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Taiwan Bahá'í Chronicle:
An Historical Record of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Faith in Taiwan

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 1

1

Introduction


Taiwan is an island off the southeast coast of China, approximately 36,000 sq. km. (13,900 sq. mi.) in area. It was known in the West as Formosa (beautiful), so named by Portuguese mariners four centuries ago.

The population consists of indigenous islanders of Malay descent, islanders who arrived generations ago from the Chinese mainland, and mainlanders who settled in the late 1940s and early '50s. In 1965 (in the period relevant to this book) the population numbered about 11 million; currently it is over 21 million.

In 1895, at the end of the Sino-Japanese war, Taiwan was ceded to Japan, which held it until the end of the Second World War. In 1949 and over the next few years, following internecine struggles on the mainland, nearly two million refugees reached the island. Since then, Taiwan's largest city, Taipei, has been the seat of the government of the Republic of China, which comprises Taiwan and several smaller islands including the Pescadores.


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1. The Beginning


Taiwan was listed by the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, as being a consolidation goal in the Ten Year Crusade (1953-1963). This goal was given to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States to implement. That assembly was given several consolidation goals in the Orient: among them were Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Macau. Hong Kong was given to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles.

(click for larger picture)
Bahá'ís of Shanghai in the early 1930s. Standing left to right: Mr. S.A. Suleimani, Mr. Hossein Touty, Dr. Tsao Yan-siang, Mr. Husayn Ouskouli and his son Qudrat.

Seated left to right: Mrs. Ridvaniyyih Suleimani (one of Mr. Ouskouli's daughters), Mrs. Elin Tsao, Mr. OuskouIi's mother Sarah, and Mr. Ouskouli's other daughters, Ruhania and Jalalia.


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In 1954 the first pioneers to Taiwan, Mr. Suleiman A. and Mrs. Ridvaniyyih Suleimani arrived. They were to spend the rest of their lives there.

The Suleimanis, originally from Iran, had lived for about 28 years in Shanghai where Mrs. Ridvaniyyih Suleimani's father, Mr. Husayn Ouskouli (Uskuli or Uskui), had long resided and conducted a business. In 1935 Mr. Ouskouli visited Taiwan, according to a letter he wrote to Shoghi Effendi from Shanghai. He was on a business trip to buy tea. He took some Bahá'í books in Chinese which he gave to a number of people, although the results are unknown. He was probably the first Bahá'í to set foot on the island.

Mr. and Mrs. Suleimani left Shanghai permanently in 1950 because of the difficult situation in China for foreigners. But Mr. Ouskouli decided to stay, earning the admiration of the Guardian. A letter to Mr. Ouskouli from the Guardian, written on his behalf by R. Rabbani, dated July 1, 1955, stated:

"Shoghi Effendi was very, very happy to hear from you after all these years, and to know that you are well, and still in Shanghai.

"He wants you to know that he admires your wonderful, selfless devotion to the Blessed Beauty, and the way you have remained in Shanghai, the land of your choice, through all the changes the years have brought. He also greatly admires your devoted daughter and son-in-law.

"He hopes you will keep in good health, and that you will keep with success in your work, and assures you of his prayers.

(In the Guardian's handwriting) "May the Almighty bless your highly meritorious efforts, guide and sustain you in your historic task, and enable you to enrich the record of your splendid services. Your true brother Shoghi."

Mr. Ouskouli died in Shanghai in 1956 at the age of eighty-two.

After leaving China, Mr. and Mrs. Suleimani first went back to Iran and then were able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Guardian was urging people to attend the Fourth Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi in 1953 and the Suleimanis regarded it as a privilege to be able to attend. It was at that time, Mr. Suleimani wrote, that they were inspired to pioneer to Taiwan, a consolidation goal of the Ten Year Crusade. They arrived by ship in Keelung October 22, 1954.


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(click for larger picture)
This is thought to be the first Bahá'í pamphlet in the Chinese language. It was prepared and distributed by the Shanghai Bahá'ís in 1917.
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