The Taiwanese 台灣人 Tâi-Oân Lâng

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mr. Chhòa Pôe-Hóe 蔡培火 先生

Mr. Chhòa Pôe-Hóe 蔡培火 先生
1889 - 1983

"We the Taiwanese” (Lán Tâi-Oân 咱臺灣)

Like Mr. Ko Tióng (高長), Chhòa Pôe-Hóe (蔡培火) was originally from Hok-Kiàn Choân-Chiu (福建 泉州). Chhòa was settled and raised mainly by his mother at Pak-Káng (北港) Taiwan, shortly after his father passed away.

He was excellent in his school years. He entered the Governor’s Normal Institute (one of the highest educational institutions then) at the age of 18. Upon graduation in 1910, he took the teaching job in public school.

With his strong Taiwanese identity, along with Lîm Hiàn-Tông (
林獻堂) and Chhòa Hūi-Jû (蔡惠如,) Chhòa joined the Taiwan Tông-Hòa Society (台灣同化會). Even though the membership reached some three thousand, it lasted only two months due to the order of the Japanese Governor’s Office.

With the financial assistance from relatives and friends, Chhòa studied advanced physics and chemistry in Tokyo. 1920 He started the Taiwan Civil News (Bîn-Pò 台灣民報) as editor and publisher. Like many intellectuals at that time, he also joined the Taiwan Cultural Association (台灣文化協會) in 1923. He continued to raise the Taiwanese identity and other issues that he was eventually thrown in jail under the Japanese ‘Security Police Orders’ (治安警察法.)

His active social involvement stopped in 1937 when the war between Japan and China began. Chhòa stayed in Tokyo for a while then went on to Shanghai in 1942. He joined the KuoMingTang (KMT國民黨) shortly after the war.

Chhòa might be viewed as a political figure. Apparently he was more involved in educational and social movements than politics. After KMT retreated to Taiwan in 1949, Chhòa was just a political symbol for a well known Taiwanese in a KMT stage. Chhòa never had any political power. He served as a show-case consultant.

Nevertheless, Chhòa did play some outstanding roles in various occasions. He chaired the China Red Cross/Taiwan Chapter, and started the Blood-Donate-Centers throughout the major cities. He also served as the steering committee member to help organizing the Tunghai University and Tam-Sui Industrial/Commercial Management College. He constantly preached the importance of the native Taiwanese language using the church/biblical based Peh-oē-jī (白話字.)

Chhòa had also written many poems (some are lyrics with the music.) Among them, “We the Taiwanese” (Lán Tâi-Oân 咱臺灣) was probably the most popular in the Taiwanese American communities.

To summarize his life: in the Japanese era, he promoted the Taiwanese identity against the Japanese rulers; in KMT era, he promoted the education, culture and literatures based on being a proud Taiwanese.

Chhòa was born near the end of the Chinese last emperor/dynasty, grew up in the Japanese ruling time and spent second part of his life in the shadow of the KMT. When he passed away in 1983, Taiwan was not far away from her first democratic elected president. Chhòa would have been very happy to see for himself and raised his hands and sang “We the Taiwanese!”

His writings were later edited and published in seven volumes. (蔡培火全集)

Honorable mentioned: An interesting book entitled “Chhòa’s Poems, Songs, and His Times” (蔡培火的詩曲及彼個時代) written by Dr. C Y Lai (賴淳彥), Chhòa’s son-in-law. (

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