to tell us something about your future plans connected with the web portal or maybe with some other projects, and moreover, can you give us your opinion about the immediate prospects of the Orthodox Church in the Chinese speaking world. At the very end we would be happy to hear and your thoughts on how the non-Chinese Orthodox believers who are willing to help the Mission of the Orthodox Church among the Chinese could do that in the best possible way.
Along with the translation of the Prologue, we will begin translation of the troparia and kontakia, which are the daily hymns of the liturgical year to complement the reading of the lives of the saints. Anyone with knowledge of Serbian and Chinese can help verify the Chinese translation is faithful to the original Serbian text of the Prologue. This is because Chinese translation is done off of an English translation, which may have some ambiguity in meaning at times. Also, work has been begun to add Unicode support to the Menologion 3.0, a free software to display the daily Bible readings, hymns, and lives of saints on your computer. This will allow the Chinese translation when completed to be viewed with this technology. Publication in book format of the Chinese translations of the Prologue and other works will also be pursued at a future date. As for the portal orthodox.cn, we would love to make it truly tri-lingual. There are much content in Russian that will be of benefit if translated into English or Chinese. Anyone with knowledge of any of the three languages are welcomed to volunteer to help with that aspect of the portal. Tentatively, English machine translation of some of the content is in place. There is also a need for anyone in the magazine, book or cd publishing industry to help with providing such expertise in propagating much of the online material in alternative mediums. We are always looking for sponsors and donors to help fund our projects and activities. Finally, but not the least, please pray for the Mission among the Chinese people both on the mainland and abroad.
[a] The lives of Barlaam and Ioasaph supposedly being the life of the Buddha is more of a recent phenomenon by those who see the two accounts having various levels of similiarities in content and linguistics as evidence for putting forth this theory. It was never a postulation promoted within the hagiographical tradition of the Orthodox Church.