21. Rebuilding Mudan Village

The Relics of Modern Japan's First Foreign War in Colonial and Postcolonial Taiwan, 1874-2015

21. Rebuilding Mudan Village

Source: Photographs by the curator, June 2015. 

Xie Wende’s 2009 mural does not end with the Battle of Stone Gate, the torching of Mudan, or the triumphal return of Japanese troops to Nagasaki. Rather, it extends for several panels over the themes of rebuilding—of Paiwan settlements, pastures, farms, and communities. Whereas the peony flower that decorates the official 1908 Japanese commemorative card (see frame 3) connotes the menace of a Mudan savage who lurks beyond the Stone Gate, in Xie’s mural it is a symbol of local resilience and continuity. It is these last panels that most clearly mark the mural as a Paiwan renarrativization of a series of incidents that have been memorialized, for over 140 years, as chapters in Japanese, Qing, and Ryūkyūan history. As the explanatory signage in the new visitor’s center indicates, the “Mudan Village Incident” is now being recalled as a “Paiwan War” in contemporary local memory. According to this mural, its resolution is the restoration of livelihoods and intra-ethnic harmony in Hengchun’s Paiwan region.