Chinese Writings

Biblical Concepts in Ancient China Characters

Bruce W. Lo, 2012

Let us now turn to Chinese writings. Chinese characters may be classified into two general categories: Wen (文), simple or primitive pictures, and Zi (字), compound characters. Wen are essentially pictograms (象形), that is, they are pictures or icons of objects in nature. Zi are compound or indicative symbols (指事), used to represent or associate with more complex concepts, events, or stories. Thus, a method to form new character is to combine “primitive” characters in juxtaposition. A good example for this construction method is the word above (上, shang) and below (下, xia), noting that the former has a component above the horizontal line while the later has a component below the horizontal line. The observant reader will see that the word shang is in fact part of the name for God or "ShangDi" (上帝 ), Ruler Above .

In this paper, we only have time to look at three examples. The first is the word 婪, to covet or to desire. This character consists of three parts: a tree 木, a second tree 木, and a woman 女. The juxtaposition of these three parts seem to depict a woman facing one tree, perhaps looking longingly, with her back to the second tree. This is reminiscent of Genesis 3:6 ,”So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…”. While it is impossible to scientifically prove beyond doubts that this was indeed the origin of the word 婪 (because the origin of most Chinese characters are not known), the coincidence with the Genesis story is difficult to be totally ignored. The first tree is probably the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, while the second tree, to which the woman turned her back is probably the Tree of Life. Therefore, is it possible that the Chines word for "to covet or to desire" came from the Biblical story of the Fall.

The second example is the word lamb, 羔, which consists of two primitive parts. The character on the top is the word sheep, 羊, while that at the bottom, represented by the four dots, is the word fire, 火. This description of the word lamb, indicates that the lamb is a sacrificial animal, to be offered as a burnt offering on a fire (See Figure 10). The question is, where would the ancient Chinese get this concept of a lamb from? Is there a commonality with the Hebrew's practice of offering lamb as a burnt offering? What was the first thing that Noah did when he came out of the ark? Did he not offer a burnt offering? (Genesis 8:20).

The third example is even more remarkable. This is the Chinese word for righteousness, 義, pronounced “yi”. This word 義 is composed of two parts: the upper part,羊 which is the word “lamb” or “sheep”, and the lower part 我 which is the word “me” or “I”. The new word is formed by putting a lamb, 羊 on top of me, 我 - in other words “to cover me with the Lamb”. The new word thus form is “Righteousness” or 義. Now, where did the ancient Chinese get this theological notion of covering one with the lamb to form this word 義 or righteousness? But since western Christianity (Nestorianism) did not reach China until 7th century, how could this Biblical concept got passed to China? Would it be possible that the Chinese learned their stories of Biblical redemption from their Noachian patriarch?

While the exact circumstances and the origins of these (and other) Chinese characters cannot be fully ascertained, the coincidence and association with these concepts appears to be something that cannot be totally ignored. Those interested in a more in-depth study of Biblical concepts in ancient Chinese Wenzi (文字) are referred the article by Voo & Hovee (1999), the book by Chan & Fu (2009), and the book by Nelson, Broadberry, & Zhou (2010) listed in the Reference section of this paper. The later book even traced the Chinese characters to the older form known as the Oracle Bone writing (甲骨文字).

In this article, we attempted to show that many Biblical concepts, particularly those found in Genesis, may also be found among two ancient Chinese institutions: the Border Sacrifice at Temple of Heaven, and the Chinese writing, Wenzi. The association and similarities are easily recognizable. If these concepts originated from Genesis patriarchs, then it is not unreasonable to believe that the God (Shangdi) worshiped by the Chinese are the same God of the Hebrews.

Postscript: The Temple of Heaven was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. It was described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations... "

Figure 1

Earliest Chinese Oracle Bone Writings.

Figure 2

The Chinese character "to desire" or "to covert" consisting a woman and two trees.

Figure 3

The Chinese character "Lamb", which consists of a "sheep" on top of a "fire".

Figure 4

The Chinese character "Righteousness" which consists of a "lamb" above the word "me".


Chan, K.T. & Fu, C.L. (2009) Faith of Our Fathers - God in ancient China, Zondervan Press. Book website:

Chock, Ginger Tong (2021), Genesis in Ancient China: The Creation Story in China’s Earliest Script, Eastward Garden Pub.

Kang, C.H. & Nelson, E.R. (1979) The Discovery of Genesis , Concordia Publishing House: St Louise, MO.

Nelson, E.R., Broadberry, R.E. & Zhou Jiang (Traslator) (2010), Oracle Bones Speak (甲骨揭秘 Jingu Jiemi), World Affair Press: Beijing, China.

Voo, K.S. & Hovee, L. (1999) The Lamb of God hidden in the Chinese characters, TJ, Journal of Creation, 13(1) 81-91. Retrieved 1/12/2012 from

Wang, S. & Nelson, E. (1998), God and The Ancient Chinese, Read Books Pub.

Xu Shen (許慎), Etymological Dictionary (Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字), six character formation methods, or liushu ( 六書): pictograms (xiangxing zi 象形字), Ideograms (zhishi zi 指示字), ideogramic compounds (huiyi zi 會意字), pictophonetic compounds (xingsheng zi 形聲字), transform cognates (zhuanzhu zi 轉注字), and Regus / phonetic loan (jiajie zi 假借字), 100.

Last updated August 20 2022 by Bruce Lo