It is a country where people caught smuggling religious texts or organizing illicit services can face years in jail. Yet China is about to become home to the world’s biggest Bible factory, producing a staggering 1 million copies a month. The aircraft hangar-sized plant on an industrial park outside the eastern city of Nanjing will be capable of producing more than one Bible every second and is expected to supply one quarter of all the world’s Bibles by 2009.
Amity Printing — a joint venture between a Chinese Christian charity and the UK-based United Bible Societies — is already printing up to 800,000 Bibles a month, 80 percent of which are distributed to officially-approved churches across China. In its existing factory complex, overgrown with creepers and dwarfed by new high-rise apartment blocks on the outskirts of the city of 7 million, a 600-strong workforce of mostly non-Christian locals work on imported machines to print Bibles in 90 languages ranging from Slovakian to Swahili, as well as Braille.
But the 20-year-old company is about to move from its suburban factory to the new 85,000-square-meter plant on an industrial park neighboring new Ford and Motorola factories after cornering a huge slice of the world Bible market. Amity Printing already supplies 600,000 Bibles a year to the UK and twice as many to the U.S. The first Bibles were to roll off the presses at the giant new factory before the end of this year with the help of a state-of-the-art US$4 million Timson publishing press shipped to China from Europe.