The missionary was now
becoming a familiar figure both in Tamsui
and in the surrounding country. By many he was loved, by all hd
was respected, but by a large number he was bitterly hated. The
scholars continued his worst enemies. They could never forgive
him for beating them so completely in argument, in the days when
A Hoa was striving for the light, and their hatred increased as
they saw other scholars becoming Christians under his teaching.
There was something about him, however, that compelled their
respect and even their admiration. Wherever they met him--on the
street, by their temples, or on the country roads--he bore
himself in such a way as to make them confess that he was their
superior both in ability and knowledge.
These Chinese literati
had a custom which Mackay found very
interesting. One proud scholar marching down the street and
scarcely noticing the obsequious bows of his inferiors, would
meet another equally proud scholar. Each would salute the other
in an exceedingly grand manner, and then one would spin off a
quotation from the writings of Confucius or some other Chinese
sage and say, "Now tell me where that is found." And scholar
number two had to ransack his brains to remember where the saying
was found, or else confess himself beaten. Mackay thought it
might be a good habit for the graduates of his own alma mater
across the wide sea to adopt. He wondered what some of his old
college chums would think, if, when he got back to Canada, he
should buttonhole one on the street some day, recite a quotation
from Shakespeare or Macaulay, and demand from his friend where it
could be found. He had a suspicion that the old friend would be
afraid that the Oriental sun had touched George Mackay's brain.
Nevertheless he thought
the custom one he could turn to good
account, and before long he was trying it himself. He had such a
wonderful memory that he never forgot anything he had once read.
So the scholars of north Formosa soon discovered, again to their
humiliation, that this Kai Bok-su of Tamsui could beat them at
their own game. They did not care how much he might profess to
know of writers and lands beyond China. Such were only barbarians
anyway. But when, right before a crowd, he would display a surer
knowledge of the Chinese classics than they themselves, they
began not only to respect but to fear him. It was no use trying
to humiliate him with a quotation. With his bright eyes flashing,
he would tell, without a moment's hesitation, where it was found
and come back at the questioner swiftly with another, most
probably one long forgotten, and reel it off as though he had
studied Chinese all his life.
He was a wonderful man
certainly, they all agreed, and one whom
it was not safe to oppose. The common people liked him better
every day. He was so tactful, so kind, and always so careful not
to arouse the prejudice of the heathen. He was extremely wise in
dealing with their superstitions. No matter how absurd or
childish they might be, he never ridiculed them, but only strove
to show the people how much happier they might be if they
believed in God as their Father and in Jesus Christ as their Savior. He never made light of anything sacred to the Chinese
mind, but always tried to take whatever germ of good he could
find in their religion, and lead on from it to the greater good
found in Christianity. He discovered that the ancestral worship
made the younger people kind and respectful to older folk, and he
saw that Chinese children reverenced their parents and elders in
a way that he felt many of his young friends across the sea would
do well to copy.
One day when he and A Hoa
were out on a preaching tour, the wise
Kai Bok-su made use of this respect for parents in quieting a
mob. He and his comrade were standing side by side on the steps
of a heathen temple as they had done at Kelung. The angry crowd
was scowling and muttering, ready to throw stones as soon as the
preacher uttered. a word. Mackay knew this, and when they had
sung a hymn and the people waited, ready for a riot, his voice
rang out clear and steady, repeating the fifth commandment "Honor
thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the
land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." A silence fell over the
muttering crowd, and an old heathen whose cue was white and whose
aged hands trembled on the top of his staff, nodded his head and
said, "That is heavenly doctrine." The people were surprised and
disarmed. If the black-bearded barbarian taught such truths as
this, he surely was not so very wicked after all. And so they
listened attentively as he went on to show that they had all one
great Father, even God.
He sometimes found it
rather a task to treat with respect that
which the Chinese held sacred. Especially was this so when he
discovered to his amusement and to some carefully concealed
disgust, that in the Chinese family the pig was looked upon with
affection, and as a young naval officer, who visited Mackay
remarked, "was treated like a gentleman."
Every Chinese house of
any size was made up of three buildings
joined together so as to make three sides of an enclosure. This
space was called a court, and a door led from it to another next
the street. In this outer yard pigs and fowl were always to be
found. Whenever the missionary dropped in at a home, mother pig
and all the little pigs often followed him inside the house,
quite like members of the family. Every one was always glad to
see Kai Bok-su, pigs and all, and as soon as he appeared the
order was given--"Infuse tea." And when the little handleless
cups of clear brown liquid were passed around and they all drank
and chatted, Mrs. Pig and her children strolled about as welcome
as the guest.
The Chinese would allow
no one to hurt their pigs, either. One
day as Mackay sat in his rooms facing the river, battling with
some new Chinese characters, he heard a great hubbub coming up
the street. The threatening mobs that used to surround his house
had long ago ceased to trouble him. He arose in some surprise
and went to the door to see what was the matter. A very
sight for Tamsui met his gaze. Coming up the street at a wild run
were some half-dozen English sailors, their loose blue blouses
and trousers flapping madly. They were evidently from a ship
which Mackay had seen lying in the harbor that morning.
"Give us a gun!" roared
the foremost as soon as he saw the
Mackay did not possess a
gun, and would not have given the
enraged bluejacket one had he owned a dozen. But the Chinese
mob, roaring with fury, were coming up the street after the men
and he swiftly pointed out a narrow alley that led down to the
river. "Run down there!" he shouted to the sailors. "You can get
to your boats before they find you."
They were gone in an
instant, and the next moment the crowd of
pursuers were storming about the door demanding whither the enemy
"What is all this
disturbance about?" demanded Kai Bok-su calmly,
glad of an opportunity to gain time for the fleeing sailors.
The aggrieved Chinese
gathered about him, each telling the story
as loud as his voice would permit. Those barbarians of the sea
had come swaggering along the streets waving their big sticks.
And they had dared--yes actually DARED--to hit the pet pigs
belonging to every house as they passed. The poor pigs who lay
sunning themselves at the door!
This was indeed a serious
offense. Mackay could picture the
rollicking sailor-lads gaily whacking the lazy porkers with their
canes as they passed, happily unconscious of the trouble they
were raising. But there was no amusement in Kai B ok-sn's grave
face. He spoke kindly, and soothingly, and promised that if the
offenders misbehaved again he would complain to the authorities.
That made it all right. Heathen though they were, they knew Kai Bok-su's promise would not be broken, and away they went quite
One day he learned, quite
by accident, a new and very useful way
of helping his people. He and A Hoa and several other young men
who had become Christians, went on a missionary tour to
Tek-chham, a large city which he had visited once before.
On the day they left the
place, Kai Boksu's preaching had drawn
such crowds that the authorities of the city became afraid of
him. And when the little party left, a dozen soldiers were sent
to follow the dangerous barbarian and his students and see that
they did not bewitch the people on the road.
The soldiers tramped
along after the missionary party, and with
his usual ability to make use of any situation, Mackay stepped
back and chatted with his spies. He found one poor fellow in
agony with the toothache. This malady was very common in north
Formosa, partly owing to the habit of chewing the betel-nut. He
examined the aching tooth and found it badly decayed. "There is a
worm in it," the soldier said, for the Formosan doctors had
taught the people this was the cause of toothache.
Mackay had no forceps,
but he knew how to pull a tooth, and he
was not the sort to be daunted by the lack of tools. He got a
piece of hard wood, whittled it into shape and with it pried out
the tooth. The relief from pain was so great that the soldier
almost wept for joy and overwhelmed the tooth-puller with
gratitude. And for the remainder of the journey the guards sent
to spy on the missionary's doings were his warmest friends.
After this, dentistry
became a part of this many-sided
missionary's work. He went to a native blacksmith and had a pair
of forceps hammered out of iron. It was a rather clumsy
instrument, but it proved of great value, and later he sent for a
complete set of the best instruments made in New York.
So with forceps in one
hand and the Bible in the other, Mackay
found himself doubly equipped. Every second person seemed to be
suffering from toothache, and when the pain was relieved by the
missionary, the patient was in a state of mind to receive his
teaching kindly. The cruel methods by which the native doctors
extracted teeth often caused more suffering than the toothache,
and sometimes even resulted in death through blood-poisoning.
A Hoa and some of the
other young converts learned from their
teacher how to pull a tooth, and they, too, became experts in the
Whenever they visited a
town or city after this, they had a
program which they always followed. First they would place
themselves in front of an idol temple or in an open square. Here
they would sing a hymn which always attracted a crowd. Next, any
one who wanted a tooth pulled was invited to come forward. Many
accepted the invitation gladly and sometimes a long line of
twenty or thirty would be waiting, each his turn. The Chinese
had considerable nerve, the Canadian discovered, and stood
pain bravely. They literally "stood" it, too, for there was no
dentist's chair and every man stood up for his operation, very
much pleased and very grateful when it was over. Then there were
quinine and other simple remedies for malaria handed round, for
in a Formosan crowd there were often many shaking in the grip of
this terrible disease. And now, having opened the people's hearts
by his kindness, Kai Bok-su brought forth his cure for souls. He
would mount the steps of the temple or stand on a box or stone,
and tell the wonderful old story of the man Jesus who was also
God, and who said to all sick and weary and troubled ones, "Come
unto me, . . . and I will give you rest." And often, when he had
finished, the disease of sin in many a heart was cured by the
remedy of the gospel.
And so the autumn passed
away happily and busily, and Mackay
entered his first Formosan winter. And such a winter! The young
man who had felt the clear, bright cold of a Canadian January
needed all his fine courage to bear up under its dreariness. It
started about Christmas time. Just when his own people far away
in Canada were gathering about the blazing fire or jingling over
the crisp snow in sleighs and cutters, the great winter rains
commenced. Christmas day--his first Christmas in a land that did
not know its beautiful meaning--was one long dreary downpour. It
rained steadily all Christmas week. It poured on New Year's day
and for a week after. It came down in torrents all January.
February set in and still it rained and rained, with only a
short interval each afternoon. Day and night, week in, week out,
it poured, until Mackay forgot what sunlight looked like. His
house grew damp, his clothes moldy. A stream broke out up in the
hill behind and one morning he awoke to find a cascade tumbling
into his kitchen, and rushing across the floor out into the river
beyond. And still it poured and the wind blew and everything was
damp and cold and dreary.
He caught an occasional
glimpse of snow, only a very far-off
view, for it lay away up on the top of a mountain, but it made
his heart long for just one breath of good dry Canadian air, just
one whiff of the keen, cutting frost.
But Kai Bok-su was not
the sort to spend these dismal days
repining. Indeed he had no time, even had he been so inclined.
His work filled up every minute of every rainy day and hours of
the drenched night. If there was no sunshine outside there was
plenty in his brave heart, and A Hoa 's whole nature radiated
And there were many
reasons for being happy after all. On the
second Sabbath of February, 1873, just one year after his arrival
in Tamsui, the missionary announced, at the close of one of his
Sabbath services, that he would receive a number into the
Christian church. There was instantly a commotion among the
heathen who were in the house, and yells and jeers from those
crowding about the door outside.
"We'll stop him," they shouted. "Let us beat the converts," was
But Mackay went quietly
on with the beautiful ceremony in spite
of the disturbance. Five young men, with A Hoa at their head,
came and were baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit.
When the next Sabbath
came these five with their missionary sat
down for the first time to partake of the Lord's Supper. It was a
very impressive ceremony. One young fellow broke down, declaring
he was not worthy. Mackay took him alone into his little room and
they prayed together, and the young man came out to the Lord's
Supper comforted, knowing that all might be worthy in Jesus
Spring came at last,
bright and clear, and Mackay announced to A
Hoa that they must go up the river and visit their friends at
Goko-khi. The two did not go alone this time. Three other young
men who wanted to be missionaries were now spending their days
with their teacher, learning with A Hoa how to preach the gospel.
So it was quite a little band of disciples that walked along the
river bank up to Go-ko-khi. Mackay preached at all the villages
along the route, and visited the homes of Christians.
One day, as they passed a
yamen or Chinese court-house where a
mandarin was trying some cases, they stepped in to see what was
going on. At one end of the room sat the mandarin who was judge.
He was dressed in magnificent silks and looked down very
haughtily upon the lesser people and the retinue of servants who
were gathered about him. On either side of the room stood a row
of constables and near them the executioners. The rest of the
room was filled with friends of the people on trial and by the
rabble from the street. The missionaries mixed with the former
and stood watching proceedings. There were no lawyers, no jury.
The mandarin's decision was law.
The first case was one of
theft. Whether the man had really
committed the crime or not was a question freely discussed among
the onlookers around Mackay. But there seemed no doubt as to his
punishment being swift and heavy. "He has not paid the mandarin,"
a friend explained to the missionary. "He will be punished."
"The mandarin eats cash,"
remarked another with a shrug. It was a
saying to which Mackay had become accustomed. For it was one of
the shameless proverbs of poor, oppressed Formosa.
The case was soon
finished. Nothing was definitely proven against
the man. But the mandarin pronounced the sentence of death. The
victim was hurried out, shrieking his innocence, and praying for
mercy. Case followed case, each one becoming more revolting than
the last to the eyes of the young man accustomed to British
justice. Imprisonment and torture were meted out to prisoners,
and even witnesses were laid hold of and beaten on the face by
the executioners if their tale did not suit the mandarin. Men who
were plainly guilty but Who had given their judge a liberal bribe
were let off, while innocent men were made to pay heavy fines or
were thrown into prison. The young missionary went out and on his
way sickened by the sights he had witnessed. And as he went, he
raised his eyes to heaven and prayed fervently that he might be a
faithful preacher of the gospel, and that one day Formosa would
be a Christian land and injustice and oppression be done away.
The next scene was a
happier one. There was an earnest little
band of Christians in Go-ko-khi, and two of the young people were
about to be married. It was the first Christian marriage in the
place and Kai Bok-su was called upon to officiate. There was a
great deal of opposition raised among the heathen, but after
seeing the ceremony, they all voted a Christian wedding
everything that was beautiful and good.