Canon Chancellor Professor Herbert Ma passed away on December 20, 2022, and his Memorial Service was held on Saturday, February 11, 2023, at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Mrs. Aline Ma, who died on June 18, 2022.
Professor Ma was a well-known figure in Taiwan, having taught law at National Taiwan University (NTU) for 52 years and at Soochow University for over 40 years, served as a Grand Justice of the Constitutional Court for 12 years and as a member of the Examination Yuan for 10 years. He was also visiting professor at many overseas universities, including Beijing, Washington (Seattle), Columbia (New York City), UBC (Vancouver), Paris, Hong Kong and Vienna, and spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard, all adding to his professional skills and reputation.
At 9:00 am on Saturday, a Memorial Ceremony was held at St. John’s Cathedral. Just before the event started, the Very Rev. Philip L. F. Lin, Dean of St. John’s Cathedral brought the family together for prayer…
The ceremony was attended by many of Professor Ma’s former colleagues and representatives from different government departments and universities. A Presidential Citation was read out from the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen. The flower arrangements at the main entrance to the cathedral were sent by President Tsai and vice-president of Taiwan, Lai Ching-Te. Flower arrangments lined the walls of the cathedral as well as the entrance, each from a different institution or individual known to Professor Ma.
On behalf of the national government, Dr. Weng Yueh-sheng 翁岳生, President of the Judicial Yuan 1999-2007, presented the national flag to Professor Ma’s son, Mason, in honor of Professor Ma’s great service to the country. The national flag would normally be placed on the coffin, but as Professor Ma was cremated, so the flag was presented to the family.
Former President of Taiwan (2008-2016) and former student of Professor Ma, Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, gave a short speech sharing his memories and showing his appreciation. The ceremony then continued as names were read out, and different groups paid their respects by bowing 3 times towards Professor Ma’s urn in front of the altar. The ceremony ended when everyone had had their turn to pay their respects.
Outside his professional life, Professor Ma played a major role in the development of the Taiwan Episcopal Church from its very earliest days until today, and his role was marked and appreciated by all those who attended his Memorial Service, starting at 11:00 am. The video of the service is here…
Professor Ma was the first chancellor of the Diocese of Taiwan, charged with the responsibility of overseeing legal affairs in the diocese. For over 15 years he also served as Chair of the Diocesan Standing Committee, and on many occasions as a diocesan delegate to the General Convention in the USA. To many church members, Professor Herbert Ma’s name became synonymous with the Taiwan Episcopal Church itself; the two were so closely associated for so long.
St. John’s Cathedral was full for the Memorial Service, with about 220 people in attendance, including nearly all the Taiwan Episcopal Church clergy, who had spent the previous 2 days on retreat together. Those who could not fit into the cathedral watched the live stream from the cathedral meeting rooms. The music was led by the cathedral choir, including a wonderful solo from Mr. Yang, who worked alongside Professor Ma as diocesan secretary for many years. Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang gave the sermon, followed by tributes, including a very moving one from Bishop David J. H. Lai. Bishop Lai worked closely with Professor Ma as his diocesan chancellor throughout his time as Bishop of Taiwan from 2001-2020. Bishop Lai shared that a few days after Professor Ma’s death, he had a very special dream in which he saw an angel leading Professor Ma by the hand into the gates of heaven. Bishop Lai recalled how in September 2015, a few months before Professor Ma’s 90th birthday, he formally appointed Professor Ma as ‘Canon Chancellor’ of the Diocese of Taiwan in recognition for his sixty years of faithful service to the Taiwan Episcopal Church.
There was also a tribute from a former student, and a lovely one from Professor Ma’s daughter Vera, who shared some wonderful memories of her beloved father. Vera had also shared a moving tribute at her mother’s memorial service in August. This was followed by a video presentation showing photos of Professor Ma’s life with commentary from Professor Ma’s eldest daughter Gabrielle. Professor Ma’s love of music included a video of him in his retirement playing his favourite hymn on the piano, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’, which we then all sang together. The final hymn was ‘Thine be the Glory’. After the final hymn, everyone was invited to take some orchid flowers and line up along the nave to lay them around Professor Ma’s urn and bow towards the family. Everyone was given a Memorial Book to take home, in which many had shared their written tributes and photos of Professor Ma.
Professor Ma’s ID card states that he was born on November 27, 1926, although this is the date according to the lunar calendar, which was the one commonly used at the time; on other official data (such as Wikipedia), his birth date is registered according to the western calendar as December 31, 1926. Every year on his lunar birthday, Mrs. Ma would make a birthday cake for her husband. The date Professor Ma died, December 20, 2022 was actually his birthday according to the lunar calendar, and his family smile at the thought that Mrs. Ma would have a cake ready to welcome him into heaven!
Professor Ma was born in Hankou City 漢口, in the Hubei Province 湖北省 of China, one of the 5 main cities in China at the time, into a family with a long history of serving the country in the legal field. The Qing Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912, and during that time, the county magistrate held judicial, administrative and political power. Both Professor Ma’s grandfathers held this position, his paternal grandfather in Henan Province 河南省, and his maternal grandfather in Jiangsu Province 江蘇省. In 1911, the final year of the Qing Dynasty, Professor Ma’s father, Ma Shou-Hwa 馬壽華 (1893-1977) graduated from the Henan Law and Political Academy (one of 5 modern Chinese Law Schools at the time), and in 1912 he became one of the very first judges of the newly-formed Republic of China, serving among other posts as Prosecutor General in Hankou, where Professor Ma was born. He was also well-known for his great talent as a calligrapher and painter, especially portraying bamboo. His beautiful works of art are in the National Palace Museum collections in both Taipei and Beijing, also in the Taipei National Historical Museum, as well as in pride of place in the Ma family home.
Professor Ma’s mother came from a very large extended family, surnamed Wang. Born in the same year as her husband, they married at age 18 and spent the rest of their lives together; they even died in the same year, only 8 months apart. It is interesting that history has repeated itself, and Professor and Mrs. Ma both died in the same year, 2022, only six months apart. Professor Ma’s mother was well-loved, with a very kind and caring personality, eager to help the poor and disadvantaged, and later helped to bring many of her family and relatives out of Communist China in the 1940’s to Taiwan. While Professor Ma’s father worked in Hankou, Nanjing and Shanghai, his mother settled with their children in the former French Concession area of Shanghai, which was an English-speaking community. While schooling was heavily in Chinese Classics, Professor Ma had years of private tutoring in the English language. Being bilingual was a great asset to Professor Ma throughout his professional, academic and church life, and a great help to the Taiwan Episcopal Church in its development.
The young Professor Ma studied in the Department of Law at Fudan University, Shanghai, but the 1930’s and 40’s were a period of great turmoil due to the war with Japan and then the Chinese Civil War. In 1947 the Ma family (his parents, older sister with her husband and children, Professor Ma and his younger sister) came to Taiwan following Wei Tao-Ming 魏道明, the first civilian Governor of Taiwan Province (1947–1949). Professor Ma’s father first served as a commissioner of the Taiwan Provincial Government and later as Chief Justice of the Administrative Court after the Central Government moved to Taiwan. Professor Ma was in his third year of Fudan University and managed to transfer to National Taiwan University Department of Law, from where he graduated in 1950 with the best score in his class. He was therefore retained on the law faculty of the university immediately on graduation, thus laying a firm foundation for his distinguished academic career that followed.
Professor Ma’s father was a classical Confucian scholar and placed great emphasis on the Chinese tradition of ancestor worship. Apart from Professor Ma’s brother-in-law, who had been baptized in China, the family’s first direct contact with Christianity came through neighbors in Taipei who had also arrived from China and were members of the Episcopal Church. The neighbors met at home for worship. The family worship services were led by a pastor from the China Inland Mission, Yang Yong-Jing 楊詠經. Professor Ma and his younger sister attended the services, and both were later baptized by Pastor Yang.
The family worship services continued, eventually outgrowing the home, and permission was given by the Presbyterian Church for the Episcopal Church members to use one of the original Japanese Anglican churches in Taipei for services on Sunday afternoons. Gradually the Episcopal Church began to expand and develop, buildings went up, and church structures put in place. Taiwan was placed under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Hawaii, first under Bishop Harry S. Kennedy (1953-60) and then Bishop Charles P. Gilson (1961-64). With Bishop Gilson, Professor Ma wrote the Constitution and Canons of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop Gilson in English and Professor Ma in Chinese. Professor Ma became Vice-Chancellor (under the Diocesan Chancellor of Hawaii) and later Diocesan Chancellor of Taiwan, a position he held until his death. In recent years Ms. Amy Chin was appointed as Vice-Chancellor to help Professor Ma with this ministry.
In 1955, Professor Ma met the lady who was to become his wife, Mrs. Aline Ma, Siao Ya-Lin 馬蕭亞麟. Mrs. Ma was born in Shanghai, China in 1930, but her mother died when she was very small. Her father (a banker) feared for the safety of his only child due to the war with Japan, so at the tender age of 7, he sent her with relatives to Germany. But it was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire; she found herself in a country also preparing for war. The relatives were based in Berlin, studying at Berlin University; and the young Mrs. Ma went to live with a Prussian general’s family in Brandenburg City, where she always said she learned ‘order, discipline and punctuality’! The Prussian family had Chinese connections in Beijing dating from before the Boxer Rebellion, but could not speak Chinese, and on arrival, Mrs. Ma had no German language. All alone in a strange land aged only 7, it is amazing that she not only survived but thrived in the circumstances. By the time her father visited her a year later, her German was fluent, but unfortunately she had forgotten all her Chinese, and only remembers sadly being completely unable to communicate with her father. In fact that was to be the last time she ever saw her father again, as war and civil war intervened and they remained apart for the rest of his life. He later remarried and had 3 more children, all of whom Mrs. Ma got to know in later life.
The young Mrs. Ma spent the whole of the Second World War in Brandenburg City, suffering along with the German people, but in 1945 she and her relatives escaped the Russian occupation and fled to Switzerland where she was sent to boarding schools. After graduation, she had no resident permit to continue living in Europe, and so in 1955, unable to return to China, she travelled to Taiwan alone. Initially staying with relatives in Taipei, and later living on her own, her major disadvantage was that although she could speak German, French and English, she could not speak Chinese, which made it difficult for her to find a job. German was her first language. After having changed jobs many times as a typist for English, finally she found a job as secretary to the President of Academica Sinica, Chu Chia-hua 朱家驊, who had studied in Germany, and needed a secretary who could speak and write German. It was, in fact, her inability to communicate in Chinese that brought Professor and Mrs. Ma together, but they could communicate perfectly with each other in English. Their fathers had known each other in Shanghai, and the young couple met for the first time at a wedding reception hosted by mutual friends.
Professor and Mrs. Ma were married in 1957 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. After their marriage, the Ma family continued to live together, 3 generations under one roof. Their 4 children were born between 1959-64, Gabrielle 佑敏, Mason 佑聖, Vera 佑真 and Beatrice 佑遠. All the children were baptized at St. John’s Cathedral.
Although Professor and Mrs. Ma and the children were active in the cathedral, his parents were not. For his father, the major obstacle continued to be ancestor worship, and yet Professor Ma himself felt no conflict. At an ecumenical conference on this subject, he discussed with the participants how the Christian faith and Chinese tradition could be reconciled. He also published articles on this subject, and later instigated the Ancestor Memorial Liturgy for the Taiwan Episcopal Church. In the articles, he wrote that our ancestors are human beings, and when they die, they are still human beings, not gods. There is only one Almighty God, and we need to separate our ancestors from the divine. We can still pay our respects to our ancestors without regarding them as gods. After much thought, Professor Ma’s father accepted his explanation, and henceforth adopted an attitude of respect rather than worship of his ancestors. Having resolved this issue, his parents were now ready to be baptized and became Christians.
Mrs. Ma taught German, first at the German Cultural Center and then for 30 years at National Taiwan University, she also took care of 4 children and her parents-in-law, and supported her extremely busy husband. Mrs. Ma had come from a non-Christian family and was baptized after her marriage. For several years she led the cathedral E.C.W. (Episcopal Church Women) group, and later the diocesan E.C.W, and in 1977 she attended the E.C.W. Triennial Meeting at the General Convention in Philadelphia as representative of Taiwan. Several times she also accompanied her husband to attend the General Convention in the U.S.A.
In retirement, Professor and Mrs. Ma led a quieter life, though that was a relative term, with many visitors and phone calls from people seeking their wise counsel. Some came to hear the story of Mrs. Ma’s extraordinary early life, which has now been published in German and Chinese. They both continued to be very involved in the life of the church, and at every major church event, Mrs. Ma would be at her husband’s side, smiling and caring for everyone who came to greet them. Throughout their 65 years of marriage, Mrs. Ma was a tower of strength and support for her husband, and Professor Ma always acknowledged how blessed he was to be married to such a great woman.
During the pandemic, Professor and Mrs. Ma largely remained in the safety of their home, participating in church services and events online. The most recent major church event they attended in person was the consecration of Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as Bishop of Taiwan, on February 22, 2020 in St. John’s Cathedral. At the end of the service, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry paid tribute to Professor Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Taiwan Episcopal Church. Standing beside Professor Ma, as always, was his beloved wife, Mrs. Ma, smiling and content.
As we give thanks to Almighty God for the amazing life and witness of our beloved Canon Chancellor, Professor Herbert Ma, I personally will always remember him for his wise and gracious presence at church events and on visits to his home. Always calm and thoughtful in conversation, his deep knowledge and wide experience brought light and clarity into every discussion, especially in matters related to the Taiwan Episcopal Church and its history, law, international relations and culture.
Professor Ma played a very profound role in public life, but at home, together with Mrs. Ma and the family, the atmosphere was less serious, and their home was warm, cosy and hospitable. On my visits there, it was always a joy to see Professor Ma relaxed and happy, sharing memories and photos of past travels and family history. Visitors were many and varied, from all walks of life. From the highest to the lowest all were warmly welcomed; regardless of background all were treated with the same respect and dignity.
I count it a great privilege to have known both Professor and Mrs. Ma, to have benefitted from their wisdom and counsel, and to have been welcomed into their home and shared meals and fellowship with them and their family. They will be greatly missed. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
N. B. In 2014, Professor and Mrs. Ma kindly agreed to share their life stories with me for an article published in the diocesan Friendship Magazine. Many of the details above are taken from that article, and a special tribute to Mrs. Ma on her death in June 2022 was published here.