Ethnicity and the history of Ilan
（Assistant Research Fellow, Preparatory Office, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica）
2001-05-07 Historical photograph of anAtayal man, left, and woman.
Ilan is an ethno-culturally diverse andcomplex immigrant society. Starting beforehistorical records began, people havelived on the Lanyang Plain and left behindrelics of their lives. Later on, theKavalan people, the Atayal tribe, Pingputribes and Han Chinese have moved intothis land, one after the other, developedits water resources and land and foughtfor survival space. Lanyang society’sethnic history can serve as an epitome forTaiwan’s ethnic history. Nowadays, althoughthe Lanyang region is principally Han inits culture, since the 1990s, following theupsurge of a local cultural renaissance inpopular society, the people of Ilan havebeen involved in a search for the roots oftheir ancestors. As a result, we have theopportunity to sample a differentethno-cultural extravaganza on the Lanyangstage, and in the process, appreciate theimportance of preserving one’s own mothertongue and culture. This week, we haveinvited Su-chuan Chan, research fellow inthe Preparatory Office of the Institute ofTaiwan History at Academia Sinica, torecount for us the ethnic history ofdevelopment in Ilan.
340 years ago, on April 30, 1661, Koxingalead armed Historically, the Lanyang Planhas been center stage for life in Ilan.Although it covers an area of only 330 squarekilometers, thanks to its complex ethnic mixand richly diverse cultures, an endlessinterwoven tragicomedy emerges from itshistory which touches the heart.
A backdrop of many different cultures
The Lanyang Plan has been inhabited byhumans since prehistoric times. The Kavalanpeople were spread mostly around low, marshyland, and they established dozens of villagesclose to the flowing streams. The widemountain region spanned by Hsuehshan andCentral Mountain Ranges was home to theAtayal tribe. It wasn’t until the beginningof the nineteenth century that the Pingputribes from the western region moved intothe area, and forged close relations with theKavalan people. As for the Han Chinese whostarted to come in and cultivate the land ingroups from 1796, their numbers were sonumerous that they not only created a majorimpact on the Austronesian people who inhabitedthe land, they also rapidly became the majorethnic group on the Lanyang Plain.
The isolated nature of the Lanyang River,and the development of the areas to itsnorth and south
The Lanyang River is the longest, largestriver on the Lanyang Plain. After it flowsinto the plain, at its fanned-out endsforms a network of waterways. The broadriver is full of gravel, and the waterfollows an unfixed path. Downstream, theriver splits up into variable numbers ofbranches, where the water is shallow andruns fast; in recent times, before theembankments were built, the Lanyang Rivercould be said to completely unnavigable byboat, and quite unusable. Consequently, theLanyang River divides the plain into two:creating the “north of the river” and “southof the river” areas which have had differenthistorical developments.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, HanChinese from three different areas in China –Guangdong, and Quanzhou and Zhangjiang, both inFujian — and led by the Wu Sha Clan, formed armedgroups to develop the land, and entered the LanyangPlain in great numbers. Because they were so wellorganized, development work proceeded rapidly, andin under 50 years (the first 15 years of the JiaqingReign were 1796-1810), the Lanyang Plain north ofthe river had already been fully developed. Duringthe 10 years from the establishment of the KavalanOffice to the Daoguang Reign, the grasslands to thesouth of the river also rapidly became paddy fieldsfor agriculture. From 1821 to 1895, Han Chinese andPingpu people worked together in land-developmentteams, penetrating far upstream the Lanyang River,developing Chin San Hsing Township and part of YuenShan Township. Having been through this century ofdevelopment, the Lanyang Plan had become a world ofstreets and villages, populated mainly by Han Chinese.
Han Chinese consecrated temple.
The difficulties of the Qing government
When the Kavalan people were first brought intothe domain of the Qing government, there werefour ethnic problems that Qing court had todeal with: one was how to cut off the Atayalpeople from the central mountain regions, sothat they could not access the developed landof the plain, and create problems with publicorder. Seeing that Han Chinese had come hereof their own accord to cultivate the land,before the nation could take any countermeasures,the second problem was how to make up for theproblem of loss of land which had already beencreated in the Kavalan villages to the north ofthe river; and how to prevent the Kavalanvillages south of the river from making thesame mistakes, and preserving a suitable amountof land to allow them to keep on making a basicliving. The third problem was how tosimultaneously pay attention to the land ownedby Kavalan people, and the livelihoods theymade, while keeping proper controls so thatHan Chinese developed the land in an orderlyfashion, while carrying out land allocation.Finally, how was the Qing to make arrangementsfor the roles and livelihood of the westernPingpu tribes?
Focusing on the Atayal people, the Qing courtand local people set up a chain of 20 huts inthe passes along the foot of the mountains,forming a line of defense to prevent the peoplewho lived in the mountains from coming out intothe plain for headhunting. These mountain hutsnot only formed an armed line of defense, theyalso reflected the border between the inhabitantsof the mountains and the inhabitants of theplain. As for the land and livelihoods of theKavalan people, the land development and landneeds of the Han Chinese, these were actuallytwo sides of the same coin, and it wasimpossible to separate either and treat it asan individual question; the Qing court used aspecial land system which they called “ke-lau,”and solved the requirements of both sides at thesame time. The western Pingpu tribes, because oftheir distinctive role as outsiders, could notbe absorbed into the range of those Han Chinesewho were allocated resources by governmentoffices, and they did not yet enjoy the landbenefits which the Kavalan people had, butinstead they became a true minority withambiguous status on the Lanyang Plain.
Competition for survival space between HanChinese and Kavalan
Han Chinese agricultural exploitation aimed toobtain land, and turn the “wild plains” intoagricultural land suitable for rice cultivation.As a result, the Han Chinese not only had theirleaders distribute the land during the developmentprocess, the Qing court too did its best to thinkup ways to create opportunities to rent out landon behalf of the Han Chinese. During the Qing dynasty, many ditches were constructed in Ilan,to irrigate the fields and gardens, and as aresult, arable land was rapidly turned into paddyfields. However, the result of Han transformationof land production techniques not only brought inirrigation systems, it also led to a change in thenatural ecology. The “wild plains,” which in HanChinese eyes needed to be transformed, had beenthe Kavalan people’s hunting grounds; intricate,twisting streams and rivers which easily bursttheir banks, and provided the Kavalan with richaquatic resources and channels for transport. Thecomprehensive irrigation facilities turned theLanyang Plain into a granary of stable riceproduction, but the other aspect of thisdevelopment was the loss for the Kavalan peopleof the management and preservation of the naturalenvironment for their traditional culture andlives. Not only this, but the large-scaleestablishment of roads and villages by the HanChinese also encroached tightly onto the Kavalanvillages, and the space on the Lanyang Plain andethnic distribution went through a process firstof quantitive, and then qualitative change.
Historical phtograph ofKavalan people.
After the Kavalan people entered into the”country” system of the Qing dynasty, theirtraditional society and culture started toundergo massive changes. These changes onone hand produced an “impoverishment” of theKavalan villages, and on the other hand, putthe Kavalan people at the very bottomstratum of the social hierarchy in thegreater environment. The combination ofethnic differences, poverty and low statusmade life very difficult, and they sufferedfrom racial discrimination. The Kavalanstrategy for shaking off these difficultieswas to leave the ethnic relationship of theiroriginal homes and seek opportunities forsurvival someplace new.
The migration of the Kavalan people
We discover that starting in the mid-nineteenthcentury, the Kavalan people, whether living onthe Lanyang Plain or outside it, launchedmigrations large and small, and spread beyondthe scope of their original homes, and we caneven conclude a general trend: the communitiesnorth of the Lanyang River moved to Toucheng,on the narrow coastal plain, nestling up againstthe Hsuehshan Mountain Range. The communitiessouth of the river moved to Su’ao and Nanfang’ao,close to the Central Mountain Range. The new worldwhich attracted both Kavalan and Western Pingpupeople from the communities north and south of theriver was the Sanhsing region, and the HualienPlain.
For nearly a hundred years, the peoplealong Hualien Plain and the east coast wereknown as the “Kalewan tribe” people, andthey were the descendants of the Kavalanpeople from Ilan who had migrated south.The Ilan home of this group of migrantsincluded several villages both north andsouth of the Lanyang River, but becausemost of these people had moved fromKalewan Harbor (now an outlet of theTungshan and Lanyang Rivers), in theHualien region, they became known as theKalewan people. To this day, HsinchengTownship, Hualien City and Fengpin Townshipin Hualien County, and Chanpin Township inTaitung County are all places where thedescendants of the Kavalan people are nowdistributed. Places which have a fairlystrong Kavalan presence include Hsin She(in Hualien County), Liteh (Hualien County),and Tafengfeng (Taitung County).
Revival of ethnic consciousness andreclaiming old names
The relocation to Hualien and Taitung actuallymade it easier for the Kavalan people topreserve some of their traditional society,culture and mother tongue. The consciousnessthat “I am a Kavalan” also made the Kavalantribe different from the other Pingpu tribes,whose identity has become more obscure overtime. Since the 1990s, in the wake of theintense need for much of society toacknowledge its native culture, thedescendants of the Kavalan have begun toseek out their history, emphasize theirethnic identity, and demand that thegovernment formally name and acknowledgethem. The movement to reclaim the name ofthe Kavalan has been born.
Edited by Hsu, Shiou-Iuan/ translated by Elizabeth Hoile