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
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
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
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
“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
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.