Sun, Sep 17, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Cross with Shintoism

Founded in 1885, the Presbyterian Middle School thrived in Tainan in its early years, but gradually lost its religious foundation under the colonial government’s Japanization policy

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

William Campbell served as a Presbyterian missionary in Taiwan for 46 years.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Common

Sept. 18 to Sept. 24

Kamimura Kazuhito was asked to resign after he attempted to lead his students at Tainan’s Presbyterian Middle School to pray at a Shinto shrine. In February of 1934, all Japanese teachers at the Christian school walked out in protest.

Ever since the colonial government made regular Shinto worship a requirement for private schools to be accredited, the issue had been a point of contention among school administrators. Without accreditation, students who wanted to attend university had no choice but to transfer to an accredited school.


Missionaries were active in Taiwan during Dutch rule in the 1600s, but that ended when Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功, also known as Koxinga) conquered Tainan and kicked out the Europeans.

It would take about 200 years before the missionaries returned. Probably the most famous was the Canadian missionary George Leslie Mackay, who arrived in 1871 and built Taiwan’s first Western-style hospital, college and school for women in Tamsui.

Evangelists also flourished during this time in the south with the Presbyterian Church of England’s Tainan Mission Council. James Davidson writes in his 1903 book, The Island of Formosa, that there were 77 places of worship set up by the mission. The council also founded Taiwan’s first secondary school on either Sept. 21 or Sept. 24, 1885. Originally named Presbyterian Middle School, it continues to exist today as Chang Jung Senior High School (長榮高中).

The school’s founder and first principal was George Ede, an Englishman who arrived in Taiwan in 1883. Ede is mostly known for being the one who notified fellow missionary Thomas Barclay of the fleeing of Liu Yong-fu (劉永福), who was supposed to defend Tainan from the advancing Japanese occupation troops in 1895. Barclay led a delegation to the Japanese general’s headquarters, persuading them that the resistance had surrendered and inviting them to enter the city peacefully.

Ede left behind several books on theology, geography and Chinese literature in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) written in the Latin alphabet. But none of those can tell us about what life was like for the missionaries.

For that, we turn to William Campbell, a Scotsman who arrived in Taiwan in 1871 and served a brief stint as interim principal for the Presbyterian Middle School. In 1915, he published a collection of essays, Sketches of Formosa, two years before he returned home.


Campbell appears hopeful during the onset of Japanese rule. Given “the determination of its rulers that Formosa, body, soul and spirit, must speedily be made an integral part of the Empire,” he predicts that the colonizers would bring better infrastructure, services and stability to Taiwan.

“Of course, too, there will be things to vex the European merchant and the ardent Christian missionary, but patience must be exercised, and great things are still expected from such a people as the Japanese have proved themselves to be,” he writes.

In a later chapter titled “Europeans Get Fair Play Out Here,” Campbell argues that the missionaries were being treated much better by the people since the arrival of the Japanese.

“When I went to Formosa 25 years ago, a common taunt against the missionaries was that we were there to take over the island,” he writes.

“Now this has all been changed. The people have no loyalty to their present rulers … In contrast to the behavior of the Japanese, the people have come to appreciate the kind disposition of the missionaries. In many cases they are disposed to welcome rather than resist the entrance of Christianity into their villages.”

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