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Chen Tao: The Strange Taiwanese UFO Cult that Landed in Garland, Texas

Chen Tao was a New-Age UFO cult originating in Taiwan. Hon-Ming Chen started the splinter group in the 1990s. Where he moved the group to California and then Texas. The groups theology includes Ufology and Christian end times prophecy. Chen Tao attracted international media attention when he claimed that God would descend on the town of Garland, Texas.

Hon-ming Chen and the Origins of Chen Tao

Hon-ming Chen
Hon-ming Chen

Hon-ming Chen was born on April 22, 1955 in Chiayi, Taiwan. His mother died when Chen was very young and his father died soon after. After finishing his primary education, he went to university. Earning degrees in political and social science. Soon after he got a job as an associate professor at Chai-Nan Junior College of Pharmacy.

Up until this point, Chen considered himself an atheist. In 1992 he believed he had received a message from God instructing him to pursue the religious path. Chen began exploring Buddhism, Christianity, and Taoism. He felt that they were missing something and started exploring new religious movements.

He eventually joined a UFO religious group but grew disillusioned after finding out they charged a large fee to teach their knowledge. Chen accused his teachers of being heavenly devils and left the group with other displeased followers. They founded the Soul Light Resurgence Association (SLRA) in Tainan, Taiwan. He encouraged his friend Ma Tao Hung to open a branch in Taipei. The group began to attract more followers and grew rapidly.

In 1995 Chen began preaching that North America is the “Pureland of God.” He published his thoughts in a book called, The Practical Evidence and Study of the World of God and Buddha. He stated that the group need to move to the United States to survive the coming Great Tribulation. Chen encouraged his followers to move to the US. Some agreed but many more did not. The followers who did agree to move became part of Chen Tao, or the “True Way.”

Chen Tao Moves to the USA

In the first few months of 1997, Chen and a group of 25 followers moved to San Dimas, California. They established a church in San Dimas but soon after began looking towards Texas. Chen and fellow church members began purchasing land in Garland, Texas. The town of Garland was chosen because the name sounded similar to “Godland.” While in the US the church began traveling around the US and Canada on extended religious pilgrimages. During their trips they would document what they believed were signs from God.

Hon-ming Chen
Hon-ming Chen

They attracted media attention in Vancouver Canada when Chen and a group of followers said they were looking for the “Jesus of the West.” They described this Jesus of the West as a six-foot tall, 28 year old man who looked like Abraham Lincoln. The group placed some personal ads in local Vancouver newspapers but no one came forward.

Later that year the group returned to Garland with more members from San Dimas and Taiwan. In another book, God’s Descending on Clouds
(Flying Saucers) to Save People
, published by Chen, he claimed that,

“God will descend in human form at 3513 Ridgedale Drive on March 31, 1998, at exactly 10:00 a.m. This human incarnation of God will have all the physical features of Chen but he will be able to speak all languages (xenoglossia), walk through walls, and he will replicate himself as many times as necessary to greet everyone simultaneously.”

Hon-ming Chen

It was also claimed that six days earlier at 12:01 a.m. on March 25, 1998. God would take over control of the television airwaves and announce their return on Channel 18 all across North America. This book also warned of future catastrophes that would occur in 1998 and 1999 as the Great Tribulation approaches.

Preparing for God’s Return

On January 6, 1998 a group of 32 followers including Chen and two children thought to be the reincarnation of Buddha and Christ embarked on a religious pilgrimage to Gary, Indiana. They group of followers arrived at Lake Street Beach on Lake Michigan which they believed to be sacred location. He prophesized that survivors of the Great Tribulation would come to this spot and God’s flying saucer would carry off the survivors that came here.

The group returned to Garland and began making preparations for God’s return. Media began descending on Chen’s house as March 25 drew near. The police and city officials began preparing for a possible suicide attempt similar to what happened with Heaven’s Gate. Chen repeatedly expressed that they had no plans of committing suicide and that it was forbidden in their group.

On March 25 around 11 o’clock, the group began gathering in Chen’s backyard in a circular formation. They took turns bowing towards the gazebo shrine, uttering prayers, and chanting in Chinese. As midnight drew near most of the members went into Chen’s house to wait for God’s message. At midnight there was nothing but static on Channel 18. After around twenty-five minutes Chen walked out to the podium outside his house.

In a forty-five minute press conference Chen expressed that even though God’s image didn’t appear on Channel 18 he wanted everyone to believe that God is alive and that they could feel a true belief in God. When asked about the arrival of God on March 31, Chen stated,

“I want to emphasize that God’s kingdom has already descended, God has already descended. But the pity is that the gospel of God’s coming is known to too few people… Because we did not see God’s message on Channel 18 tonight, my predictions of God arriving on March 31 can be considered nonsense… I sincerely hope everybody can keep an eye on the further developments, and don’t call us liars or something like that. Please trust what we say, because God really wants to save a billion people from the Great Tribulation.”

Hon-ming Chen

The next day Chen released an announcement outlining a new theology that would save his predictions for March 31 and explain what happened on March 25. This new theological innovation explained that we are all capable of becoming god through spiritual cultivation. He asserted that God will stand beside him in the same image as him on March 31.

The Arrival of God in Garland, Texas

On March 31 there was a smaller but still sizable group of media and on-lookers outside Chen’s house. He stepped up to his podium and asked the crowd to shake their own hands. After most of the crowd complied, he began to explain his new “You yourself are Gods,” theology. Since everyone is capable of becoming God, God has already descended enough times to shake everyone’s hands.

The group holding a press conference
The group holding a press conference

“The Kingdom of God has descended and God has already changed into human beings… You yourself are God. You are human beings as well as God. This is a chance given to us to play the role of God.”

Hon-ming Chen

Chen then stared directly into the sun for several moments to demonstrate his godhood. He criticized the media for not accurately portraying his messages and ridiculing him. Throughout the press conference he encouraged the audience to attain salvation before the Great Tribulation by repenting for their sins, stop eating meat, and to train themselves to see beyond the third dimension.

The next day Chen announced that he and nine followers were going to the Great Lakes area to find a new training area to prepare for the coming Great Tribulation in 1999. He said that by May 10, all of his followers would be leaving Garland. He ended this press conference by dramatically offering to be stoned or crucified. Previously he had said that he would be willing to suffer the death penalty from his followers or the general public if his March 31 prophecy failed. No one took him up on his offer.

Move to New York

Chen and his now much smaller group of followers moved to Olcott, New York. Upon arrival the group held an impromptu religious service on Olcott Beach. Chen said that this is where God will transfer people from the third dimension to the fourth dimension. The group eventually settled in nearby Lockport, New York.

Chen began working on his new book which included a timeline on how the Great Tribulation would occur.

“The kingdom of God has descended! The great tribulation of this generation is going to happen. In January of 1999 when the Communist China starts its military blockade against Taiwan, followed by the Korean War in February, the process of the great tribulation will be initiated. In June and July, East Asia will be struck by the floods just like “the ark of Noah.” The countries in East Asia, including China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and so on will experience the collapse of their economic structure. As soon as Taiwanese blow up the three nuclear power plants on the island, the schedule of the great tribulation will speed up. In October to December, the breakout of the nuclear war will throw the whole world into throes and woes, and the civilization of the earth generation shall thus come to the end.”

Hon-ming Chen

Chen Tao Post-2000

In 2002, on Chen Tao’s website it was announced that Hon-ming Chen had been ousted as group leader. The new leadership was now a cooperative of members including Chen’s former translator Richard Liu.

In order to prevent any further confusion or damage incurred to True Way/Chen Tao as a religious community of the true way of God and of all human beings, we feel the obligation to declare that Mr. Hon-ming Chen and those ambiguous figures related to him is/are no longer a member/members of True Way/Chen Tao. Therefore, any word he says, any deed he does, or any false prophecy he makes, has nothing to do with True Way/Chen Tao. Any consequences resulting from Mr. Hon-ming Chen’s words or deeds are assumed to be taken up by Mr. Hon-ming Chen himself.

Richard Hsin-Sen Liu
Hank Yin-Han Huang
Chun-Hsiung Lin
Lay-Hong Tan
Yung-Huei Huang
Shu-Hsin Huang
And the other members
in USA & Taiwan

The group disavowed the teachings of Chen and abandoned the belief in prophecies, apocalypse, and flying saucers. They rebranded as the Grand True Way and asserted their continuity with the original group that Chen splintered from in the 1990s.

The only media appearance from this new group were an oriental meditation class offered at a public library and Richard Liu offering Chinese-English translation services.