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 **

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rev. William Campbell 甘為霖 牧師

A Journey of Faith, Culture and Languages

William Campbell

When Campbell arrived Formosa from Hong Kong in late 1871, he almost lost his life (virtually he lost all of his luggages) in the strong wind and high waves. For the next forty some years however, he had made the impact, a much higher waves, to the blind communities, the central Taiwan including the aboriginal tribes, the cultural and the linguistic fields.
And yes, Rev. William Campbell was another University of Glasgow and the Free Church Divinity College graduate. Campbell was lovingly remembered the way Mackay was remembered, “South Campbell, North Mackay” (南甘為霖,北馬偕.)

Like many missionaries in his time, his base was in Tainan. Yet he traveled all over Taiwan, reaching the central mountain areas, the Sun-Moon Lake (日月潭- believed to be the first missionary appearance,) Peng-Hu (澎湖), and as southeast as Lam-Su (蘭嶼). In 1891 Campbell started a school for the blind (訓瞽堂, later known as 台南啟聰學校) and introduced the Braille for them to “read” books. Later he convinced the Japanese government in Taiwan to take over his school, so he could spend most of his time writing.

As a scholar, Campbell was an extraordinary missionary in his own way. He witnessed the periods such as the Japanese Bo-Tan-Sia incident (牧丹社事件) in 1874, French sailors blocked the northern Taiwan in 1884-85, and the strong confrontation with the Japanese military in 1895. For 44 years (1871-1915) he recorded his reflections in the book, “Sketches from Formosa” (福爾摩莎素描.) One of the must-read books in studying the history of Taiwan. Campbell also introduced the first Taiwanese hymnbook with 59 hymns in 1900.

Besides preaching, Campbell asked the men to stop using opium, and the women to stop feet-binding (纏小足.) He worked closely with Dr. David Landsborough in ChangHua area to establish and nurture churches.

But his best known work was completing the “New Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy” (廈門音新字典, also known as 甘字典.) The dictionary contained 15,000 vocabularies and now in its 15th edition. It has been widely considered the bible of the Taiwanese language.

From late the 19th century to early the 20th century, Campbell watched the changes in Taiwan, from the corruptions of the Ching Dynasty (滿清) officials to the efficiency of the Japanese ruling. Even though the strong anti-Japan feelings were among the Taiwanese locals then, Campbell concluded that for the long run, he would pick Japan over the Ching’s.

While he was not working as a preacher, he traveled, read and wrote. Besides his classic book “Sketches from Formosa,” his “The Success of the Mission in Formosa” (1889 臺灣宣教之成功) and the “Formosa under the Dutch” (1903 荷蘭統治下的臺灣) are among the most valuables.

He received the award from the Japanese government for his education of the blind in July 1915. Two months later, he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree from the Knox College (a member school of the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto) for his achievements in languages, ministries and historical studies.

In 1917, Rev. Campbell retired and returned to his home in England. He passed away peacefully on September 9, 1921.

What a well taken journey!

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