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Photo book on Catholic churches depicts history of Taiwan

Nicholas Fan's celebrated book showcases Wanjin Church and Jiaping Church in the island nation

Photo book on Catholic churches depicts history of Taiwan

A view of the Minor Basilica of Immaculate Conception in Wanjin, Taiwan. (Photo: Ya-Hui Escuro Huang/Facebook)

Published: December 23, 2021 03:38 AM GMT

Updated: December 23, 2021 07:28 AM GMT

A new photography book on two heritage Catholic churches has been receiving an enthusiastic public response as it offers new insights into the history of Taiwan.

Photographer Nicholas Fan's A Tale of Two Churches — Faith and Love by Dawu Mountain showcases photographs of two churches — Wanjin Church, the oldest Catholic church in Taiwan, and Jiaping Church, the first aboriginal Catholic church in Taiwan.

Taipei Times reported a fervent response to the photographic work comes as public interest in Taiwanese history increased significantly following two highly successful TV series — Seqalu: Formosa 1867 and Gold Leaf

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Observers say the surge in interest about Taiwanese history is largely credited to political and military tensions in Taiwan amid intensified military pressure by China and fear of an invasion in recent months.

Established in 1870 by Spanish Dominican missionaries, the Minor Basilica of Immaculate Conception, popularly known as Wanjin Church, is a historic landmark and important pilgrimage site in Wanjin village in Pingtung County.  

Fan said village daily life, action and events revolve around Catholicism, and villagers plan lavish celebrations for religious festivals including Christmas, Easter and the Assumption of Mary.

Fan was reminded of the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities when considering the two churches, so close in location yet so disparate in history

In 1984, Pope John Paul II conferred the title of basilica on Wanjin Church, making it the first church in Taiwan to receive such an honor.

Jiaping Church, situated about 3.6 kilometers from Wanjin Church, was established about a century later. It was designed by Father Tu Yung-hsiung, a member of the Rukai aboriginal community. The Jiaping area is home to the Paiwan aboriginal community.

Fan was reminded of the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities when considering the two churches, so close in location yet so disparate in history.

Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, was formerly known as Formosa. It is a sovereign and democratic nation, though it has never officially declared independence. China still considers Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to annex it militarily.

Due to strong opposition from China, Taiwan does not have sovereign status at the United Nations. It has diplomatic relations with 14 countries and maintains unofficial and economic relations with some 47 states.

The Vatican is the only European state to have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, while the United States is its strongest ally.

Official statistics say Buddhists make up about 35 percent of Taiwan's population of 24 million, Taoists 33 percent and non-religious about 19 percent. Christians account for about 4 percent.

The Taiwanese Church today has an estimated 300,000 Catholics in one archdiocese and six dioceses, with a significant number being refugees from mainland China, according to church sources. Migrant Catholics, mostly Vietnamese, Filipinos and Indonesians, are estimated to comprise around 100,000.

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