Popular uprisings in Taiwan’s history
林呈蓉教授／April C. J. Lin, Professor
(淡江大學歷史系／（Department of History, Tamkang University）
One of the most important parts of anThe Pin Tien-mi guard incident of1628, during the era of Dutch rule,illustration courtesy of SMC PublishingInc.
In the wake of “China coming to Taiwan”, HanChinese brought with them to Taiwan thecharacteristics of traditional Chinesesociety, and created the phenomenon inTaiwanese history of frequent popularuprisings. these frequent popular uprisingsalso demonstrate that Taiwanese society hadbeen unstable for a long time. This happenedbecause there was no way to promote publicauthority, and consequently, the generalpopulation had to fend for themselves; mostof the time, Taiwanese society was ruled bya government from overseas, and thispolitical power changed frequently, so itwas impossible to satisfy the practicalneeds of the local inhabitants. Differentethnic groups on the island often had toface intense competition for survival. Thisweek, we have invited Professor April C. J.Lin from the department of history at TamkangUniversity to tell us about incidents ofpopular rebellion through Taiwan’s 400 yearsand more of history, and the reasons behindthem.
Frequent popular uprisings
In the past, most people have had a stereotypedimage of Taiwan’s history, which is “frequentpopular uprisings.” During the 212 years of Qingdynasty rule in Taiwan alone, there were over100 incidents of large and small popular uprisingsrevolting against local government offices, and ifwe add to this the persistent armed fightingbetween different ethnic groups, we can see thatthe old saying, “a little uprising every threeyears, major unrest every five years,” wascertainly based in fact. However, this wasn’ttraditionally characteristic of Taiwanese society;rather, following the arrival of “China in Taiwan,”Han Chinese brought the characteristics of theirtraditional Chinese society with them when theymoved to the island of Taiwan. During Taiwan’sfour hundred years and more of history, popularuprisings can be roughly divided into four maintypes, taking 1915 as a dividing line.
Rich layers of national consciousness
(1) With Han Chinese at the core, the demands ofethnic emotion mobilized the common people torise up and fight back, conveying theirdissatisfaction to the ruling authorities.
There were numerous cases of this kind, startingwith the Kue Huai-yit Incident in 1652, when HanChinese reacted against Dutch rule. An even morewell-known incident was the Chu Yit-gui Incidentof 1721, a resistance movement which shook theentire western region. The largest resistanceaction of the Qing dynasty was the Lin Song-bunIncident of 1786, the Qing court used militaryforces from four provinces, and it took 16 monthsto restore peace. In 1862, the Dai Tiao-chunIncident, led by members of the Eight DiagramsSociety, engulfed central Taiwan for four years.In 1895, when the Qing court ceded Taiwan toJapan, a group led by members of the gentry class,who are normally perceived as lacking any conceptof democracy, unexpectedly appealed for a “TaiwanRepublic,” and tried to rebel against Japaneseimperial rule. It lasted five months. After thefailure of the “Republic,” from the end of 1895until 1902, the flag of the “anti-Japanese”movement was raised, spearheaded by Chien Tai-shihin the north, Ke Tie-hu in the central region, andLim Siau-Niau in the south. The movement involvedlaunching surprise attacks all over the place, asand when the opportunity arose. Then, from 1907,Tsai Ching-lin encouraged residents in the area ofYueh Mei She in Hsinchu to invade and attack localJapanese officers and civilians in the PeipuIncident. A long string of armed resistances,including the Tingpeng Incident of 1908, the LinKipo Liu Kan Incident of March 1912, and the HuangChao Tu Ku Incident in June the same year, the LuoChou Tou Liu Chia Incident of 1914, the Lin LaoTsai Incident in Taichung in February 1915, inTaichung, and even in April 1915, Yu Ching-fong’sSeraian Incident, were all imbued with intensenational consciousness. Not only were theseincidents indicative of rich layers of nationalconsciousness, these rebellions and uprisingswhich spanned four centuries had another commontrait, the quality of the old, feudal-era”revolutions aiming to change the world,” and theleaders of these incidents all tried to pose asnew “emperors.”
Yu Ching-fong’s Seraian Incident of1915, photo courtesy of SMC PublishingInc.
Counterattack on the power of foreign races
(2) With Aboriginals at the core, counterattackon the power of foreign races.
Early on in the Dutch occupation period, Taiwan’sAboriginals had to face the two-fold pressure ofrule by a foreign race and competition forsurvival with immigrants from overseas. Aboriginalresistances were a common occurrence, andexamples include the Battle of Hsinkang She in1629; the Battles of Ma Tau and Kalayang in 1635;the Battle of Hsiao Liuchiu She in 1636; the Battleof Hua Wu Lung She in 1641; the Battle ofTamshui-Kemalan She in 1644; and the Battle ofTakamaha She in 1645. In the Ming-Cheng period,the Han Chinese political regime of the Tong-ningKingdom treated Aboriginals no more tolerantlythan had the previous regime, and there werefrequent reports of Aboriginals attacking andkilling officials, and raiding grain storehouses.Battles such as the Battle of Tatu She in 1661,the battle of Shalu She in 1670, andChuchien-Hsinkang She in 1682 repeatedly showedthat the Aboriginals were dissatisfied withforeign rule and invasion by foreign races.With the arrival of the era of Qing rule, thenumbers of Han Chinese immigrating to Taiwanincreased by the day, and in addition torebellions, many Aboriginals gradually began toassimilate into the Han culture. Even thoughthis was happening, Aboriginal uprisings stillcame thick and fast, for instance the Battlesof Tunhsiao She and Peitou She n 1669, the Battleof Tachiahsi She in 1731, the Battle of ChialiwanShe in 1875, the Battle of Tachuangchu She in1888, and the Battle of Kuanyin Shan Chuang in1895. Of these, the uprising on the largest scalewas the Tachiahsi Incident of 1731. WithTachiahsi She as its center, but including adozen or more other Aboriginal communities such asTatu She, Shalu She, Niumatou She, Puzaili,Tunhsiao She and Alishih She, they banded togetherand launched a counterattack, because theycouldn’t bear the rapaciousness of the Qingofficials and the encroachment of land by HanChinese immigrants. The unrest lasted for a yearbefore it could be concluded.In the period of Japanese occupation, althoughJapan had prepared a set of “Barbarian Management”policies which could be used to effectivelycontrol the activities of the Aboriginals, inOctober 1930 there were still Aboriginals atBusha (in Mandarin Chinese Wu She) who, havingbeen subject to a long period of forced labor andcultural attrition, erupted in violence and shookthe whole island with the Busha Incident. It tookalmost two months to quell the uprising.
Armed fighting between different ethnic groups
(3) Armed fighting took place between Han Chineseimmigrants from different ethnic groups.
Taiwan hasa limited area of land, and with Han Chinesecontinuing to immigrate to Taiwan and cultivate andreclaim the land, there was constant competitionbetween immigrants for land and water resources.Therefore, the immigrants organized themselvesthrough identification in terms of family names,hometowns and professions, and formed clanshipassociations, shared hometown associations, guildsand other organizations as support to protecttheir own interests. Amongst the endlessinter-ethnic fighting, the most serious was thearmed fighting that broke out between the threeclans of Liao, Li and Chung in the area of Hsiluo,Erlun, and Lunpei in 1860, which took three yearsto contain. When inter-ethnic armed fights brokeout during the Qing dynasty, the Qing court’sofficials usually would not intervene and patchthings up immediately, until both sides had causeddestruction to each other – only then could theofficials dispatch troops to administer justice tothe people responsible for the fighting on eitherside. It’s worth noting after Taiwan was ceded to Japan,Taiwanese society gradually moved towardsmodernization, colonization and rule of law, anda “Taiwanese” consciousness began to form. Whenthis happened, the previous problem ofinter-ethnic fighting which had been based onhometown affiliations in the old country fadedaway as a matter of course.
Characteristics of modern nationalistmovements
(4) Different from the first three types ofpopular uprising, after 1915, following thenational education which was part of theJapanese colonization era modernizations,Taiwan’s popular uprisings gradually beganto have the characteristics of a modernnationalist movement. Take for example the”Petition to Establish a Taiwan Parliament”
movement which started in 1921 and lasted 14years; or the case in 1925, where sugarcanegrowers in the Erlin area organized themselvesinto the “Sugarcane Growers Association”,and brought their demands for rights forsugarcane farmers to the Sugar RefiningAssociation; or in 1931, the fourth partymembers’ congress of the Taiwan People’s Partywhere an order was suddenly raised prohibitingthe organization. Although these activists weretime and again arrested by the Japanese rulingauthorities for violation of the “Peace PoliceLaw,” or even without the slightest basis inlaw, or were forced to stop all gatherings andactivities, under the charge of obstructing thepeace, they frequently demonstrated that thepeople of Taiwan were trying to win the rightto determine their own rights and interestswithin the existing system. This implies thatthe social movements characteristic of modernnations started around 1920, and continueduntil all organization and activities had tostop with the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese warin 1937. This fourth category was a new wave ofTaiwanese social resistance against rule byforeigners.
A long history of instability
Taking a panoramic view of the last 400 yearsof historical development, there have beenfrequent popular uprisings, providing ampleevidence that for a very long time, Taiwansociety was constantly in a state of instability.There have been three major sources ofinstability: one, it has often been impossibleto extend public authority, and consequentlythe people have been forced to stand up andhelp themselves. Two, on many occasions, Taiwansociety has been ruled by regimes which camefrom outside Taiwan, and these political powershave changed frequently, so there has been noway to satisfy the practical needs of the localinhabitants. Three, when different ethnic groupsliving together on a very small island such asTaiwan, there are bound to be frequent intensecompetitions for survival between the differentgroups.
Edited by Hsu, Shiou-Iuan/ translated by Elizabeth Hoile