The Taiwanese 台灣人 Tâi-Oân Lâng

Welcome to the Taiwanese Site! This is a collection of the stories of the past Taiwanese who had contributed to Taiwan in various aspects. We encourage readers' comments. Contact point, email contact at or ** Last Update April 26, 2012 **

Monday, March 20, 2006

Rev. Dr. George Leslie Mackay 馬偕 牧師

A painting reflects Dr. Mackay's missionary acts

George Leslie Mackay's family / Dr. Mackay and students in the open-air tooth-extracting service

A Missionary Known as a Dentist with a Nickname The Black-Bearded Barbarian《黑鬚番》

“O Formosa, so far away and so beautiful.
ou are the love of my life. I love you all, each and every one of you, regardless of your origin and the past. To serve you with the only Good News I know. Here is my life for you, a thousand times and more…” ***

The journey began on October 1871, George Leslie Mackay (馬偕牧師, aka 偕叡理牧師) left his home in Oxford, Ontario, Canada, took a train to San Francisco, California. He then boarded a ship for the longest trip of his life, stopping in Japan, Hong Kong and various spots in southeast China, finally arriving in Kaohsiung (aka Takao) Taiwan on Dec. 29 1871. By his account, “I was pulled by an invisible string to an unknown place. But when that beautiful view of the green mountains on the island came to me, all was cleared that this was where my life would like to be.”

Upon the finding that there was no missionary working in the northern part of Taiwan, accompanied by Rev. Hugh Ritchie (李庥牧師) and Dr. M. Dickson (德馬太醫師) from the south, on March 7 1872, Mackay entered Tam-Sui (淡水) which later became his home and the base of his legend.

After the initial contact to Taiwanese language with Ritchie, Mackay continued his study of the 'street talk' from a local cow boy and learned Chinese literature at night for another 6 months. When he began preaching, a few paid attentions to what he had to say, but many were making jokes out of his accent and probably did not care much at all of what he was talking about. He was often “greeted” by stones, raw eggs, suspicious and hostile looks and once a bucket of human wastes. He was usually called ‘hoan-a’ (番仔, the uncivilized) until it was stopped by the local officials in 1886. He suffered malaria on the Jan. 1 1873. He overcame all of those difficulties somehow.

Gradually the believers were baptized and the churches were built. Of course Mackay could never have done it alone. Besides the locals, he constantly received help from the Presbyterian Church in Canada:· 1875 Dr. B. Fraser (華雅各醫師)· 1878 Rev. and Mrs. K. Junor (羅虔益牧師夫婦)· 1892 Rev. and Mrs. William Gauld (吳威廉牧師夫婦)Mackay eventually gained the trust of the Taiwanese people, a major step to success for missionary work anywhere.

His mission network continued to expand in Taiwan. Among the earliest encounters:

  • December 29 1879, Mackay visited Dr. Thomas Barclay (巴克禮牧師) in Tainan where Dr. Barclay founded Tainan Theological College (台南神學院) three years earlier (1876.)
  • August of 1898, Dr. D. Landsborough Sr. (蘭大衛醫師) the founder of Changhua Christian Hospital (彰化基督教醫院) and two missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of England from southern Taiwan visited Mackay.

On May 27 1878, Mackay married C. M. Chang (張聰明) The wedding ceremony was officiated by the British consulate in Tam-Sui. Now he was more than a Canadian missionary, he was a Taiwanese-son-in-law.

Graduated from the University of Toronto, Knox Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary of US and Edinburgh University of Scotland, Mackay was an ordained minister of the Canadian Presbyterian Church.

As a first missionary in northern part of Taiwan, like Dr. James Maxwell in southern Taiwan, Mackay paved the way of the modern educational, medical and religious institutions of Taiwan. The Mackay effect can still be felt clearly in Taiwan today. He was not a physician, nor a dentist, but to most, he was viewed as the best doctor and dentist there and then. Mackay was simply well connected. At one time he was accompanied by six British medical professionals. For many believers and followers, Mackay was the one who could heal both physically and spiritually.

During his almost 30-year ministry, along with his co-workers, Mackay practiced the combination of evangelical and medical/dental work to help people and got in touch with them personally. It proved to be very successful. Like most missionaries, Mackay traveled and spoke extensively to the western world and received offerings to help his mission. The result: many patients tendered, more than 10000 teeth pulled, and more than 3000 people baptized. Through the help of the Canadian, US and local friends, he had helped established more than 60 local churches, the very first girls’ school (淡水女學堂) and the Oxford School (牛津學堂) which was the foundation of Taiwan Theological College/Seminary, Tam-Sui middle school, and Aletheia University (台灣神學院, 淡江中學, 真理大學.)

In Sep. 4 1880, Mackay was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by the Queen's University of Canada. In June 12 1894, to show the appreciation of his work in Taiwan, the Presbyterian Church in Canada elected him the moderator of the General Assembly with special honor.

However, his never ending effort of working throughout northern Taiwan seemed to carry a human toil. At the turn of the 20th century Mackay suffered a throat cancer and virtually lost his voice. In 1900, he went to Hong Kong seeking treatment. During that time, he continued to be in touch with fellow missionaries and local pastors. He died in his home June 2 1901, survived by his wife, two daughters and a son. He was buried in Tam-Sui, a place he called home, and for many it was a sanctuary.

In "My Final Resting Place" Mackay wrote:
"How dear is Formosa to my heart!
On that island the best of my years have been spent. How dear is Formosa to my heart! A lifetime of joy is centered here. I love to look up to its lofty peaks, down into its yawning chasms, and away out on its surging seas. How willing I am to gaze upon these forever! My heart's ties to Taiwan cannot be severed! To that island I devote my life. My heart's ties to Taiwan cannot be severed! There I find my joy. I should like to find a final resting place within sound of its surf, and under the shade of its waving bamboo."

Mackay's motto: "Better to go up in flames than rust away" (寧願燒盡,不願腐銹)

In a country where many streets were named after politicians, there is a street named after Mackay, and a brass sculpture of Mackay with his well known long beard built at downtown of Tam-Sui by Taipei county. The other two "foreigners" commemorated with the street-name were President Roosevelt and General MacArthur of the US. In 1912, Mackay Memorial Hospital (馬偕紀念醫院,) one of the most advanced and best maintained hospitals in Taiwan, was built and opened to the public, eleven years after his death. On June 1, 2001, the 100th anniversary of George L. Mackay's death, a commemorative stamp was issued in his honor.


The poem was written by Rev. George Leslie Mackay, D.D. (1844-1901.) It was a translation from Chinese version, not a direct quote.

Related Websites:
Taiwan Theological College/Seminary (台灣神學院)TamSui Presbyterian Church (淡水教會) Mackay Memorial Hospital (馬偕紀念醫院) Aletheia University (真理大學) TamKang High School (淡水中學)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posting, truely amazing and inspiring story, seeing a foreigner who was able to dedicate his whole life to a land he was not born from, really put me to shame. keep up the good work

1:57 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Rev. George Leslie Mackay was my great, great, great Uncle..I am in Canada and have photos and some artifacts from Formosa!

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very inspiring..
I am Taiwanese, and I am very grateful for what he had done to our country.
Hello Leslie! Do you have an email or any contact information?

11:06 PM  

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