In November 1867, then-US consul Charles Le Gendre, British interpreter William Pickering and Tauketok, who is also known as Cuqicuq Garuljigulj, chief of the Liangkiau Aboriginal community and leader of the alliance of Seqalu communities, signed a memorandum of understanding at the Eternal Flame landmark outside Hengchun Peninsula’s East Gate, witnessed by a Han Chinese representative. The memorandum later became known as the “southern bay treaty” (南岬之盟) in Chinese.
Cuqicuq Garuljigulj promised: “Castaways will be kindly treated by any of the 18 tribes under Tauketok.”
The memorandum marked Taiwan’s entry into the international arena: Its Aboriginal peoples, which had never recognized the authority of the Qing Dynasty, had entered into a diplomatic accord with the US.
The Pingtung County Government should consider commemorating the historic event by erecting a stone plaque engraved with the full text of the memorandum at Hengchun Eternal Flame in today’s Chuhuo Scenic Area. The original memorandum is kept in the US Senate Library. The government could ask the American Institute in Taiwan to arrange for a copy to be exhibited at the southern branch of the National Palace Museum.
The historic event was more than just a diplomatic breakthrough, as it marked the resolution of an incident two years earlier when US merchant vessel the Rover was shipwrecked off the coast of Taiwan. The 13 surviving crewmembers, after trespassing onto the Seqalu people’s ancestral land, came to a grisly end at the hands of a headhunting expedition. Although a regretful outcome, it was a proud moment for Aborigines when they bravely defended their native soil from a landing party of US marines.
After the memorandum was signed, then-Chinese military ambassador Liu Ming-teng (劉明燈) dispatched 500 soldiers on a punitive campaign to Taiwan. Liu erected a stone plaque, known as the Liu Tidu Monument (劉提督碑), in today’s Checheng Township (車城) in Pingtung County.
Not only did it make no reference to the memorandum, it also referred to both parties in unsavory language: It became a monument to Chinese arrogance. A stone plaque to commemorate the “southern bay treaty” placed at Hengchun Eternal Flame would be important in correcting Liu’s attempt to rewrite history.
The Hengchun Eternal Flame and Chuhuo Scenic Area is a popular tourist spot. A stone plaque would be an inexpensive and simple way to highlight an important historical event that would complement the local scenery. Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) should support the idea.
Based on the conditions of the 1858 Treaty of Tianjin, Tamsui and Anping harbors became foreign trading ports. When the ports were opened in 1860, Taiwan was swept into the geopolitical power struggle between Western powers in East Asia.
In 1868, a dispute over camphor between Britain and the Qing government prompted Britain to send an expeditionary force to capture Anping Harbor in what later became known as the Camphor War. Both parties signed the “camphor regulations,” which required the Qing government to relinquish control of Taiwan’s camphor industry and pay compensation to Britain.
The governor and prefect of then-Taiwan Province Liang Yuan-kui (梁元桂) removed the Fongshan County head magistrate and the Lugang Township (鹿港) sub-prefect from office. Acting British consul John Gibson was also removed from his post and punished by the British government for having used force to resolve the dispute. However, the Camphor War ended with British control over Taiwan’s camphor industry.
Li Dao-yong is director of the City South Culture and History Studio in Taipei.
Translated by Edward Jones
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