Orthodox Christianity in Taiwan
Orthodox Christianity arrived in Taiwan around 1895, the year the Qing Dynasty ceded the island to Japan. These first Orthodox believers were Japanese immigrants, who almost immediately began petitioning St. Nicholas (Kasatskin), Archbishop of Japan to send them a priest. In 1901, a Tokyo synod created the Christ the Savior Parish in Taiwan. Its first priest was Fr. Simeon (Okava or Yukava—spellings differ), followed (in 1911) by a Fr. Titus (Kariyama). Records indicate a Taiwan-based Orthodox population of 15 or 17 (in 1900), 29 (in 1901), and 44 (in 1903). The activity of the community was interrupted by the 1912 death of St. Nicholas of Japan, and largely ceased with the end of Japanese rule in 1945.
In 1949, some 5000 Russians arrived from China (e.g. Shanghai, Harbin, Xinjiang) in the wake of the Chinese Civil War, and began gathering in Taipei's Cafe Astoria. Mention is made of a Korean War-era funeral led by Bishop (later Archbishop) John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco, then a U.S. army chaplain en route from Korea to the USA. Archbishop Ireney (Bekish) of Tokyo (later New York) made annual visits to Taipei between 1957 and 1959, celebrating divine liturgy in a private home, under the name of the Church of the Forerunner. In 1960 he ceded these duties to an American military chaplain, Fr. Nikolay Kirilyuk. 1965 saw a visit by Metropolitan Vladimir (Sagosky) of Japan (later San Francisco), American military chaplain Archpriest Peter Zurnovich, and Fr. Kirill Arihara. The number of Orthodox faithful in Taiwan has been variously estimated at 50 (in 1960), 100 (in 1958), and 200 (in 1965). The Russian community's most famous member, Chiang Ching-kuo's Belarussian-born wife Chiang Fang-liang (née Faina Ipat'evna Vakhreva), did not attend services (and may have nominally affiliated with her husband's Methodism).
Sources differ as the whether this predominantly Russian church had any contact with the earlier wave of Japanese-era believers. By the 1970's the church had again dwindled into inactivity, in part because of a canonical rule requiring the closure of any parish which goes more than fifty years without a resident priest.
But nevertheless, the Taiwanese Orthodox Church was re-established in the year of 2001 AD under the rule of the Metropolia of South Asia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul. The attendants are mainly Russian and other Slavic people but gradually, more and more Taiwanese locals are coming to Orthodoxy.
- Gleb Rar, "Historical Notes about Orthodox Church Life in Taiwan during 50-60 years of 20 cent."
- Japanese-era Churches in Taiwan (photos and links)
- Fr. Jonah's website 1 (Chinese)
- Fr. Jonah's website 2 (Chinese)
- Fr. Jonah's LinkedIn entry
- Seraphim William Davidson's website
- Johanna E. Katchen's website
- Moscow-affiliated church site (Chinese)
- Moscow-affiliated church site (Russian)
- Moscow-affiliated church's Facebook page