Empress Dowager Cixi's 'Imperial Bible' Exhibited in Taiwan

The Imperial Version of the New Testament
The Imperial Version of the New Testament
By Ruth WangApril 1st, 2019

Taiwanese media reported that among the many valuable historical Bibles exhibited at Donghai University, there was the Imperial Version with a history of 125 years, given to the Empress Dowager Cixi for her 60th birthday.

Recently the university's library hosted the exhibition named "Book of the Books - Donghai Treasure Bible Exhibition".

In 2004, the world's first "Lamp to the Feet, Light to the Path - the Chinese Church Bible Ministry Exhibition" was conducted in Hong Kong. Two Imperial version Bibles were exhibited and one of them was auctioned, eventually ending at HK$850,000, 27 times higher than the bottom price for charity auctions. The proceeds from the auction were all donated to the Chinese University of Hong Kong Medical School for research on SARS and other infectious diseases.

The Bible was given to the Empress Dowager Cixi by the females in the Chinese church in 1894 as the 60th birthday gift. It is of a unique style, also known as the Imperial Version of the Bible. At the time of the 2004 Chinese Church Bible Ministry Exhibition, Chinese Deng Fucun, the vice chairman of the CCC/TSPM committee, said that there were only four Bibles in the world of this kind.

According to historical records, in 1894, the 60th birthday of the Empress Dowager Cixi, the Shanghai missionaries launched a national female Christian donation, and the Greater America Bible Society and the Meihua Library jointly printed the most influential and widely spread Chinese version Bible of the 19th century. Peking Committee version of the "New Testament", using a large font and live type straight, placed in a silver box, dedicated to Cixi, called "Cixi version."

This Bible is edged of golden flowers, with a black leather cover. On the top left part of the cover it was printed -  Xin Yue Quan Shu(New Testament) and the 20th year of the reign of Qing Emperor Guangxu (1894), the year of Jiawu. In the very middle of the cover is the "Salvation Bible" with the gold pieces at the bottom. The birds on the cover are symbolizing believers and the bamboo carvings symbolizing peace. The back of the book is the black letter "New Testament" in Chinese; the title page is printed with Imperial Edition and Printed from the same type as the Presentation to the Empress-Dowager. The book is 766 pages in total and weighs four and a half pounds. It has been well preserved so far.

Later, the "Imperial Edition" Bible was also exhibited at the opening ceremony of the Noah's Ark Exhibition Hall in Hong Kong in 2010. The Empress Dowager Cixi's "Imperial Edition" Bible was a debriefing version of the missionary report sent back to the country that year. The Audio-visual Mission Group said that the Bible was extremely precious because it had a very small number of circulations, and it also symbolized an important page of cultural exchange between China and the West. Through the letter of the missionary's debriefing, the missionary has sent the Bible to Cixi as a gift for congratulations, hoping that Empress Dowager Cixi will know God so that the gospel can be delivered to China.

The auctioneer commented, "Its emergence has left us with the most solid historical testimony of the widespread of Christianity in modern China. We don't know if the Empress Dowager Cixi read this New Testament, but this piece of Chinese and Western culture blending history cannot be forgotten by us."

- Translated by Ze Wang

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