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Five Blessings upon the Door: The Story of Dr. Chen Wu-Fu【Parent-Child Reading Guide】

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Dr. Chen Wu-Fu: To Light a Path for the Blind

Dr. Chen Wu-Fu was born in Luodong, Yilan, on December 20, 1918, as the youngest of ninesiblings (four girls and five boys). His name means‘five blessings’, and the number five would play a significant part in his life. He was the fifth son in the family. He graduated in the fifth class both at the Keelung High School and the College of Medicine, Taihoku Imperial University (present-day the National Taiwan University, NTU). He had five children (three girls and two boys), fivegranddaughters and five grandsons. His residencein Taipei was number five of the street, and on the fifth floor of the building.

Five Blessings over the Years: The Pride of Yilan

Chen Wu-Fu’s father, Chen Liu-Qiu, was at first a tenant farmer. Tired of being exploited by the landlord, he opened a grocery store in Luodong to provide for his family of eleven as a merchant instead. Most evenings after business hours, Chen Liu-Qiu would take private lessons with a tutor.

His dedication to self-advancement had been an inspiration to his own children later on.

Even after gaining financial success, Chen Liu- Qiu never forgot what it was like being a member of the exploited class. His acts of charity to tenantfarmers were so prolific that they were reported inthe newspapers. In addition to his generosity, Chen Liu-Qiu converted to Christianity, placing his family and future descendants under the grace of God.

Chen Liu-Qiu and his wife valued education. They took good care of Wu-Fu, but did not spoil him. Encouraged by his teachers and elders, Chen Wu- Fu acquired the habit of reading early in childhood. Almost every evening he delved into classics in natural sciences and humanities.

Chen Wu-Fu finished medical school with honors and continued to stay in his alma mater’s affiliatedhospital as a resident ophthalmologist. It was when the World War II was still raging. American airplanes bombed Taiwan which was under Japanese rule. Wu-Fu’s third eldest brother was one of the air-raid fatalities.

Soon after the World War II, Chen decided to leave the NTU Hospital and headed back to Luodong where he opened the Wu-Fu Eye Clinic at No. 108 Zhongzheng Rd. in 1946. The following year, he married dentist Chen Lian-Nian, daughter of a famous ophthalmologist from Sanxia, Taipei. Lian-Nian became Wu-Fu’s right-hand woman. To this day, the Wu-Fu Eye Clinic still serves the people of Yilan. Since his retirement, it has been run by Lin Yi-Min MD, the husband of his eldest daughter.

Life in Taiwan following the war was hard. Chen had to be a doctor of all specialties. He bicycled to patients who were too weak to travel, and went

deep into the mountains to see the Atayals. Only later did he switch to a Harley-Davidson, carrying the nurse and his kit around.

The Chens encountered many patients who fell into financial and mental despair after losing their sight. In 1959, the Chens founded Mu-Kuang Learning Center where sight-deprived youth could gain the skills to earn a livelihood. Chun-Zhi, Chens’ eldest son, is now in charge of the institution, which had been renamed Mu-Kuang Rehabilitation Center for the Blind. The institution’s mission is to help the blind rebuild their body and mind, and to promote the rights and welfare of those with disabilities.Throughout the decades, over five hundred people all over Taiwan have granduated and benefited from Mu-Kuang.

To give the blind comprehensive education and medical care, Chen went abroad from time to time to learn more advanced medical methods. He invented tools and appliances for the blind and ophthalmological uses, and started a pharmaceutical company to make assorted medicine for the eye. Students at Mu-Kuang were also offered the opportunity as interns in the company.

The Spirit of Schweitzer lives on in Taiwan

The role model for Chen was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Chen came across his biography Schweitzer, the Man, written by Japanese physician Nomura Minoru, while making preparations for the opening of the Mu-Kuang Learning Center in town. The book details the Alsatian’s deeds in Lambaréné, French Equatorial

Africa (present-day the Gabonese Republic). Deeplytouched, Chen wrote to Schweitzer in German. Schweitzer replied from Gabon, encouraging Chen to devote himself to the education of the blind. That was the beginning of their long-lasting correspondence and friendship.

After Schweitzer’s passing, the executors gifted one fiftieth of his effects to Dr. Chen Wu-Fu. That included Schweitzer’s tableware, feed sacks, and signed wooden cross. The charity Friends of Schweitzer in Taiwan was established in 1975, on the centennial of the great man’s birth, with Chenas its first chairperson.

Chen strove to uphold Schweitzer ’s philosophy of Reverence for Life and saw himself “a friend of Schweitzer’s in Taiwan”. “Everyone has his own Lambaréné,” Albert Schweitzer once said. Luodong was Dr. Chen Wu-Fu’s Lambaréné, and he worked for the people of this land with his utmost.

Nothing is too small

Chen was right-handed, but used his left hand often to train himself to be ambidextrous. He led a rigorous and disciplined life, so that he would always have the eyesight and stable hands to perform surgeries at his best.

The eye is a delicate organ. Any mishap during an operation could wreak irrevocable damage. That was why Chen never overlooked any detail. He believed nothing in this world is too small. In one of his homilies, he concluded, “I respect every living being. It is my job to serve the people.” And he did exactly that.

Dr. Wu-Fu Forever

Chen worked from 8 am to 8 pm everyday. He went to the wards each evening to sing hymns with the patients and to spread the Gospel, because he believed encouragement and redemption in the soul was more important than alleviating physical pain. He would offer free surgeries to the poor, volunteer to see patients living in remote areas, and donate generously to charitable causes.

Chen was an avid reader and a learned man. A close civilian friend to the former President Mr. Lee Teng-Hui, Chen would send him three Japanese books every month, all personally marked and annotated. The main interviewee for the creation of this book was the aforementioned and erudite Lin Yi- Min MD, who credited his father-in-law with inspiring him to dabble in Kant, Carlyle, and Emerson.

Chen retired at the age of 72. Various maladies,perhaps a result of exhaustion, afflicted in his latteryears. Yet despite undergoing five operations, he never forgot the meaning of joy and giving. He never seemed frightful or disturbed; instead, he often consoled fellow patients with hymns and quotes from the Scripture. Dr. Chen Wu-Fu, the modest and kind doctor, passed away on November 8, 1997, but lives forever in the hearts of the people of Yilan.

• The author and editors would like to thank Lin Yi-Min MD and Mr. Chen Chun-Zhi for their guidance and hospitality.

•Photo Credit: Chen Chun-Zhi