Unsung hero takes the stage

Tales of a little-known Taiwanese king come to life with a new musical drama this month

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jun 06, 2013 - Page 12

There was once was a famous king in Taiwan, whose exploits were known even in Europe. Dadu King (大肚王) led the Pingpu plains tribe and is the only native Taiwanese king ever recognized by westerners. The Dutch reverentially called him Keizer van Middag, meaning “King of the Mid-Day Sun,” according to historical documents from the Dutch East Indies Company.

Until recently, most Taiwanese people had never heard of the Dadu King, while others thought he was just a mythological figure. This was due to the total neglect and deliberate erasure of Aboriginal history, through decades of Sinocentric education policies espoused by the Chinese Nationalist Party.

But with the research by historians, academics and Pingpu rights activists in recent years, the Dadu King is finally getting his due. This month, he steps out from the mist of history and into the limelight for Taiwanese audiences. Organizers said this is the world premiere of Legend of Dadu King (大肚王傳奇), a musical that presents a forgotten chapter of Taiwan’s history.

The show is the result of collaboration between the graduating students at the Department of Drama Creation and Application at the National University of Tainan and the National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan, with assistance from Papora historical and cultural organizations.

Resistance against the Dutch

“The Dadu King was Aboriginal Papora royalty. He did not want to live under foreign domination, and led his people to successfully resist the Dutch and other foreign invading armies. He is a real Taiwanese hero, and we all should get to know more about his accomplishment,” said Chang Li-peng (張麗盆), chairperson of Papora Indigenous Development Council.

Chang said the name “Dadu” is derived from the Papora village-town of Tatuturo (now in Greater Taichung).

The Dadu King united the Papora people, as well as other Pingpu plains Aborigines — Pazeh, Babuza and Hoanya — to rule over an independent kingdom in central Taiwan, according to Dutch, British and Han Chinese historic records.

He was a very capable military leader, said Chang. As the Papora Warrior-King, he fought a number of renowned battles against the Dutch and successfully defended the central Taiwan regions against the invading troops of the Ming Dynasty Chinese warlord Koxinga in the 17th century, according to research by Chang and other historians who study the Pingpu plains Aborigines.