Ji Wang was brought up in the isolated Sediq tribal village of Jiawan above the Toroko Gorge on the rugged mountainous east coast of Taiwan, but she was eager to know more about the outside world. In 1890, at the age of 18 she was purchased for marriage by a Taiwanese merchant named Mahung, and together they built up a prosperous trade in Hualien. Within a few months, however, robbers murdered her husband. She again married a Taiwanese trader named Sing Chi Yung, and they moved west of Hualien. In 1895 they had a daughter named Aging before her husband left her.
In 1895, when she was in her twenties and well-known among the Japanese and several tribal peoples due to her experience in trade, she was conscripted by the Japanese to attempt peace-making efforts with the Taiwanese. From 1896 to 1906, Ji Wang served as a go-between to create an uneasy peace between the new Japanese colonizers and the head-heating tribal people. She was fluent in Taiwanese and her own language and understood enough Japanese to serve as interpreter. Her personal intervention in dangerous confrontations while traveling widely through the villages brought about a period of cooperation. Part of her compensation was a large house in Hualien provided by the Japanese, and gifts brought by the tribal peoples.
In 1906, Ji Wang married yet another Taiwanese named Lim Kahing, who became heavily involved in drinking, gambling and womanizing. (Only 17 years later did she discover that he had another wife and three children in his hometown on the western plains.) In 1925, he left her with a mountain of debts; creditors took her house and possessions, leaving her destitute.
?But it may have been through the mother of this husband that Ji Wang came to faith in Christ. Her mother-in-law had heard the gospel in the Chang Hua Christian Hospital near Taizhong and was a sincere believer. A missionary visiting her home there around 1925 found her and Ji Wang singing hymns from the Taiwanese hymnbook, using aboriginal tunes. Later, the missionary again encountered Ji Wang, in the home of a tribal girl who had studied at a Christian girls’ school.
During these years, the Sediq and other tribes were sequestered in a type of reservation bordered by an electric fence and monitored by Japanese police stations purportedly intended to “protect” them from outsiders, including “exploitation” by Taiwanese merchants. The Japanese did not interfere with tribal language and customs, with the exception of head hunting. This included traditional rituals involving taboos and ancestor worship, to which the Japanese sought to add Shinto shrine attendance as a show of loyalty.
This subjection to the Japanese and loss of the central ritual of head hunting led to the loss of cultural equilibrium and sense of identity, which the introduction of the Christian Gospel helped to address, leading to a people movement to Christ that was at its heights by 1945.
Ji Wang was the central figure in this reconciliation of the tribe with God. Because of her personal difficulties, Ji Wang had begun to think about God and her relationship to Him, and made a decision to follow Christ with the help of a Taiwanese Presbyterian pastor named Li Shiu-che. He tried to help her in her difficulties, comforting her with God’s word. She then attended the church in Hualien for a year and was baptized on June 1, 1924. For at least five years she kept this secret from her own people, however.
In 1929, Canadian Presbyterian missionary James Dickson, wanting to reach the tribal people despite Japanese prohibition, encouraged her to receive training at the Presbyterian Bible school [for girls?] in Dan Shui. Despite her health problems at the age of 57, a lack of any previous schooling, and also her resentment against Taiwanese prejudice against her people, she enrolled in the two-year program. This lasted only six or eight months, but served to feed her sense of calling, and her abilities, for evangelism. She was appointed as a minister of the Women’s Missionary Society of the North Synod of the Presbyterian Church. Living in a Taiwanese village near her old home in the Sediq tribal area, but with less strict controls than the tribal villages, she was able to teach small groups of Sediq who came to her home under the cover of darkness. She passed on the Christian message in oral Japanese; few could read the highly literary Japanese Bible but they memorized the many Scripture stories they heard.
As the numbers of tribal believers grew, they met secretly in caves or the mountains on Sundays for worship and the sharing of testimonies. Sometimes Ji Wang embarked on teaching tours, often being smuggled between villages wrapped in bags or blankets. By 1945, Ji Wang in secret had selected small committees with head men to lead the informal communities of believers, with some mentoring by the Taiwanese Presbyterian church in Hualien. With the departure of the Japanese, there were groups of believers in every village who could now be baptized at the church (500 in the first year alone) and form their own churches for the first time. (Most Sediq knew only Japanese, not Taiwanese). By 1949, 5000 Sediq had been baptized, the fruit of the faith and efforts of Ji Wang, who died in 1946 at the age of 74.
- Ralph R. Covell, The Liberating Gospel in China: The Christian Faith among China�s Minority Peoples. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995
- and, Pentecost of the Hills in Taiwan: The Christian Faith among the Original Inhabitants. Pasadena, Ca: Hope Publishing House, 1998.