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Dr. Cheng Chun Sheng with hospital staff in front of hospital building, 1950.

From Adventism in China Digital Image Repository.

Toishan Hospital and Dispensary (1948–1952)

By Bruce W. Lo

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Bruce W. Lo is the ESDA assistant editor for the Chinese Union Mission.

First Published: August 24, 2021

Toishan Hospital and Dispensary, better known by the pinyin of its Chinese name as Taishan Christos Hospital (台山基督醫院),1 was one of the short-lived, yet important Adventist health institutions in southern China that emerged after World War II but was soon taken over by the government due to political changes in China.2

Since the entry of the Adventist message to China, the medical ministry has played an important role in the spreading of the Gospel. The Taishan (台山)3 region of Guangdong province was no exception. Taishan has its own dialect that is rather different from mainstream Chinese, so people in that region were very interested in having their own hospital. At the end of the Sino-Japan War (中日戰爭) in 1945, Lee Yan Nam (李雁南), an Adventist businessman in Hong Kong, wanted to build a hospital in his hometown of Taishan to serve his fellow townspeople. He donated a plot of land and the associated garage on that land. Due to the Chinese civil war, the hospital development plan was not implemented until 1948.

The formal decision to build the hospital was announced at the Biennial Council of the China Division on January 15-26, 1948. C. H. Davis (戴天德), president of South China Union, reported:

During the year just closed the Lee Brothers and Company [owned by Lee Yan Nam] promised to build a new sanitarium-hospital, to be located at Toishan. Land has been bought and plans for four buildings have been made. There are four small brick buildings on the property, which are to be repaired. Material for the new buildings is now being purchased and construction will begin at an early date. We welcome Dr. Paul Hwang into our midst to do the pioneer work of establishing this institution. The district in which this sanitarium is to be located is a section where many families from overseas including American Chinese, have settled. Chinese business people in America, Australia, and other countries have their homes there, and will be pleased to hear that we have a church and hospital in their home town in China.4

When Paul Hwang (Huáng Zǐkè 黃子克), formerly acting medical director of the Yencheng Sanitarium and Hospital (郾城衛生療養院) in Henan (河南), arrived to commence the Adventist medical work in Taishan, he was able to secure suitable living quarters for his family almost immediately, then quickly devoted himself to providing clinical services in the existing buildings.5

The hospital opened in 1948 as the Toishan Clinic (台山診所). Only day patients were accepted at that time since there were no facilities to admit inpatients overnight. Later, the clinic was expanded into a full hospital as buildings were added on the donated land. It was then renamed Toishan Christos Hospital (台山基督醫院). The main structure was a two-story building with the outpatient clinic, pathology lab, X-ray lab, and pharmacy on the ground floor, and inpatient rooms and operating rooms on the first floor. The hospital was located on the west side of the city near the Tongji Bridge (通济橋) along the bank of the Tongji River (通济河).

In 1949, with the escalation of the civil war and the advancing People’s Liberation Army crossing to the south of the Yangtze River, Paul Hwang left for Hong Kong since he was sent to the United States by the China Division on November 5, 1949, for further training.

In early 1950, Timothy Lo (Luo Jiachong 羅加寵) was called from Hong Kong to take over the medical directorship. In the latter part of that year, he was transferred to Guangxi (廣西) as medical superintendent of the Nanning Seventh-day Adventist Hospital (南寧小樂園醫院).

Another doctor, Cheng Chun Sheng (Zhèng Quánchéng 鄭全成) of the Wai On Hospital-Dispensary (惠安醫院), a graduate of Shiang Ya Medical School (湘雅醫學院) in Hunan (湖南), succeeded Timothy Lo as the medical director at Toishan Hospital. Cheng brought with him a number of nurse’s aides from Waichow (Huizhou惠州) to Taishan. Later he recruited more graduate nurses. However, the hospital did not have many patients at first because the organization was not well known among the people of Taishan and many of the locals were skeptical of western medicine. Cheng decided to go to a nearby long-distance bus terminal where he found one of the rickshaw pullers who had a harelip. Cheng asked the rickshaw puller to come to the hospital after offering to repair his lip free of charge. The rickshaw puller thought he had nothing to lose, so he agreed to the operation, which turned out to be a success. The rickshaw puller was delighted with his new look and his new ability to speak clearly. Those who knew him were amazed at the transformation and asked him what had happened. He told them that the operation had been performed at the Toishan Adventist Hospital free of charge. From that day forward, the reputation of the hospital spread widely, and it no longer had to worry about having enough patients any longer.6

Another challenge that faced the hospital related to the lack of security and the enforcement of law and order during those years. Highway robberies were not uncommon in that part of the country. If they could not stop the buses, robbers would shoot bullets into the bus to get them to halt. Passengers with bullet wounds would be brought into the hospital. With limited facilities, the operating room nurses and staff had to work long hours and under very difficult circumstances to assist Dr. Cheng to remove the bullets from the patients. But the Lord blessed the staff of the hospital. They were successful in saving lives on numerous occasions. This generated a very positive opinion among the citizens of Taishan about the Adventist hospital, according to Pong Chu Oilin (龐朱愛憐), who was then nursing director of the hospital. Even with limited resources and financial support from the Adventist Church, the hospital continued to grow. At its peak, the hospital had about 20 staff and about 35 beds with an x-ray department, a pathology lab, and an operating room.7

However, those still were difficult times, with shortages of nearly everything, including medicine and hospital supplies. The hospital was very dependent on aid from the U.S. to obtain even such simple things as milk, power, bandages, and cotton wool. Notwithstanding these challenges, the hospital continued to flourish, serving the needs of the Taishan regional community. After the change in government in mainland China, the hospital was taken over by the government in 1952 and renamed Taishan City People’s Hospital (台山市人民醫院). Dr. Cheng Chun Sheng continued to serve the hospital as associate medical director and a surgeon during the 1950s.8

Medical Directors

Paul Hwang (1948-1949); Timothy Lo (1950); Cheng Chum Sheng (1951-1952).

Sources

Davis, C. B. "Report of the South China Union." The China Division Reporter, March 1948.

"Division Notes." The China Division Reporter, May 1948, 8.

Wu, Chook Ying and Bruce W. Lo. “Guangdong Toishan (Pinyin: Taishan) Clinic and Christos Hospital (1948-1951).” Adventism in China. Accessed May 10, 2013.

www.adventisminchina/department/health/taishan.

Notes

  1. Toishan Hospital and Dispensary was the name used in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (e.g., see the 1950 edition of the Yearbook), but for most Chinese who are familiar with the institution, it is better known as Taishan Christos Hospital where “Taishan” is the correct official pinyin spelling of “Toishan”. Younger generations of readers likely will use the official word “Taishan” while older readers may be more familiar with “Toishan”.

  2. This article was largely based on a similar article by the author and Wu Chook Ying published on the Adventism in China website, Wu, Chook Ying and Lo, Bruce W. “Guangdong Toishan (Pinyin: Taishan) Clinic and Christos Hospital (1948-1951),” Adventism in China, accessed May 10, 2013, www.adventisminchina/department/health/taishan.

  3. Taishan was usually romanized as “Toishan” in the Taishan dialect during the pre-pinyin days.

  4. C. B. Davis, "Report of the South China Union", The China Division Reporter, March 1948, 10-11.

  5. "Division Notes", The China Division Reporter, May 1948, 8.

  6. Wai Ling Cheng (daughter of Dr. Cheng) and Chun Sheng, telephone interviews by author, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 2010 – May 2011.

  7. Chu Oilin Pong, former director of nursing at Taishan Hospital, telephone interviews by author, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 2010 - May 2011.

  8. Ibid.

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Lo, Bruce W. "Toishan Hospital and Dispensary (1948–1952)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 24, 2021. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7HN7.

Lo, Bruce W. "Toishan Hospital and Dispensary (1948–1952)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 24, 2021. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7HN7.

Lo, Bruce W. (2021, August 24). Toishan Hospital and Dispensary (1948–1952). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7HN7.