Fri, Nov 18, 2011 - Page 14 News List

History: Taiwan’s own Brave Sir Robin

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff Reporter

A statue of Liao Tien-ding, “Taiwan’s Robin Hood,” at Xia Hai City God Temple.

Photo courtesy of Xia Hai City God Temple

At a time when the gap between rich and poor is growing, housing is increasingly out of reach for the middle class, and the government seems to favor large corporations, it’s no surprise that the story of “Taiwan’s Robin Hood” (台灣羅賓漢) still resonates.

Xia Hai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟), located in Dadaocheng’s (大稻埕) historical Dihua Street (迪化街), will hold events on Monday to pay homage to Liao Tien-ding (廖添丁), a celebrated outlaw active in Taiwan over a century ago who was the bane of Japanese authorities and wealthy families that benefited from the colonial government’s largesse.

A prayer ritual will also be held at 10am on Sunday at Hanmin Temple (漢民祠) in Bali District (八里), New Taipei City. The temple was built in Liao’s honor.

Xia Hai temple spokesperson Titan Wu (吳孟寰) said Liao’s exploits, which include killing a police informer in Keelung (基隆), robbing tea merchants in Shilin (士林) and stealing guns and ammo from a police station in Dadaocheng, have led many to dub him “Taiwan’s Robin Hood” because he stood up to the colonial rulers and divided his booty among the poor.

Wu said that one legend relates how Liao stole money from a wealthy merchant in Dadaocheng and placed the loot under a table inside Xia Hai City God Temple.

“He then told temple officials to distribute the money to the poor people squatting outside the temple,” Wu said.

He added that many in contemporary society could learn something from Liao’s public-spiritedness.

“Today’s social order is extremely chaotic, and people have little sense of morality. [Liao] can serve as an example for people to follow,” Wu said.

Monday’s events kick off at 10am with a prayer ceremony to Liao at Xia Hai. At 12pm, the temple will distribute red turtle cakes (紅龜粿), a pastry made from glutinous rice and sugar that many believe can ward off evil and bring prosperity, Wu said.

Entertainment Notes

What: Liao Tien-ding Remembrance Activity (紀念廖添丁活動)

When: Sunday’s events take place at 10am at Hanming Temple; Monday’s events take place at 10am, 12pm and 7pm at Xia Hai City God Temple

Where: Xia Hai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟), 61, Dihua St Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市迪化街一段61號). Hanmin Temple (漢民祠), 2, Jhonghua Rd Sec 3, Bali Dist, New Taipei City (新北市八里區中華路三段2號)

Admission: Free

On the Net: (Chinese only)

Celebrations end with an opera by Yihsin Opera Troupe (一心歌仔戲劇團) relating the life and times of Liao. The free performance, located next to the temple at Yongle Square (永樂廣場), begins at 7pm.

Born in 1885 to a peasant family in what is now Greater Taichung, Liao is said to have mastered martial arts at a young age before embarking on his adventures throughout northern Taiwan. Police eventually caught up with him at his hideout on Bali’s Guanyin Mountain (觀音山) in November 1909, where he was gunned down in a shootout.

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