Today I wanna bring your attention to the awesome views of Christmas lights and decorations in a small town about 45 minutes away from where I live (Pingtung City), Wanchin village, which is an interestingly intriguing and historic town in the southernmost province, Pingtung in Taiwan.
I personally found it intriguing because Wanchin village is home of the WANCHIN BASILICA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, funded over 150 years ago. And the history of the church is interwined with the efforts of the Dominican Fathers of the Holy Rosary Province from Spain who came to Wanchin to restore Catholic faith about 150 years ago, in 1858 and for the conversion of aboriginals and immigrants from China in a remote and small village in Taiwan. Their efforts unexpectedly resulted in the evangelization of Taiwan and foundation of the Catholic churches in Taiwan today. Isn’t that amazing?
Well, in around where I live (Pingtung, Kaohsiung, Tainan), you wouldn’t describe the region being the modern cities of Taiwan, rather, here the cities and the style are authentic southern Taiwanese style, which has its origin from ancient China. And of course you wouldn’t see many Western influences (except for a few places) here on the cities. Not to mention the population’s main religion is predominant Buddhism from China.
So you would find the culture of Wanchin village, shaped by Wanchin Basilica and its believers of local residents (80% Catholic) for over 150 years standing among its neighboring villages of very different crowds very charming!
Each year, on the whole month of December, the residents would decorate their houses with Christmas lights and miniatures of story of nativity and there will be a big parade of THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.
The local custom of Christmas celebration is not only the major event for the Catholic community in Taiwan, it has also become a yearly activity that attracts national attention of the Catholics and tourist crowd from all over Taiwan.
If you envision the parade being a traditional European Catholic parade of THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, then you would be wrong! Because the Church has been in Wanchin for so many years, that it has evolved to Wanchin’s own unique style of Catholic religion that blent in the local culture and culture from the European influence brought upon by the Fathers of Church. Even the preaching on Sundays are in Taiwanese dialect, which can only be heard in Wanchin throughout Taiwan.
Here below is some history of the building by the Church itself.
The building of the Church
With a good group of Christians in the Village, Fr. Sainz decided to build a simple Church. In May 1863, he spent 60 yuan to purchase the land in order to build the simple mud church for the mission. Two years later, on October 13, 1865, the church was destroyed by an earthquake. Since the original church was also too small of the growing number of Christians, Fr.Sainz and the people decided to build a bigger and stronger Church.
With financial help from the Dominican Fathers and generous contributions from the faithful, enough money was collected to build a new church . The property was too small for this purpose and by the end of October,1869, Fr Francisco Herce purchased some hectares of land to amplify the Church grounds and for the use of the Christians. Fr. Herce, who was living in Kaohsiung, sent Liu Ah Chang, a trusted and able catechist to supervise the construction of the mission church.
Due to the past experiences with the neighboring settlers, it was decided that the Church adopt the style of a Spanish fortress-castle. This can be seen in the church’s new dimensions: 45 feet wide, 116 feet long, 25 feet high and with walls 5 feet thick, using the best materials for the construction used at the time, such as honey, lime and eggs. This enabled the Church building to be used as a refuge and shelter to the Christians in times of natural calamities or from attacks by enemies. This special feature of the church edifice makes it as one of the special architectural and historical monuments of Pintung county.
Other materials used in building the church were imported from Mainland China. The beams of hardwood and fire bricks were tied togheter in rafts and carried along the sea to piers of Tung Kang and from there, by oxcart, transported to Wanchin.
Most of the masons, carpenters and artisans were also from Fozhou and some from Xiamen. They left their subtle artistry in the church structure and the intricate altars and palnquins of the church. The total cost of the church was about 299 yuan for the lime, 200 yuan fro the wood and 300 yuan for the brisk. Religious vessels, vestments for church use as well as religious image which adorned the main altar were ordered by the missionaries either from Manila, and from Europe.
On 8 December, 1870, the church was finally inaugurated and placed under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sometime later, the house of the missionaries and the cathequists was built. In 1872, Fr. Herce bought some more lands to provide a decent means of livehood for the mission and the Christians. This property was to became the nucleus of the village of Wanchin.
You can see more photos of the inside of the Church here.
Today, the statue of the OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION is still standing at the entrance of village day and night to protect the village and residents. The story of faith and conversion still goes on…