Presbyterian Legacy in Tainan

Barclay Memorial Church

Early Presbyterian missionaries did more than spread Christianity on the island.

Presbyterian Legacy in Tainan

The Presbyterian Church of Taiwan is the largest Christian denomination in Taiwan and has had a long and involved history with the culture and politics of the island. People serving the church have been an evangelical force, a voice for Taiwan independence, a promoter of the Taiwanese language, and a provider of western medical practices and western education. Additionally, the church has also built many important buildings in the city of Tainan. Tainan is home to the Tainan Theological College and Seminary, Chang Jung Senior High School, Sin-lâu Hospital, the Taiwan Church Press, and of course, a few Presbyterian churches. A look into the history of some of these buildings really shows this religious body’s dedication to Taiwan’s development.

Tainan Theological College and Seminary Chapel

Tainan Theological College and Seminary Chapel

Much of the history of the Presbyterian Church in Tainan falls on the achievements of two early missionaries, Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell and Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay. Dr. Maxwell, was the first Presbyterian missionary to reside in Taiwan and is given credit for founding the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. A Scottish medical doctor, he came to Tainan in 1865 and set up the first Presbyterian church along with a medical clinic near Tainan’s west gate. During his missionary years, he remained dedicated to education and medicine and with the help of his sons he founded its first western hospital, the still operational Sin-lâu Christian Hospital. More missionaries followed Maxwell.  Fellow Scotsman Thomas Barclay, perhaps the most historically revered missionary, served in Taiwan from 1875 until his death in 1935. He founded the Tainan Theological College and Seminary in 1876, and was responsible for the inception of Taiwan’s first printed periodical, the Taiwan Church News. This was made possible when he oversaw the arrival of Taiwan’s first printing press, which was donated by Dr. Maxwell. Thomas Barclay also continued Maxwell’s work spreading an alphabet-based writing system for the Taiwanese language called Pe̍h-ōe-jī, as well as the translation and printing of Bibles into Taiwanese. During the Japanese take-over, he was a key mediator between rebel groups and the Japanese, and was awarded a medal by the Emperor of Japan for his services. He is buried in Tainan, and is commemorated by the Barclay Memorial Church and the Barclay Memorial Park.

Barclay Memorial Park

the monument at Barclay Memorial Park

Throughout the last century, the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan has been an important civic organization in Taiwan. The church has been a long-standing proponent of the Taiwanese language, Aboriginal rights, and Taiwanese independence. During the martial law years of the KMT, the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan was probably the only significant civic organization not controlled directly by the KMT government. As a result, many Presbyterian members were largely distrusted by the government and many were rounded up following the 228 incident and during the years of Taiwan’s White Terror movement. Even though the church enjoyed some free voice during these years, the 228 incident was never dared mention in its literature during martial law. When the Taiwan Church News finally featured an article about the 228 incident in 1987, the entire edition was confiscated. For more information on the history of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, check out this link.

Much of the Presbyterian legacy in Tainan can be visited around the city, with many of the buildings right within the walking tour of Dong-an Fang Culture Zone. In fact, the Tainan Theological College and Seminary, Sin-lâu Hospital, the Taiwan Church Press, and the Barclay Memorial Church are all quite interconnected, and historically ran as a large unit.

Classrooms of the Tainan Theological College and Seminary

Classrooms of the Tainan Theological College and Seminary

Tainan Theological College and Seminary (Táinán Shénxué Yuàn 台南神學院)

The remains of Barclay's residence

The remains of Barclay's residence are part of the campus gardens.

Founded by the Presbyterian missionary Dr. Thomas Barclay in 1876, the Tainan Theological College and Seminary was the first school of higher education in Taiwan. It was founded to meet the rising need of educating Taiwanese evangelists, but also offered a full range of courses including Chinese history, mathematics, and astronomy.

The campus today is a lovely one, tucked in-between the busy streets of Qingnian and Dongmen. The campus is a quiet escape with lush foliage and banyan trees separating the various buildings. It is divided into north and south sections by  Sinlau Street, which is lined with Cuban royal palms. The southern part of the campus has the nicest buildings, including a Romanesque chapel and the classrooms of Barclay Memorial Building, both built in 1957. In the heart of the northern section are the brick remains of Barclay’s residence, which was torn down in 1990.

Location: No. 117 Dongmen Road (東門路), Section 1, East District, Tainan City (can also be accessed from Qingnian Rd. next to the Taiwan Chruch Press)

Sin Lau Christian Hospital

Sin Lau Christian Hospital

Sin-lâu Hospital (Xīnlōu Yīyuàn 新摟醫院)

Tainan’s current Christian hospital began with the work of the missionary Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell. Dr. Maxwell started his first clinic on Tainan’s west side, but set up another on the east side in a building that is now Tainan School for the Deaf. They referred to that building as Jiùlóu, or old building. The current hospital was set up at its current location in 1900. It is called Xīnlōu, or new building, but is usually written in Pe̍h-ōe-jī script as Sin-lâu. Maxwell’s son, James Laidlaw Maxwell Jr., helped found the hospital with his father and worked in the hospital from 1900 to 1923. Mrs. Thomas Barclay, a nurse, also worked closely with the hospital. There is a statue of Maxwell in front of the hospital and an exhibition hall dedicated to Maxwell inside the hospital, but the hall can only be viewed by appointment.

Phone: (06) 2748316

Location: No. 57 Dongmen Road (東門路), Section 1, East District, Tainan City

the Taiwan Church Press building

the Taiwan Church Press building

Taiwan Church Press (Táiwān Jiàohuì Gōngbào 台灣教會公報)

Next to the north entrance of the seminary on Qingnian Road is the Taiwan Church Press building. This is not a particularly historic building, but it is the home of the historic Taiwan Church News. Because the seminary owned Taiwan’s first printing press, this was the first printed periodical in Taiwan. It used a Taiwanese script called Pe̍h-ōe-jī which was taught by the missionaries to a largely illiterate population as they felt it was easier to learn than Chinese characters. In Pe̍h-ōe-jī script, the Taiwan Church News is called Tâi-oân-hú-siâⁿ Kàu-hōe-pò. Bibles were also printed in this script and made available to both aboriginals and Han Taiwanese. The press was shut down during World War II, as all the missionaries were expelled from the island, but was reestablished under the KMT. The KMT, however, outlawed Pe̍h-ōe-jī script in 1969 and so the publication has been written in Traditional Chinese ever since. In its current form, the Taiwan Church News is a weekly magazine. The Sinlau Christian Bookstore now takes up the first level of the building, selling Christian books.

Location: No. 334 Qingnian Road (Cingnian Rd. 情年路), East District, Tainan City

Tainan East Gate Barclay Memorial Church

Tainan East Gate Barclay Memorial Church

Tainan East Gate Barclay Memorial Church (Táinán Dōngmén Bākèlǐ Jìniàn Jiàohuì 台南東門巴克禮紀念教會)

Originally the East Gate Presbyterian Church, this location has hosted sermons as far back as 1903. The current building dates from 1926 and retains its original style. It is a rather small, basilica-style brick chapel with a round front porch. The text along the porch of the church is written in Pe̍h-ōe-jī script. In 2003, the church was renamed the Tainan East Gate Barclay Memorial Church to commemorate the mission work of Thomas Barclay.

Barclay and his wife helped to develop this church. Later, pastoral duties were taken over by the seminary’s first Taiwanese president, Rev. Dr. Shoki Coe. Years on, it is still an active Presbyterian church with regular services.

There are many other Presbyterian churches in Tainan. Some of the other historic ones are the Kan-Hsi Street Church, and the Maxwell Memorial Church.

Location:  No. 187 Dongmen Road (東門路), Section 1, East District, Tainan City

The Chung Jung Boys High School

The Chung Jung Boys High School

Chang Jung Boys and Girls High Schools (Zhǎngróng Zhōngxué  長榮中學)

While the Tainan Theological College and Seminary took care of higher learning in the city, there was still the need for basic education. A missionary named Hugh Ritchie and his wife took up the challenges of promoting basic education and were largely responsible for the beginnings of Taiwan’s first secondary schools for both boys and girls. Hugh Ritchie died of illness before the completion of the Presbyterian Middle School, but his wife stayed in Taiwan and saw that the Presbyterian Middle School for girls was also completed. Both of these schools still function today as the only protestant private high schools in the city.

Chung Jung Boys' High School Chapel

Chung Jung Boys' High School Chapel

The boys’ school was founded in 1885 at the site of today’s school for the deaf. It moved to its present location in 1915. The name of the school was changed to Chang Jung High School after World War II. The original school building, known as the old house, is still on campus and is a city heritage building. Its red brick facade and symmetrical style were the architectural inspirations for the rest of the campus, which is an attractive collection of buildings and greenery that are well worth a look.

The girls’ school was built in 1887 on its present site and the original school building remains as part of the campus. Later buildings were added in 1923. The Chang Jung Building is a U-shaped structure with a brick arcade and octagonal steeple. It is also a protected heritage building.

Even though these buildings are on the tourist map, they are functioning schools and can only be visited with permission. On a Sunday, I was allowed to walk freely on the boys’ campus, but was disallowed entrance to the girls’ campus.

Location: Boys’ School is No. 79 Linsen Road (林森路), Section 2, East District, Tainan City; Girls’ School is No. 135 Zhangrong Road (Changrong Rd. 長榮路), Section 2, East District, Tainan City

5 Responses to “Presbyterian Legacy in Tainan”
  1. Rev. Ying C. Kuo 郭應啟 牧師 says:

    Is there any church in the Tainan Theological College and Seminary? I heard someone told me that on Saturday, May 7th there will be a funeral memorial service of 紀貞艷老師 at the church. If it is correct, would you be so kind to let me know, who is the Pastor to perform that memorial service? And how I can contact that Pastor? Does that particular Reverend have an e-mail that I can contact with? Your answer will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.

    God’s blessings!

    Rev. Ying C. Kuo

    • tainancity says:

      There is a chapel at the college. I got married in it. I don’t believe it has regular services or a regular pastor; rather it can be rented for weddings and other special services. To find out more, you would have to contact the college directly. Phone: 886-6-2371291~4

  2. The two photos of East Gate Barclay Church are stunning!

  3. Wenyou says:

    May I know Chang Jung University also part of the Presbyterian legacy?

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