1989-02-09 00:00:00

The recent demolition of a statue of a mainland-born Chinese, commemorated as a peacemaker between mainlanders and tribals, is a plea for recognition of tribal identity, some tribals say.

The statue is of Wu Feng, who reportedly died in 18th century Taiwan, trying to reconcile feuding mainland immigrants and indigenous Taiwanese.

The Dec. 31 toppling of the statue of Wu Feng mounted on a horse, a monument in front of the railway station here, is a very complicated issue, Father Norbertus Pu Ing-hsiung, told UCA News.

Father Pu, a 30-year-old Tsao tribal, is pastor of St. John Cathedral in Chiayi, 210 kilometers south of Taipei.

Sources say 16 aborigines and 20 Taiwanese, including Protestants and Catholics, toppled the Lions Club-sponsored five-meter-tall statue despite police resistance. Some were hit in a fist fight.

"I don´t agree with this radical method using force," said Father Pu, a native of the region. "There are other means to push our cause. Tsao tribals from this area were not the initiating force behind it."

Summoned to appear Jan. 18 at Chiayi District Court were: Bunun tribal "Gavas" Yu Ching-ren, a theology student; Taiwanese Tseng Chun-ren, a truck driver; and Taiwanese Pan Jun-er.

However, they asked for a delay and failed to appear.

Taiwanese Presbyterian Pastor Lim Chong-cheng, 39, the alleged instigator, also did not appear. "I wait to be arrested," said Lim, who heads the Presbyterian Commission for Tribal Concerns and is in charge of a student center in Tainan.

"I feel deeply guilty about how the Han (Chinese) race mistreated and exploited the aborigines," he said, "so we had to give a signal to close the chapter of this shameful history."

Lim said that since 1949 the Taiwan government has taken tribal land and removed tribal graveyards to build tourist resorts and parking lots.

"Japanese occupiers were better for the people," he commented.

Lim backs moves to return tribal property, allow tribal names, install tribal police in the mountains, erect a special tribal ministry, teach tribal languages in school and support education of urban migrants.

"I couldn´t find any historical basis for Wu Feng´s heroic deeds, studying the sources for five months at Tokyo University in 1985," Lim said.

Father Pu feels the same and said, "Since my youth, I can´t remember anything about this Wu Feng. If he had done something good to us, the 4,000 Tsao tribals would surely honor him." "On the other hand," he continued, "Wu Feng could have done something good for us by building roads, supporting our culture and improving our condition. He just erected tourist centers to make money for himself out of it."

-- Wu Feng was born in 1699 to a merchant family in China´s Fukien province and emigrated to Taiwan where he became an official interpreter and liaison officer between Chinese settlers and aboriginal tribes.

An official account says Wu gave his life to end feuding among aborigines who, after harvesting in the mountains, invaded the plains to collect mainland Chinese heads as sacrifice to the gods.

At 71, Wu reportedly devised a scheme to end the barbarism.

He told aboriginal friends to take the head of "a man wearing a red hood and cape, and riding a white horse. It will appease your gods."

Tsao tribal warriors followed his instructions, lopping off the head of the mysterious rider, only to discover that he was Wu Feng.

According to this account, this self-sacrifice so moved and terrified the local tribal chief that he called together all 48 headmen in the Mount Ali region and they all agreed to ban headhunting.

-- Lim wanted to erect a peace pillar to commemorate all Taiwanese victims, including those massacred in an incident Feb. 28, 1947, to replace the Wu Feng statue in Chiayi.

"There is a movement to remove the more than 40,000 statues of former politicians and presidents representing the island´s rulers, to provide tribals and Taiwanese with pride and self-confidence, and to solve their identity crisis," Lim said.

Special police were ordered to protect major monuments Jan. 13, the first anniversary of the late President Chiang Ching-kuo´s death.

Due to opposition by tribal activists, the ministry of education deleted discriminatory passages from all Taiwan textbooks in 1988, and Wu Feng Hsiang district has been officially renamed Mount Ali Hsiang.


Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
© Copyright 2019, All rights reserved
© Copyright 2019, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.