From Puli（埔里）to Wushe（霧社）
I have lived in Taiwan for more than two years now. I have traveled and seen many places in Taiwan, and yet despite the time I have spent here, it has become ever more obvious how much of Taiwan and its history I have yet to understand. Though I have studied the history of Asia and China for several years now, Taiwan’s own history was an embarrassing gap in my knowledge. It was in the hope of learning more about my adopted home that I took the chance to take a course on Taiwan’s history at National Taiwan University, taught by Professor Chou Wan-yao. Last semester I was given the opportunity to travel with my classmates and professor Chou to the center of Taiwan, and learn firsthand about an incident that took place in and around a village called Wushe, during the Japanese colonial period. Before this trip, I am embarrassed to say, I was completely unaware of both the event, and the history of struggle that Taiwan’s native population has endured.
These are probably the highest mountains I have ever seen. Taiwan is pretty amazing. (Photo by Chan K’ai-ch’i)
Our journey began on the high speed rail from Taipei to Taichung, and from there a bus into the mountains. We arrived at our hotel at night, and we served a wonderful dinner. The scenery of central Taiwan is amazing. The mountains stretch high in to the sky, and the air is remarkably clear, especially after living in Taipei for so long. Several classmates gave their reports to the class, and we all enjoyed wonderful coffee and fruit into the night. The following morning we were again served a satisfying meal and readied for the rest of the day. We traveled to Alang Gluban (清流部落) and meet two Taiwanese aboriginal guides, Tado Nawi and Takun Walis. These two gentlemen served us a wonderful lunch of stew and rice wine before taking us into the village. All of the people I encountered on this trip were hospitable and friendly. Several people were eager to talk to us, especially the foreigners in the group.
The rustic scenery of Taiwan. This was my first time this far south in Taiwan, and the first time I saw farms like the kind I grew up with in the USA. (Photo by Chan K’ai-ch’i)
That night we arrived at a new place to stay, this one a house in traditional three sided style which for me was very interesting, never having had an opportunity to stay in such a place before. I gave my own report to my classmates, to which they kindly listened, despite my less than articulate speech. After another well earned night’s sleep we traveled by bus to Wushe village, the site of the beginning of a terrible event in Taiwan’s history. Our guide for this place was named Dakis Pawan, whose family had been involved and died in the event.
A mountain road at Alang Gluban (Ch’ing-liu village). It took us nearly two hours to get this far into the mountains. (Photo by David Johnson)
Hearing about a part of history from someone whose grandparents lived through it, is something quite different than reading about something in a book. The event is still something painful to those who remember it, and it can be tempting to not talk about it at all. But I believe, and I think those who went with me on this trip would agree, that we cannot forget the painful moments in history, instead try to learn from them. Doing so reminds us where we came from, good and bad, and helps us to grow.
Our Seediq guide Mr. Dakis Pawan explained the aboriginal language and culture to us, in front of the local elementary school. (Photo by Professor Lin Lan-fang)
I am very thankful to my professor and classmates, especially Professor Chou and my classmates who helped to organize our trip. I enjoyed the company of all, and was sad to see us finally part ways at the end. Nevertheless, I will not soon forget what I have learned on this trip and in this class.
A group photo in front of our bed and breakfast, where we stayed the fight night. It was a very nice location and our hosts were very hospitable. Everyone was feeling happy after our large breakfast. (Photo by Nicholas Hawkins)
Me standing in front of the traditional home where we stayed our second night. To stay in such a place is like experiencing a small part of history. (Photo by Professor Chou)