Two government-sanctioned Christian organizations are seeking alternative ways to sell their religious books online due to censorship established by the Chinese Communist Party.
According to ChinaAid, The Christian Council of China – a human rights Christian group for Chinese citizens – and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China are utilizing Chinese pinyin in expressing religious terms in their books that would otherwise be censored by the CCP.
The TutorMing Mandarin Learning Tips Blog defines pinyin as “the Romanization of the Chinese characters based on their pronunciation.”
In Mandarin Chinese, the phrase “Pin Yin” literally translates into “spell sound,” the article explains. “In other words, spelling out Chinese phrases with letters from the English alphabet.”
In the case of both Christian groups, the use of pinyin has been increasingly evident in replacing or removing religious terms on the titles and descriptions of their books in order to successfully sell them online.
ChinaAid notes that since March 30, 2018, the “Holy Bible” was removed from China’s online bookstores, including Taobao, Jingdong, WeChat store, Dangdang, and Amazon China.
One online Chinese Christian bookstore, however, recently found a way around the CCP’s religious censorship.
“Tianfengshuyuan,” the official WeChat bookstore of the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China, made numerous updates on its religious books.
For instance, the Christian booksellers either replaced “Christ” with the Chinese with Chinese pinyin initials “JD” or at other times, removed “Christ” from its books altogether.
According to ChinaAid, “Christ” in Chinese pinyin is spelled as “ji du” with the pinyin initials being “JD,” hence the reason why it is used.
In one Chinese book, The Anthology of the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China, the term “Protestant Churches” was also replaced with “JD.”
In another book, Walking with the Mother Country: Patriotic Stories of Chinese Christians, the word “Christians” is hidden by color blocks.
“In their official WeChat store, not only ‘Christ’ becomes ‘JD,’ ‘Jesus’ also becomes ‘YS,’ and ‘Bible’ becomes ‘SJ,’” Fuzeng Xing, the Dean of Chung Chi Seminary of Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on Facebook.
Religious terms like “God” and “Lord” are also covered in color blocks.
Despite being sanctioned by the government, the Christian Council of China and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China are prohibited from selling their books through regular outlets.
For example, regular bookstores do not sell Bibles as they lack an ISBN in China, unlike Buddhist and Islamic books.
Instead, the Bible can only be bought legally from government-sanctioned Three-Self churches, Christian Council of China stores, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China scenes.
In 2001, Zuoan Wang, head of China’s national religious affairs bureau, explained how there were “special” conditions made in order for both Christian organizations to sell the Bible.
“The printing and distributing of the ‘Holy Bible’ is under a ‘special condition’” Wang said at the time. “We delegated the whole thing to the Christian Council of China and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China. It’s like granting a ‘special privilege’ to them.”
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.