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Word and Tao: thoughts on an attempt at conceptual translation.

"THE WAY that can be spoken of is not the ultimate way." A Christian, as much as a Taoist, assumes the ultimate truth of things is beyond human comprehension and therefore inexpressible. To make this ultimate truth accessible to human understanding, it must be communicated in non-ultimate ways; that is, through the historical and cultural contingencies of human language. Herein lie the central questions for this essay. First, to what extent can Eternal Truth, in which Christian revelation finds its source, be articulated in historically and culturally contingent languages? Second, what are the challenges involved in communicating these truth claims meaningfully and accurately from one historically and culturally contingent language to another? Are these challenges so great as to become virtually insurmountable? The significance of these questions is far-reaching, and nowhere is their import more keenly felt than in the evangelization of eastern cultures like China. To what extent, if any, can Christian theology, as it developed within the Hellenistic cultural traditions of the West, be meaningfully communicated to the cultural traditions of China? If the challenges are virtually insuperable, as some have claimed, does this preclude possibility of a general Christian theology?

John says: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." This word (logos--word, speech, reason, and in Hellenistic philosophic usage the inherent rationality of things (1)) is identical with God, but also in some sense, apparently, distinct as well. And in Jesus "the word was made flesh and dwelt among us." John here is venturing into the Way that is inexpressible, but a flat, prosaic, inadequate paraphrase/explication might run: the Eternal Truth of God, which is manifest in the inherent order of creation, became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ. (2) Conceivably there might be other ways, more or less adequate, to express this mystery. John's cultural menu included this Hellenistic term, and he found in it a conceptual vocabulary not totally inadequate to express what he wanted to say. But conceivably there might be other ways of articulating the same sense. (3)

Christian truth (if it is true) is a divine revelation directed toward all human persons, but inevitably it must be expressed in particular cultural and historical idioms. Yet the revelation itself is universal. The issue is not so much one of simple translation: John's logos is rendered in Latin as verbum, in German as Wort, French mot, English word. In each case the hearer or reader will understand that the term, in its biblical context, is used in a specific technical sense with perhaps only a distant and metaphoric relationship to its ordinary meaning. The question is less one of the term used than of the concept conveyed. In the Indo-European languages above, the original term, referring to what comes out of our mouths when we speak, does not in itself have its own philosophic baggage, but can be loaded with the bags necessary to convey its sense in the Hellenistic context.

This is not necessarily the case in civilizations that developed more or less independently from that of Europe. Since the earliest Jesuit missions to China, there have been controversies over how to render Christian truths meaningfully, without adding irrelevant or misleading, even potentially heretical, complications. The word dao (M), way, as in Way that can or cannot be spoken, seems a natural choice, since dao means not only way--literally, path or road--but also, especially in classical Chinese, "to speak," and, by extension it can mean "reason" as well. The Union Bible, perhaps the most widely-used Protestant text, has John saying: Taichuyou Dao; Daoyu Shen tongzai; Dao jiu shi Shen (4): "At the Great Beginning there was the Tao; Tao and God [Shen--more commonly, Spirit] were in the same place (or existed together); Tao [in fact] was God"--in an unidiomatic back translation. (5) Over a certain range Tao carries pretty much the set of meanings as logos in Greek. The immediate objection from a traditional Chinese commentator would be that Tao (6) is not the sort of thing that becomes flesh and dwells among us: but that would also be the instinctive reaction of an educated Greek upon seeing logos in John's text.

The difficulty of translation comes into sharper focus when one looks at the ways in which Tao is understood within specific Chinese schools of thought. The best-known and most influential discussion of Tao is the book of Laozi or the Dao De Jing, quoted at the beginning of this essay, and treating that as equivalent to John's logos may be misleading. The denotations of the terms overlap, but are far from equivalent:
   Logos in the West indicates that ... the Word of God creates the
   world. Dao in the East, however, precedes Heaven or God.... Dao is
   unspeakable and it is the Nameless that is the origin of Heaven and
   Earth.... This view is obviously different from the way Word is
   regarded in the West. The difference in the view of language
   results in different views of and different attitudes toward
   language in the East and West. (7)

A pedant, I suppose, could object to the facile tossing about of terms like "East" and "West." A more interesting objection might be that while there may be reasons to use the Chinese term Heaven to denote God (this is discussed below), Laozi need not be interpreted as asserting that Tao is prior to what Christians consider God: rather, the Christian concept of God simply does not figure in the text itself. And it might be legitimate, or creatively adaptive, to extrapolate a "Christian" version of Laozi in which Tao becomes a term to denote the ineffable operation or activity of God. This, however, would be an extrapolation; in its original setting Tao carries connotations not congruent with the use of Word in the New Testament.

There is, however, another closely related term, which might be used to convey the New Testament sense of "Word" more precisely in Chinese. Laozi's theme is the Tao that cannot be spoken of. The dao that can be spoken of--[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (literally, dao'd)--is not the constant dao. Dao'd is a pun on dao's double sense of Way and speech, asserting that (the "ultimate") speech cannot be spoken (although Laozi does go on for 8i verses about it). But the wording implies there is another dao, or set of daos, that can be spoken of.

The most obvious "spokesman" for this dao is Confucius. (8) In the Confucian tradition the "Way of Heaven" denotes an objectively valid moral ordering of the universe and human activity within it, and this would have even more overlap with John's logos than Laozi's usage. (9) That being said, it is at least problematical to translate logos as Tao without risk of misunderstanding. (10)

Chinese Usage and Aristotelian Reasoning

So far, we have considered challenges involved in rendering the concept of logos, as used in the prologue to John's Gospel, in a meaningful way to Chinese cultural traditions. This is but one example, albeit, a poignant one, of a more general problem. Can Christian theology, as it has developed in the West, be communicated meaningfully to non-Western cultures? In this section, I will turn my attention to those who claim that the problem of translation is not only difficult; it is virtually insurmountable. Their arguments are well worth considering, given the far-reaching implications of their claims.

Those who claim that the challenges of translation are insurmountable generally shift the focus of the problem from the relation between language systems to the relation between language in general and reality. Can language express objective truths about reality, or is language nothing more than an intersubjective system of conventions that creates a culture's perception of reality? If all human languages share access to objective reality, then meaningful dialogue between cultures concerning truths--both ultimate and non-ultimate--is possible. Those who claim that language determines our perception of reality are typically more pessimistic concerning the challenges involved in communicating the gospel across cultural and linguistic boundaries.

We can broach the problem with the Taoist thinker, Zhuangzi. In "The Equalization of Things," he writes, "A path ... (dao) is made by walking." (11) By extension, our own notion of the Tao, the way the world works, may at least be shaped by the way we talk. In other words, the way we talk conditions the way we think and perceive. Zhuangzi, anyway, seems committed to a relatively strong version of the so-called Sapir-Worf hypothesis, that our thought and perceptions of reality are shaped by the language we use. (12) According to Chad Hansen, cultural traditions in ancient China were far less confident than the "logocentric" traditions of the Hellenistic world concerning the capacity of language to express reality.

Alfred Bloom has attempted to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis as it applies to China. (13) Noting that Chinese lacks a grammatical form for expressing counterfactuals (such as the subjunctive--if wishes were horses, so forth), Bloom argues that Chinese speakers should find counterfactuals more awkward to handle than speakers of another mother tongue. And, indeed, he claims that students in Taiwan and Hong Kong find it more difficult to answer questions requiring counterfactual reasoning than do American students asked the same question in English. The results have been criticized for two main reasons: first, the questions are phrased in a poor, unidiomatic style of Chinese; and the difference in performance can be attributed to differences in reading style independent of language. (14) Second, Chinese philosophers seem to have had few problems dealing with counterfactual propositions. Take, for example, the following passage from Zhuangzi.

Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the bridge over the Hao. Zhuangzi said: These white fish swim to and fro so freely. That is the happiness of a fish.

Huizi said: Sir, you are not a fish. How do you know what makes a fish happy?

Zhuangzi said: And you, Sir, are not me. How do you know whether or not I know what makes a fish happy?

Huizi said: Right--I am not you, so of course I don't know. And you are not a fish, so you have no way of knowing what makes a fish happy.

Zhuangzi said: Let's go back to the original question. You asked how do I know what makes a fish happy. The question itself shows you already know that I know what makes a fish happy. I know because I saw them from the bridge. (Zhuangzi, chap. 17)

The syllogism implied here--if and only if you were a fish would you know what makes a fish happy; but you are not a fish--seems to suggest that Huizi and Zhuangzi are comfortable dealing with counterfactuals. But Zhuangzi's punch line is not a logical refutation of Huizi's argument. Zhuangzi, rather, asserts that he knows by intuition, and Huizi knows right well (by his own intuition) that this intuition is valid. So this does not really address the case of counterfactuals.

The relationship between language and reality, names and things, was a perennial topic of Warring States-era discourse. Confucius said (or is supposed to have said--some think this is much later interpellation into the Analects (15)): The first step in establishing good government is to rectify names. This is not the same as Socrates's effort to establish correct definitions (e.g., justice). Rather, for Confucius, a rectified name is one whose denotation and connotations coincide: a father should be a father, a son a son; a king should be a king, a subject a subject. Roles or titles carry moral meaning, and those who occupy a role or hold a title should manifest the appropriate moral action and attitude that goes with their position. A king who is a tyrant is not properly a king; a father who abuses his children is not truly a father; and insolent, disobedient children are not behaving as proper children should. In this tradition names may not allow precise definitions, because the behavior appropriate to a father or anyone else may vary according to circumstance. The aim of moral cultivation is to acquire the ability to act in the manner the circumstance requires. "Western" discourse supposedly assumes that at least in principle words more or less adequately capture empirical and non-empirical reality and that for a word to be useful it must have a limited appropriate usage. Catholic Scholasticism was notorious, especially among its critics, for seeking out subtle distinctions in closely related words. The Chinese Rites controversy (16) turned in part on whether the terminology and usage in classical Chinese philosophy could be fitted with the categories established by Aristotle and incorporated into Catholic philosophy. (17)

Jacques Gernet, the best-known contemporary commentator on the issue, asserts that Greek and Chinese ways of thinking rest on entirely different assumptions and that these assumptions are embedded in language. "According to Aristotle, it is normal for all things to be at rest, whereas for the Chinese, in contrast, universal dynamism is the primary assumption." Such assumptions reflect grammatical functions, which shape our mental categories. These differences in grammar mean there is no possibility of adequately rendering in Chinese concepts derived from Greek philosophy or medieval Scholasticism. (18) A key example of this alleged untranslatability is the Aristotelian distinction between substance and accident. Because this is a distinction of major theological importance in Catholic theology it is well worth examining the claims of its untranslatability in some detail. The substance (to oversimplify) is what a thing is; the accident is a quality of the thing not relevant to its actually being that thing. Substantially a human being is a rational animal; the color of his eyes or skin is an "accident." In Indo-European languages, the substance is generally a noun or nominal phrase, and the accident can be an adjective modifying it. In Greek the adjective agrees with and is governed by the noun in gender, case, and number, making clear what the thing in question is and what are the subsidiary qualities of that thing. In Chinese there is no inflection and the same word may often be either a noun or an adjective (or "stative verb"), depending on its function in the sentence.

A famous rhetorician, Gongsun Long (c. 325-250 b.c.), attempted to demonstrate that a white horse is not a horse. "Horse" designates a form, while "white" designates color, and form is not the same as color. "If we consider a horse without color, that means a horse as such ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). How we stipulate 'white'? Hence, the white one is not a horse" (or is at least a horse of a different color). (19) This is persuasive neither in English nor in Chinese, and it is not intended to be. Our conclusion should not be that white horses are not really horses, but that language is a tricky thing. In this particular instance English may be even trickier than Chinese, since we seem to have no difficulty in conceiving of a horse in the abstract, a horse as such, independent of any attribute such as color--but we would be hard-put to describe what that beast would look like. In any case it is not the color that makes the horse: the color is an "accident."

"Horse refers to form ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--xing)." Xing-- shape--here may approximate the Aristotelian form or substance, with color as an accidental attribute of that substance. Every object has a shape and every object has a color, and there may be no reason in the abstract (or outside the Aristotelian tradition?) to consider either attribute as more essential or substantial than the other. A white horse is not a horse, that is, a horse as such: but there is no such thing as a horse as such. (20)

According to Roger Ames and David Hall, ancient Chinese thought avoids abstractions: "Confucian philosophy ... relies on an ontology of events, and does not require recourse to 'qualities,' 'attributes,' or 'characteristics.' Thus, in place of a consideration of the essential nature of abstract moral virtues, the Confucian is more concerned with the explanation of the activities of specific persons in specific contexts." (21)

According to Chad Hansen, the ancient Chinese saw language as conventionalist and nominalist. "After some initial failure, no one had any stomach to continue trying to find anything stable and reliable in language." The consequence of this, Hansen says, was a failure to follow through the study of logic. (22)

The most nearly "systematic" and explicit statement of this attitude is Zhuang zi's essay, "Jiwu Lun" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), "On the Equality of Things," (23) a rambling, brilliant, perhaps not entirely serious "deconstruction" of language, logic, and human reason. The author (or speaker) adduces a cosmic wind, the breath of the Great Clod ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), sounding as it blows through the hollows of mountains and trees. These cosmic winds also blow through us: "Pleasure and anger, sorrow and joy, anxiety and regret, fickleness and fear, impulsiveness and extravagance, indulgence and hardness--all come to us like music from the hollows or mushrooms from the damp."

Without these feelings there would be no "I." I know I am I because of my feelings, emotions, sensations, impressions. But apart from these feelings, emotions, sensations, and impressions there is nothing that can be called "I." "There must be some True Lord ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [the commentators say this refers to the mind as the self; but it could mean God as well] but there is no evidence [or trace] of any such thing" (i.e., other than an inference from the supposed effects). Zhuangzi rejects Descartes as much as Aristotle. A "thing" is a collection of attributes, and there is no substance apart from the attributes. Thought implies thinking, but not necessarily a thinker.

Zhuangzi's thoughts tumble along in a kind of stream of consciousness. Our minds may make sense of the world, but the sense they make of it is not necessarily the world as it is; and our thinking is reflected in our talk. We use words--that is, we make distinctions --but the distinctions pertain to us, not to the world. We talk of this and that, but in the world, or the Tao, everything and anything is both this and that.

In Warring States discourse, zhi ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), literally "finger" or "indicator" or "mark," is used to refer to the word as a designator of a concept. Thus, the word horse (or ma, or cheval, or Pferd) is a mark used to designate the animal. The marks as such are arbitrary. In discussing marks we must resort to marks about marks; and here Zhuangzi launches into a parody of the White Horse argument. "Heaven and earth are one mark, and the ten thousand things [or universe] are a single horse." "A path is made by walking," and things are what they are because we have given them names. (24)

Talk does not reach any ultimate meaning, but is still necessary. "The Tao has no limits, and talk has no set boundaries." We need to make boundaries in order to communicate, but our demarcations are arbitrary. So, a sage will discuss, but not argue. Suppose you and I argue: if you beat me that does not mean you are right, and if I beat you that does not mean you are wrong. Or maybe we are both partly right and partly wrong. Or maybe we are both wrong. If we ask someone to mediate, and if he agrees with you, he will not be acceptable to me; and if he agrees with me, he will not be acceptable to you. An interlocutor is tempted to query: shouldn't there be some reference to evidence? But often an argument turns not simply on the conclusion but to what will count as evidence for the conclusion.

The chapter ends with the famous butterfly dream. Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly; when he woke he did not know if he had dreamed of the butterfly, or if he was the butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. The prosaic response to this is that our waking life has a coherence that dreams do not. But as long as we are dreaming, the thing has its own sort of coherence.

According to Hansen ancient Chinese thought is typically skeptical of the ability of language to capture reality. The contemporary philosopher Zheng Jiadong contends this avoidance of logocentrism saved Chinese thinking from the nihilism into which Western thought has fallen since the nineteenth century, when Nietzsche and others allegedly demonstrated the lack of fit between our concepts and the world as it is. While the classical West fussed about the meaning of words, the Chinese assumed that words were at best convenient labels. (25) If this is the case it is possible that in the abstract Chinese provides a better idiom for articulating Christian truth than does Aristotelian discourse. On the other hand, Zhuangzi may not represent the totality of Chinese thinking.

Sed Contra

Such are the arguments of those who claim that Christianity, as it has developed in the West, is ultimately untranslatable to non-Western cultures such as China. While these arguments highlight certain challenges in communicating concepts to important traditions within Chinese culture, the arguments themselves are not compelling in any final sense.

The alternative common-sense view would be that the differences in Chinese and Western ways of thinking turn more on different opinions on how the world works rather than extrapolations of language and grammar. The white horse "paradox" shows that ancient Chinese thinkers had no problem dealing with abstractions. Gongsun Long was able to postulate a "horse as such," (26) and the serious point of his discourse is probably that this concept corresponds to no empirical reality; but this is a proposition that Plato, Aristotle, or Thomas Aquinas would have no problem with. The exercise also takes it for granted that the color of the horse is an accident--that is, that it is not whiteness that makes something a horse. The lack of a linguistic marker in Chinese to distinguish modifier and modified (the relationship is indicated, as it happens in English, by word order) may allow for some language games, but does not in itself preclude recognition of something like a concept of substance. (27)

The way in which the concept of substance could be conveyed in Chinese thought becomes clear in chapter 22 of the Xunzi, "The Rectification of Names." Names--and words generally--are arbitrary, but they are not assigned arbitrarily. They designate different "forms" and serve to distinguish "activities"--to classify the base and the noble--and to guide reasoning in judgments concerning similarity and difference. Xunzi would agree with the Vienna circle: words serve to designate empirical objects, to make value judgments, and to guide logical reasoning. We can agree on names because we are all beings of the same species: we share the same kind of natural organs ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--Tianguan). We know the world through our senses and the sensations are organized in our mind or intellect ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--Zhi). Names may be simple or compound. Simple names are general; compound names are more particular. The simplest name of all is "thing" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--Wu). In normal talk we use the simplest (or most general) term necessary to get our meaning across (the example Xunzi chose, of course, is "horse"). If we need to specify, we compound the name--white horse. Names in themselves have no intrinsic meanings; rather, their meaning comes from agreement and custom. But once agreement is reached, the set of words is consistent and provides an adequate guide to reality.

Xunzi's distinction of simple and compound is possibly not quite that of substance and accident, but it serves an equivalent function. Some schools of thought in the imperial era approximate more closely the substance-accident distinction. These schools were influenced by Buddhism, a system whose linguistic roots lie in the Indo-European tradition. In the "neo-Confucian" synthesis of Zhu Xi (1130-1200), the universe, the ten thousand things, is composed of qi ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), matter in motion, "material force." A basic assumption of this perspective, one perhaps shared generally in Chinese thought, is that the "natural" state of things is motion rather than rest. Material force is informed by principle, li ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), which makes the thing what it is. When human beings are informed by the principle of heaven, they manifest the quality of ren--love, humanity.

Although the concept of li was fully developed during the Confucian revival in the Song dynasty (960-1279), it also featured much earlier in Warring States discourse. The Legalist thinker Han Feizi (c. 280-232 b.c.) wrote the first known commentary on the Laozi, including its (traditionally accepted) opening sentence, "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the ultimate Tao." (28) The Tao is the origin of the Ten Thousand Things. Li is the principle whereby things are ordered in the Tao. Each thing (or type of thing) has its own li that distinguishes it from other things. (29) Individual things are constantly coming into being and passing out of being, so the ultimate Tao cannot be inferred from the things themselves, but only from their traces and relations. In effect, li defines things and Tao defines li: Tao is the principle of principles; Tao is to principle what li is to thing.

Zhu Xi holds that li is in some sense "prior" to things, and in that sense at least is roughly comparable to a Platonic form (or at least this seems to be Feng Youlan's interpretation). On the other hand, "with li alone there is no actual thing." (30) The way to understand principle, then, is through the "investigation of things." (31) At first blush this would seem highly vulnerable to nominalist deconstruction; but this is not what Zhu Xi intended.

The Qing dynasty scholar Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692) asserted, "The world consists only of concrete things." For Wang, li (or dao--the terms for him seem interchangeable) is simply an abstraction drawn from our observations of things, and is in no sense prior to things. "If there is the concrete thing, there need be no worry about there not being its Way." "Before bows and arrows existed, there was no Way of archery." (32)

Zhu Xi, however, had already implicitly anticipated this sort of objection. Archery is governed by certain objective principles, including the laws of physics, qualities of particular materials, the application of particular techniques with a greater or lesser skill, and much else as well. All these together constitute the Way of archery. And this Way, at least in our universe, existed before there were any bows and arrows. Understanding this Way may lead to the devising of better bows and arrows or more effective techniques of shooting. There may indeed be abstract concepts to which there is no Way: time travel is a possible example. But should someone actually invent a working time machine, this would mean there actually is a Way of time travel, and this Way or principle did not come into being contingent on the invention.

While this kind of argument may not be of the sort we nowadays tend to indulge in, I think it would interest a medieval Scholastic.

The point should not be pushed too far, but there seem even to be some stylistic affinities between the Scholastic and neo-Confucian modes of reasoning. (33)

In light of these examples, claims concerning the absence of concepts like substance and accident seem less compelling. This allows questions concerning the challenges of intercultural dialogue to emerge to the fore, once again. Given the affinities between cultural traditions that make translation possible, what does it take to make effective use of these affinities? The experience of early missionaries suggests that accurate and meaningful communication depends on one's sensitivity to the multiple traditions within a culture, their relation to each other, and the way in which these relations develop over time. Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and the early Jesuit missionaries offer a particularly interesting example. Ricci found significant affinities between Confucianism and the Catholic moral teaching of his day. He included Confucius among the virtuous pagans, along with Aristotle and the others, whose doctrines contained little if any error but attained only an incomplete truth (that part of it left when Revelation is lacking). Ricci also argued, probably correctly, that early Confucianism was theistic (although this was not, as such, a deeply investigated contention in Warring States times), whereas the establishment Confucianism of his day definitely was not. Ricci was hostile to neo-Confucianism, which he considered to be infected by heathenish Buddhist notions, and its atheistic ontology. According to one study, "Ricci's aim was to counteract Buddhism while presenting Christianity as the fulfillment of primitive Confucianism." (34) Ricci's hostility to Buddhism precluded him from exploring possible moral or intellectual affinities between Christianity and Buddhism, despite the at least superficial resemblances in ritual expression between Buddhism and Catholicism, especially seventeenth-century Spanish and Italian Catholicism. (35) Thus, despite his enviable intellectual and linguistic prowess, Ricci's aversion to Buddhism caused him to overlook certain affinities that would have strengthened his efforts to communicate Christian truths into Chinese cultural idioms. He also translated li as "accident," whereas it would seem closer in meaning to substance. (36)

Li Zhizao (1565-1630), one of Ricci's converts, collaborated with Francisco Furtado, a Jesuit priest, in a Chinese translation (from the Latin) of Aristotle's Categories. Robert Wardy has analyzed this translation, and concludes there is nothing in the Chinese language that prevents an accurate rendering of Aristotle's concepts and arguments. (37) On the other hand, though, a critic might conclude that the Chinese comes across as strange and unnatural. Perhaps a limited, watered-down, counterfactual version of the Sapir-Worf hypothesis might hold: had Aristotle been a speaker of Chinese, he could have articulated the ideas identified with him, but would have been unlikely to have done so.

The reason for this may still be a matter of styles of thought as much as language as such. In any case, the problems remain. Gernet and other critics find the Jesuit appropriation of the Confucian tradition to be misguided, a distortion of that tradition. How much should this matter? Does Ricci misinterpret Confucius any more than, say, Aquinas misinterprets Aristotle (for, whatever Pascal may have thought, Aquinas was well enough aware of the distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)? Or was each man drawing inspiration in a creative manner from a living, flexible tradition as a valid and expedient way to express what he wanted to say?

How Rectified Does a Name Have to Be?

Any cross-cultural insights must be expressed in language. What terms and grammatical patterns in language A are necessary to express concepts articulated in language B? Some problems are simple matters of literal translation. What term in language A substitutes for the term in language B? More difficult are questions involving issues of connotation, which would render a literal (or as close to literal as we can get) translation misleading.

Here again, sensitivity to the historical development of language and cultural traditions is of paramount importance. For example, several Chinese terms present themselves as possibilities for translating the word God (Deus). (38) One candidate was Shangdi ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Ruler on High, as it were, a term originally referring to the high ancestor of the line of kings in the ancient Shang (39) dynasty (traditionally, 1766-1122 b.c.). Shangdi is still used by most Protestants, and I am not clear on why the Catholics abandoned it. Maybe it was too particularistic. Or maybe it was a term no longer in common use, and so lacked the advantageous philosophical resonances of the preferred tian ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), heaven (although this lack may itself have proved an advantage, in that it would also lack misleading resonances).

Some Protestant bibles use the term shen ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). The usual translation is "spirit," particularly a good spirit, as opposed to gui ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), a ghost, devil, or evil spirit. (40) God with a lowercase "g" is one appropriate translation of shen. The capital "G" version requires special explanation and is outside the popular sense.

Most of the early Jesuits preferred the term heaven, tian. Tian as a moral force functioning within the universe overlaps some with God, but the range of the term is very broad and multivalent. For the Zhou rulers who overthrew the Shang dynasty tian does seem to have been a kind of sky god; and the character itself, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], is certainly anthropomorphic. (41) And this sky god also had a moral- political sense: the Zhou king had the title of tianzi ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), son of heaven. The implication was that rule was founded on the will of heaven, and the son of heaven, the holder of heaven's mandate, ruled to carry out heaven's way. (42) According to the political theory elaborated by Mencius (372-289 b.c.), the ruler held heaven's mandate only as long as his rule benefited the people. Tian was by its nature perhaps less a tribal deity than Shangdi. From the beginning it had universal implications. The world is tianxia ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), "everything under heaven."

In the Analects, the most reliable record we have of the actual words of Confucius, tian is often consistent with the concept of God, or at least an all-powerful, morally directed, purposive, personal entity. A digitalized version of the Analects lists 49 instances of the use of the character, spread over 33 chapters. (43) The most common appearance is in the compound tianxia, "under heaven." There is at least one reference to the Tianzi, the Son of Heaven, the king or ruler, and at least one reference to tianming ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), the will (or "mandate") of heaven. When Confucius was 50 years old, he knew (or understood) the Will of Heaven (2:4). Heaven also figures in apparently conventional expletives. Confucius had an audience with Nanzi, the notorious concubine of a notorious duke. When one of his students expressed doubts about the propriety of this, Confucius said, "If I've done anything wrong, God forbid! God forbid!" (Tian yan zhi! Tian yan zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (Analects 6:28).

Elsewhere heaven is an object of prayer (3:13) and a symbol or source of moral order (5:15). Heaven is the ruler of the universe. So when his favorite student died, Confucius said that heaven had left him bereft (11:9). Although Confucius feels himself alone and misunderstood, he consoles himself that heaven, at least, knows him (14:35). According to an account, presumably by a disciple of a later generation, Confucius believed himself entrusted with a mission from heaven: "When there is no Way under Heaven, Heaven sent the master to be its herald" (literally, the clapper on its bell, 3:24). Confucius was imprisoned in the state of Kuang as the result of a mistaken identity, and he mused, "If Heaven wishes this culture to perish, it doesn't matter whether I die or not. If Heaven does not wish this culture to be destroyed, what can the men of Kuang do to me?" (9:5). In Mencius heaven continues to figure as a providential force with some sort of personal interest in human affairs. In the Mozi, associated with a rival school of thought, the concept of heaven is explicitly theistic, a powerful, personal spiritual force who rewards good and punishes evil.

In the Confucian and Mohist traditions, heaven is basically a standard and guardian of morality. In the general Taoist tradition, however, heaven coincides with the operation of nature generally and is indifferent to human affairs. "Heaven and earth are unkind: they treat the ten thousand things like straw dogs." Xunzi (c. 312-230 b.c.) brought this interpretation into the Confucian tradition. For Xunzi, heaven is simply a term for nature. It does not adapt itself to human desires. Distance will not shrink if we find it burdensome to walk; winter will not be less harsh because we are cold. Rather, it is up to human beings to adapt themselves to the ways of heaven. (44) In later Confucianism heaven retained its sense as a moral standard, but was otherwise interpreted in this naturalistic sense. One of Zhu Xi's students, perhaps intending to be provocative, cites certain passages from the ancient texts and asks the master for an explanation:

"The Lord on High has conferred even on the inferior people a moral sense"; "When Heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man..."; "Heaven, to protect the common people, made for them rulers"; "Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their natural capacity"; "On the good-doer, the Lord on High sends down all blessings, and on the evil doer, He sends down all miseries"; "When Heaven is about to send calamities to the world, it will always first produce abnormal people as a measure of their magnitude."

In passages like these, does it mean that heaven has no personal consciousness and the passages are merely deductions from principle? The master replies: "These passages have the same meaning. It is simply that principle acts in this way." (45) While the ancient texts do treat heaven as a purposive, conscious entity, for Zhu Xi this is properly understood as a metaphor, a figure of speech.

This was the dominant version of Confucianism held by sophisticated thinkers at the time Catholicism encountered China during the modern era. This heaven was not entirely "naturalistic," in that heaven still provided a moral standard, and human nature was good because it was a manifestation of the principle of heaven. But it was considered simple-minded to attribute personality or consciousness to heaven.

And even in early Confucianism there is nothing to imply that heaven is a creator: Heaven is part of the universe, not separate from it; or heaven is perhaps somehow identical with the universe (the "ten thousand things" being consequences of its operations). In a related usage, heaven is paired with earth as a primordial force. Heaven is yang--masculine, creative. Earth is yin--feminine, receptive. The universe is generated by the interaction of yin and yang. Gernet comments that some of the early Jesuits' cultured friends "judged that, once rid of their false notions, such as belief in a creator God, the missionaries might make good Confucians." (46)

Despite the term's obvious advantages, tian was, in the end, not really suited as a translation of God. The Catholic solution was to coin a new term, tianzhu ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), "Lord of Heaven." (47) The term is biblical enough and fits with traditional Christian imagery (for example, Michelangelo's old man with a beard reclining in the clouds--an image no one was expected to take literally) and would also carry similar implications to ordinary Chinese speakers. But, if one thinks about it too much, the redefinition of heaven as a place occupied by a Lord strips the term of the broader philosophical connotations that made it attractive in the first place. Be that as it may, the term may do the trick better than the alternatives, and over time it acquires with usage the proper connotations, at least as much as the term God itself and its translations in other languages.

Beyond the question of what words to use, the basic issue is the degree to which language influences styles of thought. Early Christianity took its vocabulary and style of thought from the general tradition of Greek philosophy, and, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stressed, this style of thinking remains embedded in Catholicism. As Gernet points out, these Greek assumptions are not necessarily shared by the Chinese tradition: "According to Aristotle, it is normal for all things to be at rest, whereas for the Chinese, in contrast, universal dynamism is the primary assumption." (48)

Father Xiang Tuijie, a Jesuit scholar on Taiwan, finds, on the contrary, an affinity between medieval Scholasticism and the general Confucian tradition. Both are effective correctives to the materialism and relativism of much of contemporary philosophy. He also claims that Scholasticism, despite its Western origins, is adaptable enough to embrace eastern thought. But he also recognizes that, despite their substantive similarities, it remains difficult to translate one tradition into the other. He quotes a sentence from Aquinas: "Si autem ponatur aliqua res, quae sit esse tantum, ita ut ipsum esse sit subsistens ... non potest esse nisi una" (49) (But if we posit a thing that is existence only, such that it is subsisting existence ... it cannot be other than one.) Xiang asserts that "there is in effect no way to render this sort of sentence into Chinese." (50) Xiang actually does give a translation, but it is really more of a paraphrase and explication. Part of the problem, Xiang says, is that there is no agreed-upon set of Chinese terms for Latin Scholastic concepts. But there is also the problem alleged by Gernet: any Aristotelian assumption that terms can univocally and consistently designate particular essences does not necessarily hold true in Chinese.

If there were consensus on a consistent set of Chinese terms to designate those used in Latin Scholasticism, the terms would be technical, and their meaning would not necessarily be obvious to the ordinary speaker, whether Chinese or foreign, until they were explained. But is this really a problem? English translations of Scholasticism tend toward the clumsy and unidiomatic anyway. Scholastic Latin--for example, the sentence of Aquinas's copied above--itself may not always attain Horatian elegance and lucidity.

Perhaps Gernet is only partly correct. Westerners are capable of conceiving of the world as constant flux; whatever their linguistic limitations, many have actually done so. And Chinese similarly are able to grasp concepts of essence and substance. Regardless of the language, the terms used for discourse about religious things need to be explained in order to allow proper understanding. The meaning of a term used in a religious context is not necessarily exactly the same as in other modes of discourse. The Christian religion, which developed within the languages and cultures of the West, came to China, a culture that already had its own highly developed religious and intellectual tradition. Given these circumstances, the challenges of translation may be especially difficult, but there is no reason to believe they cannot be overcome.


Chinese Christians today rarely obsess about linguistic problems. The issues treated in this reflection are, for the most part, matters of concern for Christian intellectuals and "cultural Christians." (51) Pan-chiao Lai and Jason Lam suggest that the phrasing of Christian meaning in Chinese will somehow affect the substance of the Christian message. Li Qing notes that the word of God became flesh in a particular cultural and linguistic context, and deduces from this that there can be no general Christian theology. (52)

This may be valid in a certain sense inasmuch as Christian truth finds expression in a variety of cultural forms. Still, if we believe that the reality of God is independent of our conceptions or opinions, the reduction of religion to a social (or personal) phenomenon is not acceptable. But, returning to the original claim, whatever the objective basis of Christianity or any other religion, it is still manifested in particular personal, social, and cultural circumstances. And Christianity's original cultural and linguistic contexts were not fully consistent with Chinese cultural traditions.

If God is God, he is absolute. Language and culture are limited and relative, and God cannot but transcend them. (53) In this sense it does seem valid to say there is no general Christian theology, if there is any reason to have a Christian theology at all. Any attempt to understand God, possibly except from the purely mystical, must be through language and culture. The classic study by Adolph Harnack of the development of Christian dogma purports to show how the original Revelation, in the person of Jesus Christ, became entangled and encrusted with the commonplaces of Hellenistic philosophy, leading ever farther away from the original gospel message, which proclaimed the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. (54) But despite his impatience with the elaborations of doctrine, Harnack also tacitly concedes that this was understandable and even inevitable. Believers had to make some sense of the mysteries inherent in Revelation, and the philosophy of the day was what they had on hand. Harnack, a good positivist, smugly asserts that science has now shown that the worldview underlying that philosophy is false, and so cannot be persuasive to us moderns. I suppose that we today are able to look with a similar condescending smugness on the positivist commonplaces of a hundred years ago. Our descendants will look back upon us in much the same way. But, be all that as it may, we may not be quite as cocksure as Harnack about what science does and does not show.

From the inside, the Hellenistic character of Catholic Christianity is no problem: the Holy Ghost, presumably, is not quite the farcical blunderer liberal theologians like to imagine. If God wished his word to be made flesh he would presumably do so in the "fullness of time" and in cultural conditions allowing at least a glimpse through the glass darkly of what was taking place. But from the "outside," this consideration means nothing. The Christian (or Catholic?) tradition cannot simply discard Hellenism, but neither should it raise it to an absolute. The concepts used to explain revelation are human constructs, not Revelation itself. The concepts are useful to the extent they further understanding, pernicious to the extent that they do not, and neither here nor there where they are indifferent. While the more rigid guardians of orthodoxy may not want to stress this, no language or set of concepts can be adequate fully to express the reality.

Christian truths were originally rationalized in Hellenistic terms. This article has tried to make a case they can be expressed in Chinese terms, if only by doing violence to the original sense of some of those terms. But, then, Hellenistic Christianity does distort the earlier usage as well: how can "Word" become "flesh"? Concepts are flexible and change meaning by usage. Perhaps Hellenistic Christianity cannot be displaced by a Chinese Christianity, but Chinese ways of thinking might have alternative ways of expressing the same reality, or supplement some areas where the Hellenistic approach is misleading or limiting.


(1.) Cf. Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, entry on Heraclitus. And the term is, of course, the root of the word logic, as well as the--"ology" in biology, philology, theology, cryptology, and so forth.

(2.) Or, perhaps, this is more or less what the words mean. But what the words express remains as mysterious as ever.

(3.) Unease about the "de-Hellenization" of Christian teaching was the central topic of Benedict XVI's famous 2006 address at the University of Regensburg, although the most noted part of it was some side-comments that certain Muslims affected to find offensive. "Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization," September 12, 2006; in regensburg. The theme of the address was the compatibility of faith with reason, a position challenged by an extreme voluntarism and fideism in faith (Islam being cited as an instance of this) and by the skepticism and relativism implicit or explicit in most systems of modern thought. The Pope's concern was to show that the faith can engage the modern world on its own terms, contributing to that world and countering its fallacies. Hellenism, thus, becomes a metaphor for rational discourse generally. A problem, I guess, is that an over-commitment to the Greek background as such risks improper identification of divine revelation (and human salvation) with a particular philosophical system. Another possible objection is that the ideas and wording of antiquity no longer have meaning for us modern folk. That may be more our defect than that of the philosophic system: nonetheless we are who we are. This essay is more concerned, however, with how the purported truths of the faith, as well as universal human and cosmic truths, may be communicated to a culture like China, whose sophisticated intellectual heritage rests on assumptions, which are, at points, widely at variance with those held in the ancient Mediterranean.


(5.) In Verse 14, "The Word became flesh," flesh is rendered roushen ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])--literally, "meat body." Roushen is a Buddhist concept, the mystic body formed by the harmony of earth, water, fire, and wind (as it were, the elemental principles of material existence). It also means a corpse, usually that of a monk or nun, that has been preserved by the application of lacquer or some other substance. The Greek "flesh," sarka, however, implies a body more than meat, so roushen may get to that meaning. John's usage nonetheless requires explaining, particularly of what is not meant. But this is probably true of Word made flesh in any language.

(6.) This is the older Romanization, using the Wade-Giles system; dao is how the term is spelled in the officially-approved "pinyin" system. I try to use the traditional spelling when using Tao as a concept, but write dao when it is part of a transliterated text.

(7.) JiaYuxin and Jia Xuelai, "Revisiting Ancient Linguistic Worldview: East vs. West, Dao vs. Logos," Intercultural Communication Studies 17, no. 4 (2008): 77-96, 84.

(8.) The traditional claim is that Laozi lived prior to Confucius, and this is perhaps still the position taken by most scholars in China. Other scholarship, however, is now inclined to place the date of Laozi rather late in the Warring States era, several centuries after Confucius; and I am inclined to regard the Laozi as a polemic directed against Confucian ethics.

(9.) C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man: or, Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (Las Vegas: Lits, 2010), uses Tao to refer to a human moral consensus that transcends cultural boundaries.

(10.) The most widely used Catholic translation uses shengyan ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), sacred (or sage-like) [spoken] word for logos. This term, I believe, has no resonance at all in the Chinese intellectual tradition. It is a rendering in Chinese of a foreign concept. This may be a way of avoiding some translation issues by introducing a new concept into the culture rather than trying to adapt an existing concept. The flesh of verse 14 is xuerou ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), "blood-meat" or, lapsing from the literal, flesh and blood.

(11.) Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 183-84. Chan, citing Wang Xianqian, says that dao here simply means path or road, not the Tao. But the context supports the broader meaning as well.

(12.) Language, Thought, and Reality: SelectedWritings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, ed. John B. Carroll (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1964). Zhuangzi is probably not primarily interested in translations from one language to another, but in a more global claim: our reality and our way of speaking about it are coextensive. With Wittgenstein, whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent. But Reality itself (so to speak) need not be congruent with the reality available to us.

(13.) Alfred Bloom, The Linguistic Shaping of Thought: A Study of the Impact of Language on Thinking in China and the West (Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1981).

(14.) P. Wenjie Cheng, "Pictures of Ghosts: A Critique of Alfred Bloom's The Linguistic Shaping of Thought," American Anthropologist 86, no. 4 (December 1985): 917-22. I wonder, though, whether the second criticism does not beg the question. In formal logic, of course, anything whatsoever can follow from a false major premise.

(15.) E. Bruce Brooks and A. Takeo Brooks, The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1998).

(16.) George Minamiki, The Chinese Rites Controversy: From Its Beginnings to Modern Times (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985).

(17.) David Mangello, Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodations and the Origins of Sinology (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1985); Paul A. Rule, K'ung-tzu or Confucius: The Jesuit Interpretation of Confucianism (Sidney: Allen and Unwin, 1986).

(18.) Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact:A Conflict of Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 216, 242, 239.

(19.) For a discussion, see Feng Youlan, Zhongguo Zhexue Shi (History of Chinese Philosophy) (Shanghai: ShangwuYinshu Guan, 1935), 254-56.

(20.) Gongsun Long also talks about hard, white stones. A stone may be either hard or soft, and it may be white or some other color. Neither attribute is essential to something we call "stone." Both are accidents. But if we strip away all the accidents, there is no stone--no underlying substance independent of accidents. In contemporary vernacular Chinese all nouns are what Chad Hansen (Language and Logic) calls "mass nouns." An English example is grass: Someone learning the language may, conceivably, say "a grass"; but to a native speaker this would imply a particular species or variety of grass. In discussing the stuff on the lawn we would normally say "a blade [or some other 'counter'] of grass." In spoken Chinese we would say "a unit of horse (yige ma)," or "a length of horse (yitiao ma)," or "a head of horse (yishou ma)." But we cannot say yi ma, "a horse." Hansen argues that horses (or substitute anything else) were not considered to be instances of an abstract model, but, rather, manifestations of a generalized "horse stuff." A problem with this argument is that classical Chinese, unlike the contemporary vernacular, does not require counter words---yi ma is perfectly acceptable in the classical written language. Hansen thus has to conjecture that the spoken language in ancient times followed a different grammar from the written language.

(21.) David S. Hall and Roger Ames, Thinking Through Confucius (Albany: SUNY Press, 1987), 15.

(22.) Hansen, Language and Logic, 120.

(23.) I am using the translation by Wing-tsit Chan, Source Book, 179-91, with adjustments where they seem appropriate.

(24.) Zhuangzi illustrates this with a little story about some monkeys who were unhappy because their trainer fed them three nuts in the morning and four in the afternoon. The trainer met their grievance by giving them four nuts in the morning and three in the afternoon. "Four in the morning and three in the evening" has become a proverbial expression for a distinction without a difference.

(25.) Zheng Jiadong, "Out of the Valley of Nihilism," China's Social Science, i (1995).

(26.) This is FengYoulan's rendering of and may beg the question. But the transla tion does seem natural and plausible.

(27.) So, one story goes, when Gongsun Long rode up to the toll gate on his white horse, the gatekeeper could not refute the argument, but still made Gongsun pay the regular fee for a horse.

(28.) This analysis is given in the chapter "Interpreting Laozi" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the Han Feizi.

(29.) Han Fei uses a cute analogy: we rarely see a living elephant, but from the skeleton of an elephant we can infer what the living beast was like. Elephant is xiang, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], homophonous with xiang, appearance ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and in Warring States time the two terms were actually written with the same character (without the "man" radical on the left of the second). I wonder, though, whether the skeleton of an elephant is less informative about the living animal than most skeletons are.

(30.) Feng, History, 897-98.

(31.) Zhu Xi's conclusion was rejected by the Ming dynasty scholar Wang Yangming (1472-1529), who argued that since human nature (the principle of humanity) is identical with the principle of heaven, and since the principle of heaven functions through the mind, the proper approach is to cultivate our own minds.

(32.) Quoted in Chan, Source Book, 694-95.

(33.) Luo Guang (Lo Kuang), late Bishop of Taipei, attempts to incorporate the Confucian tradition and Scholasticism into a single synthesis, with, however, only qualified success. Metaphysical Philosophy of Life (Taipei: Student Book, 1996).

(34.) From the introduction to Matteo Ricci, The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), ed. Edward Malatesta (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Studies, 1985), 9.

(35.) Ricci was, of course, aware of the similarities. Buddhism was "introduced into heathen rites by the devil, an awkward imitation of holy things." China in the Sixteenth Century: the Journals of Matteo Ricci, 1583-1610 (New York: Random House, 1942),500.

(36.) Ricci, True Meaning, 111. There apparently still is no consistent agreed-upon rendition of Scholastic terms into Chinese. Xiang Tuijie, "The Synthesis of Scholastic Philosophy with Contemporary Philosophy," Zhexue yuWenhua 12,no. 3 (1995): 204-16.

(37.) Robert Wardy, Aristotle in China: Language, Categories, and Translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

(38.) And the words God and Deus themselves illustrate the problem. Both originally referred to a multitude of spiritual beings, not to the singular Being who created heaven and earth. The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests that god may originally have referred to the "spirit immanent in a burial mound," better rendered in Latin as numen than deus. But these interesting considerations also suggest that the semantic issues have a way of working themselves out, and whatever term is chosen it can come to convey the idea intended.

(39.) Note that shang here ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is an entirely different character (and word) than the shang in Shangdi.

(40.) In popular religion these figure as personal forces. As a neo- Confucian technical term shen refers to material force, qi, in its expanding, positive mode, while gui is qi in contraction. Reflections on Things at Hand: The Neo-Confucian Anthology; Compiled by Chu His [Zhu X] andLuTsai-ch'ien; trans.Wing-tsit Chan (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1967), 366. In this sense gui and shen cannot be regarded as persons.

(41.) By its components: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ren, means person, human being; with a line through it, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], da, we get "big." Tian, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is big, with a hat on. In the original form of the character the top line, the hat, was a crown.

(42.) Herrlee G. Creel, The Birth of China (NewYork: Frederick Unger, 1937), 342-43.

(43.) "The Analects--Chinese Text Project," available at

(44.) See especially the chapter, "On Heaven" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Wing-tsit Chan, Source Book, 116-24, titles his translation of this chapter "On Nature."The concept of adapting to heaven is sometimes taken to imply fatalism, but it is more nearly the opposite. We adapt ourselves to heaven by learning its patterns and taking appropriate steps: planting and harvesting at the proper times, weaving clothing, building houses, and storing food and fuel, and so forth.

(45.) Ibid., 635-36.

(46.) Gernet, China, 40.

(47.) There are pre-Christian instances of the term, although they do not refer to a supreme being, and sometimes even point to an earthly ruler, the Emperor, in which case the translation should probably be "Heavenly Lord" rather than Lord of Heaven. In the vernarcular, people sometimes call on tianlaoye ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), "Old Man in the Sky," but this being is not the object of any cult and the term itself is probably relatively new and influenced by Christian concepts.

(48.) Ibid., 210.

(49.) De Ente et Essenda (Rome: Gregorian University, 1950), 40.

(50.) Xiang, "Synthesis."

(51.) Dao yu Yan: Huaxia Wenhua yu Jidu Wenhua Xiang yu (Word and Speech: the Relation of Chinese Culture and Christian Culture), ed. Liu Xiaofang (Shanghai: San Lian Shudian, 1995).

(52.) Sino-Christian Theology: A Theological Qua Cultural Movement in Contemporary China, ed. Pan-chiao Lai and Jason Lam (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2010), 5, 46, 52.

(53.) To paraphrase Zhuangzi, words are limited; Tao is not.

(54.) Adolph von Harnack, History of Dogma, 7 vol. (NewYork: Dover, 1961).
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Author:Moody, Peter
Publication:Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture
Article Type:Essay
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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