Chang Chung-wen (張瓊文), a 29-year-old street pianist who never had formal music training, performs around town, donating all proceeds to charity and inspiring others with his story of overcoming one’s disabilities.
A resident of Douliu City, Yunlin County, Chang has cerebral palsy which was complicated by intractable epilepsy when he was six months old.
While a majority of epileptic patients can lead normal lives despite the occasional seizure, those with intractable epilepsy have very serious seizures that are difficult to control.
Chang’s mother, Liao Shu-min (廖淑敏), said she quit her job when he was a child so that she could stay with him in school.
However, as Chang’s seizures became more severe and medication failed to work, Liao said doctors told her that surgery was the only solution.
“They told me that there was only a 60 percent chance that surgery would be a success,” Liao said.
The family took the chance, hoping that it would lead to a better life for Chang.
Ten to 12 years after the surgery, Chang has never had another seizure, Liao said, describing it as a miracle.
Since there was no National Health Insurance Program at the time, the family applied and eventually received a government subsidy of NT$220,000.
The family donated the subsidy — and added a bit more to round the sum up to NT$300,000 — to the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation.
The family discovered Chang’s musical talent when he was 12.
Chang was hyperactive and had trouble concentrating, Liao said.
He had never touched the piano, so it was a shock when they found him playing without ever having learned how to read music, she said.
Chang is able to play by ear after listening to the music a couple of times, Liao said, adding that he can play 70 to 80 pieces.
Last year, Chang performed at the Gukeng Rest Station on the northern section of National Highway No. 3 for a fundraiser to help the Yunlin County Association for the Mentally Challenged purchase a vehicle to transport residents.
When Master Hsin Ting (心定法師), who was at the San Francisco branch of the Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist Order at the time, heard about his performance, he called up Datzu Charity chairman Chen Liang-ching (陳良慶) to verify the news.
Master Hsin Ting then gave Chang an audio system so that more people could listen to his music and be inspired.
Master Hsing Ting, though not affiliated with the Association for the Mentally Challenged, also hails from Yunlin County.
In April, Chang received certification as a street performer, allowing him to perform in different places, including the Guken Rest Station, the Dalin Tzu Chi General Hospital in Chiayi County and the Green Tunnel in Gukeng.
Liao said she donates all the money from the performances, including tips and travel expenses, to charity groups to help other people in need.