Red Brick Daily
October 5, 2016 marked the 82nd anniversary of the death of Thomas Barclay (1849-1935) … who arrived in Taiwan in 1875 as the fifth Presbyterian Church of England missionary ever sent to the island.
Barclay (巴克禮) was a pretty cool dude. Aside from founding the Tainan Theological College and Seminary in 1876, he was also responsible for overseeing the translation of the Bible from English into Taiwanese — or what was then called “Hokkien.”
His Taiwanese New Testament came out in 1916 and he finished the Old Testament in 1932.
The missionary used the “Peh-oe-ji Romanization” system to help people learn to read and write in Hokkien, the predecessor to Hoklo, or what many now call “Taiwanese.”
In 1885, Barclay founded the Taiwan Church News, a Hoklo-language newspaper. It continues to this day.
Barclay arrived in 1875 … lived in Taiwan for 60 years … and never left. He is buried in the Presbyterian section of the public cemetery in Tainan.
Barclay is lauded by some as the man who introduced Western education to south Taiwan — a big break with traditional Chinese educational norms of the day.
Barclay’s methods directly inspired the later establishment of Tainan’s first high school: Chang Jung Senior High School — and the first female high school: Chang Jung Girl’s High School.
But above and beyond his religious and educational work, Barclay would go down in history as the man who kind of “saved” Tainan …
When China lost to Japan and signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 … there was a brief Republic of Formosa rebellion led by instigators from Tainan.
The Japanese had allegedly made their intentions clear: when they took over Taiwan, they intended to make an example of Tainan — the “capital” of the rebel government.
Barclay — a Scotsman — would prove instrumental in negotiating the peaceful takeover of Tainan City by the Japanese.
As forces from both sides arrayed to fight in late 1895, Barclay came out from the walls of Tainan to mediate with the Japanese. He persuaded the defenders to surrender … and convinced the invaders against taking punitive measures.
The city was not looted or destroyed.
Today in Tainan there is a church and a memorial park that bear his name.
On October 20, 2016, the Tainan City Government held an event to commemorate Barclay, reenacting his negotiation with the Japanese.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)