Historic Danjiang High School

I stopped by Danjiang High School last Monday to promote the magazines my company publishes. The teachers gave me tour of the campus. Founded in the 19th century, Danjiang High has a long and storied history. Its founding father, George MacKay, was a Presbyterian minister from Ontario, Canada, who spent the last 40 years of his life building up his flock on Formosa. Judging by what I've heard, this was no easy task. Superstitious locals actually threw rocks at him and called him "a red-haired devil." But MacKay was undaunted; he married a local woman, learned how to speak Taiwanese and also to pull teeth. A self-taught dentist, his teeth extraction services helped to lay the groundwork for the Presbyterian Church, which also has an impressive record here. (The Presbyterian Church was a cog in the underground democracy movement during the sixties and seventies and was pivotal in Taiwan's struggle against the Chiangs.) Though small and tucked out of the way in Danshui (淡水), Danjiang High School has made many contributions to Taiwan. Lee Tung-hui (李登輝), Taiwan's first democratically-elected president, was a graduate back in the thirties. There is also a commemorative plaque on the grounds for the three individuals, a principal and two teachers, who were murdered during the 1947 2-28 uprising, when Taiwan's people first asserted themselves during the KMT occupation.

Lee Tung-hui visited the Danjiang High School five years ago. He provided some old black and white pictures of himself at this building (above pic), practicing kendo. He was, according to what I've heard, pretty tough.

A view of one of the original buildings. This one is over 100 years old. The Victorian classrooms and corridors are like nothing I've seen in Taiwan, with long wooden desks and spacious dark corners. This was the first school in Taiwan that focused on topics apart from those useful for preparing youngsters for the Ching Dynasty (清朝) civil servant test.

An 85-year-old picture of the campus.

Danjiang High School has dominated high school rugby in Taiwan, and did so even during the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945). Every student who makes the team is excused from paying tuition. I (always thinking about my baby daughter's prospects) asked if they had a girls' team, but the answer was no. The land for the rugby field was donated by the MacKay family.

A shot of Canadian cemetery, out back of the school, which is maintained by the Canadian Trade Office (the polite way of saying Canadian Embassy). The MacKay family tombs are also there, with one for George MacKay, who died on June 2, 1901. MacKay family descendants still pay respects every year on this day.


Anonymous said...

Danjiag HS recruits many foreigners without credentials, maybe over 20 now, so it is referred to as "bushiban" sometimes. Do you think about it if you will send your little child to a high school or a "bushiban." This isn't about the nativist movement that you are interested in.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I just had this conversation two times, once with a high school teacher at another school and also with with an energetic DDP supporter playing Scrabulous on Facebook. The answer is "no problem" as I am sure the credentials of these new Taiwanese teachers will more than measure up.

This protectionist stance of protecting "Taiwan" jobs for "Taiwanese" whatever that means is really a destructive prospect for Taiwan in an increasingly globalized world. Can you imagine if all countries carry through, like you've suggested? Think of all the "Taiwanese" that live and work overseas who will have to return from the US, Canada, Australia, NZ, Europe or China because other countries suddenly get intolerant, and don't want "foreigners" living or working hard in their midst? I bet a million "Taiwanese" people will have to come back.

I can't wait to send my daughter to classes run by "foreigners". I'm sure I'll be as hard on them as I will on any other teacher.

EyeDoc said...

You seem to be a frequent visitor to Danshui where I grew up in the 1950s. As I remembered it: Danjiang HS was never a first-rate school. And by the 50s, under the unified high school entrance exam system, it was overshadowed by schools in Taipei previously established by the Japanese.

And to add a little to your description of Dr George Leslie Mackay: During the Sino-French War of 1884, the French fleet bombarded Danshui Harbor first, followed by ground attacks by its marines. The latter were defeated in hand-to-hand combat and lost 300 men. The wounded Chinese defenders were tended to by doctors at the Mackay Clinic (which still exists). Dr Mackay and his family had to retreat to Hong Kong to avoid hostilities towards anything foreign at that time. After the war, he returned to Danshui and rebuilt churches sacked by mobs from Taipei (more precisely, the now Wan Hua). However, never in his writing, had he complained about this experience. This was a true gentleman who did love Danshui and its people with all his heart.

--from Boston, Massachusetts

Patrick Cowsill said...

I remember reading a newspaper article by MacKay, written in Hong Kong. He was worried about his prospects for returning.

I'm curious about the Wan Hua. Do you mean Wanhua District? Is Wan Hua 萬華 in Chinese? And do you have more details on these mobs?

"And by the 50s, under the unified high school entrance exam system, it was overshadowed by schools in Taipei previously established by the Japanese." To me, this sounds ideal, as my wife and I have decided we'll be opting out of the "entrance exam system" when it comes to raising our kids and our focus for their education.

EyeDoc said...

The letter from Dr Mackay was published on 29/12/1884. After the defeat in Danshui, the French blockaded all ports of Taiwan. Dr Mackay therefore was stuck in Hong Kong. He also mentioned in the letter, his churches were "leveled to the ground" and his converts "looted and beaten..." - by whom he did not say (probably did not know). The instigators were the followers of 清水祖師 based in Wan Hua, then known as 艋舺. Wan Hua may just be a district now, in its heyday, it was THE trade center of northern Taiwan. To aid in the fight against the French, 清水祖師 was paraded into Danshui. Apparently some followers got carried away and did things regrettable. The rebuilt red-bricked Presbyterian Church is still standing proudly in Danshui today. And a temple for 清水祖師 worship, built later, is still there, too.

Mr Lee Teng Hui went to Danjiang HS was probably for a very simple reason: his house was only a few doors down from the high school. Otherwise, he would have to commute daily, as many others did, by train, to Taipei to attend Taipei Second HS (now Chen Kong HS) or Taipei Imperial Univ (now NTU).

Your daughter may enjoy attending Danjiang yet. I was in the same elementary school class as one of Dr Mackay's great grandchildren. Even though he did look a little pale, the whole class never thought of anything unusual. This foreigner stuff, that you have encountered while visiting 紅毛城 some time ago, is not the Danshui that I have remembered. Times maybe different now, the internationality, however, has always been part of Danshui.

Patrick Cowsill said...


I think the article I read (Turton posted it up on his blog a while back) and the letter you're talking about are the same.

You've put up some very interesting comments here - thanks for the insight. (My blog is actually supposed to be about Wanhua, which is where my wife comes from, but I think I've strayed a bit toward Danshui and Hualien).

From the sounds of it, you're Taiwanese. But you live in Boston. What's your story?


EyeDoc said...

Interesting, this “stray” into Danshui and Hua Lien of yours. That was exactly what Dr Mackay did. You may have walked on the same roads as he did. Unlike your adopting Wan Hua as your hometown (my guess), in his travel south to Tainan in 1877, he did (had to?) bypass the Wan Hua area, and instead went over the left ridge of Guan Yin mountain straight down to Hsin Zhu. You can say this is a giant leap forward as far as the reception of immigrants.

The downfall of Wan Hua went hand in hand with that of Danshui. In the 1800s, even tall ships could sail Danshui River upstream to Wan Hua and beyond. (This was a lot easier than climbing over the Guang Yin Mountain.) It was 7m deep in Danshui Harbor. Unfortunately, to avoid French fleet’s invasion in the late summer of 1884, the defense strategy called for sinking of old ships and boulders packed in bamboo cages right at the entry of the River. After the war, the Qing Court never bothered to clear the navigational paths and the sediments really built up. During the Japanese era, the trade center was shifted to Keelung. Danshui became a sleepy fishing town, and Wan Hua lost its past luster. Incidentally, the Qing Governor at that time did compensate for the losses of Dr Mackay (i.e., the Presbyterian Church) – reason why he could re-build so quickly. The Danshui Town history describes the followers of 清水祖師 from Wan Hua as "市井少年", a mild term for mobs but disdain nonetheless.

Perhaps when your daughter goes to Danjiang HS, you can spend more time in Danshui. You’ll find it having an extraordinarily rich past history. And BTW, just to add more info on some of the previous comments in your blog on Danshui: the ban for immigrants from mainland China, immediately after the demise of the Cheng Chen Gong dynasty (1683), applied only to the Cantonese (including, unintentionally, the Hakka). People, men and women, from Hokkien can migrate in freely. One of the ports of entry was Danshui and many settled in the immediate region. By the late 1800s, the aborigines had disappeared or retreated from the Han-occupied areas never to be seen again. Unlike the Wampanoag Indians here in Plymouth, there are probably no known descendants of the aborigines in Danshui.

Oh, I came across your blog to read your grandfather’s letter of 1945, but that is another story.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Are you sure women could migrate easily after 1683? Many sources seem to offer an opposing view. What I've learned is as follows: 1683 to 1732: forbidden, 1732-40: allowed, 1740-46: forbidden, 1746-48: allowed, 1748-60: forbidden, 1760-61: allowed and 1761-88: forbidden. The ethnic clashes of the 1780s that left thousands dead might have helped to bring a change to the policy (if there was even one in the first place - you're saying there wasn't). At the center of the clashes were the many male drifters in Taiwan who did not have women or land and thus were easily recruited into the various militias. And I've also read that the Ching government didn't want women crossing the Strait, because it viewed Taiwan as a hotbed of unrest: "Every three years an uprising, every five a revolt" or 159 revolts in 212 years of Ching rule over Taiwan. If they kept the women and families in China, they could better control the husbands in Taiwan. Of course, men at this time, especially if they were in a financial situation to do so, could simply procure a second (or third) wife if they felt inclined. You know that one of the key points of Melissa Brown's "Is Taiwan Chinese?", that most Taiwanese people have Aboriginal blood, is set down on the idea of limited immigration women until the end of the 18th century. Anyway, how are you so sure the Hokkien women could emigrate easily prior to 1788?

BTW, why are you interested in WWII? I am writing a thesis on this topic, Taiwanese serving in the Japanese Imperial Army. My grandpa was an accountant. So, in his letters (he wrote almost every day), he would explain mundane things in detail, like point systems for missions, pudding portions, or so forth (he rarely talked about how he felt). I've wondered how they made it past the military censors, but they did. Anyway, I might have an idea or two about what you're researching/after.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Unlike the Wampanoag Indians here in Plymouth, there are probably no known descendants of the aborigines in Danshui."

That is, unless, they intermarried with the Taiwanese of the region...

Anonymous said...

I'll check, but I'm pretty sure John Dodd's journal of the Sino-French war talks about Keelung being captured before the bombardment of Danshui...Foreigners largely refusing to be evacuated (Because the Qing wouldn't protect their property from Chinese looters). I know that the AMCHAM magazine published an article about Da Dao Cheng a few years ago that talks about WanHua being blocked up by sediment...thus the shift in focus to Da Dao Chen (you will note that foreign trade firms were built in Da Dao Chen). Dodd talks about closing up shop in Twantutia (a town Dr. Chou said was likely Da Dao Chen). Moreover, John Dodd's journal talks about the French Bombarment bypassing the sunken Junks (because they were breaking up on the tides). Danshui was probably not ideal because it did not offer a safe anchorage. Everybody knew Keelung was the big thing (that's why Liu Ming Quan started the trailroad between taipei and keelung)...but the Qing couldn't get a railroad built...and were concerned about opening a port they knew they could not protect from foreign aggression.

I can pass you reference for most of the above comments.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Keelung must've been important, because they, even with all their Chinese bureaucratic ineptitude, actually completed that line, all 28 km of it, in 1891 (it took four years). Or at least this is what the official Taiwan Train Website is claiming.

Anonymous said...

I think the point of the other anonymous was that these teachers would not be able to teach if they were Taiwanese. They are only being allowed to teach because they are not Taiwanese. It's not a matter of protection ism - a special professional consideration is being made because of their ethnic background.

And while I am not familiar with the case of this school, in many HSs that I am familiar with, foreign teachers are hired without the proper document check required by the MOE.

EyeDoc said...

You are talking about the 台灣編查流寓例? Yeah, that’s the official version. And the laundry list was for regulating the settler population, essentially for when one could/could not apply for the official permit to settle in Taiwan - Hokkinese men only needed to apply indeed. Historically (as far back as the 13th Century), however, it has always been illegal to migrate from coastal areas of China to Taiwan, so whatever the official policy, it did not mean all that much as far as the resourceful Hokkienese, and the equally resourceful but totally banned Cantonese and the Hakka were concerned. Much like the South Americans crossing the US borders, organized smuggling of men and women (and children as well), in waves, into Taiwan was a way of life. A good example: 林爽文 and both his parents arrived this way, together, in 1773. The now-popular saying in Taiwanese: ”唐山過台灣,心肝結歸丸” is a description of how the smuggled felt on board those junks. The number of these migrants would not have been recorded of course. It was not hard to cross the 180-km Straits (took only a day or two) in any case.

Still, men did out-number women. The inter-marriages with the aborigines no doubt existed, to what extent is still unclear. It probably depended on the locale and the social structure of the local aborigine tribe (most are maternal and not many Han men were/are willing to enter this type of household). The notion that most contemporary Taiwanese are products of these inter-marriages is an attempt to disclaim the Chinese heritage, in order to make the political statement that Taiwan is not part of China. The only way to settle this issue once and for all is to conduct an island-wide mitochondrial DNA study, as some even now claim that family genealogy is unreliable (most first-born Taiwanese keep one in the family, a source of pride, though).

Some loose ends:

Of course the French attacked Keelung before Danshui (the reason why Dr Mackay was in poor health – see his letter). What I meant previously was the attempted invasion of Danshui was with the bombardment FIRST, followed by ground assaults. The French were in possession of nautical charts of Danshui, bought from a British harbor pilot, and knew exactly where to hit. Although the Chinese artillery battalions were no push-overs, either.

Also, the railroad between Taipei and Keelung opened for business in 1891. The Japanese later overhauled the infrastructure of Keelung harbor and abandoned Daushui entirely.

On your last question: Perhaps you can really help me out as far as WWII. Are you writing a PhD thesis? I am indeed searching for some answers. And a pressing one is this: Who in the US Navy flew the F6F Hellcat VT that torpedoed Shinsei Maru on Jan 12, 1945. See my blog: http://shinseimaru.blogspot.com - I know you read Chinese. And please email me (address is in the blog) or post comments, F6F or otherwise. Thanks in advance.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"social structure of the local aborigine tribe (most are maternal and not many Han men were/are willing to enter this type of household)."

Actually, many Han men were more than willing to enter these sorts of contracts, especially the "drifters" as I have described them (men without property, means or women), thus giving rise to the common expression in Taiwan, 入贅, or a type of arrangement where a man came into a woman's family and in doing so surrendered his last name for their offspring. This was less than extraordinary in Taiwan's history and is well documented. Interestingly, Aboriginal women and their dads and moms didn't look down on them but instead admired them for their willingness to work the fields, something that a lot of young Aboriginal men disdained as "women's work".

On another point and I want to make this clear: "And while I am not familiar with the case of this school, in many HSs that I am familiar with, foreign teachers are hired without the proper document check required by the MOE," well, the two individuals I talked to didn't once mention whether or not the "foreigners" being hired had good credentials. They were simply terrified that "foreigners" could possibly steal what they saw as plum jobs from local teachers. To tell the truth, I'm quite troubled by this whole idea of the qualified teacher, chalked up in these terms, and have brought it up in previous posts. To me, a qualified teacher is someone who teaches well. They might have a degree or a masters in history, philosophy, physics or what have you. I find it troubling that education degree holders, or their like (people who hold degrees in social sciences) have recently hijacked the eduction profession.

EyeDoc said...

It seems impolite to depart from an ongoing discussion. Let me elaborate a little on this inter-marriage subject:

The type of marriage, 入贅, with the aborigines was perpetrated mostly by, as you have mentioned, the Han-drifters (known as the 羅漢腳). This was not without ulterior motives - taking over aborigine land ownership and properties soon after the wedding, for example. 入贅 was a custom of some aborigines (the 阿美 Tribe in Hualien, for one), it was unfortunately taken advantage of by some Hans. The Hans themselves rarely 入贅 into other Han families. It is a manhood thing.

Also, how do you think the drifters got there in the first place - through formal application for permits at that time?

If you look at the official census data of Han people in Taiwan (unclear if they included the stowaways):

Year 1683...33,640

And the PinPu's (the potential inter-marrying group, not counting the head-hunters):

1927...52,598 (taken during the Japanese era)

The "permit-only" Qing period of 100 years saw a jump of 1.9 million Han people, yet the PinPu population stayed flat for 211 years.

Even if the inter-marriages ran rampant, Chinese blood would still have dominated. BTW, there was also a law forbidding inter-marriage with the aborigines at that time.

As to the "foreigner" teacher issue: Some Taiwanese indeed are too provincial. Good teachers are hard to find, the HSs in Taiwan should hold on to whoever capable with dear life, foreigners or not. But then, I have lived in Boston since 1972, and people still ask me "Where are you from?" "Boston", sez I. Then they apologize.

Patrick Cowsill said...

My wife's grandpa was a 入贅, into a Taiwanese family and not an Aboriginal one. He was a music and art teacher. In fact, so am I, in a way. I've changed my last name to that of my wife's family so that our offspring can have her last name, in Chinese.

I've read that the inter-marriage laws were requested by the Aborigines, that the Ching tried to put them into place in order to deal with how badly they Aborigines were being exploited in the late 16th and early 17th century...but I think there were probably some "purity of the Han people" issues here too.

"But then, I have lived in Boston since 1972, and people still ask me 'Where are you from?'" I used to live in Vancouver, Canada. My ex was a third generation Canadian; her grandparents left China in the first part of the 20th Century. Even though she was born in Canada and didn't speak Chinese, people were constantly asking her where she was from. When she answered "Canada" they'd rebut "OK, but what about your parents?" I, on the other hand, was a "foreigner", from the US. But nobody ever asked me where I was from. Our friend, also a third generation Chinese, was asked by an old lady in an elevator why he didn't just go back to where he came from - didn't he know, his sort were ruining Canada? He answered, referring to the railroads: "What are you talking about? We built this country."

Race still factors heavily in how history is written.

EyeDoc said...

There is usually a heart-breaking/warming story behind a 入贅 marriage (between the Hans). It takes a lot of guts, not to mention personal sacrifices. Your wife’s granddad must have had a compelling reason. Love, maybe?

In your case, though, the Cowsills of Rhode Island have the name immortalized already. One fewer bearer makes not much of a difference. For your new family in Taiwan, the family name can now go on, plus your mother-in-law is forever indebted to you. Have you ever wondered why you are served the most expensive wine and the largest chicken leg at all family gatherings?

Those little old ladies do sound familiar. Of course, the official history is written for the victors and every victor plays the race card. History, from the perspective of the common folks is vastly different. If you are writing about the Taiwanese draftees serving in WWII, I strongly urge you to start collecting oral history, quick. The survivors are now 90+ years old.

Please do have a good life in Taiwan and good luck to you and your beautiful family.

Patrick Cowsill said...

You must be talking about my sixth cousins, twice removed.

"Please do have a good life in Taiwan and good luck to you and your beautiful family." - Thanks