About 800 orphans returned to their common home, the Liouguei Christian Orphanage, over the past two days to celebrate the 100th birthday of orphanage founder Reverend Yang Hsu (楊煦), known in Taiwan as “the father of Aboriginal orphans.”
Among the well-wishers were public functionaries, including local-level government officials, teachers and police officers, all of whom were raised at the church and orphanage founded by Yang in the mountains of Kaohsiung County.
At a concert in Kaohsiung County on Saturday night, physically challenged foot and mouth painter Yang En-dian (楊恩典), who was raised by Yang and his Atayal wife from infancy after she was brought to the orphanage in a basket in March 1974, said: “My heart has always been at the orphanage, which will be my home forever.”
Yang En-dian was born without arms and was later abandoned by her parents.
Believing that the baby was “sent by the Lord,” Yang named the infant Yang En-dian, or “grace and benevolence from God.”
Little did he know that the child would develop a legendary friendship with then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who visited the orphanage six times.
Chiang developed a special attachment to the child and arranged for her to receive surgery in Taipei to help straighten her spine and allow her to stand unaided.
He even arranged for her to learn Chinese brush painting and calligraphy.
The child became a celebrity after a picture of her and Chiang was used on a postage stamp. Yang En-dian did not let the late president down and grew up to earn her own living by selling her paintings. She now leads a happy life as a mother and wife.
Chiang saw to it that the orphanage received financial help after learning that Yang Hsu and his wife, along with 20-odd “little soldiers,” lived in the undeveloped mountainous area of Liouguei (六龜), Kaohsiung County, to accommodate an ever-extending family.
Yang Hsu and his wife arrived in the area in 1964.
“All I saw was Aboriginal people who looked like my wife,” he said.
The couple made their church a home for Aboriginal Liouguei children who had no food and no money to pay for school.
As word of their philanthropy spread to neighboring townships, they had to enlarge the church to cope with the additional orphans.
No one disputes the claim that Yang Hsu “has 1,000 children,” given the great number of Aboriginal orphans and homeless youths that the Shandong, China-born Christian missionary and his wife have raised in the orphanage over the past 50 years.
The reverend’s family is so large that his orphanage complex technically forms a small town.
Counting his achievements over the decades, Yang Hsu said receiving copies of records of merit or good deeds that were bestowed on “his children” is one of his most rewarding pleasures.
Also among the well-wishers was Rachel Liang (梁文音), a star from a popular CTC singing competition that is similar to the British Pop Idol.
Liang, now in her early 20s, was sent to the orphanage with her younger sister after their Rukai father and Atayal mother died one after another about 10 years ago.
A talented singer, Liang received special vocal training from a volunteer from the US and received financial aid from a US church to help her complete her college education.
At the age of 100, Father Yang said that with God’s blessing, his duties would never end.