01 February 2011

A new book in the Year of the Rabbit

In print in Chinese ... this evening’s book launch also marks the Chinese New Year

Patrick Comerford

Two years ago, I was involved in a new book examining the centuries-old links between Ireland and China. In July 2009, New Island, in collaboration with RTÉ, published China and the Irish to mark the thirtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Ireland.

The Mandarin version of the book is being launched in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle this evening as part of the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival, and follows Dublin City Council’s decision last December to twin Beijing and Dublin.

The Mandarin version of China and the Irish, edited by Dr.Jerusha McCormack and published in Beijing by the People’s Publishing House, will also be presented during the festival to the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland and to the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

This specially commissioned book, based on an RTÉ Thomas Davis Lecture series, gathers a series of your essays together documenting and evaluating Sino-Irish connections.

Diplomatic relations between Ireland and China were established between Ireland and China in 1979, while I was in Japan, studying politics and economics on a fellowship awarded by Journalistes en Europe and Nihon Shimbun Kyokai, and thanks to a generous sabbatical from The Irish Times.

On the return journey to Ireland at the end of the summer-long fellowship, I stopped off in Beijing just weeks after full diplomatic relations between Ireland and China had been ratified. I have been back to China and the Far East on many occasions since then, visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Pudong, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Guiyang, Anshun and in many small towns and villages throughout Guizhou Province.

Everywhere, the churches have been warmly welcome, and it was a particular pleasure a few years ago to be with the Irish community in Shanghai on Saint Patrick’s Day. Internal politics in China and the lack of diplomatic relations between Dublin and Beijing would have rendered this unimaginable before I travelled to Japan in 1979.

The publication of China and the Irish (right) in 2009 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of those diplomatic relations.

The book is a pioneering work and the first to explore relations between the Chinese people and the people of Ireland. The book includes eleven essays on an astonishing range of topics, from diplomatic history to music, from business to botanical exchanges and literary connections.

Nine of the essays were first broadcast from June to August 2008 as part of the Thomas David lecture Series in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics. In addition, the book has a welcoming letter from President Mary McAleese and an afterword by the Irish Ambassador to China, Declan Kelleher.

This book makes it clear that although formal diplomatic relations go back only three decades, the people of China and Ireland have a long and complex relationship going back over the centuries.

The editor of China and the Irish, Dr Jerusha McCormack, taught in UCD for 30 years, and has been a visiting professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University. The other contributors are Dr Shane McCausland of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Dr Richard O’Leary of Queen’s University Belfast, Fintan O’Toole and Ruadhán Mac Cormaic of The Irish Times, Brendan Parson (the Earl of Rosse), who worked for almost twenty years with UN agencies, Dr Hwee-San Tan of Goldsmiths College London and the University of Surrey, Richard Barrett and Pauline Byrne of Treasury Holdings, and myself.

“Heroism and Zeal: Pioneers of the Irish Christian Missions to China” ... a chapter co-written with Dr Richard O’Leary

In our shared chapter – “Heroism and Zeal: Pioneers of the Irish Christian Missions to China” (pp 73-87 in the first edition, and pp 77-92 in the Mandarin edition being presented this evening) – Richard O’Leary and I look at the story of Irish missionaries who have been working in China since the 1840s, particularly those who worked there with the support of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, the Church Mission Society and the Maynooth Mission to China (the Columban fathers and sisters).

There were others too, including Vincentians and Christian Brothers, Methodists like Dr George Hadden from Wexford, his wife Helen, and the Revd Desmond Gilliland, and Presbyterians such as the Revd Dr Jack Weir.

This is a beautifully printed and illustrated volume and it has been a real pleasure to be involved in this publication.

Patrick Comerford on a visit to Beijing seven years ago

1 comment:

Isaac said...

Dear Rev. Comerford,
Thanks for the post. This book sounds interesting. I have noticed in the first image in this post, in the Chinese description of you, the translator has translated the 'Church of Ireland' into 'Ai-Er-Lan Guo Jiao-Hui', i.e. literally, Ireland State Church. This is a wrong translation. The established Church of England can be translated as 'Ying-Ge-Lan Guo Jiao-Hui', but to translate the disestablished Church of Ireland as a 'Guo Jiao-Hui', is surely a mis-translation. Chinese Anglicans normally translate the Church of Ireland as 'Ai-Er-Lan Sheng-Gong-Hui', given that Sheng-Gong-Hui (or Sheng Kong Hui as it was traditionally spelt) is the commonly accepted Chinese name for the Anglican church since 1912. Just my two pence. Thanks.