China News (Letters Page)
(Published in the China News (daily English newspaper in Taiwan): "Regarding the Chen Tao "religious" sect led by Hon-Ming Chen, a fourtysomething sociology professor from Taiwan, one must first of all establish the context in which this cult exists. In Taiwan, a professor is given a lot of status in society, and many people will look up to him/her regardless of the beliefs they espouse. I have spoken to many Taiwanese here in Taipei since this story hit the >newspapers over the Xmas holidays, and almost everyone I talk to says that since Chen is a professor he must be very smart and intelligent and in possession of a high IQ. Nobody is really calling him crazy here, whereas in the USA, most journalists covering the story probably think the man is a certified nut case. Let's look at his history and beliefs. He says, without blinking an eyelash, that he is the father of the Christian Christ-figure, who was born some 2000 years ago in the Middle East. Allegedly fathered via immaculate conception. So Mr. Chen in 20th Century Taiwan, the Republic of China (Free China, some say), tells reporters in Texas he is the daddy of Jesus, and that two of the children in the cult wearing white cowboy hats are reincarnations, respectively, of Jesus and Buddha. Now we're talking heavy-duty belief systems here. That his flock "buys" his perachings, at $60,000 a head (for adults), says that we are dealing with a bunch of seriously reality-challenged airheads. Nice people, most probably, but not very much on the bright side. But you in the USA must understand that in Taiwan many people are susceptible to these kind of New Age hocus-pocus beliefs because they have been victimized by Western ideas. Anyway, Mr Chen is coming to messiah-hood via a few books he has written, the texts of which have been scanned by independent anticult reporters Rodney Perkins and Forrest Jackson in Texas. Accoring to Internet website maintained by Perkins/Jackson, Chen claims that God will make a personal appearance on March 31 at 10 a.m., advertised six days in advance on Channel 18 all over America. We are talking loony tunes here! In addition, by combining elements of Buddhism, Christianity and Taiwanese folk religion, Chen has his followers eating out his hand. And speakingof hands, it has now been reported, in the Gary (Indiana) Post-Tribune (Jan.10) that Mr Chen speaks to God by speaking to the palm of his hand. Yes, and the white cowboy hats he and his followers wear apparently allow God's spirit to enter their bodies! Hello? Hello? As often is the case with Asian cults, Chen's take on the Hebrew Testaments is laced with a bit of old-fashioned anti-Hebrewism, saying that he finds the so-called "Old" Testament to be "narrowminded, cruel, unable to tell the difference between good and evil and partial with preference only for the Jews." Oh, them damned Hebrews, calling themselves the Chosen People and all! What chutzpah! What hubris! Well, hellooooooooooooooo, Mr Chen! Let's scapegoat the ancient Israelites once again, in a fine tradition that has come down the centuries from cult to cult, from the early Christians to the dopey Aum Supreme Truth dummies of Japan, whose leader also engaged in Hebrew-bashing in some of his holy texts on sarin gassing and subway etiquette. It's time for a little reality checking around here: Not only is Mr Chen a total fraud, he is also a rather stupid "thinker." He claims to be Jesus's daddy, says God will appear in his body on March 31 at exactly 10 am, tells his followers to wear white cowboy hats (called "heavenly crowns" in Chenspeak), collects very high fees for membership dues, claims a UFO (or some kind of strange cloud) will come to Garland on March 31 and takes his flock on trips to Alaska, Colorado, Indiana and casino-laced Las Vegas (nice touch, that) to perform holy riturals. The upshot of all this is that we are dealing with a man who knows not of what he speaks, although he is undoubtedly sincere in his preachings and teachings, as are all his followers as well. But...what the USA media has not reported and does not know, is that the Taiwan police have received letters, cassettes and videotapes from ex-cultists alleging "nightmare" journeys here and there, outright financial fraud and misleading religious tenets. What the USA media needs to zero in on now, other than the entertainment and freak show aspect of this Garland Gaga Show is the real misdeeds of the cult leadership. Of course, the cult is free to pursue its vision, given the best of all possible worlds where we find ourselves in, but on the other hand, the media has a right as the Fourth Estate to investigate this catatonic cult from a rational perspective. If enough details are brought to light in a serious and probing way before the end of March dawns across the vast expanse of eternal and infinite Texas, maybe the cult can be disbanded and "sent home" (to Taiwan) before a horrible tragedy occurs. Hopefully, without too much loss of face." -- Terry Walker (published Jan. 12 in Taiwan; webposted Jan. 15)
New York Times - Feb. 27 (by Edward A. Gargan)
TAIPEI -- - Ho Hsien-jung cradled a bloated aluminum saucer on his lap
and looked worried.
"We are scientists," he fumed, carefully placing the shining saucer
alongside others on a shelf in his narrow living room. "Our research
into UFOs is scientific. All these other people are cheats. They're
As chairman of the Chinese Flying Saucer Research Association, Ho has
good reason to be concerned: a growing number of people in Taiwan are
reporting sightings of flying saucers and he has never seen one.
Moreover, these sightings have been used by a growing number of
religious prophets who promise everything from a fast-approaching
apocalypse to instant wealth, alarming authorities at a spreading
pattern of religious and financial fraud.
Many people here say that they have been fleeced of their life savings
by these cult leaders, who are preying on a society that has gone
through tumultuous political and economic transformations in the last
decade: from dictatorship to democracy, from developing country to one
of the strongest economies in Asia.
"From ancient times to the Qing dynasty," which ended in 1911, "there
are historical records showing more than 1,000 UFO sightings," insisted
Ho, leafing through a detailed listing of historical texts describing
mysterious objects and lights in the sky. "But in Taiwan," he continued,
"you can't really see UFOs. They don't come to Taiwan very often. Taiwan
is just a small island. They can't see it from outer space."
Undeterred by such assertions from Taiwan's pre-eminent saucer
authority, a former medical professor named Chen Heng-ming spent last
year busily assembling devotees into his sect, the God Saves the Earth
Flying Saucer Association.
Perhaps because Taiwan is so small, Chen has taken about 100 of his
followers to the wide open ranges of Texas where they will, in the words
of a follower, Wu Chun-sheng, "be meeting God, who would arrive on a
flying saucer to save them." From Dallas, the believers will be whisked
to Mars neat year in flying saucers. Living a year in a flying saucer,
she said, "would be like 10 years on earth."
Interplanetary travel, however, appears to come with a price tag. The
parents of several sect members have complained to the police that their
children gave Chen huge sums of money for the privilege of a saucer
In Texas, the authorities are reportedly worried that he intends to
orchestrate a mass suicide in the fashion of Heaven's Gate, an American
sect in which dozens of members committed collective suicide in San
Diego last year.
In articles with blaring headlines here, Chen has repeatedly assured the
people of Taiwan that he has no intention of committing suicide; indeed,
he said, he and his 100 or so followers were just "waiting to ride a
flying saucer into heaven," a trip that would start on March 31, 1999,
at precisely 10 p.m.
While Chen was scuttling off to Texas for his promised encounter of the
third kind, a man named Wu Tai-chung has been corralling members into
his own sect, the Sky and Earth Enlightenment Association, by assuring
them that he arrived from outer space to save them from planetary
Armageddon. Brandishing photographs taken in Taiwan's central mountain
district, Wu told his growing number of followers that the dots of sun
glare marring the pictures were in fact "points of inner energy" from
outer space; merging with those dots would, Wu declared, allow believers
to soar into outer space on a flying saucer.
Like the rides offered by Chen, the ticket to salvation by saucer is no
"We believed, we completely believed," said Tai Chiu-fen, a 38-year-old
mother of seven and owner of a auto repair shop. "We got involved
because my husband had these headaches and we were told he didn't have
to have medicine and he would get better. We were very curious and
decided to try it."
She and her husband gave Wu Tai-chung the equivalent of about $312,000,
she said. "We have no money left. We spent it all, or rather, we were
cheated of it all."
As the flying saucer cults spread, national authorities and officials in
Taipei, a city of 6 million, are becoming increasingly alarmed at
"This so-called religious problem is a social problem," said Chen
Shui-bian, Taipei's mayor, in an interview in his spartan office. "In
Taiwan society, many people do not have faith in themselves. They feel
they can't place their faith in ordinary things, including science and
technology, so they put it into these religions."
"These religions," he continued, "are not real religions. They are just
another form of deception. People get deeply involved. It's not a
question of education because a lot of professors, Ph.D.'s, they can
believe in these type of things."
Mrs. Tai, who gave all her money to the Sky and Earth sect, reluctantly
agreed with her mayor when asked why she turned to Wu's group. Sighing
deeply, she explained: "The pressure on our life is very heavy. We all
seek spiritual sustenance. I believed in him. He had pictures. He showed
them to us. Everyone said it was true, it was real."
She added: "He said that if you want to travel this road, you can't take
belongings from this world. No possessions. Only then can you reach this
So uneasy are the Taiwan authorities about the spread of these cults
that prosecutors have begun criminal investigations into whether
adherents have been defrauded.
Liao Cheng-hao, the minister of justice, said in an interview that the
reasons for the spread of the cults was "very, very easy to understand,"
adding: "People feel empty and are searching for a kind of civilized
society. They are all looking for the true religion. But these flying
saucer cults are a relatively strange phenomenon."
For Ho, for whom flying saucers are a serious business, there is no
mystery about them. "If there's a UFO in the sky, you can see it," he
said. "It has a shape, a form, It has mass. All the others are cheats."
Despite the spread of cults claiming links with beings on flying
saucers, Ho said he was determined to soldier on with his work. "Our
research is scientific," he said. "How could we be affected by these
cults? How could this hurt our reputation?"
"Religion itself is very mysterious," Ho said. "Adding UFOs only makes
it more attractive. But if you're using UFOs in your religion, your
religion has got real problems."
From the "Cults 'R Us" Hit List (link)
A website titled CULT 'R US on the Internet -- you can find it at: http://www.mayhem.net/Crime/cults1.html -- has entered the Chen Tao cult in Garland as an unofficial entry on its "hit list." Read it for yourself onsite or peruse the copy that follows: "God's Salvation Church (-) Not yet an official member of the Cults 'R Us Hit List, the God's Salvation Church has emerged in San Dimas, California as potentially suicidal sect eerily reminiscent to the Heaven's Gate cult. The Taiwan-based God's Salvation Church came to the attention of authorities on December 24, 1997, when Sheriff's detectives went to investigate a Taiwanese woman's claim that her teen-age daughter was kidnapped by her cult member uncle. While rescuing the girl at the church, detectives learned that the group was going to Garland, Texas, where they expect Christ to come down in a flying saucer to pick them up . Authorities also found neatly packed backpacks with matching white clothing and sneakers for the members to take in their heavenly rendevouz. _____
Already 140 followers of the church -- dressed in white and wearing sunglasses and white cowboy hats -- have left for Garland for the expected March 31 dat with their maker. Though church members deny their intentions of commiting mass suicide, Taiwanese media reported last week that the group's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, was encouraging newcomers to kill themselves so their bodies could be picked up by flying saucers. Chen -- who believes the Bible got it all wrong -- decided to move his church to Garland early this summer because the name sounds like and means "God's Land." He also interprets promotional sky writings as signs from God especifically directed at him. Although Chen denied any suicide plans, the former Taiwanese sociology teacher did claim to be the father of Jesus Christ and that God will assume his body at 10 a.m. on March 31. (c)1998 CRUS
First Sighting -- June 26 webpost (fr: Canada)
While doing a search engine troll on hotbot looking for "Hon-Ming Chen," we unexpectedly came up with an amazing find! Apparently, the Chen Tao cult, then calling itself God's Salvation Church, placed expensive advertisments in two Canadian newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and The Province in British Columbia, as you will see below. This webpost is dated June 26, 1997 -- more than 6 months before the sstory "broke" in the USA and Taiwan! A chap by the name of "Tal" posted the item, which goes as follows: "Two Jesuses meet in Canada!" was Tal's headline; then he wrote:_____
[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ EnterActs - July 1997 Archive ]_____
Posted by Tal on June 26, 1997 at 09:47:22:_____
He is finally here.....whoops.... wait a minute... there are two of them. Now what do I do?
Thought you might get a kick out of this. Sad but funny. Anyway... this is suppose to be taken from a paper in Vancouver.
-------------VANCOUVER SETTING FOR REUNION OF 2 'CHRISTS' by Ian Austin____
(VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA) -- June 1997 -- "Christ" is coming to Vancouver to find himself.
According to the God's Salvation Church of San Dimas, Calif., a
Taiwanese eight-year-old who is the "Jesus Christ of East" is due here
tomorrow to m;eet the "Jesus Christ of West."_____
"This is the choice of our heavenly father," Ling-Ling Chen said
fron Garland, Tes., whence she's preparing to make the trek to Vancouver.
Chen's husband Hon-Ming Chen, the 42-year-old founder of the
church, purports to have been told by God of the Western Christ._____
"He is about 27-30 years old, and he's living in Vancouver, and he
knows who he is," said Ling-Ling, 37.
The Chen family-they have two children, Yen-Jen and Yen-Jye-are not
shy about their search.____
They spent thousands of dollars on large ads in The Province and
the Vancouver Sun hoping to catch the eye of the holy man living here._____
"It is the time for the Jesus Christ of East and the Jesus Christ
of West being together," reads the ad from the Chens, recent emigrants from
"We are going to Vancouver B.C. Canada to meet with you according
to the sign from our Lord the heavenly father. We estimate to arrive in
Vancouver at 13:15 p.m. with the flight No. 533 via Air Canada on June 25,
1997. You are going to see a child named Lo Chi-Jen in their group who is
the eastern Jesus Christ with a Chinese farmer's hat (shape like the top of
a gazebo)on his head and the crown of heaven in his hand, and that is the
affirmation of the reunion."_____
That is the article written for the ad, Here is the ad. (It was bordered by
triangles and plus signs):______ _/_/_/_/:
JESUS CHRIST! It is time for SALVATION and being TOGETHER
Reveal the secret from heaven for the
coming of Jesus Christ. Every person including Jesus has three spiritual
bodies. About two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was crucified (this is
to realize the proclamation that he will come again, reference to Bible
Mathew 24; The Great Tribulation). The Holy Spirit is then divided into
One Parts: The Son of man is coming in the year 1999 after the
great tribulation, then all the tribes of earth will mourn and they will
see the Son of man coning on the clouds of heaven with power and great
Another Parts: Born in the eastern Asia-Taiwan.____
The Other Parts: Born in the West-Vancouver B.C. Canada.____
Why will come this way? This is the way he promised to appear.____
(1) Not to let the selected ones from the Lord be astrayed from false
Christ, for many will come in My name, saying "I am the Christ".____
(2) To practice the proclaimed, for as the lightning comes from the east
and shines as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of man.___
(3) At the year of 1999, the days in the East (east Asia) as were the days
of Noah, with the flood coming so will the coming of the Son of man fromt
he east for hte salvation.___
(4) The days of Sodom must take place in the east Asia, which will happen
with the suffering of nuclear war, all of these will happen before the last
6 months of 1999.___
Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these
things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not
pass away (This is *our Lord* the heavenly father's promise of salvation
to the mankind.)___
2.* Our Lord the Heavenly Father has come for the Salvation! The kingdom
of heaven has arrived!* This actually happened at the beginning of the
year of 1996. In the year 1999 after the great tribulation, *our lord* the
heavenly father and Jesus Christ will come to earth on the clouds of heaven
with power and great glory.___
It is the time for the Jesus Chrsit of East and the Jesus Christ of West
*Your family members and disciples of two thousand years ago have revived
(born again). We are going to Vancouver, B.C. Canada to meet with you
according to the sign from our Lord the heavenly father. We estimate *to
arrive in Vancouver at 13:15 PM with the flight NO. 533 via Air Canada June
25, 1997.* You are going to see a child named Lo, Chi-Jen in their group
who is the eastern Jesus Christ with a Chinese farmer's hat (shape like the
top of a gazebo) on his head and the crown of heaven in his hand, and that
is the affirmation of the reunion. _____END ADVERTISEMENT
New York Times ____March 4, 1998
GARLAND, Texas______The members of the Chen Tao (The True Way) UFO cult started moving in
last summer. They have bought at least 30 homes, all with cash and all
within a two-and-a-half-mile radius. At least 150 followers have arrived
from Taiwan, with more on their way.
They dress almost completely in white, including white sneakers and
white straw cowboy hats. Their leader, Heng-ming Chen, whom they call
"Teacher Chen," says he talks to God through his hand and discerns godly
wisdom from golden balls that he sees floating in the sky.___
Preaching of divinity, and rumors of suicide.
But what has really attracted the neighbors' attention here is the bold
pronouncement in Teacher Chen's long guide to his religion, entitled
"God's Descending in Clouds (Flying Saucers) on Earth to Save People."
On page 176, he promises: "At 10 a.m. on March 31, 1998, God shall make
His appearance in the Holy Land of the Kingdom of God: 3513 Ridgedale
Dr., Garland, TX 75041 U.S.A." He concludes: "I guarantee this on my
The modest, split-level, beige-brick home at 3513 Ridgedale Drive is the
home of Teacher Chen, a 42-year-old former social-science professor who
says he fathered Christ nearly 2,000 years ago and whose group includes
two boys, Chi-Jen Lo and Che-Yu Chiang, whom he describes as the
reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha.
In Garland, a working-class city of about 200,000 people just north of
Dallas, the arrival of this religious group with its unusual garb and
rituals has been greeted with some wariness, but mostly bemusement.
"They told me that Garland is God's land, and I thought, 'Well, OK, to
each his own,' " said Bonnie Nichols, who lives three doors down from
Chen. Said her husband, Carl: "They all seem nice enough. They're quiet.
They keep their yards up and everything."
But back in Taiwan, where Chen's followers generally sold everything
they owned before coming here, the group's gathering in Texas has been
major news. It has set off a wave of concern from distraught relatives
who describe Chen as a cult leader who has both swindled and brainwashed
the members into paying him their life savings for the supposed
privilege of taking a ride on a flying saucer to heaven.
Even more alarmingly, there have been recurring rumors reported in the
Taiwan press, that the group plans to commit mass suicide if God does
not arrive on schedule in Garland on March 31.
Teacher Chen, in an interview in front of his home, staunchly denied
that his group, which includes several former professors and engineers,
has any suicidal tendencies.
"That is absolutely impossible," he said through his interpreter,
Richard Liu, as the boy whom Chen describes as the reincarnation of
Jesus, 10-year-old Chi-Jen Lo, stood a few steps away, drinking Mountain
Dew soda and nibbling on raisins. "Our principle is respect for all
life, including human life, and no one has the right to take a life."
At the same time, though, Chen says he will has volunteered to surrender
his fate to his followers if his prophecies prove untrue. "He is willing
to be executed, stoned to death, put on a cross," Liu said. "It doesn't
In Taiwan, the group is known as the most controversial outgrowth of a
booming national interest in unidentified flying objects. Numerous
associations and quasi-religious organizations that track sightings or
predict arrivals of UFOs have cropped up around the island nation.
Chen's group, whose Chinese characters are best translated as "God Saves
the Earth Flying Saucer Association," started its first American chapter
in San Dimas, Calif., in 1995.
But it moved to Texas last year after the leader said he received a
prophecy from God instructing him to move to the suburbs of Dallas. If
you say it fast, Chen tells his followers and curious visitors, "Garland
sounds just like 'God's Land.' "
In most cases, intact families have joined the group, although late last
year sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles County retrieved a 16-year-old
girl, Nan-Hua Chiang, after her mother in California expressed fears
that she was joining a dangerous pilgrimage with the group to Texas.
No one knows whether Chen's group may be an Asian version of Heaven's
Gate, the reclusive group that committed mass suicide last March in a
suburban house near San Diego in an attempt to rendezvous with Comet
Hale-Bopp, or whether members simply subscribe to an unusual set of
beliefs and will simply accept the development if God does not appear
here on March 31.
Taiwanese officials in Texas, who say they are monitoring the group,
play down its prospects for self-harm, noting that most group members
have temporary United States visas and bought round-trip tickets to come
"They're just average people, just following their leader," insisted
Chi-Chia Chen, assistant to the director general of Taiwan's Economic
and Cultural Office in Houston, the equivalent of a consulate. "Their
leader claims God will show on March 31 and will send a flying saucer to
pick them up. If God doesn't show, then he says his followers can pack
and go back to normal life in Taiwan."
Perhaps, but if interviews with Teacher Chen and several followers here
are a reliable guide to their deepest beliefs, none would seem to have
any intention of returning to Taiwan or any place else in Asia, even
though many of their visas for stays in this country are scheduled to
expire this spring.
Pointing to the ground in front of Teacher Chen's house, Ching-Hung
Chiang, a follower, said: "This is where God is going to come. This is
where God is going to be."
Chiang and many other followers were very friendly, and seemed open
about sharing their views with a reporter.
Asia is headed for nuclear annihilation in 1999, Chen predicts, and
recent events there -- the economic crisis, enormous fires in Indonesia
-- are but a small prelude to the apocalyptic disaster (he calls it the
"Great Tribulation") in store for the whole continent.
The Western Hemisphere, Chen says, will be spared much of the turmoil,
though not all -- brewing galactic disturbances, not El Nino, are
causing the recent severe weather on both coasts, he asserts.
According to his timetable, on March 25, God will make an announcement
of His arrival, which can be seen by tuning into Channel 18 on any
television set in the world. Then, on March 31, God will suddenly appear
at the suburban house here, taking the human form of Chen.
At that time, there will appear to be two Chens, but the one who is God
will be instantly recognizable because He will be able to walk through
walls, converse in any language and instantly clone Himself to
simultaneously shake hands with everyone who comes to 3513 Ridgedale
Then, in exactly one year, from a primary rendezvous point on the shores
of Lake Michigan in Gary, Ind., the select few will travel on flying
saucers, possibly first to Mars, and eventually to heaven.
Chen and his followers caused a stir in January when they traveled to
Gary and, in the shadow of the huge USX steel plant there, conducted a
"purification ceremony" in the 37-degree waters of the lake with rice,
fruit and ceramic dragons.
The group has also traveled above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and spent
a few weeks last summer in British Columbia searching for a man whom
Chen describes as the "Jesus of the West" (the boy Chi-Jen Lo is the
Jesus of the East). The group could not find the man who, according to
the prophecies Chen says he has received, is 28 years old, about 6 feet
tall and looks like Abraham Lincoln.
The group in Garland, whose members are said to range from a baby born
Dec. 17 to a 95-year-old woman, does not lack for money, and its members
spend most of their time in rituals and study; none seemed to hold jobs.
Walt Hsu, marketing manager for a local bank here and a board director
of the Garland Chamber of Commerce, said that many members had sold
homes for more than $500,000 in Taiwan, bought houses here for an
average of about $70,000, and deposited the rest in local bank accounts.
Just how much control Chen has over all the money is unclear. But in
Taipei, City Councilor Hui-chu Chin said in December that she had
received 16 letters from family members of Chen's followers, seeking
assistance in getting the members back to Taiwan and in recovering their
assets, according to the Central News Agency of Taiwan.
For now, the group continues to travel periodically to Gary and other
places it considers holy. Members recently made a large purchase of
lumber and concrete from the local Home Depot, but plans to use the
material to build a giant pagoda in Chen's backyard were put on hold
after the teacher could not secure a permit from the local buildings
In the main, the group simply awaits the coming of God, an event for
which nonplused Garland officials are also preparing. "Our job, come
March 31 at 10 a.m., will be crowd control and media access," said
Officer J.D. Bettes a Garland police spokesman. (c) 1998 NYTIMES CORP.