Kau-hoe Su-oe: Legend and Stories of Taiwan Church and Its People

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By Rev. Edward Gibin Tanng (陳黃義敏) 

May 31, 1999

文收載於《教會史話 第五輯》卷末


The Gospel of Jesus Christ was brought to Taiwan in 1865 first by Dr. James. Maxwell and his fesllow missionaries from Presbyterian Church of England. Missionaries from Presbyterian Church of Canada joined them in 1872. It was a most difficult task for those early missionaries to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ among Taiwanese who were total strangers to Christianity. How ded the early missionaries equipped with Western medicine work among the people in Taiwan in adverse social and cultural climate? What kinds of impact were beginning to take place among the early converts in their way and quality of life? How did the Western culture and Taiwanese indigenous culture begin to merge and integrate with each other through missionary activities and church evangelical work?

These were among some of the questions Prof. John Y.H. Lai(賴永祥教授) attempted to deal with at a symposium on "Taiwanese Culture and Christianity in Taiwan." It was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Norwalk, California on May 22,1993. The symposium was sponsored by Formosan Presbyterian Mission in the U.S.A.( 台美長老教會宣道會) which the late Dr. & Mrs. Hong-Yuan Hsu(許鴻源博士夫妻) established as a means of bringing the Taiwanese Christian heritage into the mainstream of American society. The symposium was intended to explore how Christianity had shaped Taiwanese culture since its arrival in Taiwan in 1865. Prof. Lai was invited as the Keynote Speaker. He was formerly Professor and Chair of Department of Library Science at National Taiwan University, and Associate Director of Harvard-Yenching Library (哈佛燕京圖書館) of Harvard University. He was, and still is the only scholar I have known who has been so passionately committed to collecting data and stories on Taiwanese Christian churches and the people around them for many years. He compiles them diligently and writes them tirelessly into a weekly series of most interesting and readable columns called " Kau-hoe-su-oe" (教會史話) for publication in Taiwan by the Taiwan Church News.( 《台灣教會公報》) The Taiwan Church News, the first and earliest printed periodical newspaper ever to exist in Taiwan, was founded in 1885 by English missionary, Dr. Thomas Barclay, who nine years earlier founded Tainan Theological College in 1876 to train pastoral leadership.

Kau-hoe-su-oe may be translated as "Legend and Stories of Taiwan Church and Its People. " Prof. Lai is intensely interested in the people and their stories. He will look at data and stories with a historian strong sense of mission. For him those data and stories need to be connected, explored, interpreted, and recorded. He wants to tell these stories in the way they occurred. He has a sharp historian eye that traces origins, processes and ending of those stories. He will then connect and present them to his readers with skillful journalistic treatment. The result is quite interesting. He does not see each story in isolation from the others, neither does he see social and religious phenomena as separate from economic, political, social of cultural conditions. He sees those phenomena and various factors interconnected as a whole.

I am very grateful to God for graciously allowing Prof. Lai at his age of 76 now to remain strong and productive. (I am 9 years 1 months and 18 days younger). He is still writing, and with energy! As the Fifth book (第五輯) in his series on Kau-hoe-su-oe is to be ready for the press. Prof. Lai has recently asked me to write a Foreword in English or Chinese for its publication. Even though I was totally unprepared and humbled I felt extremely honored by his request. I accepted his kind request right away as a challenge, and a special privilege for several reasons:

  1. I would like to take the opportunity to reaffirm enthusiastically the importance and significance of his work, especially for the church in Taiwan and for those who have inherited the heritage and legacy of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. (台灣基督長老教會)His effort and spirit are in some way reminiscent of those who under the guidance of the Holv Spirit wrote the Stones of the People of Israel which later became the Holy Scripture. The word of God in the Holy Scripture repeatedly reminded the people of  Israel how the God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob delivered them out of the slavery of Egypt. I feel that Professor Lai’s work in some way serves the similar purpose: to remind the Christian people in Taiwan that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the same God, Yahweh has delivered the early Taiwanese converts from idolatry to salvation by Jesus Christ. And that same God continues his work of delivery today among the Taiwanese around the world.

  2. As a middle school student in Taipei I came to know him as a successful graduate with a Law degree from the highest academic institution of Japan, Tokyo Imperial University. He was then a Research Fellow at National Taiwan University. We regularly attended the same church, Ho-ping Presbyterian Church in Taipei. I have long respected him as a most dedicated Christian scholar, a socially committed public educator, and a faithful, passionate reporter, or a journalist-librarian who not only speaks for the facts but preserves the facts with special skills.

  3. My late mother as a midwife delivered a baby for his wife, Helen. As a result, she was always warmly welcomed as a guest of honor by his family. Writing a Foreword for his book would have surely delighted my late mother whose soul now is in heaven. She was a passionate writer herself and had written a Taiwan Church History in a form of thouasnd verses poem.

  4.  I was privileged to work with him during my college years at the Sunday School of Ho-ping Presbyterian Church in Taipei (台北和平基督長老教會) where he was Superintendent and I was his assistant. I was indeed indebted to him for guidance during those years.

I believe that Professor Lai’s work will be recognized and remembered as one of the few most valuable documents in the study of the people and churches in Taiwan. The legacy of the people and churches in Taiwan will be richly found in his work. For the benefit of those who do not understand Chinese language, it will be extremely useful to translate the entire series of his Kau-hoe-su-oe into English. The fact that I have decided to write his Foreword in English after he requested for either English or Chinese was because I thought some day the entire series of his Kau-hoe- su-oe might be translated into English for the benefit of English readers. I believe Kau-hoe-su-oe can be directly translated into an English series of publications, which can be readable by high school and college students as well as students of Taiwanese Studies. I dream some day that my children and children’s children will be reading Professor Lai’s  Kau-hoe-su-oe published in English. I hope this work will be started soon


I wish Professor John Lai well and pray that the Lord will continue to use and bless him and his family with abundant grace for his work.


May 31, 1999

Rev. Edward Gibbin Tanng (陳黃義敏

Coordinator for Asian Theological Studies

San Francisco Theological Seminary/Southern California

Chair, Formosan Presbyterian Mission in the U.S.A.

Chair, National Asian Presbyterian Council, Presbyterian Church  (USA)