The Origin and Mystery of the Chinese Word for Ship

As we all know, the ship is an indispensable means of maritime transportation, a weapon of war, a contributor to scientific research, etc. But few people know the origin and mystery of the Chinese character for ship, 船, or chuan. Actually, there is much to be said about the components of chuan. Today, let us explore the origin and mystery of chuan.

Do You Know Who Built the First Ship in the World?

Most people may shake their heads at the question, but we Christians would answer with conviction: The first ship in the world was built by Noah. In chapter 6, verse 14 of Genesis God said to Noah: “Make you an ark of gopher wood; rooms shall you make in the ark, and shall pitch it within and without with pitch.” As is recorded in Scripture, the ship that Noah built was called an ark, which was made of gopher wood. Noah constructed the ark at God’s instruction, and it was also under God’s guidance that Noah made such a wonderful achievement in history.

Do You Know the Purpose and Significance of Noah’s Ark?


There might be plenty of people who would say that shipbuilding is for public transportation, arms races among nations, and so on. However, we Christians view things differently: Noah built the ark for none of those purposes; instead, he was obeying God and following God’s instructions, he did this to avoid the devastation of the great flood. More than 4,000 years ago, people were so corrupt and evil to the extent that the earth was filled with violence and murder. They indulged in the wicked trends of the world, eating, drinking and carousing, living a befuddled life, and stopped at no evil. God would not see this mankind, who had been depraved to the extreme and already offended His disposition. So, God decided to destroy the filthy old world with a flood, and He called upon Noah to build the ark. During the over one hundred years when Noah constructed the ark, God had been waiting. He hoped more people could believe His words and board the ark to receive His salvation. From this we can see that God’s command for Noah to build the ark was actually for the purpose of saving mankind: It is a means by which God saves man.

Nevertheless, God is principled in His work. Instead of forcing people to do things, God respects everyone’s own choice. Just as God commanded Adam in chapter 2, verse 16 of Genesis: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat,” God gives man free will after He created man, so that man has the right to choose freely. This is what God is. At that time, except for Noah who obeyed God’s words and led his family to build the ark, no one believed that God would use a flood to destroy the world. When the great flood finally rained down, only Noah’s family of eight embarked on the ark and were saved by God. God fulfilled His words with fact, verifying the authenticity of His words and manifesting His essence—God will accomplish what He says, and is trustworthy and dependable. So, as we can see, the ark is not an ordinary ship, but a special one with representative significance. The story of Noah’s ark allows us to see God’s salvation of mankind, and that if we can believe and obey God’s words, we will be able to attain His salvation and live under His care and protection. This is the significance of Noah’s ark.

Do You Know the Size of the Ark? What Can We Learn From the Origin of Chuan?

When it comes to the size of the ark, most people may feel it not easy to tell it immediately. However, it is not difficult for us Christians, since chapter 6, verses 15-16 of Genesis have already told us: “And this is the fashion which you shall make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shall you make to the ark, and in a cubit shall you finish it above; and the door of the ark shall you set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shall you make it.” (Note: A cubit is about 18 inches, or 46 centimeters.) These are the size and overall structure of the ark.

When Noah heard God’s calling, he started constructing the ark and making rooms in it according to God’s requirements. Although he suffered a lot and was mocked, ridiculed, and insulted by people of that time, he was not affected in the slightest and kept building the ark with an honest and devoted heart and in accordance with God’s requirements. At the same time, he had been spreading the gospel to people in that age. After more than one hundred years, the ark was built yet no one believed that God would destroy the world by flood apart from Noah and his family. At last, Noah’s family of eight and all sorts of birds and beasts got on board the ark and the door of the ark was closed. Then God sent the flood. The flood lasted for forty days and forty nights, destroying all the creatures of earth and all the evil and corrupt people of that age. Only Noah and his wife and his three sons and daughters-in-law survived the flood, remaining on earth thanks to God’s protection. Thereafter, the Chinese character 船 (chuan) came into existence: The three components—a “ship” (舟, or zhou), the number “eight” (八, or ba) and a “mouth” symbolizing a person (口, or kou)—convey the meaning that a ship saved the eight members of Noah’s family. This is the origin of chuan.

The story of Noah’s ark is one about God and man which reveals God’s compassion and salvation of man, and from it we can see God’s holy, righteous, and majestic disposition. The word chuan reminds us constantly that the human race was once destroyed by God with a flood because of its sin.

In the present time of the last days, the corruption of we humans is far more serious than that of people in Noah’s time. This has been a fact obvious to all. Some people would spend a great deal of money buying official posts, and with the posts, they could grow their wealth. Sitting officials collude with each other and exploit their power to take bribes and embezzle government funds. Businessmen engage in fraud and swindling and would do anything to make money. Even schools and hospitals are profiting from students and patients by any means possible. For the sake of money, people can even sell out their integrity and dignity and commit all kinds of evil. Marital infidelities have become a trend, and people abandon themselves to the pleasures of sin, eating, drinking, whoring, and gambling. The Bible says: “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23). The Lord Jesus predicted long ago that there would be great disasters in the last days: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). Then, how should we treat our own actions so as to welcome the Lord’s return and embark on the ark of the last days?

Fang Ying, Shanxi Province

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