Friday, April 3, 2015

God in Ancient Chinese Culture

When most people think of China, the most populous nation in the world, they think of a nation rich in cultural heritage, martial arts, the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Emperors, Chinese food, and mass produced goods. And of course nowadays there are large numbers of Chinese people living abroad in most nations around the world.

Some may also think of the phenomenal growth of Christianity in China in the last 50 years or so. This rapid growth accompanied by incredible miracles, and in the face of persecution and martyrdom, is in itself one argument for the truth of the Christian faith – why would people be willing to suffer and die for something that isn’t true?

In my article about Japan I showed how God has left evidence of himself within the Japanese culture. Likewise, in China there is much evidence of God at work there.

Many connections between the Bible and Chinese culture are shown in the book 'God's Promise to the Chinese'.

In the book it is shown how hundreds of Chinese symbols are similar to the Bible accounts. For example, the traditional Chinese words for ‘righteousness’(義 - yì), ‘sacrifice’(犠牲- xī sheng) , and ‘beautiful’(美 - měi) all  include the symbol for a sheep (羊 - yáng). In the Bible the sacrifices of sheep made people righteous and beautiful before God. And Jesus is the Lamb of God that was sacrificed to make us righteous. Many Chinese words contain two trees (木), such as ‘forbidden’ (禁) which also contains the ‘God’ radical (示). The word for ‘covet’ (婪) has a woman (女) between two trees. Compare this with the Bible’s Garden of Eden where there were 2 trees and Eve coveted the forbidden fruit from the forbidden tree. The Chinese word for ship (船 - chuan) contains the number 8 and mouth / people. Likewise, the Bible account of Noah’s Ark says that there were 8 people on the Ark (ship).
The best explanation for these amazing parallels between Chinese characters and the Bible is that when the Chinese invented their writing system around 4,000 years ago they used symbols that people knew the meanings of. All Chinese back then would have known the stories of Adam and Eve and the Flood because it is real history, and all nations, including the Chinese, came from the Tower of Babel around 2200BC.
It is important to understand that the worship of the creator God is not a new thing in China. Near Beijing is a famous tourist attraction called the Temple of Heaven (天壇 – Tiāntán) and its associated Altar of Heaven.

Temple of Heaven

Up until 1912 it was the site of an annual ceremony where every year the Emperor would sacrifice a bull to Shangdi 上帝(God). (Note that in the Bible sacrifices also included bulls – and the Chinese word for sacrifice also includes the symbol for bull). The temple was built over 500 years ago, but the ceremony and worship of Shangdi predate the temple and go back thousands of years. Nowadays, many Chinese people flock to the Altar of Heaven and raise their arms to heaven believing that in so doing they will receive good luck.  However, most Chinese are unaware of the history of the Temple of Heaven and do not connect the Temple of Heaven with the God of Heaven.

The next thing I'd like to mention is the Chinese New Year and the connection to the biblical Passover.

During the Chinese New Year red signs are put up over their doors. These signs have the word blessing / luck (福- fú) written on them which includes the symbol for God on the left. The Chinese believe that by doing this they bring good luck to their families and ward off evil. A story that goes with this is of a monster / horned wild beast called Nian who attacked and killed people. The people were saved by the red signs, light, and loud bangs. Compare this with the biblical Passover where blood was painted over the doorposts and by doing this the angel of death passed over their houses and they were protected from death. Another similarity is related to the cleaning of homes before New Year, which is something that was done before the Passover.

In relation to the blood of Passover, red is seen by Chinese as being a ‘lucky’ colour. The idea of luck is a replacement for the biblical idea of blessing coming from God – and the ultimate blessing of all came from the red blood of Jesus sacrifice. By trusting in Jesus we are saved from our sins and judgment passes over us. In turn we receive God’s blessings.

Another important part of Chinese culture is Dragons. For example, Chinese New Year Dragon dances, and ‘Year of the Dragon’ in the Chinese Zodiac.

From a biblical perspective Chinese dragons can easily be explained as coming from dinosaur sightings. Secular scientists tell us that dinosaurs died out 65 million year ago – but this is not true – see this article.
God made dinosaurs on day 6 of creation at the same time as he made people, and most dinosaurs were wiped out during the global Flood (c. 2500BC). Juvenile dinosaurs would have been on the Ark, and survived for some time after the Flood but eventually became extinct. The ancient Chinese must have encountered living dinosaurs – and hence their dragon legends. (Could Nian mentioned above have been related to a dinosaur attacking people?) Furthermore, Marco Polo documented living dragons (dinosaurs) in China during his time there from 1275AD - 1292AD.

Chinese culture is full of arguments for God - and the above evidences are just a few examples. These things are powerfully consistent evidence for the reality of God and the truth of the Bible.

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