4/23/2012

Hengchun (恆春) Incident

I came across the Hengchun (恆春) Incident of 1894 in the British Consular Reports on Taiwan. Here is R.W. Hurst, the British Consul, giving a play-by-play from his office in Tamsui, Taiwan on April 11, 1894:

"It appears the officials at Heng Chen commissioned one Beiukiet [Pan Wen-jie or 潘文杰], the chief of the the Teirasock tribe [part of the Paiwan] to invite a certain of the chiefs of the Bootaugs [Botans, I think, as they gained a reputation for their tenacity fighting the Japanese during the Mudan Incident and as it is the closest pronunciation match I can make in terms of aborigines in the area], the most warlike and powerful tribe in the South to meet them at an interview, a safe conduct being guaranteed. Four of the sub chiefs accordingly came, but no sooner were they within the walls of Heng Chen, than notwithstanding the promised safe conduct they were summarily beheaded. The Chinese claimed that this was a justifiable act of retaliation for the wanton murder of some wood cutters two or three months earlier, but the Bootaugs were so exasperated by the treachery that they turned out in force the whole length of their frontier, extending over some twenty miles of the sea coast, raiding several villages, killing a number of soldiers and peasants, and effectually blockaded the high road. However by some means the Chinese managed to entrap two more of the tribe but dare not kill them for fear of the consequences, but sent sent [Hurst wrote this word twice] to the aborigines that any further aggressiveness would result in the death of their captives. The aborigines on their part sent a counter threat, to the effect that if a hair of their men's heads were injured, they would ravage the whole country up to the gates of Heng Chen. Consequently a state of armed truce exists at the present moment and the road is open to traders and others."

First off, I doubt the four sub chiefs were executed as a retaliation for the "wanton murder of the wood cutters" because the Chinese didn't care a fig for the well-being of their citizens in 1894. I don't think I need to back this up either. The chiefs were most likely executed because the Chinese were looking to weaken the Bootaugs and shift the balance of power. Look at how they responded when the Bootaugs went ballistic, "killing a number of soldiers and peasants." To tell the truth, I don't really have much to add to this story as Hurst did such a great job calling the action (I just wanted to share it). I'm guessing that the Bootaugs eventually came out on top in this matter. In less than four months, China would be at war with Japan. This kind of disturbance would have been something they wanted resolved. Hurst does not bring up Hengchun in later reports either, other than to state 600 Chinese troops were moved to the town. As Hengchun was walled at the time, it could serve as a fort and base in securing the southern coast against invasion. BTW, it's interesting here to see him calling the Paiwan (排灣) aborigines and not savages. 

I also wish I could find something regarding Pan Wen-jie (潘文杰), as he is a fascinating character. There's a little bit online in Chinese. Like so many of us in Taiwan, Pan was of mixed blood. His father was of Chinese ancestry while his mother was of the Paiwan. Pan was adopted by his mother's little brother Zhou Qidu (卓杞篤) and as a boy witnessed his uncle's great soldiering and diplomatic skills, especially during the Mudan (牡丹) Incident of 1874, when Japanese troops landed to exact revenge upon local aborigines for killing citizens shipwrecked on the southern coast of Taiwan. Besides serving as a negotiator between the Chinese and Paiwan when he grew up, Pan also acted as a go-between for the Paiwan and Japanese after 1895, when Taiwan became a colony of Japan as well as the Taiwanese and Japanese. I can't find much more, other than to say he lived from 1854 to 1904 (or 1905) and that he was originally surnamed Lin (林).   

I probably don't need to point out that Hengchun continues to thrive. As the southernmost town in Taiwan, it has great weather and lots of beaches. It was also the location for the popular Taiwanese movie Cape No. 7. The walls mentioned above are gone, but the gates are still intact and worth checking out. I'll put up a link to a post by The Daily Bubble Tea, because he has some great shots of them: http://goo.gl/PP1oL.

6 comments:

EyeDoc said...

Have you checked out The Japanese Expedition to Formosa by Edward H House (1875), available free as an eBook from Google. Ch 11 may have what you are looking for.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Thanks. Here I was laboring through the Chinese and the info is sitting there in English.

Anonymous said...

I am curious about the "Pan" character. It seems the Paiwan part was an anachronous reconstruction as the classifications were the result of a Japanese colonial effort. The surname Pan in southern Taiwan is common for Makatao and Siraya people who migrated inland.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"The surname Pan in southern Taiwan is common for Makatao and Siraya people who migrated inland."

His real last name is Lin, as mentioned. Pan was given to him by the Taiwanese later on.

Andre said...

good read. it's always fascinating to read about Hengchun since my dad's family is from there. wished grandpa was still around so i could ask him if knows anything about any of these events as he was born in the Hengchun area in the early 1900's. we always enjoyed hearing stories from him when we were kids.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Yeah. I often talk to my wife's grandma, who is 93, about the Taipei during the war, under the Japanese, etc. She has some great stories to tell. I should put a few up.