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Missionary gets credit from Taiwan’s oldest newspaper

TAIPEI (SE): In celebrating its 130th anniversary, the Chinese-language Taiwan Church News—the first newspaper ever published in Taiwan—launched a commemorative pen as a tribute to the British missionary, Thomas Barclay, who founded the publication in 1885 and devoted his life to the people of the island.

In memory of Barclay, each pen carries a carving of his signature and is housed in a box covered with a depiction of an early edition of the newspaper.

The edition was printed in Romanised Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) using peh-oe-ji orthography, or Church romanisation, Taiwan Church News director, Fang Lan-ting, said.

Fang explained that the publication grew from the Taiwan Prefecture City Church News, first issued on 12 July 1885—the first newspaper published in Taiwan.

“The publication has been running since its inception, surviving a Japanese colonial government ban and Chinese Nationalist Party censorship that prohibited the use of romanised vernaculars,” Fang said.

“The newspaper is not simply a religious publication, although it was created to evangelise the Taiwanese population and encourage people to read the bible and disseminate information about the Church,” Fang said.

He pointed out that having lived through Japanese colonialism, two world wars and the former Nationalist Party regime, the newspaper has been an observer, with the authorities impounding editions that ran articles on forbidden topics.

Fang explained that Barclay founded the Theological College and Seminary in 1876, following his arrival in Tainan from Scotland in the previous year. He committed himself to Taiwan until his death in 1935.

Barclay introduced the first printing press in Taiwan, of which the news agency built a replica for educational purposes in 2013.

He played a critical role in mediating with the Japanese forces prior to the capitulation of Tainan on 20 October 1895, six months after China ceded Taiwan to Japan after losing the First Sino-Japanese War.

On the eve of the Japanese army’s advance on Tainan, Barclay and an English missionary, Duncan Ferguson, persuaded the Japanese commander and governor of Taiwan, Nogi Maresuke, not to take punitive measures following the capitulation.

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the Tainan surrender and Barclay’s peacemaking efforts. 

Fang pointed out that the newspaper commissioned an award-winning local pen manufacturer to design and produce the commemorative ballpoint pen.


The 1,300 pens produced were designed to symbolise the progressive power of the printed word.

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