Patron: “I see you have books in German and Dutch, and I know you carry books on Hebrew and Greek here at the Seminary library. But do you have any books in Chinese?”
Librarian: “As a matter of fact, we do. It came in late this summer, and it is a unique and wonderful treasure. It is “The Chinese Psalter” and it truly is entirely in Chinese. And God is using it to fill a void in the worship of Chinese Christians. It is an exciting book!”
The above conversation did not actually take place, but it does help me introduce to you this unique volume that was entered into our Seminary library this past summer. Let me tell you the story of it briefly along with some pictures I took of it (click on to enlarge). Earlier this year I was informed through our PRC website by a Dutch contact in the Netherlands that a Chinese version of our Psalter was being produced and would be available late in the summer. And in August I was told that I could pick up our copy at the Trinitarian Bible Society office in Grand Rapids, which I did (the TBS Chinese translator was involved in this project). I was excited to receive this book!
When I got the news, I asked our previous webmaster, Rev.G.Van Baren, and he was able to fill me in on a few details regarding this project. But I was curious to know more. So I started an email conversation with Maarten, the Dutch contact, and he gave me the details I sought. I will quote the relevant parts of his email (Please excuse the somewhat broken English; the brother is Dutch.):
The project has been started about 12 years ago. Due to the fact that I was requested by several church members at different places in China during my many trips to China whether I was able to produce a Psalter for them. They all said we have only hymns and we want to sing the Psalter in our church services. That was the beginning. It was an urgent and sincere request. A request, but not an easy request. When there was a small sum of money available I could start and I wanted to start with. About 15 up to 20 people at a certain time, most Chinese persons, pastors, students, all Christians has given help in this project. Translation, production of the music, music notation and numerical notation, checking all translations several times. How should this kind of software work together with another kind of software. There was a lot of invention in this project necessary how to solve everything. The co-operation of one part of the project with another part of the project. There were many, many bottlenecks to solve. Without the help of the Lord the project would never have been finished. It is hardly to tell how many bottlenecks there were to solve and to find a solution for. A few words I wrote you, so that you have an idea about. 4000 copies have been printed. Most of them are in the Far East. Just a very small part in the U.S.A. and the Netherlands for Chinese churches. There are already two Chinese churches in the U.S.A. as well, that like to use the Chinese Psalter in their church services. The project is not a project of a church, although one church in the Netherlands and my friends have given nice donations to make it possible to finish this huge project.
Here is some information. It is only very small part of the real story of this project.
There are already several Chinese churches in the Far East that are very happy and they use the Chinese Psalter already in their church services.
I asked him further about the material in the back of this Psalter, because it looked to be our Reformed creeds and liturgy material (I could make out enough from the layout – not from the Chinese!). And I inquired about the music CD that came with it, a recording of a choir singing from this Psalter, in Chinese (obviously). This is what he had to say about these things:
The choir is a small Chinese choir.
The Chinese Psalter contains: the apostolic confession, the Nicea confession, the Athanasian confession and the Chalcedon confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, the Belgian confession, the Compendium, the liturgy of Dort, the consolation of the sick, the christian prayers, the church order of Dort. Besides this on request: the Westminister confession, the larger catechism and the shorter catechism. That’s it more or less.
“The Chinese Translators” will be a new foundation. It intends to translate several worthwhile religious books from the past into Chinese.
Fascinating and amazing, is it not! Who would have guessed?! And yet, here it is, a Chinese Psalter meeting a real need for Chinese believers in the church here and there, and indeed, throughout the world! And yes, I did inform our sister church in Singapore about this Psalter, and they are already using it for the benefit of those who cannot use the English Psalter. What a wonderful blessing this little volume is! We pray it is used mightily by the Lord for the worship of His great name among those of the Chinese tongue!
You will notice that it is laid out like the Scottish Psalter, with the song numbers matching the number of the Psalm (a feature I truly like!). The paper is very thin which made it difficult to photograph too, but you can see enough to make out the structure and content of it.). Stop in sometime, and I will show it to you. It is worth your time, even if you don’t read the Chinese