The Process of the Development of the Taiwanese Hymnal

Joseph Hwang
translated by Grace Kuo

In Christian history, we see churches often use hymns and music to praise God. After the Reformation, believers could sing hymns freely; hymns became one of the indispensable tools for missions. The formation of hymns can be divided into three major types. The first is Poetic Psalms, including expatiatory poems and all kinds of songs related to psalms. The second is Praise Hymns, including doxological songs that express our praise, joy, and thanksgiving towards God's wonderful deeds. The third is Gospel hymns that describe the love of Jesus, including those that would stir up our spiritual vigor, comfort our wounded hearts, and revive our spiritual lives. The development of these hymns was based on missiological background. In many cases, lyrics were written pending on the practical needs at the time; music was composed with accompaniment and harmony added on. Hymns can be traced back to the Old Testament time; it evolved through the New Testament time, Jesus' Time, followed by the Renaissance and the Reformation, until today. The Taiwanese hymnbook which we use also evolved with the development of missionary endeavors in Taiwan. According to the mission history in Taiwan, missionaries in the early stage used hymns as a tool to spread the gospel and to encourage believers. From the diary accounts of missionary MacKay who was involved in the evangelistic outreach primarily in the northern region of Taiwan, we can understand more about how the gospel hymns were used during that time to invite people, to encourage believers, and to give thanks and praise to God. Similarly, Pastor Campbell, the missionary who worked primarily in the southern region of Taiwan, also sang hymns to praise God when the White-Water-Creek Church was damaged. Gospel hymns apparently exerted their marked effects during the early missionary era in Taiwan.

Believers during that time learned to sing hymns very seriously. Hymnal became the most important tool for learning. During that time, Taiwan churches still belonged to Xiamen District and the hymn book used mostly was the "Yang-Hsin-Shen-Shih" (meaning the spiritual hymn of nurturing the heart). This hymnal had 59 hymns; its Chinese version was published in 1872 and the Taiwanese version in 1873. It was edited by missionaries in Fuchou and Xiamen. Most of the hymns were taken from hymns used by churches in England.

This hymnal was quite popular during the early missionary era in Taiwan. In 1900, the missionary society in the southern region, sensing "a need for missionary cause, compiled a hymn book for Rev. Campbell called"The Hymn Book". This hymnal was the first hymn book edited and printed in Taiwan. The lyrics were printed in Romanized Taiwanese. included 59 songs inthe"Yang-Tsin-Shen-Shih" in different categories, plus another 63 songs. All of these hymns were divided into nine categories, totaling up to 122 songs. This hymnal had lyrics but no music. Worship leaders had to read the lyrics and sing first, then the congregation would follow; Pianists had to be familiar with the hymns and play at the right time. This was between 1909 and 1910. The "Hymn Book" was always used by churches in the southern region. In 1907, Rev. William Gauld was invited to Tainan to attend a missionary society meeting and discussed about unifying hymn books. Unfortunately, there was no result. Until 1909, the northern Presbytery recognized this difficulty and adopted the fourth edition of "Yang-Tsin-Shen-Shih" approved by the Xiamen district. This edition, then, became the hymn book used in the northern region.

In 1912, after the Taiwan Synod was established, the Synod proposed to use'Yang-TsinShen- Shih" in all Taiwan churches. At that time, there were already 151 hymns in the Romanized Taiwanese edition, all with music; in addition, there were 10 that had music without lyrics. The Synod commissioned Barkley, et all (6 people) to be responsible for editing and printing the Taiwanese edition of the hymnal. There were, in addition, 20 more hymns added to the book for a total of 171 hymns (those 20 hymns were published in both Taiwanese and Chinese by Shin-Lo Bookstore in 1918). In 1919, the Synod proposed again for the publication of a new hymnal suitable for Taiwan and appointed Sung, et all (6 people) to work on the project. (next)

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