Photo/IllutrationThe sentence “the soul goes to be with God” is changed into “the person leaves this world” in a page in the revised Chinese language textbook featuring “The Little Match Girl.” (Takashi Funakoshi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

BEIJING--The Chinese Communist Party ordered all references to words like “God” and “Bible” to be banished from a textbook for elementary school children as a crackdown against religious groups continues.

Revisions made earlier this year even resulted in changes to the wording in foreign stories, angering critics who said the government had "overstepped the line."

Released by People's Education Press, a publisher affiliated with the Chinese government, the Chinese language textbook for sixth-graders features four stories by overseas writers as well as Chinese classics.

The works are included in the textbook to promote the understanding of other cultures, according to China’s education ministry.

In “The Little Match Girl” from Hans Christian Andersen’s “New Fairy Tales and Stories,” a small girl saw her late beloved grandmother in a vision on freezing New Year’s Eve with a lighted match in her hand.

In the scene, the grandmother says, “the soul goes to be with God when a star falls.” In the new version, she says, “the person leaves this world when a star falls.”

In a scene from Daniel Defoe's “The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,” the protagonist takes three copies of the Bible from a wrecked ship. The Bibles are simply described as “a few books” in the new textbook.

At least 10 changes were made to “Vanka” by Russian writer Anton Chekhov, such as a prayer scene at a church. The word “Christ” was removed as well.

Although the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom to worship, the religious affairs ordinance amended last year strictly limits the locations and other conditions of religious activities.

The wording in the textbook apparently reflects the recent tighter crackdown.

Internet users in China are aghast at the alterations. One person argued, “The changes could damage the literary quality of works,” while another insisted, “Even the original expressions did not have strong links with certain religions.”

A Chinese journalist agreed with those assessments, but said, 'Everybody knows the content of those famous stories, so the latest change is effectively meaningless.”