Taiwan’s indigenous people are divided into many communities, each with its own leader. These leaders are known by different names, but in this book we will refer to them as chiefs. People often imagine indigenous chiefs to be autocratic rulers, possessing great authority; but in reality they have much less power over their communities than you might think.
In the course of Taiwanese history there have emerged some famous chiefs. There was Quata Ong, the King of Middag, who in the seventeenth century ruled over dozens of settlements in the Taichung area, attested to in Dutch and Ming dynasty documents. In the eighteenth century there was a chief known to the Chinese as Wenjie, King of the Puyuma, while the nineteenth century chief Toketoku ruled 18 communities in the Hengchun (恆春) area of southern Taiwan. These were all great chiefs in their respective regions of Taiwan.
However, no head chief ever emerged to unify Taiwan. “Notes on the Eastern Savages” (東番記), an early seventeenth century Chinese text written by the philologist Chen Di (陳第), records that Taiwan’s indigenous peoples “have no chief. One with many children is considered powerful by the people, and they obey his command.” In his Small Sea Travel Journal (裨海紀遊), Yu Yonghe (郁永河) also describes indigenous communities as varying in size and population, who each “choose one or two people to be local headmen, who live in the same kind of houses, have the same food and drink, and do the same work as ordinary people.” In other words, chiefs in some areas of Taiwan enjoyed little prestige, even having to farm for themselves like ordinary people. It was the people that chose their chief according to that individual’s perceived power; the position could not be inherited.
Chiefs in southern Taiwan were more powerful. Paiwan and Rukai chiefs inherited their titles and ownership of the land. Clansmen had to give 13 percent of their produce to their chief and, if they killed a wild animal, had to present him with a hind leg of the carcass. In 1898, Japanese anthropologists Torii Ryuzo (鳥居龍藏) and Mori Ushinosuke (森丑之助) carried out a survey of indigenous people in Hengchun. They noted that, “When the head chief and deputy head chief led us on separate inspection tours, we received the most courteous reception possible from each of the community chiefs and their deputies.” This reveals the high prestige enjoyed by the head chief in the Hengchun area.
In the seventeenth century, occupying rulers began selecting the chiefs of communities that had submitted to their rule. During the period of Dutch rule, for example, the Dutch designated some people as elders, presenting them with a staff of authority from the Dutch East India Company. Qing dynasty officials also designated their own chiefs, a policy which continued into the Japanese Colonial Era, when Taiwan’s Governor-General established the positions of chief and deputy chief in each community, along with the right to claim a monthly subsidy.
When appointing a chief, these occupying rulers followed the established customs of each community in choosing a village leader. This enabled them to just about maintain harmonious relations with the village chiefs, but over the long term continuously expanded their power among indigenous communities. Some of Taiwan’s indigenous communities still have chiefs, but they are not as powerful as they once were.
A total of 34 postcard images of indigenous chiefs have been selected for this book. One image shows a chief the Taokas, a plains indigenous people, and the remainder are chiefs of ten peoples, including the Puyuma, Rukai, and Saisiyat.
The history of relations between Japan and Taiwan in recent times dates back to the Mudan Incident of 1874, when Japan used the killing by Paiwan indigenous people of sailors from Ryukyu shipwrecked on Taiwan, as the pretext for a punitive invasion of Pingtung. After the incident, the Qing government signed a peace treaty with Japan, paid compensation, and admitted the legality of Japan’s actions. Japanese forces then withdrew from Taiwan.
The incident was Japan’s first act of military aggression since the Meiji Restoration. In 1895, Kabayama Sukenori (樺山資紀) and Mizuno Jun (水野遵), who had participated in the invasion, were appointed Taiwan’s first Governor-General and Chief of Home Affairs, respectively. This demonstrates the impact the Mudan Incident had on later history.
After its occupation of Taiwan began, to subjugate the indigenous peoples, in particular the Atayal, who were referred to as the ‘northern savages’, Japan established four lines of defense along the frontier in the mountains of northern Taiwan. The aim was to cut the Atayal off from the outside world, in an attempt to control the flow of firearms and salt into the mountains. When opening up the mountain areas during the Qing dynasty, the Chinese had implemented a system of frontier guards to watch out for and defend against attacks by indigenous people. The Japanese adopted and further systematized this practice. Besides deploying police units to oversee the work, thereby enhancing the function of the garrison, they also brought in more modern equipment, deploying mountain guns, mines, and electrified wire fencing to restrict the indigenous people’s movements and force a surrender.
In 1906, Sakuma Samata (佐久間左馬太), who had also participated in the 1874 invasion of Taiwan, was appointed Taiwan’s Governor-General. Sakuma implemented the infamous “Five Year Plan for Managing the Savages,” adopting the use of military force against the indigenous peoples. From this point in time, the indigenous communities of Taiwan, who had always been independent and self-ruling, were progressively subjugated.
The 19 photographs in this category can be divided into two main themes: military campaigns and education. On the campaigns theme, besides some photographs of the Japanese army’s activities in the mountains, there are many that show the equipment used to guard the frontier.
After the indigenous peoples had surrendered, the Japanese established the Institute for Native Children’s Education to attempt to morally educate indigenous children. This program was seen to exemplify the role of benevolent government in the work to ‘manage the savages’, and so became one of postcard issuers most favored themes. Most of these images are of indigenous children in classrooms at the institute.
The 19 Japanese Colonial Era photographs in this category capture indigenous chiefs from different regions of Taiwan during tours of Japan. The Japanese had come to believe that some indigenous peoples would not submit to them because, living deep in the mountains, they were unable to understand neither the changes that had taken place in the world, nor the greatness of the Japanese Empire. Thereupon they decided to send chiefs of indigenous communities to Japan to see for themselves how the Japanese empire was flourishing. They hoped that such tours would make Taiwan’s indigenous people aware of their situation, and so give up their resistance.
The itinerary on these tours mainly consisted of observing troop drills, visiting munitions factories, and looking at airplanes. They also visited modern streets, markets, and factories, as well as receiving lectures from officials of various ranks.
The first of these tours of Japan took place in August 1897. It was led by Puli Pacification Bureau chief Nagano Yoshitora (長野義虎), and attended by more than ten Atayal, Bunun, Tsou, and Rukai chiefs. The Japanese government subsequently organized many such trips, which they called ‘sightseeing tours’. The photographs in this category were taken on two such tours. The first, which took place in September 1911, was attended by a party of 43 Atayal chiefs, including women, chosen from 37 communities. The other took place in September 1912, and was also attended by a party of Atayal chiefs, comprising 52 chiefs from 40 communities. The leader of the Wushe Rebellion of the 1930s, Chief Mona Rudao, is known to have also attended such a tour.
The Taiwan Governor-General’s Office organized a series of similar tours. At least one chief from almost every indigenous tribe was sent on one of these tours of Japan. Contemporary Japanese records mention the tours which, though generally believed to be quite effective in ‘enlightening’ indigenous people, were nevertheless seen as too costly. Consequently, the Governor-General’s Office also began organizing sightseeing trips to Taipei, and encouraged mountain-dwelling indigenous people to visit other plains cities, such as Hualien.
In 1916, the Japanese held the Taiwan Industrial Mutual Progress Fair in Taipei, attended by 600 powerful indigenous leaders from all over Taiwan. A Japanese official at the time made these remarks admonishing the assembled leaders:
Government officials and colonial subjects, you have traveled from near and far to gather here in Taipei. Though today’s extraordinarily bustling atmosphere must leave you feeling awestruck, Japan’s cities are just as bustling, even at normal times. In terms of size, Japan is a big bear, whereas Taiwan is merely a rabbit in comparison. Japan’s population is as numerous as a big barrel of beans, while Taiwan’s is a mere handful. . You realize your communities are small, dwellings dirty, living standards low, and knowledge poor. . . . Since ancient times you have lived in the mountains. Although your knowledge and skills are undeveloped, if you follow the guidance of your prefects and police officers, work hard at farming, accumulate your assets, and do not neglect your children’s education, then you will, without a doubt, be able to keep up with people living on the plains. If, however, you still refuse to abandon your bad habits, disobey government officials, or cause harm to people, then you will surely be punished in accordance with the law. If you dare to gather in protest, then the police and army will be sent in to suppress you. You all clearly understand this point.
The fact that this speech is recorded in an official publication shows that the Japanese probably very much approved of its message. These words reflect the attitudes of the ruling Japanese towards indigenous Taiwanese people at the time.