Day 6: Weifang and Wei Hai

The day began with breakfast on the 49th floor of the hotel where the ground was not visible through the fog and pollution. Heading off to the Jinan train station, we waited for our high-speed train to Weifang, a trip of about an hour and a half. No mishaps on the escalators this time with our luggage. The train was exactly on time, clean and comfortable. The landscape of Shandong province was full of farms with large areas covered with plastic enclosed low greenhouse-like structures. Light rain was falling and the fog or smog limited visibility. The smooth trip went quickly.

After arriving in Weifang with a challenging exit from the train station, we were met by our driver and set out in search of the Shadyside Park, called Happy Way Park in Chinese. This large urban park was the location of a hospital built in 1924 with funds from Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

The hospital building still stands near the center of this park which was created by the Chinese government in memory of those who lost their lives when the hospital and the school buildings that were also part of the Presbyterian mission compound were turned into a concentration camp during World War II. It, in fact, was the largest concentration camp run by the Japanese during the Second World War for the internment of foreign nationals. The park was liberated near the end of the war by American forces but not before one of the famous prisoners, Eric H Liddell, gold medal runner at the 1924 Olympics and subject of the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” died in the camp.

The group gathered for photographs at the cornerstone of the hospital which bears the words “Shady Side Hospital 1924” and is scarred by efforts to deface it. Peter Lim translated the words on a memorial that recounted the history of the area founded by Presbyterians. The tranquility and beauty of the park were a strong but peaceful contrast to the pain and suffering that was endured by those who were held captive there. It was a humbling experience to quietly walk through the grounds in a light rain.

Art Gilkes and Linda Leach from Shadyside Church stand at the cornerstone of namesake Shadyside Hospital in Weifang, Shandong
Art Gilkes and Linda Leach from Shadyside Church stand at the cornerstone of namesake Shadyside Hospital in Weifang, Shandong

A four-hour bus ride to Wei Hai brought us to this coastal city after dark. Our hosts from the Fumen (Blessed Door) Church met our bus and guided us to a local restaurant for a delicious dinner with many interesting dishes. Their hospitality was extremely warm and generous. The Rev. Lu and his wife, the Rev. Tan, were very gracious and engaging as they told us of their work in spreading the gospel in Wei Hai.

Blessings from Janet Wood for the China Heritage Team