The Chinese Language and the Book of Mormon
By Raymond C. Treat
In 1979 a book titled The Discovery of Genesis by C. H. Kong and Ethel R. Nelson was printed by Concordia Publishing House. In this book, some of the characters of the Chinese language are broken up into their original parts and the meanings of these parts are given. Many of the characters in Chinese especially those representing more abstract words, have been constructed using two or more simpler characters. For example, the Chinese character for airport is made up of two characters, one meaning airplane and the other meaning land. Rev. Kong and Dr. Nelson show that by knowing the meanings of the simpler characters or radicals that make up some of the more complex characters, we can demonstrate that many of the details of the Book of Genesis were known to those who first invented the Chinese language which is estimated to be about 2500 B.C. Before illustrating this in more detail, we shall first see how this book came to be written.
The Origin of the Book
Some 40 years ago, Rev. Kong, who is a native Chinese Christian minister, was distributing tracts of the story of creation in a mission hospital. Returning to visit one patient's room he was challenged by an educated Chinese lady who thought the Genesis story was a good fairy tale suitable for children "but hardly worth an adult's time!" Evolution was the adult and proper version of the story of creation.
At that time (1940's) Rev. Kong did not have the scientific evidence which is available today to meet this lady's challenge. This upset him and he struggled with the problem for days before the answer come to him. He recoiled a comment in a Mandarin textbook that had been used by a missionary. In a footnote, the Chinese character meaning boat (fig. 1) had been broken up into its original parts and their meanings given as "eight-mouth or person-vessel." A handwritten comment in the book referred to the fact that eight people in a vessel was a description of Noah's ark. It became obvious to Rev. Kang that unless this was a coincidence there should be other evidence from the Bible locked into the Chinese characters. Rev. Kong quickly found such evidence. This inspired him to begin a life-long study. He first published some of his findings in Hong Kong in 1950. This book come to the attention of Dr. Nelson who was a medical missionary in Bankok, Thailand. She found the information in the book to be very useful in her work with Thai and Chinese students.
After returning to the United States, the son of Dr. Nelson "just happened" to go to the same school as the grandson of Rev. Kong which enabled her to obtain his address. She wrote to him telling of her experience with his book and offering assistance to have the book reprinted for a larger audience. His reply included information about many additional characters that he had researched since publishing the book. This began the collaboration that has culminated in the book that is available to us today.
Chinese and Genesis
We have learned so far that many of the Chinese characters are made up of two or more parts called radicals, each of which has its own meaning. For example, consider the character meaning "to create" (fig. 2). As we can see in the drawing, it is made up of four radicals which mean "walking-alive-mouth-dust".
Put yourself in the position of the person who is in the process of inventing symbols to portray ideas. (This would be difficult for us to do since we have never been without a written language.) The word "to create" is an abstract word and therefore difficult to portray. You would naturally use a combination of simpler symbols that are already in use in order to arrive at this more abstract meaning. But why, in this case, did the inventor choose the radicals meaning "walking", "alive", 'mouth" and "dust" to convey the meaning to create?
Those who are familiar with the Book of Genesis would suggest the following verse as the inspiration for choosing these four radicals:
And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul; Genesis 2-8 (IN.)
Note that the phrase "a living soul" (soul meaning body plus spirit) means an adult able to walk which explains the use of the radical "walking". Just as the character "to create" is an accurate description of the creation of man as recorded in Genesis, so do many other Chinese characters portray other parts of the Genesis account.
The character for "happiness" (fig. 3) is just as descriptive as the one for "to create" and may even elicit a smile or two because of the many attempts in our present culture to explain what happiness is. According to the ancient Chinese, happiness is "God-first person-garden." I don't think we have improved on that definition in the last 4500 years. We really should include this character on all of our bumper stickers. It would be a good conversation opener.
The great tower mentioned in the Book of Ether comes to mind when we consider the character "to migrate" (fig. 4). Its radicals mean "great-division-west-walking." This appears to be a good description of the scene at the great tower after the confusion of the language. The great tower was located in the west from the Chinese point of view.
The character for "pattern" (fig. 5) is intriguing since the radicals "tree-lamb-eternal" strongly suggest Christ. ("The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world")
Because the Restoration is the only part of Christianity that believes that the gospel of Jesus Christ was taught from the beginning, it would be interesting to look for that concept In the Chinese characters. If it could be demonstrated that not only the Genesis account was known by the ancient Chinese but also the gospel of Jesus Christ as well, a great deal of interest would then be expressed in the Restoration. There are some hints in "The Discovery of Genesis" that the full implication of the meanings of some of the characters could be more completely understood from a Restoration viewpoint but additional study is needed by Restoration students of Chinese before more can be said.
A character that seems to be related to Mesoamerican archaeology is "serpent" (fig. 6). The radicals for this character are not as well explained in the book but it is significant that the snake has feathers. The feathered snake or Quetzalcoatl is probably the main deity of Mesoomerica and has many of the attributes of Jesus Christ. Miguel Covarrubias, the late, brilliant Mexican art historian and archaeologist, once demonstrated in a lecture that the Chinese dragon and the Mesoamerican feathered serpent were the same. This character would strengthen his argument.
The final character chosen for discussion is one that probably relates directly to a part of the Jaredite history. This is the character meaning "division" (fig. 7), whose radicals mean "eight-knife." The knife Is a symbol for division. Kong and Nelson take the position that the radical "eight" refers to the eight people in Noah's ark as it most certainly did in the character for "boat." In this case, their explanation does not seem to be as convincing.
They say, "The Chinese may have pictured eight people as having a problem in dividing their possessions after having lived together In the ark for a year." More convincing is that the radical "eight" refers to the eight barges of the Jaredites. These barges did indeed divide their occupants from those who remained behind.
Only seven characters have been chosen for discussion here. There are many more analyzed by Kong and Nelson. What is the significance of this information for believers in the Book of Mormon? It is strong circumstantial evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. It fits the Jaredite history as described in the Book of Ether. The Jaredites become the greatest notion on the face of the earth at one point in their history. Even during their sojourn in the Old World they were probably the most spiritually advanced people. It is believed that they were entrusted with the Book of Remembrance which was started by Adam and contained a first-hand account of the story of creation.
Evidence from the Book of Mormon and archaeology indicates that the Jaredites left the Sumerian area of southern Mesopotamia and traveled across Asia and through China. (For a more complete description of this journey see Chapter 3 in Peoples, Places and Prophecies by Verneil Simmons.)
No doubt there is much more evidence to be gained from on analysis of the Chinese characters. One of the best documented principles of scientific investigation is that you only find what you are looking for. Only one who knows both Chinese and the account of the Jaredites could recognize evidence of the Jaredite pattern in the characters. This promises to be an exciting field of investigation which should prove to be very rewarding to those qualified to pursue it.
Although the printing of "The Discovery of Genesis" in 1979 represents the lifelong study of Rev. Kong, it appears to be only the beginning of a process which should shed significant light on the early existence of that great people we call the Jaredites. The timing of this book is most certainly part of the Lord's plan for bringing the Book of Mormon to the attention of an unbelieving world.
"Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness . . ." Acts 14:17 0
This article taken from Recent Book of Mormon Developments vol. 1 p.49-50.