The Taiwanese 台灣人 Tâi-Oân Lâng

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dr. Wu Fu Chen 陳五福 醫師

  • Dr. Wu Fu Chen
  • Wufu Clinic of Ophthalmology, Lo-Tung
  • Moo-Kuang Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, Tung-San

Give Them the Light

Dr. Wu Fu Chen was one of those people I wish I had met in person. I always wanted to meet someone who had dedicated so much of his life for the less fortunate. I would like to shake his hand, to chat with him, to sense his insightful life philosophy, and to catch his spirit.

Dr. Chen might be a quiet person. I have heard of his stories many times, but never heard him talk. Perhaps like many humble Taiwanese, he let his deeds do the talking. He had been remembered well for his devotion to communities, especially to the blind. He was also lovingly known as "The Dr. Schweitzer of Taiwan," and "The Father of the Blind."

Chen was not just another ophthalmologist. For some forty years, along with his wife and co-workers, they had given hope to countless blind people through his ‘Moo-Kuang Rehabilitation Center for the Blind’ (慕光盲人重建中心, Moo-Kuang: longing for the light) – the hope of being independent, living with dignity and joy, and being able to see through and beyond.

Chen’s given name Wu Fu (五福) means five-happiness. The common sense is the more happiness the better. In Chen’s heart, as a devoted Christian, was the more shared happiness the better. He was raised in a rural area with eight elder siblings. Running a small grocery store, his parents must have saved every penny to put him through schools. During his Lo-Tung elementary school (羅東公學校) and Keelung middle school (基隆中學) years, he had learned something a lot more important than reading, writing and obtaining knowledge. He had learned how to live as decent as possible, with oneself and with others. He believed that a decent life must be built on a decent community. One could never be an isolated island.

While in Taipei Imperial Medical School (later became National Taiwan University Medical School,) he had chosen to be an ophthalmologist, not a profitable field then. He continued his advanced medical study in Japan (日本福島醫科大學.) He then worked at the National Taiwan University Hospital. Chen could have stayed working right there if he chose to. Yet he dreamed more than the simple five-happiness. Chen dreamed of perhaps a thousand times of five-happiness, not for him, but for those who were poorer, blind or near-blind.

He had a not-so-secret mentor, Dr. Albert Schweitzer. For six years, Chen was one of Schweitzer’s worldwide correspondents. If Dr. Schweitzer could do those wonderful works for black people in Africa, Chen thought, why could he not do the same for his fellow Taiwanese?

He went back to his hometown Lo-Tung/Yee-Lan (羅東/宜蘭,) north-eastern corner of Taiwan, and opened up his own Wufu Clinic of Ophthalmology (五福眼科.) At first, he just carried a case of equipment and medicine, rode on his bicycle all over the country site to help the sick and the blind. Not long after, he expanded his medical practice to a rehabilitation center for the blind. Eventually Dr. Chen, as the books described later, became the light of that part of the world. He cured more than a patient visions, he gave them the light of life.

Chen was quoted saying, "Without giving the blind a chance to improve their vision and life, we are giving them a near-death sentence." He gave them hope. He provided the poor patients free services. He soon drew many big-heart people all over Taiwan to help him in his mission.

During his life time (1918 – 1997) Chen received Social Service Award from Taiwanese American Foundation (臺美基金會: 社會服務獎 1983,) Love Award from Chung-Sian Wu (吳尊賢: 愛心獎,) and Medical Award from San-Len Wu (吳三連: 醫學獎) among other honors.

“A blind can do all sort of things, except driving a car, or being a surgeon,” Chen once said. To follow that line, a physician can do just about all sort of things except making a dead person alive. And as Schweitzer made so many black people 'alive' in Africa, Chen did his share to make many blind people see that it was, after all, a beautiful world, full of loving people.

Like many talented Taiwanese during that period of time, Chen pursued one of the few fields allowed: the field of medicine. As it turned out, Chen was not a doctor who built himself a fortune, but a doctor who built a spiritual 'kingdom' where love alone rules and enlightens.

Shortly before his death, Chen sincerely asked his family members and closed friends to keep on looking after the blind, the poor and the sick. On November 8, 1997, Dr. Chen, an elder of a local church, after years of fighting liver cancer, passed away. Moo-Kuang Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Wu Fu Clinic remain open. One of the key workers is Dr. Chen's son-in-law, Dr. Y M Lin (林逸民醫師.)

Today in Taiwan, many medical students are searching for a role model. Dr. W F Chen, a quiet native physician, would be the outstanding one for all.

All three pictures above were taken from

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