Sept. 11 to Sept. 17
For almost a century, Wu Feng (吳鳳) was known as a selfless, compassionate hero. Under both Japanese and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule, every child read in school about how Wu sacrificed himself to stop Aborigines from their “savage and backward headhunting practices.”
Here’s the gist of the story: Wu spent much time with the Tsou Aborigines in what is today Chiayi County, teaching them how to farm and make crafts. After trying to delay their headhunting ritual to no avail, Wu told them to decapitate a man in red clothes who would pass by the next day. They did so, only to find that the man was Wu himself. Shocked and deeply saddened, the Aborigines vowed to give up the practice forever.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Students today are likely oblivious to this figure, as on Sept. 12, 1989, Minister of Education Mao Kao-wen (毛高文) agreed to remove Wu’s story from the textbooks.
It was a drastic fall. Four years earlier, the Wu Feng Temple (吳鳳廟) in Chiayi had held a grandiose celebration for the opening of Wu Feng Memorial Park to celebrate the 216th anniversary of Wu’s selfless act. The park soon lost its original name and became a cultural amusement park that went out of business in 2010.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The commemorative 1985 book Wu Feng, The Righteous Man (義人吳鳳) contains songs, poems and submitted essays praising Wu’s character and his determination to “civilize our mountain compatriots.” There’s a curious disclaimer that the group of Tsou people who killed Wu no longer exist and have nothing to do with the modern Tsou.
“The highest state of being for mankind is to selflessly help others. Wu Feng was able to [achieve this] because he understood love, he understood devotion, he understood bloodshed, he understood sacrifice and he understood death,” read one passage.
Many of the essays attributed Wu’s upstanding morals to Chinese culture while demeaning the Aborigines as inferior people.
Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times
“Wu Feng was the first Han Chinese to give the mountain compatriots human rights. Throughout history, whenever Chinese culture came in contact with barbarians, it always used the method of gradual and natural assimilation. Wu Feng lived in savage lands but he did not let his superiority get the better of him. Instead, he did all he could to improve the lives of the mountain compatriots,” wrote schoolteacher Huang Kun-yuan (黃崑源).
“The reason Han Chinese culture has been able to survive for thousands of years while absorbing weaker and inferior races is because of the Confucian virtues of compassion and righteousness,” wrote Yan Ming-hsiung (顏明雄), also a schoolteacher.
“Wu Feng sacrificed his life to change the bad habits of the Aborigines. This is because of the virtues that have been present in Chinese culture since ancient times ... We should carry forward the spirit of our people.”
On a side note, almost every essay ended with something along the lines of “we must apply Wu Feng’s spirit to our lives so we can defeat the Communists and reclaim the mainland.”
FROM HERO TO ZERO
The first known account of Wu’s tale, published in 1855, was very different from the version found in the textbooks. It was a simple tale of how Wu volunteered to die for two Han Chinese villagers after asking them to flee. After his death, his ghost haunted the Aborigines and brought them great sickness. Terrified, the Aborigines vowed not to kill any more Han Chinese in that area and paid tribute to Wu’s grave every spring and fall.
The story then becomes more elaborate. During the Japanese colonial era, Wu’s motives went from protecting his people to “civilizing the savages.” The purpose was manifold: to discourage Han Chinese from fighting against other races, to show that Aborigines can be civilized through kindness and also serve as an example for colonial officials. The tale was made into movies, plays and entered elementary school textbooks.
The KMT adopted wholesale the Japanese version of the legend into its textbooks, promoting Wu as a beacon of Chinese virtues that people should look up to.
But to Aborigines, it brought feelings of shame.
“As a half Aborigine, I felt angry when I read this story. I was angry that I had the blood of such an uncivilized people in me,” writes Huang Hsiao-chiao (黃筱喬) in the study Sense of Identity Beginning from Wu Feng (身分認同從吳鳳說起). Others spoke in various reports of being looked down upon because of the story and even attacked by Han Chinese children who wanted to take revenge for Wu Feng.
Wu’s downfall began in 1980, when anthropologist Chen Chi-nan (陳其南) wrote an article for the Minsheng Daily (民生報) titled A Fabricated Legend: Wu Feng (一個捏造的神話: 吳鳳).
The Aboriginal rights movement soon took off, and during the 1985 ceremony, several Aborigines showed up wearing white shirts that read: “Wu is not a hero” and “Wu Feng’s story is the shame of education.”
The rectification of Wu Feng’s story became a focus of Aboriginal protests, and in 1988, local pastor Lin Tsung-cheng (林宗正) led a group of Aborigines and destroyed the Wu Feng statue in front of Chiayi train station with a chainsaw.
At least one of Wu’s descendants, ninth-generation descendant Wu Liao-shan (吳廖善), didn’t seem to mind.
“It doesn’t really matter to me whether Wu Feng’s story remains in the textbooks or not,” Wu Liao-shan told the media. “The Aborigines say that the story causes people to look down on them, to bully them in school, so I guess it’s for the best to not include the story. But really, this is a problem with the teachers. They should teach their students not to bully others. Then we wouldn’t be facing this problem.”
Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.
“Long as I remember, the rain’s been coming down,” the song says. The last couple of weeks of wet certainly make it feel that way. The global media has recently observed the change of hitting a 1.5 Celsius degree rise in average temperatures in the next five years has risen to 50 percent. As many scientists have observed, once that level of warming is hit, the planet will reach a slew of tipping points. 1.5C is thus a major threshold. Nature has been sending us ever more urgent distress signals: murderous heatwaves across the Indian subcontinent, giant sandstorms in Iraq, collapsing
May 16 to May 22 Lin Wen-cha (林文察) and his “Taiwanese braves” (台灣勇) arrived in Fujian Province’s Jianyang District (建陽) on May 19, 1859, eager for their first action outside of Taiwan. The target was local bandit Guo Wanzong (郭萬淙), one of several ruffians who had taken advantage of ongoing Taiping Rebellion to establish strongholds in the area. A strongman leader of the notable Wufeng Lin Family (霧峰林家), Lin had impressed Qing Dynasty rulers five years earlier by helping expel the remnants of Small Knife Society (小刀會) rebels from Keelung. Lin’s forces routed Guo’s gang in just 11 days, earning a formal
A weekend getaway where you can escape the summer heat, commune with nature among trees that sprouted before the time of Christ or enjoy landscaped gardens and comfortable accommodations is within easy reach of northern Taiwan. Experience a traditional garden with Chinese and Japanese influences, birdwatching, ecological tours of old-growth cypress forest and one of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) namesake villas set among orchards with a beautiful view of the Lanyang River (蘭陽溪) valley, all in the Makauy Ecological Park (馬告生態園區). The Northern Cross-Island Highway connects Taoyuan and Yilan counties, passing through misty conifer forests as it climbs over the Snow Mountain
In the world of Chinese-speaking media, “Sydney Daddy” is an Australian YouTube phenomenon: a kind of Alan Jones for Mandarin-speakers, who has found unexpected success, not just in Australia but throughout the diaspora. From his home in Sydney, Edgar Lu, 41, does a talk-back style program two or three times a week, interviewing politicians and local community figures or ranting on issues he cares about. “I think by Australian standards, I’m center-right,” he says. He says he’s not “anti-CCP [Chinese Communist Party], but at the same time, I don’t particularly care what they think.” YouTube offers a platform that is free from the censorship