Christmas & Wise Men from the East — China?

By George Veith , January 07, 2019 14:01 PM

The three wise men

Does the Christmas story have a special Chinese connection? January 6th is the day in the western church's calendar known as Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.  According to the Bible story, wise men from the East who were astrologers had seen a new star appear in the sky. They learned that it was the sign of the appearance of a new and important King. They therefore prepared and made the long journey, following the star that ultimately led them to Bethlehem where they found the Christ child whom they worshipped and to whom they gave gifts. 

Because these wise men were not Jews but rather Gentiles, their finding the Christ child is seen as Jesus' first revelation to the Gentiles. January 6th is therefore celebrated as Epiphany. ("Having an epiphany" in the English language has also come to mean having a sudden revelation or realization about something.) Exactly where these magi originated from in the East is unknown. Scripture is not more specific. We do know however that they brought with them three gifts that they gave to the Christ child: Gold, frankincense and myrrh.   

The traditional explanation for why these three gifts were given goes something like this: gold was given for royalty and Jesus was a King; frankincense was a worship perfume used by the priest in the temple and Jesus also had a priestly role; and myrrh was a herb used for embalming a dead body and Jesus would be killed and His body would be buried. 

But what about the origins of these wise men or magi as they are also called? There are some non-Biblical sources that point to their origins possibly being China, given also that the three gifts given were gold (黄金 ), frankincense (乳香 ), and myrrh (没药). Gold has been highly treasured by emporers in China. Frankincense, in Chinese medicine, is one of the natural remedies for treating arthritis and when it is mixed with myrrh, it is a potent antibiotic that kills germs.  What a helpful gift for a child that is born in a dirty stable for animals. Although many cultures use traditional herbal medicine, the Chinese have many thousands of years of experience.  In addition to this, of all the ancient civilizations, the Chinese were the most advanced at astronomy and reading the stars.  I recently visited the Beijing Ancient Observatory (北京古观象台) and saw the many instruments and celestial maps made by those ancient astronomers and astrologers.  

The evidence is not conclusive for a Chinese connection to those first magi.  However, it is interesting to imagine if it were true, the kind of report they would have brought back to China about finding the Christ child. It would have indeed fulfilled the words of  the scriptures in Psalm 72:10 which say, "The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him;..." China could indeed be that distant shore. One can only speculate. 

Related Article

Must Read

comments powered by Disqus

More from CCD

Hangzhou Megachurch Launches Parenting Lectures

Hangzhou Chongyi Church released the arrangement of nine parenting courses that will last ten months.

Fujian Church Holds Spring Festival Retreat

A Spring Festival retreat was held for more than 200 staff of the church in Quan'gang District of Quanzhou, Fujian.

Qingdao Church Holds Painting & Calligraphy Exhibition

Qingdao Christian Church of Shandong held a painting and calligraphy exhibition and provided calligraphy experiences to the public.

Jiangxi Rural Church Holds First Retreat after Spring Festival

On February 18 to 19, 2019, Shixi Church of Jinxi County, Fuzhou, Jiangxi, held its first retreat after the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Shaanxi Church Holds Memorial Service for 76-Y-O Elder

Wang Juya, ordained as the church's elder in July 2015, died of illness on February 14.

History of Rural Church in Shangrao, Jiangxi

With a history of over forty years, Xiahu Church has experienced ups and downs.

Jilin Christian Gathering Organizes Believers to Clean up Streets

Before the 2019 Chinese Lunar New Year, a rural gathering in Jilin Christians organized its members to clean up streets in order to eliminate fire hazards.

Brief Account of Self-Nominated Evangelical Chinese Grass-Roots Preacher

A feautred news article highlights a brief intro of a self-nominated Chinese evangelist, Cai Shangen.

Liaoning Church Visits Destitute Families

On January 31, 2019, a charity ministry of Liaoning Wafangdian Church visited 10 destitute families, giving them household items, according to the church.

Heilongjiang Church Holds Praise&Worship to Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year

The church in Jinsha New District, Qitaihe, Heilongjiang, held a praise and worship meeting to give thanks to the Lord.