17. Chief Aruqu and the defenders of Stone Gate

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

17. Chief Aruqu and the defenders of Stone Gate

Source: Photographs by the curator, June 2015.

The Chief of the Mudan Tribe Aruqu, is the only non-Japanese combatant named in Japanese annals of the Battle of Stone Gate on May 22, 1874. His character and fighting qualities are absent in these accounts, though in the statue on the left, he is represented as a formidable warrior. According to local oral historian Gao Jiaxin, who conducted numerous oral histories, Aruqu is remembered among area Paiwan residents today for having been a powerful, courageous, and able leader at the time of the Ryūkyūan invasion. Local memory has it that the sixty-six shipwrecked Ryūkyūans were lost, linguistically inept, and hungry. They commenced to steal crops and create misunderstandings in the village that hosted them (see frame 18), and they were eventually killed after a council decided that they had violated Paiwan prohibitions on trespassing and theft. Gao says that the Japanese invasion’s connection to this earlier event was unclear to the Mudan and Kuskus 國士仏社  peoples, who bravely did their best to stop the invasion.[1] On the right, we see a statue representing the careful preparation for the coming battle. By the time the Japanese forces reached Mudan on June 3, 1874, residents had already fled to the interior; they lost their village, but apparently not their lives. The first president of Taihoku Imperial University, Shidehara Hiroshi, wrote in his 1938 book that Aruqu was forty-seven years old at the time of the battle and that his son, also killed, was twenty years old.[2] Japanese paintings and drawings of this battle never show Paiwan people as individual warriors, in contrast to the statues in this installation. These statues are part of the 2009 memorial complex described in the curator’s statement.

[1] Gao, “Sinvaudjan kara mita Botan jiken shita,” 28–29.

[2] Shidehara, Nanpō bunka no kensetsu e, 358.