TCP Publishes Book on Taiwan Church History

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Taiwan Church News. Occasional Bulletin, V.7, no.2 March/April 1990, p.13


The Taiwan Church Press, publishing arm of the PCT, recently published a new book by Mr. John Yung-hsiang Lai on the history of the church i Taiwan. The title of the book is ‘Taiwan “Kau-hoe su-oe’(教會史話,Topics on Taiwan Church History), Volume 1; it is presently only available in Chinese characters.

Mr. Lai is the Associate Librarian At Harvard-Yenching Library in Cambridge, Mass. Before immigrating to the US, he was an elder at Hopeng Presbyterian Church in Taipei.

The book is based on a series of articles that Mr.Lai has written the last several years for the Taiwan Church News (《台灣教會公報》). It is not merely a record o the history of the church in Taiwan, but, through the use of different topics, it chronicles

How the church has interacted with Taiwan’s society, culture, customs, politics and economy. The Taiwan Church Press has also provided many rare and historical photographs which are reproduced in the book.

In September of 1987, when Mr. Lai was first invited to write his articles which make up this book, he was just turning 65 years old. In his reply he stated, “As it says in Psalms, `When I am old and grayheaded, O God, foresake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come,` (Psalms 71: 18). And I hope that through this book and this series, people may see God’s power at work in Taiwan.


Stories of the Early Church in Taiwan

Taiwan Church News. Occasional Bulletin, V.8, no. 4,July/August 1991, p.14-15

John Yung-hsiang Lai, a Harvard librarian, has collected numerous stories of early Taiwanese Christians and the missionaries they worshipped with. This year the Taiwan Church Press published a collection of these stories which first appeared in the pages of Taiwan Church News (OB vol.7, no.2) called “Topics on Taiwan Church History.”

Mr; Lai uses many long out-of-print missionaries’ memoirs as primary source material for his stories. However, since his book is printed in Chinese characters many of these events remain unknown to non-Chinese readers. In an effort to share these stories the OB will, from time to time, translate and print some of these events .and characters who helped make up the early church in Taiwan.

This first story features a reformed bandit, a bamboo raftman and the trouble conversion can bring to an entire household.

Late 19th century Formosa was a lawless place of headhunters and bandits; but for one outlaw a bungled robbery attempt took his life in a wholely unexpected direction. Nng Chhim-ho (黃深河), who’s name picturesquely translates into “Deep River”, was a highwayman from the central Formosan town of Ka-gi (Chiayi 嘉義). On a robbery expedition to the south he was wounded in the leg.

His partners in crime applied all manner of plasters, drugs and herbs but his leg remained crippled. Finally “Deep River’ convinced his friends to take him to the mission hospital in Tainan. There the doctors restored him to health. Unfortunately for his career as a bandit, the doctors also shared their “barbarian religion” with him. He became a Christian and soon was traveling near and far preaching “God’s grace”.

One day during an evangelizing trip, to the southern tip of the island he came upon a bamboo raftman named Go Tioh (吳著). “Uncle Tioh’, as he was known in the area, hauled sugar on his raft downriver to the coastal settlements. The job didn’t pay well, in fact he didn’t receive any wages at all. But it was understood that raftmen could pilfer some of the sugar on the sly.

“Deep River” must have been an even better evangelist than he had been a robber because ”Uncle Tioh” was quickly converted to the new religion that stressed the Ten Commandments and the forgiveness of sins. However, because his job hauling sugar required him to steal a bit of his cargo and thus breaking one of the commandments, Go Tioh decided he’d better quit his job. Following the lead of Jesus’s disciples he became a fisherman.

But for “Uncle Tioh” changing occupations was only his first difficult change the new religion would bring. He was shunned by his family and friends. Even his wife treated him poorly.

One night after he had become a Christian he returned late from fishing to find the door bolted from the inside. He called out and rapped on the door but it was apparent that everyone was asleep. Then, he heard the faint sound of footsteps on the otherside of the door, and then all was quiet again. He pushed on the door and it opened. Someone had unlocked it and then gone back to bed without greeting.him.

Next morning his wife was up early preparing rice, but when the raftman turned fisherman came to the breakfast table she put the earthen bowl down in front of him and retreated into the kitchen without a word. She silently refused to clear off the dirty dishes until her husband went outdoors. Furthermore she emptied the leftovers far away from the family’s hogs and chickens who usually received them. “Uncle Tioh” continued to get the cold shoulder from his family for quite some time.

Eventually Go Tioh learned his cousin, who opened the door for him at night but disappeared before he entered, was afraid to come near him because he might become infected with the same mysterious disease that the bandit from Kagi had passed on to “Uncle tioh”; a barbarian illness that prompted “Uncle Tioh” to quit a perfectly good job and frequently go off muttering incantations with his eyes closed.

His wife had also feared that he would spread his infection to her and the farm animals. Ironically, that is exactly what happened (at least to the wife and family) who gradually accepted the fisherman’s new way of life. Eventually “Uncle Tioh’s family became the first Christians in Iam-po-ah (鹽埔仔) on the southern tip of Formosa.

Apparently Go Tioh’s fellow fishermen also mistrusted the former raftman who challenged their traditional faith because soon this solitary figure left his fishing boat and became a ferryman. But his faith was finally rewarded and his son named keh (葛) enthused about his father’s new religion that he actually became a minister. Keh was also the father of seventeen children; several of them grew up to become pastors and medical doctors and, as Rev. Thomas Barclay (巴克禮牧師), the great pioneer missionary of Southern Taiwan, explained, so the church began to grow

This story, retold by Mr.Lai, was originally recorded in “Barclay of Formosa” by Edward Band, Tokyo, 1936, and “The King’s Guests” by Rev. Campbell Moody.