Preface by Director General
In the first few years of the new century, I often thought about the position of the national library (NCL) in the modern society in Taiwan, the role the library played, and its future development and direction. One of the results of the efforts we have put in is the database of “Taiwan Memory” and the database of “Taiwan Overview” which were put on line to use on April 20, 2003, in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the library.
In the database of “Taiwan Memory,” one can find all kinds of digitized documents and materials of Taiwan, such as images of TV news after the 1960s, old pictures of the 20th century, postcards during the Japanese Occupation Period, stone tablets and ink rubbings of Qing Dynasty in different parts of Taiwan, etc. We have been engaging in collecting and digitizing all kinds of materials related to Taiwan’s history, whether in words, pictures, or audio/video images, so that students and the public everywhere in Taiwan can read these digitized documents and data through the internet wherever they are and whenever they choose.
Besides putting them in database on the internet, we hope to compile important documents and materials of the library collection, such as old post cards and rare books, that are suitable for publication into book form, for the public to read and for scholars to do research on.
In fact, presently the library has started the selecting process on the more than 4,000 postcards during the Japanese Occupation Period in the library collection, which, in addition to being scanned and digitized, will be compiled into book form according to different topics for more accessibility.
Even though postcards do not belong to the main publication trend in modern times and are not popular in modern society, they were a trendy merchandise at the end of the19th century and the first half of the 20th century. When they first appeared, they were meant to be a simple substitute of letters, but people everywhere in the world accepted such form of communication almost immediately. By the beginning of the 20th century, the artistic and the collection value of postcards exceeded its communication function, and postcards became very popular not just in Taiwan, China, and Japan, but also in Europe and America.
The old post cards collected by the NCL are products of the above worldwide popular trend and are thus significant in the history of postcards.
For Taiwan, these postcards collected by the NCL may have come from different sources, but the pictures on them are mainly taken between 1900 and 1940. Every picture reflects the development of Taiwan in different aspects, such as politics, economy, industry, and culture. They record the material and cultural changes of Taiwan and its people in the beginning of the last century, though the pictures were mostly taken by Japanese and the postcards were mostly printed by Japanese. In other words, these ae materials left by Japanese colonizers. But for people in Taiwan, these pictures and materials are most precious because they are the collective historical memory Taiwanese people.
A note here: the compilation and publication of the book were done by the Department of Special Collection of the NCL, and the selecting and editing of the pictures as well as text composing were done by Editor Chen Zong-ren. Your correction and criticism are mostly welcome.
Director General of the National Library
December 2003, in the National Library
The Images of Taiwanese Aborigines in the Pictures
Our relationship with Taiwanese aborigines is both close and strange. All of us might have encountered a few aborigines in our life. They may be our classmates or colleagues at work. When we are with them in daily life, we often ignore or are unaware of the fact that they are aborigines. Or it could be that neither parties feel such an identity should be fussed over about. But when we have the opportunity to see the historical artifacts of Taiwanese aborigines, we may be surprised to realize that they are such a special group of people.
Taiwanese aborigines belong to the so-called “Austronesian peoples” who are widely dispersed on earth as they spread through two oceans: the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Good at navigation, these peoples inhabit along the coast or on islands in the ocean, including the island Taiwan. Linguists believe that the languages of these peoples are similar in some aspects and might have come from the same origin, thus they are named as “Austronesian peoples.”
There may be many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, but their languages all belong to Austronesian languages. It’s just that they arrived in Taiwan in different times. Some tribes have inhabited in Taiwan for thousands of years, such as Atayal, and some tribes came to Taiwan a few hundred or one or two thousand years ago, such as Amis and Tao (Yami).
Austronesian tribes have lived in Taiwan for several thousand years, and their settlements are all over the island. From the coast and the plains, to the hills and the mountains, there are aboriginal communities big and small. Some small villages are composed of dozens of people, but some have more than 1,000 people.
As Taiwanese aborigines did not have written words and have been impacted by foreign cultures in modern times, we can only try to understand their traditional lives through archaeological excavation, descriptions of foreign languages, and historical images.
Aboriginal History in the Eye of Foreigners
According to archaeologists, as early as 30,000 to 50,000 years ago Taiwan started to have inhabitants, who were thought to be humans of the early Paleolithic Age. But as only some skeletons of these early inhabitants of Taiwan survived, it is hard for us to even imagine their appearances or their life.
About 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, some humans of the Neolithic age appeared in the coastal areas of Taiwan, and some of their trances have been found. This is called “Dapenkeng Archaeological Site by scholars. These inhabitants most likely belong to the Austronesian peoples and are the oldest ancestors of certain aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.
They had lived in Taiwan for a few thousand years until they faced a severe challenge in the 16th and the 17th centuries when powerful foreign peoples arrived at Taiwan one after another. These foreigners came from China, Japan, and as far as some European countries, such as Spain and Netherland. They brought with them new material cultures and thinking, such as the use of gun fire and cannons in war, the use of metal currency in transaction, taxation by the rulers, new written words, new gods and religious faiths...These foreigners also wrote about these Taiwanese aborigines in their eye.
In 1582, a Portuguese ship stranded at the north coast of Taiwan and the businessmen and missionaries on board were forced to abandon the ship. They met some Taiwanese aborigines when they went on shore. Records show that they were approached by about 20 aborigines who were almost totally naked except for the cloth tied around their waists. They had shoulder-length hair and something like crowns were put on top of their heads. They were armed with bows and sharp arrows, and they started to pick up fabrics flowed ashore with the waves in silence (see Note for more description). In Dong-xi-yang Kao (Eastern and Western Study), a Chinese document in the beginning of the 17th century, one can find vivid description on the aborigines of the northern Taiwan: Taiwanese aborigines in Tamsui were poorer, so things they sold were fairly priced. Aborigines in Keelung were richer but stingy. Even on the following day after things were sold, they would argue for more money from the buyers (see Note for more description).
Around the same time, a Chinese scholar came to Taiwan with the navy of Ming Dynasty. When he witnessed the active life in Taiwan, he was worried and wrote that the aborigines “have tried to improve themselves since starting to have contact with China. They have also gradually realized that they had been cheated by some villains with the worst merchandize. I am afraid they will eventually lose their simple-minded honesty.”
In addition to businessmen, foreign political powers came to Taiwan one after another. After the 1620s, first the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oosdindische Compagnie) occupied the south of Taiwan, then the Spanish took over Keelung and Tamsui. In 1660, Zheng Cheng-gong came to Taiwan with his troop and took over the reign from the Dutch, and in 1680, Qing Dynasty considered Taiwan as its territory. With the changes of regimes, more and more documents recorded more details about the aborigines, but the aborigines faced increasingly imposing challenges.
In the 18th century, many Chinese people emigrated to Taiwan, and they started to have better understanding of Taiwanese aborigines. They divided the aborigines into different societies (or she) of which the names were given according to the original names given by the aborigines or the places they lived, such as Beitou Society, Big Keelung Society, and Xin-gang Society. Meanwhile, they also divided the aborigines into Shou-fan (or Tu-fan), Naturalized Sheng-fan, and Sheng-fan (or Yie-fan) according to their degree of being naturalized by Qing. Furthermore, they also divided the aborigines into Pinpu-fan and Gaoshan-fan according to where they lived: the former means aborigines living on plains, and the latter means aborigines living in the mountains.
After the 18th century, many kinds of documents about Taiwanese aborigines can be found, such as land transaction contracts between the Han people and the aborigines, description of the aboriginal life by Han writers, and official reports on the governing of aborigines. But those aborigines who dwelled on plains with the Han immigrants and who learned the customs and language of the Hans, they gradually lost their culture. Only those who were viewed as “Sheng-fan” –aborigines who lived in the mountains and in the eastern part of Taiwan—preserved the traditional tribal cultures as they had less chance to have contact with foreign intruders.
Modernization and Colonization
Since the mid-19th century, even the “Sheng-fan” faced new challenges. In order to exploit the mountain resources and rule the aborigines, the Qing government started practicing the “Policy of Exploiting Mountains and Pacifying Barbarians” by sending troops to the mountains, building mountain roads, and waging wars against the aborigines. Some mountain aborigines were forced to surrender to Qing and shave their head, change their clothes, and accept the education of the Hans.
In 1895 when Japan first occupied Taiwan, Japanese were busy fighting against the Han dwellers on the plains. After 1902, as the situation on the plains was much under control, the Japanese government started to pay attention to the so-called “Fan-di” (aboriginal areas), particularly for the exploitation of it, such as logging, mining, and refining camphor, for the sake of increasing the income of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan. As aborigines, especially the “Sheng-fan,” were considered the hindrance for the exploitation of the mountains by the Japanese government, the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan started a big-scale five-year project of “Li-fan” (dealing with aborigines) in 1907 by launching wars in the mountains with modernized army and cannons. Under the strategy of purging and appeasing at the same time, Taiwanese aborigines that had been in existence on their own for several thousands of years gradually surrendered to the Japanese government.
Japanese soldiers, policemen, and officials appeared in the mountains of Taiwan, and along came military camps, police precincts, schools, trading posts, and other buildings of new styles spread everywhere in the mountains of Taiwan. The whole island of Taiwan became a part of Japanese colonialism. Aborigines started to learn Japanese language and put on kimonos, and their children were sent to the new schools. Aboriginal society was modernized and colonialized, by paying the price of the changes of traditional cultures.
Under the influence of the Western anthropology, Japanese scholars such as Ryuzo Torii, Ino Kanori, Mori Ushinosuke, etc., became interested in the aborigines in Taiwan. Consigned by official or academic institutions they went to the mountain areas of Taiwan to engage in research on aborigines. They divided the so-called “Gao-shan fan” (aborigines in the mountains) into seven tribes according to the distinction of their constitution, culture, language, etc., namely the classification of anthropology. Later, scholars of the Ethnology Program of Taihoku Imperial University, such as Utsurikawa Nenozo, proposed the classification of nine tribes, which are what we are familiar with: the Atayal, the Bunun, the Paiwan, the Tsou, the Saisiyat, the Rukai, the Puyuma, the Ami, and the Yami.
The classification of the nine tribes was originally merely scholarly, but as the government accepted the classification and the tribal names, it has been popularly accepted, and the nine tribes became customary, even the aborigines in Taiwan identify themselves with their tribal names. Although, of course, some aborigines do not accept such classification. Such as the Atayal tribe in the eastern part of Taiwan believe they should be the “Taroko Tribe,” and the aborigines of Orchid Island think of themselves as the “Dawu Tribe.”
In modern people’s view, dividing Taiwanese aborigines into “High Mountain Tribes” and “Pingpu Tribes” (or Taiwanese Plains Indigenous Peoples) is incorrect. All of the aboriginal tribes, whether they live in the mountains or on the plains, are distinctive. As for the tribal names like the Atayal or the Bunun, although they have been used for a hundred years, Taiwanese aborigines had lived in their own societies in the past thousands of years and their major group identities were limited to their villages instead of the concepts of “the Atayal” or “the Paiwan” (see Note for further explanation).
The Images of Taiwanese Aborigines in the Pictures
In the beginning of the 20th century, Taiwanese aborigines were forced by the Japanese rulers to enter the modern age from the traditional era. During this transitional period, the images of the aborigines were captured by the colonizers’ cameras, and these are the pictures of the aborigines in this books.
Since the 17th century, most description of Taiwanese aborigines by foreigners were limited in written languages. In the mid-19th century, several major ports of Taiwan were open as trading ports, and many Western businessmen, diplomats, and missionaries came to work in Taiwan, along came the Western culture, including the budding photography. With it, image data were added to the records of Taiwanese aborigines.
Western photographers of the 19th century were attracted by the folk customs of foreign peoples and took many pictures in different places. Taiwanese aborigines naturally became their subjects as well (Photo 4). However, as the photographic equipment was really heavy and the government’s influence had not yet reached the remote mountain areas at the time, most pictures of the aborigines were of the Pingpu Tribes.
By the end of the 19th century, when Japanese occupied Taiwan, in order to “Li Fan” (dealing with aborigines), the Office of Governor-General of Taiwan conducted all kinds of investigation projects and left with them many written records and pictures. Thus records on Taiwanese aborigines were no longer limited to only written texts as they were completed with images in pictures.
These pictures of Taiwanese aborigines soon became accessible to the public with the publication of them in different forms, such as books, photobooks, postcards, etc. As they were widely sold, publishers were willing to publish anything related to aborigines, especially postcards with the pictures of aborigines.
Businessmen at the time produced these postcards to gain profit, and the public bought these postcards because they were curious about these strange aboriginal peoples and the postcards were sold cheap. Probably both parties did not realize that during the key transitional period of the changing of Taiwanese aboriginal cultures, the postcards produced during the Japanese Occupation Period that they sold or purchased preserve the images of the aborigines which concretely and preciously present the visage of Taiwanese aborigines in the early 20th century. On these postcards, we can see the image of the tribal chief clad in the skin of the Formosa Clouded Leopard and the dozens of skulls exposed to sunlight and wind on the shelves built for human skulls. In addition, there are many images of their hunting and farming, their buildings, clothes, feasts, dances, and musical instruments; all of these are vividly presented to us in the 21st century.
Among the National Library’s collection of postcards during the Japanese Occupation Period, more than 800 of them are printed with pictures of Taiwanese aborigines. They can be divided into the following categories: Aboriginal families, getting water, hunting, armed warriors, colonial rules, facial tattoos and tooth-pulling, drinking, dancing, foods and drinks, canoes, tribal chiefs, pottery, agriculture, head-hunting, musical instruments, rice-pounding, weaving and sewing, transporting, architecture, and costumes.
For these precious pictures to be widely circulated, the NCL selected more than 400 pictures out of more than 800 old postcards and compiled them into two books. There are 229 postcards in this volume, and they are divided into three major categories: Ruling, Armed Warriors, and Craft, and most of them are about aboriginal men.
- Armed Warriors: there are 65 postcards in this category, which can be divided into three sub-categories: the making up of armed warriors, hunting and fishing, and pictures related to head-hunting.
- Ruling: there are 71 postcards in this category, which can be divided into two sub-categories: the first one is traditional tribal chiefs, including chiefs of the nine tribes, and the second one is the ruling of the Japanese colonizers, including the army on expedition, the establishment of the barrier defense lines, education of aboriginal children, aboriginal chiefs’ visits to Japan, etc.
- Architecture and transportation: there are 94 postcards in this category, which can be divided into three sub-categories: the first is about boats; mainly the tataras of the Dawu Tribe and the canoes of the Saisiyat. The second is about transporting, mainly about the panniers of aborigines, which are their tools for transporting. And the last one is about architecture, including their homes, barns, clubhouses, observatories, etc.
Since the mid-19th century, Taiwanese aborigines who live in the mountains and the eastern part of the island have faced the impact of ruling powers as soldiers, officials, businessmen, and scholars have been intruding their areas. In the past one hundred years or so, the intrusion is only on the increase, and the traditional cultures of the aborigines are changing rapidly.
The aborigines in this book are those who still preserved their languages and cultures during the beginning of the Japanese Occupation Period. But these images are not purely objective reflection of the truth. Behind these images are the subjects that the Japanese (foreigners) or the photographers were interested in, with their views of the aborigines and their ideologies. However, what significance do these records of images left by the colonizers have to us who live in the post-colonial age?
We continue to express our protest to the imperial violence and oppose any kind of colonial rule, but other than such impassioned national sentiment, we may want to look at these images and materials left by the colonizers, the outsiders, calmly. Even if the photographers’ view point was not objective and the editing process was done for certain intention, these, after all, are rare precious images of our ancestors one hundred years ago, and are thus the important basis for modern people in the reconstruction of their group memory.