Mr. Chien Shih 施乾 先生
Mr. Shih and family, 1939
Mr. Chien Shih
The Pioneer of the Taiwanese Humanitarian
Mr. Shih was born in Tam-Sui (淡水.) Graduated from Taipei Engineering Institute (台北州工業學校) in 1917, Shih soon was employed by the Taipei (Japanese) Governor’s administration as a civil engineer, a job envied by many. He could have simply lived a very comfortable life with newly wedded wife in 1922. Yet he eventually chose to establish a house called Love-Love Home (愛愛寮) accepting the beggars/panhandlers all over the northern Taiwan.
In order to provide more information to the public, Shih had published four books about the beggars – [Who Are the Beggars] [The Elimination of the Beggars] [The Life of the Beggars] and [Introduction to the Beggars Elimination Association] 《乞食是什麼》《乞食撲滅論》《乞丐社會的生活》《乞丐撲滅協會--宣言, 要旨, 規約.》 His efforts had made a big wave that his stories were reported by a famous Japanese writer that led to the special award by the Japanese emperor in 1928.
Shih’s children also voluntarily stayed in Love-Love House and helped those less fortunate people back on their feet by educating them and farming skills. It was not uncommon to see the House hosted more than 200 beggars lived and worked together with Shih and his family. The first sight (or smell) of the House may not be pretty, but the warmth and love, though invisible, was overwhelming.
Shih’s wife died prematurely in 1932. In 1934 Shih married to Kyomizu Teruko (清水照子) - a Japanese lady who had devoted all her life to help the beggars long after Shih suffered a critical stroke and passed away in 1944.
It should be noted that Shih’s daughter, Shih Shiang (施香,) from his second marriage, married to Rev. Pek-Chong Hong (洪伯宗) who I knew from the Tainan Seminary forty some years before. And as one may know, no such a good deed can be done by one alone. Many humanitarians at that time helped Shih too. In his writings, Shih emphasized that the beggars were the bottom of the social problems which could not be ignored.
One of the big helpers was Mrs. Lillian Dickson (http://thetaiwanese.blogspot.com/2007/11/mrs-lillian-dickson.html) who was moved by the good deeds of Shih’s Love-Love Home and decided to give a helping hand. Lillian contacted the charity organizations in the States and provided the materials as well as the moral support. Eventually Mrs. Teruko Shih (施照子 1910-2001) was converted to Christianity with a simple goal: Helping the least of the brothers and sisters.
For more than 50 years her dedication never ceased to amaze the people around her. It is said that the beggars often heard her saying in Chinese, “Jesus loves you, God bless you.” The Shih’s family members were also known to help bathing the beggars when they were first received and were taught to keep their bodies and environment clean.
Yes, it was a tough job to take care of others, especially the beggars. It was even tougher to give up a well paid job to work with the beggars all life long. And the reward was just a title “The Loving Father of the Beggars.”
No, Mr. Shih was not a beggar. He was a solid and almost the only hope for them. He and his family, among others, showed that even at the bottom of the society, life should always be with hope and future for the better.
There would always be beggars in our society, and we hope there would also be people with the spirit of Mr. Shih, to share life and hope with them.