All posts by Catherine Lee

Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌 takes over as new President of St. John’s University, Taiwan 臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長

The SJU student team arriving at Advent Church today to help with the Handover Ceremony

St. John’s University (SJU) held a formal Handover Ceremony on July 31, 2020, at which the SJU Chair of the Board of Trustees, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang and outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay handed over the SJU presidential seal to Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌, who becomes the ninth president of SJU – and its predecessor, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology SJSMIT.

Bishop Chang (centre) with outgoing President Ay (right) and incoming President Huang (left)

The Handover Ceremony took place in the context of a Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:00 am in Advent Church, led by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and assisted by clergy of the diocese, including Rev. Keith C. C. Lee and Rev. Lily L. L. Chang who read the prayers, also members of the SJU Student Fellowship and friends who sang in the choir, and Professor Yu-Wen Chang who played the piano…

In line with Covid-19 precautions, temperatures were checked at the entrance and face-masks were worn during the service. The event was organized by St. John’s University and SJU Chaplaincy and attended by a large number of SJU faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, students and church members….

One very special guest was President Ay’s predecessor, former SJU President Chen Jean-Lien. Here she is with Hannah, Bishop Chang’s wife…

Many of the visitors were friends and colleagues of Professor Huang, including a large group of alumni from the University of Iowa, his alma mater, many wearing university T-shirts, all pictured here with Prof. Huang in the middle….

University of Iowa Alumni

Distinguished guests, who all gave short speeches, included Prof. Huang Jong-Tsun 黃榮村, President Designate of the Examination Yuan (assuming office September 1, 2020) (below left) and Minister Li Hong-Yuan 李鴻源, former Minister of the Interior, attending as a dean of the University of Iowa (below right)….

Also former Taoyuan County Mayor John Zhi-Yang Wu 吳志揚 (below left) and Chen Chwen-Jing 陳純敬, Deputy Mayor of the New Taipei City Government (below right)…

Outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay, as the first SJSMIT / SJU alumnus to be appointed president, has completed his 4-year term as SJU president and returns to his post as Professor at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. We will miss him! Here he is with his wife and Bishop Chang…

Incoming SJU President, Professor Hung-Pin Huang is a professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, he has also served as Deputy Governor in the Taoyuan Government (2011-14) and as Director of the Ministry of Education (2003-4). His whole profile is listed here on the NTU website, as follows:

Dr. Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌:
Education: Ph.D., The University of Iowa, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Iowa Institute for Hydraulic Research (IIHR) 01-08-1984 to 31-08-1988, Iowa City, USA (note that the NTU website incorrectly states that it was Iowa State University – his friends, wife and daughter all confirmed today that it was actually The University of Iowa).

Experience:

  1. Taoyuan City Government, Deputy Magistrate Room, Deputy governor 01-01-2011 to 25-12-2014
  2. National Taiwan University Experimental Farm, Associate Director 01-08-2009 to 31-12-2010
  3. National Taiwan University Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Chair/Head 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  4. National Taiwan University, Experimental Farm Division, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  5. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  6. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Director 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  7. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  8. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 20-05-2004 to 01-01-2011
  9. Ministry of Education, Director 15-01-2003 to 20-05-2004
  10. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 01-08-1992 to 15-01-2003
  11. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Associate Professor 01-08-1988 to 01-08-1992

Research Fields: Forestry, Soil & Water Conservation, Ecological Engineering, Civil Engineering (Hydraulics), Environmental Protection, Disaster Prevention

Today’s distinguished guests ….

And the celebratory flower arrangements sent by friends and institutions…

Today’s service…

After the Thanksgiving Service, we all moved to the Advent Church Centre for entertainment provided by SJU students and graduates…

This was followed by presentations to outgoing President Ay, from Bishop Lennon Y.R. Chang as Chair of the SJU Board of Trustees (below left), and Tseng Hong-Lian 曾鴻鍊 as Chair of the SJU Alumni Association (below right)….

After the formal events, it was time for lunch – which was delicious, with entertainment provided throughout. Followed by lots of photos with our visiting clergy and church members!

Congratulations to St. John’s University, and to our new president, President Huang. Please do keep him and the university in your prayers as he starts in his new position, officially as from tomorrow, August 1. Thank you!

The Chinese-language report of the Handover Ceremony on the SJU website is here:

臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長 帶領團隊打拼光輝未來

Congratulations to Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu on his Ordination as Deacon & to St. James’ Church, Taichung on their 50th Anniversary! 吳家圭傳道按立會吏聖職聖禮&聖雅各堂建堂五十週年感恩禮拜!

Delighted to introduce you to the newest deacon in the Taiwan Episcopal Church….

The Rev. Stoney Chia-Kuei Wu 吳家圭 was ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, at St. James’ Church, Taichung on St. James’ Day, Saturday July 25, 2020.

This was a combined celebration for ordination and also for the 50th anniversary of St. James’ Church. It was also Bishop Chang’s first ordination as the new Bishop of Taiwan. A very special day indeed!

Chia-Kuei graduated from the seminary at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei last year, and has been assigned to St. James’ Church (under rector Rev. Lily Chang) full-time ever since then, having been on placement there at weekends for his final year of theological college. He is actually based at the Church of the Leading Star, St. James’ daughter church in Taiping, about 30 minutes’ drive away on the outskirts of Taichung City at the foot of the mountains, though he serves in both churches. On Trinity Sunday, Sunday services were restarted at the Church of the Leading Star after a gap of a few years, this time with Chia-Kuei leading Morning Prayer, with a monthly Holy Communion led by Rev. Lily Chang. The church has long had a small kindergarten which has a valuable ministry in the area, and some of the kindergarten families have started to worship in the new Sunday service. It’s not an easy area in which to live, badly affected by a major earthquake in 1999, the booming high-rise city development that characterizes much of the rest of Taichung has bypassed Taiping, leaving quite a depressed area, with many disadvantaged families and a lot of small struggling factories. Children’s summer camps are always popular there, and last week, Chia-Kuei and his team welcomed 55 children for 2 days of fun activities. Chia-Kuei also leads the St. James’ Youth Group and many of them were involved in the camp – and in the service on Saturday, in the drama and singing…

Every year on St. James’ Day, July 25, St. James’ Church hold their patronal festival, and this year is the 50th anniversary of the St James’ Church building, so it made sense to make it a double celebration. One thing St. James always excels at is anything to do with celebrations! They plan for weeks, in almost military detail, but it always pays off. With Rev. Lily Chang, senior warden Mr. Samuel Chen and his wife, You-Ju, supervisor of the kindergarten, plus their team of kindergarten teachers and church members, they managed to make the double celebration a really amazing event. This is retired rector, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen with his daughter-in-law, You-Ju and Rev. Lily Chang cutting the birthday cake!

The service was at 3:00 pm, and would you believe it, all of us traveling there by road got caught in major traffic jams all the way down from Taipei. What should have been a 2½ hour journey for us from Tamsui turned into 4¼ hours, and most others had the same experience. ‘Never again’ we vowed as rushed to get to the rehearsal on time, but by the end of the day, going home, we were all so full of praise for the way everything had gone so smoothly, so well-managed and organized, that we’d forgotten about the traffic in the morning! However, it was extremely hot, and the poor clergy and bishop struggled in all those robes – in the heat outside for photos but also inside the church at the front. There were so many people inside that the AC was struggling too! Taking precautions due to Covid-19, everyone had their temperatures checked, and wore face-masks inside the church – which made it extra-hot.

New deacon Chia-Kuei was born in 1981, grew up in Taipei, and is the first Christian in his family. As a brand new 16-year-old freshman student in his first week at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT, now St. John’s University, SJU), after the students’ introductory tour to visit Advent Church and see a presentation from the student fellowship, he marked on the feedback paper that he could play the piano. His mother had encouraged him to find a place to practice the piano, so Mr. Daniel Yu-Hai Chen of the chaplaincy team followed this up and invited Chia-Kuei to come to Advent Church to play the piano for the student choir. The following year he began to get involved in the student fellowship. After 6 years at the college, he moved elsewhere to continue his education to university level, but then returned to SJU to pursue his master’s degree for a further 3 years. and during this time, in 2006, he was baptized by the then chaplain, Rev Lennon Y. R. Chang, now bishop. It was during that time too that I first met Chia-Kuei, and by then, he also had a lovely girlfriend – we call her Wang-Wang, who also graduated from SJU in the Applied English dept., and who he met through the student fellowship. They were married at Advent Church in 2013, and for several years Chia-Kuei served as worship band leader and also as junior warden. He invited Advent Church choir to come to the ordination service on Saturday and sing during the service, they sat on the right of the altar….

Bishop Chang welcomes Chia-Kuei’s wife and daughter to the front

Like many of our clergy of his generation who graduated from SJSMIT or SJU, Chia-Kuei knows how to fix everything mechanical or electrical -a very useful skill given that churches always need something fixing! He spent almost 3 years working for Siemens, and at age 33, felt called to offer for ordination. Chia-Kuei is multi-talented in all things practical, as well as in English (he can preach at the St. James’ English service for instance), in music – he can play the organ, piano and guitar and who knows what else, he excels at driving long distances by car or motorbike, plus he’s a wonderful husband and father to his small daughter – with another baby on the way. His parents are pleased to see he has found his way in life and support his decision to be ordained. His wife’s parents are Christians, and his mother-in-law has prayed long and hard for her son-in-law to hear God’s calling to be ordained.

Chia-Kuei’s parents on the left, parents-in-law on the right and small daughter

In his sermon on Saturday, Bishop Chang first talked about the 50th anniversary celebrations, challenging and encouraging St. James in their sharing of the Gospel. Then he moved on to talking about the ordination, and called Chia-Kuei to stand by him as he talked about the 3 mission trips, to Malaysia, Kaohsiung and Osaka that Chia-Kuei had been on, run by Bishop Chang, and the importance of the traditional role of a deacon in taking care of the poor and needy, and going on sharing the Gospel. It was all very moving!

After the actual ordination part of the service, there were 2 celebratory items to mark St. James’ 50th anniversary. Firstly, a lively drama by some of the youth and kindergarten teachers, acting as past St. James’ clergy showing the history of the church. We even had a line of pictures of the 12 churches built in the Philippines through the ministry of Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, and a few pretend baptisms of kindergarten children and teachers, it was very funny!

All the past clergy of St. James and their spouses stood for a photo and presentation of flowers…

Then we had a dance performance by the children – which was so lovely!

Also a gift presentation from Dean Philip Lin of St. John’s Cathedral on behalf of Canon Chancellor Professor Herbert H. P. Ma – of a framed calligraphy artwork done by Professor Ma’s father, Ma Shou-Hwa…

The choirs of St. James’ Chinese service and English service also sang….

After Holy Communion, and the end of the service, the procession led to the kindergarten playground for group photos, the cutting of the birthday cake and a wonderful buffet at 3 different stations around the church and playground. It was great to see so many people – 270 were booked, those not in the main church were watching on large screens elsewhere in the building. Wonderful to see everyone so happy!

Photo Album: 1) Before the service:

2) The ordination service…

3) The 50th anniversary celebrations …

4) Holy Communion …

5) After the service ….

We give thanks to God for 50 years of St. James’ Church, and we pray for the next 50! Also for Rev. Lily Chang and all who serve there – thank you for doing such a great job on Saturday, it was spectacular. We were all given beautiful wooden holding crosses as celebratory gifts too, carved with ‘St. James 50’, a lovely way to remember to pray for St. James. And please do pray for Chia-Kuei and his family as they settle into their ministry at the Church of the Leading Star – the challenges are many. Thank you!

Almost On Top Of The World @ Dabajianshan 大霸尖山 3,492 m / 11,456 ft!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!”

And so, inspired by Dr. Seuss, off we went! To Dabajianshan no less!

Dabajianshan 大霸尖山 (Dàbàjiān Shān, tr: ‘Big Chief Pointed Mountain’) at 3,492 meters, 11,456 feet, up in Hsinchu County, part of Shei-Pa National Park 雪霸國家公園, is variously described as ‘one of the most iconic high mountains of Taiwan’, a ‘fearsome triangular tower summit with vertical walls on all 3 sides about 150 meters high and 100 meters wide’, looking like a ‘large barrel of wine, cold and daunting’, and a ‘huge, towering block of rock that thrusts out into the sky’. The Japanese called it “The Wonder Summit of the Century” and they were the first to officially record an ascent to the summit in August 1927. Dabajianshan is so famous, so iconic in Taiwan that the mountain is even pictured on the NT$ 500 note ….

One of several photos posted here courtesy of Jasmine Yu

The indigenous people of the area, the Atayal and Saisiyat, believe Dabajianshan to be sacred, the birth place of their ancestors. For safety reasons it is now illegal to climb the rock face to the summit, but climbing as far as the base below that rock for a photo with the mountain sign is counted as having reached the top…

From Wikipedia: “The first half of Dabajian Mountain is a medium grade hill with about a 35° incline. The top half is an almost straight up rock face. The mountain’s steep grade and unique features were mainly formed by wind. The mountain is composed mainly of greywacke – a variety of sandstone generally characterized by its hardness, dark color, and poorly sorted angular grains of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments or lithic fragments set in a compact, clay-fine matrix. Greywackes are mostly grey, brown, yellow or black, dull-colored sandy rocks which may occur in thick or thin beds along with shales and limestones. They are abundant in Wales, the south of Scotland, the Longford Massif in Ireland and the Lake District National Park of England; they compose the majority of the main alps that make up the backbone of New Zealand.”

Taiwan has 286 peaks over 3,000 m in altitude, and of these, ‘The 100 Peaks of Taiwan’, known as the ‘Baiyue’ 百岳 are the famous ones that everyone hopes to climb. These 100 peaks were selected not necessarily just for altitude, but also for their uniqueness, danger, height, beauty and prominence.

There are 4 Baiyue on the Dabajianshan ridge:
1) Baiyue No. 28: Dabajianshan 大霸尖山 3,492 m / 11,456 ft
2) Baiyue No. 36: Xiaobajianshan 小霸尖山 3,418 m / 11,214 ft
3) Baiyue No. 53: Yizeshan 伊澤山 3,297 m / 10,817 ft
4) Baiyue No. 86: Jialishan 加利山 3,112 m / 10,210 ft

Most hardened climbers do this trip to the Dabajianshan ridge in 3 days and 2 nights, but everyone says it’s hard work. We chose to do it by splitting day 1 into 2 days, and so we went for 4 days and 3 nights. The total length of the whole trail is about 60 km, and I read that the total elevation gain (ie how much we climbed) is 2,437 meters.

But first, let me rewind to a month or so ago when my good friend, Jasmine Yu very kindly invited me to join her 2020 family mountain trip; and I was delighted to say ‘YES!’ We went with our regular friendly mountain guide, Laisun, who led us on our first mountain trip way back in 2011, and except for last year when we couldn’t go at all, we’ve been going with him every year since. Back in 2011, Jasmine’s children were then aged 10 and 13, and over the years, we’ve also included grandma and many aunties and uncles, a few cousins and friends too. Possibly the most memorable trip was in July 2017 when we went to Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain (see that report here). This year, the older generation decided not to join us, but we had a great group of 8, Jasmine, her husband, their son and daughter, son’s girlfriend, a cousin, Laisun and me; that’s 4 older ones and 4 younger ones. Yes, it was fun! Jasmine and Laisun organized everything from applying for permits, the itinerary, accommodation, transport and advice on what to take. And what to wear too – we all had new T-shirts (of different colours but the same style) to wear on the summit!

And thus it was that we met at 7:00 pm on Monday July 20 at Tamsui MRT Station and set off in a minibus heading to Hsinchu County and the remote Atayal Town of Chingchuan 清泉 where we spent the night (and enjoyed a really good breakfast too!) at the Chingchuan RC Church Hostel. The Jesuit priest there, Fr. Barry Martinsen 丁松青神父 from California is very well-known in Taiwan, having served here for over 50 years, along with his brother, who died just a few years ago. The church was open, and is decorated with Atayal pictures on wood around the church at ground level. Hidden behind the altar was an Atayal Jesus breaking bread ~ I especially liked that.

The next morning, Tuesday July 21, we left early and drove further up the mountain to the Guanwu Forest Park Trailhead to start our big expedition. Here begins the very long, and let’s be honest, painfully tedious Dalu Forest Road 大鹿林道 which winds its merry way, mostly downhill, for a seemingly never-ending 19 km to Madara Creek Trailhead 馬達拉溪登山口. It feels never-ending not because it’s unpleasant – in fact the scenery is stunning – but because such a road is not really suited to wearing climbing boots, and rucksacks are heavy, even though we’d all pared down to the bare minimum ~ still mine was probably 10 kg with sleeping bag, mat and water added. Laisun meanwhile was carrying over 30 kg, including all the food, pots and pans and gas canisters that we would need for 8 of us for 4 days!

Until Typhoon Morakot hit in August 2008, it was possible for private vehicles to drive up the Dalu Forest Road to the Madara Creek Trailhead, but after the typhoon washed away the road, the whole trail and therefore access to the mountain was closed off until 2015. When it opened up, it was forbidden for vehicles to use the road, and now everyone has to trek along the road on foot. We did see motorcycles on the track, they were ferrying supplies to the Madara Creek Trailhead, from where the extremely strong and capable young men of the Atayal tribe carry huge loads up the mountain to the 99 Mountain Hut.

We walked for 4-5 hours along the Dalu Forest Road, starting about 9:00 am, but we didn’t get all the way to the Madara Creek Trailhead on the first day, instead we decided to stop overnight at one of the huts on the road, the one at the 15 km mark. The huts are there to provide basic shelter, but other than that, there is no electricity, no toilets, water is from a nearby stream and they also cannot be booked overnight. Officially we were supposed to be camping, but, well, by early afternoon, we were tired, aching and the heavens were about to open with a massive thunderstorm, as happens every afternoon in the high mountains in summer. So we were very grateful that one of the huts was empty and we could rest our weary feet for the night.

On Wednesday morning, July 22, well rested and refreshed (and with our sleeping bags stored in the hut ready to pick up on our return trip), we were up bright and early, starting out about 6:30 am for the remaining 4 km to the end of the Dalu Forest Road. There is a very steep short-cut downhill at the 17 km mark which cuts the final 2 km off the road walk, with ropes provided to help you down, though it’s much harder to balance with a rucksack, I can tell you!

Down at the Madara Creek Trailhead is another hut and also toilets with running water. It’s there that the path crosses the river on a red footbridge and the great ascent officially begins. Down below the bridge are the remains of the old suspension bridge that was washed away in a typhoon in 2012, which also took out part of the National Park office there which is still clinging on, though badly damaged and now unused.

The path up is mostly steep, 4 km and 1,000 meters of ascent, all forested – including the famous hinoki cypress at higher altitudes.

We had a few rest stops of course….

The Atayal porters do the trip in an hour, we took 4 ½ hours, but even with rucksacks, hey, we got there by lunchtime! The ‘there’ we were heading for was the 99 Mountain Hut 九九山莊, named after it’s altitude of 2,699 meters above sea level.

We were there for 2 nights, like nearly everyone else on the trail. There’s room for 300 people to stay overnight in large bunk dormitories or in smaller circular huts, which is where we stayed, and warm sleeping bags can be hired. Very cosy! The younger members of our group approved the row of toilets as being clean, with water streaming along under them washing away the waste, but each person has to take all their own rubbish, including used toilet paper, back down the mountain themselves. Electricity is available for overhead lighting for about an hour in the evening, but there are no plugs for recharging phones and although there is running water, it’s cold, and nobody takes a shower. In fact, do not expect a shower for the whole 4 days. As everyone is in this together, nobody gets too worried! It was 16°C during the day up there and about 10 at night, so it was OK, not too hot, not too cold. Meals can be booked at the 99 hut, or you can do it all yourself, and bring your own food and stoves. Laisun was in his element cooking up delicious meals with numerous dishes supplied for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Over the 4 days, we had steak, sausages, duck, chicken, rice, noodles, vegetables, soup, eggs, bread, and plenty more. And when he wasn’t actually cooking, he was boiling up water for us to drink during the day. We just had to supply our own snacks and drinks, like coffee – ah, such luxury!

Every day, the main concern was not if, but when it would rain, because if possible we didn’t want to be out there in it! Every day by about 12 noon, the fog was already rolling in, and by about 2:00 pm, it started raining heavily, with thunder and lightning. This went on for an hour or two, then it all stopped, the fog cleared and both nights we were at the 99 hut, there was a magnificent sunset.

The sunset-viewing hill, just above the 99 hut, also happens to be the place where there is a phone signal, so it seems the whole camp went up there after dinner. I switched my phone off completely for the whole 4 days, but all those around me were busy calling family and friends, posting photos and live updates of the sunset. It really was spectacular watching the clouds part, then the sun’s reflection on the sea, and finally the sun descended from below the clouds and turned the sky all orange. A fitting way to end the day.

And that was the end of the day, because after dark at about 7:00 pm, there really wasn’t much else to do but sleep and get ready for a very early start the next day. The next day was the day we were finally going to see the mountains we had come for, and we would be spending the whole day on the top of the mountain ridge.

Thursday July 23 was THE day! It also happened to be the 27th wedding anniversary of Jasmine and her husband, and we even found them a place to celebrate, on the top of the mountain ridge where stones had been arranged to form the words “I love you” and the numbers 2020 07 23, that day’s date. But that would come later, first we had to get up very early, along with everyone else in the whole camp, and set off. ‘Very early’ means we arranged to have breakfast at 3:00 am in order to leave at 3:30 am – so that we could get to the top of the ridge and along to all 4 mountains and back before the rain came again. The pressure was on!

As we set off, the sky above was filled with stars, and the whole Milky Way seemed to be on display for us, plus a few planets thrown in for good measure! We were led by our headlights, and it was steep, but as our main luggage was now at the 99 hut, so we only needed day packs, and boy, are they so much lighter! As we went up, down on our left were the shimmering lights of Taiwan’s west coast cities, Hsinchu, and further south towards Taichung. At 4:45 am, we got our first real live sighting of Dabajianshan (the rounded one centre left) and Xiaobajianshan (the pointed one centre right). It was a big ‘wow’ moment!

Soon the sun came up, and by 7:00 am we had the most glorious views of the whole mountain ridge…

Another ‘wow’ moment was looking to the left of Dabajianshan to see Dongbajianshan東霸尖山 of which there seemed to be 5 separate rounded mountains, very dramatically lined up in a row…

There was more to come, as we walked down through the forest path and up to the base of the rock face of Dabajianshan. That’s the place for the photos, our first Baiyue of the trip, whoopee! The rock face is just incredible, and from nearby, it’s possible to see that there must be a whole colony of swifts / swallows living there, as they’re all swirling around in the sky. Jasmine’s husband had brought along his mini-drone which he sent up to whirl around the mountain taking photos of us down below. The swifts were a bit uncertain about the drone, as was a butterfly, they came and circled around it checking out the strange object in their midst!

The metal frames there lead up to the edge of the rock face, from where we walked along, under the overhanging rock, past the rusted metal barriers that had once protected climbers in the past, now no longer in use. Soon we could see Taiwan’s east coast in the distance, with Turtle Island off the coast at Yilan, and further to the north, we could see Yangmingshan, the mountains above Taipei. We also passed the ‘I love you’ stone arrangements….

And so to Xiaobajianshan, tr: ‘Small Chief Pointed Mountain’. This is famous as being the most exhilarating part of the 4-day trip, as the top third of the summit has ropes and steep drops and ledges and all sorts of excitements that you need to get over to get to the top. We left our bags down on the ridge and it took us about 20 minutes to scale the rocks to the top. It was great! The summit was the highest point we actually climbed that day, 3,418 m.

And so back down again, which was a bit scarier than going up, and even though it was only 9:00 am, already the clouds were gathering, fog was starting to roll in and we had to get a move on.

Walking along back the way we came, we saw some beautiful Alpine flowers…

But by the time we turned around to get our last look at Dabajianshan and Xiaobajianshan, they were already disappearing into the fog!

This is our 3-minute drone footage on YouTube of that section of the trip – the music really adds to the atmosphere – do look at it, it’s great. Spot us walking along below the rock-face on the way back looking like little ants!

We had to go back on the same route as we came, but first we headed to Zhongba Hut, where we had left our cooking stuff on the way up in the morning, and where Laisun cooked up some noodles for lunch. Yum yum! On our way up in the morning, we had passed signposts to the 2 remaining Baiyue mountains, leaving them for the return trip in the afternoon. By 12 noon, we were up on the summit of Yizeshan 伊澤山 3,297 m, which is only about a short detour from the main path. On a clear day, the view would be great, but it was already foggy, apparently it’s quite normal for this time of year.

We had one more mountain to go, and the skies were turning darker and darker. The detour to Jialishan 加利山 3,112 m would take us about 40 minutes round-trip, but despite the threat of rain, still we just had to do it!

In the event, 6 of us took the detour, and though we got there fine at 2:00 pm, it started to rain the moment we left the summit and we had to move quite quickly. Back on the main path it was already raining hard, and even though we all hurried to get dressed up in our rain-gear, it was already a bit late, and well, we were very wet! But then, what is a mountain trip without a bit of rain? And thunder? And a lot of fog? We headed back down to the 99 hut in the rain, with distant thunder, and got safely back there about 3:30 pm, exactly 12 hours after starting out that morning…

And amazingly by the evening, the skies had cleared and we had a glorious sunset with hardly any fog to be seen! The whole sky was orange and pink. It was really such a beautiful way to end such an amazing day – and such a wonderful trip.

Friday July 24 was our final day, the day of the great descent from the 99 hut, all the way back to the Dalu Forest Road and so to the trail head and back home. We started very early, breakfast at 2:30 am and by 3:30 am we were all packed up and with our headlights on, ready to descend to the creek. We met 9 porters coming up in the dark with their massive loads, also groups starting their ascent, and later on, on the uphill forest road, we met lots of people heading along and up to the 99 hut, and many asked us about the rain and what time we had started out. The 4 younger people in our group all sped along, as did Laisun, now relieved of much of his heavy load – well, the food anyway. We were the group at the back, stopping at most of the rest stops and counting every 0.1 km as we passed each of the route markers! Just grateful we had left so early, so it wasn’t too hot, and it didn’t rain. We got back to the minibus at the Dalu Forest Road Trailhead at about 12 noon, relived to be back safe and sound, and so happy!

A very big thank you to Laisun for his calm leadership, flexible pace-setting, delicious cooking and being so willing to carry everything; he was heading back out to the high mountains later on Friday with another group, actually some of Jasmine’s former colleagues, who were going to climb Nanhu Big Mountain. He commented that due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, his mountain-climbing business had been badly affected earlier in the year, but now that restrictions have eased, people are once again venturing forth up the mountains – and as nobody wants to travel overseas for the foreseeable future, so they are using their holidays to climb Taiwan’s high mountains. This is Laisun in action….!

Another very big thank you to Jasmine for being so willing to include me in their family group, even to supplying the group T-shirts – and for keeping me up to date on how many Baiyue I have climbed since 2011; it’s now 22 in total, and all with Jasmine and her family! This was not the first time we had applied for permits for this trip, the other times had been unsuccessful; so thanks to Jasmine for her persistence in not giving up! I also really appreciated Jasmine’s husband for being so enthusiastic about taking photos and videos on his camera, GoPro and drone, and grateful to the younger generation for their willingness to help out, washing dishes, taking photos, fetching water, and generally cooperating and fitting in with the timetable – after all, getting up at 2:30 am for breakfast is really not everyone’s idea of fun 😮😃 – just don’t mention to them about the mouse at the 99 hut that ate its way through their Oreo biscuits! This is the group playing cards one evening…

Most of all, thanks be to God for his protection and safe-keeping. This is the typhoon season, so we were a bit worried; we had also heard from friends that they had climbed all the way up to Dabajianshan, only to see it shrouded in thick fog, and then it had rained all the time on the descent. In fact, every morning we had really good weather, no typhoon was forecast, and where was the wind? There was none! This time, everything went so well, and we are grateful for God’s grace and mercy throughout the trip. Yes, a big thumbs up, it was a great trip!

There is really not much in English on the internet about hiking Dabajianshan, but for further information, the following 2 blog posts are recommended:

How to hike Mount Dabajian-Part 1 – 大霸尖山 / Part 2 October 2019

Hiking in Taiwan: Dabajianshan (大霸尖山) 4-Day Solo Hike August 2017

Update from Taiwan: Masked Summer Camp in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

Yes, Advent Church Summer Camp 降臨堂兒童喜樂營 2020 (Kids Games) has been happening this week, on the theme: “Guardians of the Earth 地球防衛隊” ~ and a great time was had by all!

Every summer, for the first 2 days of Taiwan’s primary / elementary school summer holidays, Advent Church holds a children’s non-residential summer camp (aka holiday club), and for many children, as well as our student leaders, it’s one of the main highlights of the whole year! Last year, we had 80 children and 35 student leaders, and the theme was ‘Be Brave’ (see that report here). This year, we had 60 children and about 35 student leaders, and the theme was ‘Guardians of the Earth’. Every activity was about protecting this planet – and learning about litter, pollution, recycling, the effect of plastics on ocean animals, preserving the environment, taking care of God’s creation and much more. We had drama, singing, dancing, games, team-building activities, lunch, rest, sharing time and of course plenty of water fun to finish!

The student team was led by Tze-Wei, our wonderful colleague in the St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy, who is now into her third year as camp leader. She was assisted by a whole group of student fellowship members past and present, plus some who attended the camp in the past as children and now come as leaders, and a few friends and church members too. We are especially grateful to Ming-Chuan, our senior warden, who supported us throughout…

Left to right: Tze-Wei, Ming-Chuan and Pi-pi – who came along with several of his Sunday School group from his church in Beitou

There was a lot to prepare and practice, but the student team were amazing, as always, and have dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to the camp, in fact they all arrived on Sunday for 3 days of preparation first. Several are SJU student fellowship graduates who have used up nearly the whole of their annual leave from work to take part. Of the 35 on the team, 10 are from Malaysia, all SJU students or graduates, and one is from Hong Kong. Five came from St. James’ Church, Taichung, and they will use the same theme and materials for their own summer camp this weekend at the Church of the Leading Star, Taiping, led by Stoney Wu – who will be ordained deacon on July 25. And we were well-supported by Advent Church clergy, including Rev. Wu, here he is with some of the team, all masked up ready for the children arriving…

As we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, so we are well aware that most places in the world have had to cancel their summer camps this year or move them online. Ours could go ahead because Taiwan continues to do really well in keeping the coronavirus at bay. Taiwan’s official figures for Covid-19 currently are 454 confirmed cases, 440 recovered and 7 deaths, and no domestic transmissions since April 12. Taiwan’s borders remain closed to all visitors, so a church group from Hong Kong who were originally scheduled to join us for the camp sadly had to cancel. The silver lining to the borders being closed is that some of our overseas students who may normally have gone home for the summer, could stay in Taiwan and take part in the camp instead. As you can see from the photos, it was great fun for everyone!

Normally all government-run elementary schools in Taiwan break up on June 30 for 2-months summer holiday, but as schools were delayed by 2 weeks starting their new semester after Chinese New Year due to Covid-19, so they made up for it by extending the semester for 2 weeks until July 14. Our summer camp is usually July 1-2; this year it was held July 15-16. Because there was always a concern that we might have to cancel at the last minute, so we did not order any T-shirts like we normally do – which then also made it cheaper for the children. Some wore their T-shirts from previous years, as we did also ~ check out Mr. ‘Be Brave’ below after an onslaught of water!

We did take other precautions too: usually we would allow up to 80 children to take part – but this year we reduced the number to 60; face-masks were to be worn inside, except for leaders who were singing, dancing or speaking from the stage; there were temperature checks and hand sanitizer at the main entrance, frequent hand-washing throughout the day, and parents were asked not to send any children who were unwell. Actually all this is standard procedure now in Taiwan, and children are well-used to wearing masks, though some found them hot and later took them off. We even had 2 sets of group photos, one in masks and one without…

Thanks be to God, everything went really well, and yes, I took a lot of photos!

Day One Morning;

Day One Afternoon: