A Canadian reverend who became a national hero in Taiwan

A reé Canadian reverend who became a national hero in Taiwan

Taiwan marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Reverend and Canadian physician George Leslie Mackay.

TAIPEI – He may be unknown in Canada, but he has profoundly transformed Taiwan. The island celebrates this year the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Reverend and physician George Leslie Mackay. He founded a hospital, a university and the first school for girls in Taiwan.

The light changes slowly and offers the promise of a magnificent sunset. Taiwanese approach a bronze statue to take a picture of it in this setting. This is the representation of a bearded priest, kneeling.

It is here that George Leslie Mackay says he found his vocation, to transform Taiwan that he has so much loved. It landed on the banks of the Tamsui River (in what is now New Taipei City) 150 years ago.

A few streets away, the first Canadian Presbyterian missionary to set foot in Taiwan founded the island's first university a few years later, in 1882. The institution was then called Oxford College in honor of the Ontario county. where he is from.

Reverend Mackay has founded some sixty churches in Taiwan.

Our correspondent in Asia Philippe Leblanc will be based in Taiwan for the next few months, to help us discover this island from nearly 24 million inhabitants, its society and the challenges that drive it. And also to cover current issues throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The college is now called Aletheia University and is one of the most prestigious institutions in Taiwan. At the entrance, a garden with a bust of Reverend Mackay greets visitors in front of the original 1882 terracotta building. Signs and banners announcing Reverend Mackay's 150th birthday festivities are hung everywhere.

We want to spread the spirit of Reverend Mackay, says Zhong Min You of the Department of Health Research. history of Aletheia University. He took care of the most vulnerable, of all, and he wanted to improve their lot.

“We want to spread the spirit of Reverend Mackay,” says Zhong Min You of the history of Aletheia University.

On campus, the imposing and luxurious home of Dr. Mackay has been transformed into a museum. Artifacts and photos adorn the old salons. The tools are displayed there, a reminder of the dental care provided. The reverend, who had rudimentary training, pulled 31,000 teeth and helped with oral hygiene for Taiwanese, it is said.

It's a special place here, Zhong says Min You. It is the first western university in Taiwan and the place where the island's first museum was established, in the reading and writing room of Dr. Mackay, a great thinker.

On the conservative island in the late 1800s, Reverend Mackay founded the first school for girls. The school still exists today and is located just behind Aletheia University.

“It was the start of big changes for girls in Taiwan. Gender equality did not exist. Reverend Mackay tried to change that.

— Zhong Min You, Department of History Research, Aletheia University

Canadian missionary George Leslie MacKay is little known in Canada, but adored in Taiwan, which this year marks the 150th anniversary of his arrival on the island. At the end of the 19th century, this doctor, educator, anthropologist and author founded a hospital, a university and the very first school for girls in Taiwan. Our correspondent in Asia, Philippe Leblanc, retraces the journey of an extraordinary man who profoundly changed the face of this small island neighboring the Chinese giant.

George's son Leslie Mackay continued his father's work by founding a school that educated many prominent Taiwanese and politicians, now called Tam Kang High School. Former President Lee Teng-hui, who helped lead Taiwan from authoritarianism to democracy, Chung Hsin-Hsin, who reformed the education system, and Tsai Ah-hsin, who became the first Taiwanese doctor, studied there.

The modest hospital founded in 1880 by the Reverend Mackay has today become a vast network of private hospitals, an important link in Taiwan's health network .

Reverend Mackay was different from other missionaries, said David Wang, curator of the Tam Kang High School Historical Museum. He married a Taiwanese woman and he spoke Mandarin when he arrived. It facilitated his integration and above all it allowed him to evangelize more Taiwanese. He founded about sixty churches and he wanted to spread his Christian faith by founding everything he founded. Medicine and education was also a way to reach people to talk about God.

“Reverend Mackay was different from other missionaries, says David Wang, curator of the historical museum from Tam Kang High School. He married a Taiwanese woman and he spoke Mandarin when he arrived. It made his integration easier. »

A few streets further on, still in the historic district of Tamsui, a chef is busy in the kitchen. He prepares a special dish with broccoli, cabbage, carrots and green beans. Doctor Mackay's meal is on the menu in very limited quantities every day at Between Restaurant. Only five lucky people can taste it every day.

It's also his legacy, says Between restaurant owner Eason Won.

“Mackay brought seeds from Canada and we were able to discover these vegetables that did not exist here at the time. It is thanks to him that we have them today. »

— Eason Won, restaurant owner Between

Doctor Mackay's legacy in Taiwan is also culinary, explains Eason Won, owner of Between restaurant.

It's a story that Eason Won likes to tell customers during the tea ceremony where he also gives them a taste of carrot tea. It's his way of promoting local culture and surprising a few customers who have seen the monuments, statues and streets dedicated to Mackay without knowing his full story.

Originally from Zorra , in Oxford County, Ontario, George Leslie Mackay died in 1901, at the age of 57, of throat cancer. He was buried on the grounds of Tam Kang High School with his family and descendants, close to the historic places he founded in Taiwan.

A commemorative stamp has even produced to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Dr. Mackay. A sign of the importance of the commemorations, the President of Taiwan participated in the ceremony. Taiwan wants to pay tribute to the immense legacy of George Leslie Mackay who transformed and modernized the island.

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