2. Further Beginnings, Including the First
to Taiwan By a Hand of the Cause
The first American travel teachers to make trips to Taiwan were Dr.
David Earl and Lt. Col. John McHenry in 1952, and Mrs. Mildred Mottahedeh with
her Iranian-born husband, Rafi, in 1953.
After the New Delhi Conference in 1953 the Hands of the Cause who attended the
conference visited other areas to assist in the development of the Faith. In
October of that year Mr. Zikrullah Khádem visited Taiwan, the first Hand
of the Cause to do so. Mr. Jerome Chu (Chu Yao-lung) related that he had a
meeting for Mr. Khádem at his home. As a result three people declared
their belief in Bahá'u'lláh: Professor Tsao Li-shih, who was an
instructor of architecture at Taiwan Engineering College; Mr. Hong Li-ming
(Jimmy), the first native-born Taiwanese to become a Bahá'í; and
Mr. Wong Ho-len (Wong Ho-jen). Mr. Khádem was the first Hand of the
Cause to visit Macau during the same trip. He also went to Japan. During the
time he was in Taiwan, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Scherer stopped over on their way to
pioneer to Macau.
When Mr. and Mrs. Suleimani arrived in 1954 they found there was already a
community of ten Chinese Bahá'ís, residing in various areas: in
Taipei (2), Tainan (4), Tao-yuan, Tsoying and Chia-yi. Mr. Suleimani soon met
eight of those Bahá'ís. He and his wife decided to settle in the
southwestern city of Tainan where they rented a two-room apartment.
The first believer in Taiwan was Mr. Jerome Chu, a newspaper man, who had
become a Bahá'í in Washington D.C. in 1945 after being taught by
Mrs. Miriam Haney and Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Barham. Mr. Chu received a letter from
the Guardian which ended with a message in his handwriting, "May the beloved
bless your efforts, guide your steps, remove all obstacles from your path, and
enable you to promote, effectively and under all conditions, the vital
interests of His glorious Faith. Your true brother, Shoghi."
Mr. Chu, in a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Barham in 1953, wrote that the fireside
meetings in the Barham' s apartment were the best times in his life. Mr. Chu
had known Mr. and Mrs. Suleimani in Shanghai in 1949 and they kept in touch.
According to Mr. Suleimani, in 1949 the first four Chinese
Bahá'ís arrived in Taiwan from the mainland to work as government
employees. They were Mr. Chu, Maj. Chien Tien-lee (Maj. Lee L.T. Chang) who
became a Bahá'í in the United States, and Mr. Mason Yuan (Yuan
Mien-hsien) who became a Bahá'í through Mrs. Haney in 1947. Mr.
Yuan told the Suleimanis, "Mother Haney taught me for a whole year every
evening." He said that he had never felt such love and kindness. The fourth
Bahá'í to arrive from the mainland was Mr. Yuan Hsu-chang,
On December 15, 1953 there was an article published in the Chung Hwa
Daily News which had a photo of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and some history and
principles of the Faith. This is no doubt the first publication about the Faith
in a newspaper in Taiwan. The article was written by Mr. Gellan Wang.
who lived in Nanking and became interested in the Faith through his neighbor,
Mr. Chu. Mr. Suleimani had known Maj. and Mrs. Chang (Chien) Lee in Shanghai
where they went when they returned to the Orient. Mr. Suleimani wrote that Mr.
and Mrs. Chang had a Bahá'í marriage ceremony in Denver,
There was another believer in Tainan, Mr. Gellan Wang (Wang Tzu-nan), who had
become a Bahá'í in the United States in 1947. He worked in the
Foreign Office in Taipei.
Hand of the Cause Mr. Khádem on his first trip to Taiwan,
November 17, 1953, with Lt. Col. Yuan Mien-hsien (Mason) and Mrs. Loretta
Scherer. The Scherers stopped at Taiwan on their way to their pioneer post of
Macau. Lt. Col. Yuan had become a Bahá'í in the United States in
The early Bahá'ís, including the three who came into the Faith
through Mr. Khádem in 1953, were quite staunch and their names can be
found in reports of activities in the early years.
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Barham, described by Miss Agnes Alexander as being teachers of
Mr. Chu and Mr. Wang, received a letter written on behalf of the Shoghi Effendi
by R. Rabbani. It was dated July 28, 1954 and was sent to the Barham's home in
"Your welcome letter of June 21st with enclosures was received, and the
beloved Guardian has instructed me to answer you on his behalf.
"He was delighted to learn of the excellent work Mr. Chu and Mr. Wang are
Naw-Rúz Party at Tainan, 1955
Seated: Mr. Ho Cheng-tzu, Mr. Wong Ho-len, Mrs. Ruthy Tu, Mr. Jerome
Chu, Mrs. Suleimani, Mr. Gellan Wang, Mr. Tsao Li-shih. Standing: Mr. Wang
Chi-chang, Mr. Pai Chung-cheng, Mr. Tai Tung-ko, Mr. S.A. Suleimani, Mr. Liu H.Y. Mr. Luk Yun-shen (Winston), Mr. Cheng Chen-chang, Mr. Hsiao Tsan-chang
doing. Will you please convey to them his loving greetings and the assurance of
his prayers for the success of their work?
"When we realize what promise Formosa holds for the future, and that only a
few years ago the Cause was unknown there, we can truly say miracles happen
before our very eyes!
"The Guardian hopes you will be able to go to Formosa and help establish the
projected assemblies there, and he urges you to keep in close touch with these
two dear Bahá'ís. He is placing the newspaper article you
forwarded in the Mansion Library at Bahji."
The Suleimanis started a study class as the Chinese felt they were not
familiar with some aspects of the Faith. Several months later, on the evening
of Naw-Rúz 1955, four people declared their Faith: Mr. Ho Cheng-tzu of
Chia-yi, who several years later was to become the designer of the Tainan
Bahá'í Center; Mr. Cheng Chen-chang of Taipei, who was in
newspaper work; Mr. Pai Chung-cheng of Tainan; and Mr. Hsiao Tsan-chang
(Johnson) of Chia-yi. Mr. Suleimani wrote that this was the most precious
Naw-Rúz present bestowed on the island. This group was also quite active
through the years.
In May 1955 Mr. Suleimani wrote that Capt. Shih Hung-mok, of Kangshan,
declared his belief at Ridván. He was an active promoter of the Faith
and helped with the printing.
At that time there were eighteen Bahá'ís in six localities, and
it soon climbed to twenty-one believers.
In 1955 Mrs. Suleimani wrote a letter to Rúhiyyih Khánum and
received a warm answer, quoted here in part, "Your most welcome letter of April
6 was received as well as the photographs you sent and I can assure you and
your dear husband that the news you give of the progress of our Faith in
Formosa has brought much joy to the heart of our beloved Guardian. I wish all
the news he gets could make him as happy! ... it is only the good news — such
as you send him — which lifts up his heart and enables him to carry on with
his heavy tasks."