John Wu Ching Hsiung (吳經熊, 오경웅, O Gyeong’ung, 1899-1986) was born during the Qing Dynasty in Ningbo (寧波, 영파, Yeongpa). From a young age, he was well-versed in Taoist and Confucian works. John Wu Ching Hsing first converted to Methodism and was baptized in 1917. In 1920, he left for America to receive legal education and returned to China in 1924. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1937 and became the first diplomat of the Republic of China (modern day Taiwan) to the Holy See in 1940. While at the Vatican, he composed an adaptation of the Psalms (聖詠譯義, 신영역의) and translated the New Testament (新經全集, 신경전집). These were published in 1946 and 1948 respectively, with a preface written by Pope Pius XII for the latter. The poem below is a back-translation of his translation of the Gospel of St. John 1:1-14.
Gospel of St. John
太初有道 與天主偕 道卽天主
태초유도 여천주해 도즉천주
In the grand commencement, there was the Way and It was together with the Heavenly Lord. The Way was none other than the Heavenly Lord.
From the beginning, It was together.
微道無物 物因道生 天地萬有 資道以成
미도무물 물인도생 천지만유 자도이성
If the Way did not exist, there would have been nothing. All things because of the Way were created. All existence between heaven and earth took basis by the Way in order to achieve existence.
斯道之內 蘊有生命 生命即光 生靈所稟
사도지내 온유생명 생명즉광 생령소품
Inside of this Way, amassed there was life. The life itself was the light, what living souls received.
The light illuminated the darkness; and the darkness could not command it.
The Heavenly Lord sent an envoy: his name was “John.”
如望之來 惟以證光 俾我元元 藉以起信
여망지래 유이증광 비아원원 자이기신
John’s arrival was only to testify to the Light: to make our people rely so that they may arise and believe.
He was not the true light, but the testifier of true light.
惟彼眞光 普照生靈 凡生於世 資之以明
유피진광 보조생령 범생어세 자지이명
Only that true light widely illuminated all living souls. He lived in the world and assisted it in order to enlighten.
道彌六合 締造乾坤 茫茫塵世 不識真君
도미륙합 체조건곤 망망진세 불식진군
The Way filled the universe; tied and created heaven and earth. In the wide and vast dusty world, none knew the true Lord.
He came down and arrived in his domain, but was rejected by his people.
凡納之者 厥名是信 授以權能 超凡入聖 天主兒女
범납지자 권명시신 수이권능 초범입성 천주아녀
Those who received him, believed truly in his name. He gave them the power to be exceptional and enter into holiness, becoming the sons and daughters of the Heavenly Lord.
卓哉身分 若輩之生 非緣血氣 惟自天主 無與人意
탁재신분 약배지생 비연혈기 유자천주 무여인의
Oh how high his status is! You all are begotten, not by flesh or by vigor, but by the Heavenly Lord, and not with the will of man.
道成人身 居我儕中 吾儕親覩 孔德之容 惟一聖子 無上光榮 妙寵真諦 充溢厥躬
도성인신 거아제중 오제친도 공덕지용 유일성자 무상광영 묘총진체 충일궐궁
The Way became human flesh and lived among us. We closely saw grand favor. He was the only Son and above him there is no other glory. His mysterious grace and profound truth filled and overflowed his body.
- John Ching Hsing Wu translated “The Word” (Verbum) as “The Way” (道, 도), which has a profound meaning in Oriental philosophy.
- “The Heavenly Lord” (天主, 천주) is how Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese Catholics refer to God (Deus).
- The word 孔德(공덕), “grand virtue,” is a reference to the Tao Te Ching (道德經, 도덕경; Do Deok Gyeong or Classic of The Way and Virtue):
孔德之容 惟道是從 道之爲物 惟恍惟惚
공덕지용 유도시종 도지위물 유황유홀
The appearance of the grand virtue only originates from where the Way came.What has become the Way is only wonderful and only blissful.
惚兮恍兮 其中有象 恍兮惚兮 其中有物
홀혜황혜 기중유상 황혜홀혜 기중유물
It is wonderful and It is blissful. Within It, there is form. It is wonderful and It is blissful. Within It, there is substance.
窈兮冥兮 其中有精 其精甚眞 其中有信
요혜명혜 기중유정 기정심진 기중유신
It is obscure and It is dark. Within It, there is core. Since Its core is extremely true, within It, there is trustworthiness.
自古及今 其名不去 以閱衆甫
자고급금 기명불거 이열중보
From ages past to now, its name never passed away, so that all have seen It.
For what reason do I know that the form of all things. Because of this.
- 蘊(온) – To gather (쌓다).
- 俾(비) – To order (시키다).
- 稟(품) – Personality or characteristic (천품).
- 元元(원원) – All people (모든 백성).
- 渠(거) – Third person demonstrative (그).
- 六合(육합) – Refers to six directions: up, down, north, south, west, and east.
- 締(체) – To tie (맺다).
- 蒞(리) – To reach or arrive at (다다르다).
- 覩(도) – To see (보다).
- 寵(총) – Grace (은혜).
- 眞諦(진제) – Splendid truth (뛰어난 진실).
- 躬(궁) – Body (몸, 신체).