From Far Formosa

Spoiler: Here I am at Oxford College in Tamsui, founded and built by George Mackey

So when I was planning to come to Taiwan, I read George Leslie Mackay’s From Far Formosa. The author is a very, very distant cousin, from a branch of the Mackays who went to Canada after the Clearances. (I believe we are also distant cousins through his mother’s line, since her maiden name is Sutherland, and my family is from the Sutherland branch of the Mackays. But pretty much everyone from that bit of Scotland is a cousin, so…).

Anyway, this is a book about his time in Taiwan as a missionary. I’m really conflicted about it: He writes about learning to speak Chinese, and the local dialects too, man, and how difficult it was without formalized classes and dealing with local accents, but he’s persevered, and I think, that’s right, Cousin George! 加油!  He writes about how various tribes, social groups, and classes will pronounce the same character completely differently, and about different titles and introductions, so I get the feeling he really understood Chinese, not just the Taxi Chinese I have.

But then he talks about bringing Christ to the backwards heathens, and I cringe. Ugh, I know it’s the 1700s, but seriously, Cousin George.

A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

Anyway, I’m fascinated by the locations he describes in the book, and I’m hoping to track them down and see what’s still there today.

Part 2: Mackay Street & The Complications of Anglicizing Chinese

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