3. The tomb, the Stone Gate battlefield, and the "Peony Tribe"

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

3. The tomb, the Stone Gate battlefield, and the "Peony Tribe"

Sources: Left: East Asia Image Collection, Lafayette College [ip1233] [Sekimon, Hengchun Peninsula, 13th Anniversary of the Taiwan Government General Commemorative Postcard], available at http://digital.lafayette.edu/collections/eastasia/imperial-postcards/ip1233, accessed on December 18, 2015. Right: Kinen Taiwan shashinchō (Taipei: Taiwan sōtokufu, 1915), n.p. 

The 1908 government-issued postcard on the viewer’s left commemorates the thirteenth anniversary of Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan. It obscures the tomb’s physical degradation by substituting a drawing and cropping out the stubble, weeds, and dirt that surrounded the decaying site (see frame 4). A brief description of the punitive expedition by Fukushima Kunari, Saigō Jūdō’s lieutenant in Xiamen during the mission to Taiwan, is legible on the color sketch of the tomb’s reverse side. The peony flower motif symbolizes the Mudan/Botan tribe 牡丹社, which is the settlement blamed for the murders of the Ryūkyūans in the text on the tombstone and in all official Japanese accounts. The red patterned background connotes Paiwan textiles, which were avidly collected by Japanese anthropologists, tourists, and trading-post merchants. The shallow creek is the site of the famous May 22, 1874, Battle of Stone Gate, also mentioned on Fukushima’s epigraph. The image on the right is from a small circulation collotype album issued in 1915. Photographs of Stone Gate were common postcard motifs and book illustrations. By placing the tombstone for the 1871 massacre in the visual field of the 1874 battleground, Japanese image makers cemented the association of Mudan Village with each event. Stone Gate photos published in the 1900s and 1910s suggest a forlorn place and show no indication of amenities, roads, or other signs of human attention. The photograph of the tomb, in contrast to the painted version on the left, suggests its exposure to the ravages of time and indicates some level of neglect. Until a road was built along the Sichong Creek leading to Stone Gate, probably in the late 1920s or early 1930s, it is unlikely that many Japanese tourists visited this site.