23. A 2011 mural to commemorate the Battle of Pillow Mountain

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

23. A 2011 mural to commemorate the Battle of Pillow Mountain

Source: Photograph by the curator, December, 2014. 

In May 1907, Japanese police forces under the direction of Governor-General Sakuma (see frame 22) engaged in a long and protracted battle against Atayal warriors centered on Mount Zhentou 枕頭山, or “Pillow Mountain,” as the Fuxing Village “History Walk” narrative calls it. The battle was a pivotal event in Taiwanese history, as it established the staging area to which supplies could be transported by rail. From their Jiaobanshan base, Japanese troops launched a series of military campaigns against northern Atayal peoples from 1910 through 1914. [1] These maneuvers ultimately concluded Japan’s series of wars to claim sovereignty over the island colony. The signboard on “History Lane” in Fuxing Township on Jiaobanshan recalls the battle thus:

Soon after the Viceroy Sakuma, a hardliner, took office in 1906, he launched a major offensive to secure the precious resources in the mountain area, such as lumber and camphor. A force of 1,200 armed military police was dispatched, pushing forward into Jhentou Mountain (the Pillow Mountain) to annihilate the indigenous people. The intensive artillery fire of the Japanese effectively suppressed the Indigenous villages along the Dakekan River; the indigenous villagers on Jiaobanshan Mountain were either wiped out or forced to flee deep into the mountains. Consequently, only the Han people remained, becoming the only ethnic group residing in the villages on Jiaoban Mountain.

Despite this profound demographic shift, Jiaobanshan became the paramount site for creating Japanese academic, commercial, and official versions of Taiwan Indigenous Culture in the 1920s and 1930s. The mural shown here, dated September 9, 2011, echoes a theme prominent in Xie Wende’s 2009 mural: Taiwan Indigenous Peoples faced the better armed Japanese with great bravery, using the tools they had at hand. Photographs from the period of colonial rule often show armed Indigenous Peoples, but they are never in active battle formation, and, to the best of my knowledge, are never depicted as worthy adversaries.


[1] Taiwan sōtokufu minseibu banmu honsho, ed., Riban gaiyō (Taipei: Taiwan sōtokufu minseibu banmu honsho, 1912), 92–96; Yamabe Kentarō, ed. Taiwan (II). Vol. 22, Gendaishi shiryō (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 1971), 416.