The CUV translation began when nineteenth-century Christians saw the need for a modern and careful translation of the Bible into Chinese. Work on the CUV began in 1890, but was not completed until almost thirty years later. Since its first publication in 1919, the CUV has become the standard translation of the Bible among Chinese Christians. Its word choices have come to define the entire vocabulary of Christian theology. The CUV thus provides a common ground among the different protestant denominations and schools of thought in China.
To situate the CUV in history: The production of the CUV marked the beginning of a church in China that was fully Chinese and could stand independently of missionaries from overseas. The translation was particularly valued by Chinese Christians during the periods when they were brutally persecuted.
The language of the CUV, although only a century old, sometimes sounds quaint or archaic to modern Chinese ears. Some words have changed their meaning or may be difficult to understand. However, the grace and dignity of its language are part of its appeal. The CUV has even influenced the Chinese language itself on some occasions.
To make the Bible easier to read, modernized versions have been published recently. In the 1980s, the United Bible Society and the Chinese Christian Association published editions of the CUV with modernized punctuation. Editions for mainland China, of course, now use the simplified rather than traditional characters.
Completely new alternatives include Today’s Chinese Version of the 1970s and the Chinese New Version and the Chinese Living Bible of the 1990s. More recently, an edition of the Chinese NET Bible (without the accompanying footnotes) has been made available free of charge for personal use.
Here is a sample verse from the Chinese Union Version. You will need to have an appropriate font installed on your computer in order to view Chinese characters correctly.
神 爱 世 人 ， 甚 至 将 他 的 独 生 子 赐 给 他 们 ， 叫 一 切 信 他 的 ， 不 至 灭 亡 ， 反 得 永 生 。
In the Chinese Union Version with Modern Punctuation:
In the Chinese New Version of 1992:
In the Chinese Standard Bible of 2009:
In the Chinese Contemporary Bible of 2012: