Thursday, August 25, 2016
Cycling through Tainan recently, I stumbled across this forlorn-looking but intriguing building less than 100m east of the soon-to-be-buried railway line. It was locked up and there was no one around while I was there, so all I could go on are the nine Chinese characters on the stained metalwork beneath the cross. From left to right they’re pronounced: ‘Wutai Jiaohui Nankai Libai Tang.’
There are plenty of Christian places of worship in Taiwan, and it’s not unusual to see one as small as this. It was the first two characters that really caught my eye: Wutai (霧台) is an indigenous township in the mountains of Pingtung County, about 90km southeast of here as the crow flies. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful places in all of Taiwan. But for all the region’s scenic splendour, jobs are few and higher education means leaving home. Most of Wutai’s inhabitants belong to the Rukai (魯凱) tribe, and like most of Taiwan’s aborigines the majority of them are Christian. There’s long been a Rukai community in Tainan and this ‘prayer hall’ seems to be a branch of an established Rukai church elsewhere in the city. It’s perhaps no coincidence it’s also near another of the area's Christian landmarks, Tainan Theological College and Seminary.