15. Minister Yang and the Lin family: Caretakers of the Ryūkyūan remains

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

15. Minister Yang and the Lin family: Caretakers of the Ryūkyūan remains

Sources: Photographs by the curator, June 2015.

These photographs were taken in June 2015. The clay tablet behind the small beverage containers is the door to the grave mound behind the tombstone (see frame 4). At some interval after the Ryūkyūans were killed, a trading post operator named Deng Tianbao found the remains not far from the Stone Gate battlefield and hastily buried them (he is misidentified on the inscription on the back of the tombstone as “Liu”). The Baoli village head, Yang Youwang, who had previously secured the release of twelve survivors of the shipwreck by paying ransoms to appropriate Paiwan villages, brought the remains to the current location of the tomb in cooperation with the Tongpu village headman, Lin Ajiu. The Lin family has tended the graves ever since. Commander Saigō is credited with securing regular stipends to the Lin family for biannual commemoration ceremonies. After 1895, various organs of the Taiwan Government-General continued to fund observances. Descendants of Yang Youwang and Lin Ajiu both met with descendants of the shipwrecked Miyakojima sailors in 1979, a reunion that spurred the 1982 restoration project.[1] The red clay tablet, to which the current offerings of paper money (right) and libations (left) appear to be directed, is likely from 1874. It recognizes Yang Youwang and Lin Ajiu, along with Zhang Meipo, as the conveners of the burial.[2] Vandals or activists have taken considerable trouble to efface the characters “Great Japan” (Dai Nihon) by scratching and chiseling them off the baked red tile.

[1] Miyaguni, Taiwan sōnan jiken, 130–136; Matayoshi, Nihon shokuminchika no Taiwan to Okinawa, 321–323.

[2] Right column: 経理人林阿九之子林椪獅承祈. Center column: 大日本琉球藩民坆墓. Left column: 埋葬人 楊友旺 林阿九 統帯統埔衆人等 張眉婆.