Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mackay

Last Thursday I went to the OPERA with some friends.  It was my first time at the opera, and I felt ever so cultured to be going....
The opera was about the life of George Leslie Mackay, who was the first protestant missionary to Taiwan. Incidentally, he was also Canadian! Here's the Wikipedia article about him if you want to know more.
One of the unique things about this show is that it's the first western style opera ever performed in Taiwanese! I think that's a big accomplishment in many of ways. First of all the Taiwanese language kind of takes a backseat to Mandarin in Taiwan, especially among the educated. In schools they speak and write Chinese. Taiwanese doesn't even really have a proper written system. It was transcribed by missionaries, and can be somewhat represented by Chinese characters, but it is mainly spoken by older people in Taiwan, as well as the working class, and by some young people in certain areas young people in southern Taiwan. Interest has been revived in recent years, but though most of my Taiwanese friends under 30 can understand Taiwanese,  they still prefer to use Mandarin to communicate, so often their parents will speak Taiwanese to them, and they'll answer in Chinese. Whew ok, that was a big tangent... back to the show!

Most of the opera was in Taiwanese, and the lead who played Mackay both spoke and sang in Taiwanese! It was amazing! I have not really seriously tried to learn much Taiwanese because it's a whole lot more difficult that Chinese! Instead of 4 tones there are something like 7 or 8! The acting was great, and the set was really cool. Unfortunately, the translation on the subtitles left much to be desired. There were a lot of English mistakes and grammatical errors, though we could still figure out the meaning.

The main reason I liked the show was because it was inspiring, and I related to it on so many levels. Not only was it great to learn about such an important figure in Taiwanese history, but it was challenging to me to see his dedication and love for Taiwan.  It was great to see the scenes when he was still adjusting to Taiwanese culture and meeting people. He mentioned his distaste for the rain, which I'm sure I've blogged about before and said "I never thought I'd miss the snow!" One of my favorite scenes was when he was making friends with a group of local children and trying to teach them English! It was really well done and hilarious!  

It came through that he was answering God's calling in obedience, though I wish the show would have highlighted it a little more. It did show some his accomplishments though, including pulling over 20,000 teeth (I guess SOMEONE counted), and founding schools and churches. In fact, the church I attend in Yilan was founded by him!  I really want to go out to Danshui sometime, where he lived, and revisit some of the historical sites and monuments related to him. 

3 comments:

  1. I read about this opera a month or two ago and would have LOVED to have gone!!

    How cool that you got to go. I am just a teansy bit envious.

    Just a comment on the Taiwanese thing . . . what you said is all true for the North. It is not quite the same here in the south. In the south Taiwanese plays a major role at all ages.

    Of course public education is still in Mandarin, but the children here take Taiwanese classes and my college students speak it amongst themselves.

    So, if by "in certain areas" you actually meant "much of southern Taiwan" and by "some young people" you meant "most young people" . . . then ok, nevermind. . . . :)

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  2. boston12:20 pm

    awesome wish i was in tw and have the opportunity to see it.

    on a tangent, my great-grandfather was a student under mackey and is one of the early twese pastors.

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  3. that is SO neat! It's amazing how many lives he touched. do you know much about your great-grandfather's story?

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