Bechtinger, J[os]. Het eiland in de chineesche zee. Batavia: Bruining et Wyt, 1871. English summary (of pp. 1-12) and translation (of pp. 13-20) by Ann Heylen; edited by Douglas Fix.

This booklet is a 23-page travel account taken from the journal of a Dutch medical doctor, Jos Bechtinger, who had served in the Dutch Indies at Batavia. The text dates from 1871 and was published in Batavia.

I. Summary of pages 1-12:

The following is a brief summary of the contents of the first twelve pages:

I. (no title), pages 1-2; serves as an introduction to Bechtinger's "experiences on the island of Formosa."

II. "The island," pages 2-3; provides a description of the geography of the island.

III. (no title), pages 3-4; relates experiences during the twelve days it took the Chinese junk to sail from Amoy to Formosa: bad food, terrible weather, and conditions not to be compared with travel by boat within Europe. This is followed by a note of the doctor's arrival at Tamsui, and a brief description of Tamsui city.

IV. (no title), pages 4-6; describes Bechtinger's meeting with Odd, a British opium dealer from Dent & Co. in Hong Kong, who was stationed in Tamsui. Odd had his quarters in the lijin 'customs' office, which was run by an American; the opium was stored in a different building. Bechtinger provides a description of how well the building was guarded.

V. (no title) pages 6-8; gives a description of the lawless life in Formosa. Bechtinger also tells the story of Coxinga's occupation of Formosa from the viewpoint of the Dutch being thrown out.

VI. (no title), pages 8-11. Bechtinger met John [Dodd], the American from the customs office, and together they went to visit Odd. Approaching his house, they witnessed how Odd cut the pigtail of a Chinese worker whom he had caught stealing. On their way to visit another European, a German called Mellet who also worked for Odd, they passed by a cemetery. There is also a description of their meeting a Chinese woman wailing loud at night, calling the soul of her deceased husband to return. They arrived at Mellet's house, and he turned out to be an opium dealer as well. Mellet told them how he had been attacked, shortly before their arrival; his Chinese employees had made a pact with bandits and had removed the gunpowder from Mellet's canons. Mellet had driven the bandits away by firing his gun.

VII. "The aborigines," pages 11-13; mentions that among the most savage inhabitants of Formosa there are the Koaluts on the south coast, who had attacked a stranded American ship, the Rover, and another English gunboat, the Cormorant.

The remainder of this section is a description of European expeditions to Formosa including the following: 1) the English ship Inflexible in 1855; 2) the experiences of Polish count Benyowsky in Formosa [in the 18th Century]; and 3) the experiences of a Spanish don, Gironemo Pacheco, who had settled in Formosa after a shipwreck.

II. Translation of pages 13-20:


[p. 13] The old-fashioned hanging clock struck midnight; the night was pitch-black. A brown figure suddenly entered our quarters and announced briefly that if I desired a sampan, the moment was now favorable because it was high tide and this would facilitate the voyage upstream.

At this late hour, Odd, John, Mellet and I were still awake, to spend the last moments together in a painful goodbye. Friendship bonds become tight when place, time and circumstances have tested one another's hospitality. We were about to separate to perhaps never meet again because Odd was going to Peking for governmental affairs, and John was headed to Hong Kong for business. Both believed that they were not to return before another four months had elapsed, and, thus, they wished me a "farewell forever."

Have you, dear reader, never been moved by such an emotion when at a dear place, filled with memories, in a world that fascinates you, yet you have to say goodbye to beloved ones forever never to see them again? These thoughts overwhelmed me when I shook that farewell handshake with my three friends from Formosa.

[p. 14] The Englishman had given me one of his most loyal servants, a sturdy lad (and by all means a dare-devil) who had gained a fair knowledge of the country as far as the inland Chinese districts stretched via regular travels with his master, who was involved in the opium trade.

It was midnight and I was ready to travel. There were no servants running about with luggage, travel bags, hatboxes, and the like. I had only taken with me a raincoat [literally a 'waterproof'] that could serve as my mattress, blanket, sunshade and coat. Taking weapons was of no use and could only be a source of hostilities; everything in the mountains had to be dealt with peacefully. As far as the borders between the Chinese districts and the aboriginal areas, my guide would be of assistance in case of any need because he was armed from head to toe. From thereon, I wanted to prove my lucky star among the aborigines all by myself, like a second don Pacheco.

Once on the boat, I said goodbye to the beach. It was impossible to row fast. First, despite the tide, we were moving slowly, and, second, our craft was too large for the purpose of the voyage. It could well have been given the name "junk," in which a hundred persons could not only stand but also be seated easily. Smaller crafts, so-called "sampans," were not available because at the time a Chinese rowing contest using sampans was taking place, and all of these boats had gathered upstream in Banka, the biggest city in the north. With considerable effort, the coolies pushed the large boat with heavy bamboo poles, and slowly we lost sight of the dark contours of Tamsui, the harbor city.

Not long afterwards, a deep male voice disturbed the soft slumber that had come over me because of the late hour, the monotonous rocking of the boat and the strange sailor songs. Dawn was glistening through dew-covered fields on both sides of the river and soon revealed in the far distance the city of Banka still lying in darkness. The men were rowing bravely; occasionally one could see huts and villages appear among the fresh green rice paddies.

One would consider these inhabited regions as residences right out of paradise if one had not experienced what they were actually like in Tamsui. Heavy layers of mud covered the streets, and disgusting gutters ran through these hamlets, which looked quite attractive from a distance.

A couple of miles to the east, the Tamsui River splits into two branches. One curves northward, not straying from any of the Chinese dwellings, and finally pouring out into the sea in the vicinity of the northeastern coalmines of the well-known harbor of Ki-lang [Kelung]. The other branch is fed by water from the southern mountains flowing through [land inhabited by] the wild tribes of Formosa.

We were unable to manage our boatmen without trouble and, thus, came close to a confrontation that could have cost our lives. The arrogant coolies, encouraged by the boatmen (themselves actually "sea pirates"), demanded ten times what we had agreed to pay them in Tamsui. Fortunately, our quiet demeanor and preparedness impressed the gang and eventually gained their respect. Nevertheless, they were shouting, yelling, swearing and even throwing pieces of bamboo poles at our heads. My guide, an experienced, deadly calm lad, whispered in my ear not to fire any unnecessary gunshots unless the moment came when we were about to face a battle to the death. An old gray-haired man (for whom the Chinese always show respect) acted as the intermediary to restore peace, and asked for a wide piece of silver currency (which in Formosa is called the Mexican piaster) as his reward.

With the river branching off, we had to attempt to acquire a suitable sampan for the shallow riverbed. While my travel companion was trying to acquire provisions, I watched the pigtail sailors as they worked. All the junks without exception were beautifully decorated; fancy colored yet partly ripped flags decorated the yards of the ships, most of which were owned by the mandarins.

One knows that enormous eyes are always painted on the bow of a junk, just in case the deity loses sight of the direction because of an accident. If a deceased man were carried on board during the event of such an accident, he would be covered with blankets. All at once a group of Buddhist priests appeared; dressed in white, they approached a junk. As soon as they came aboard, they made a terrible noise on the gong, and the drunken crew fired gun and cannon shots while yelling and applauding. Without these solemn rituals and the priestly consecration, the craft would not encounter any good luck during its sea voyage. Everywhere joy and laughter was heard each time another craft appeared to participate in the contest.

Banka is bigger and of more importance than Tamsui, which is merely an outlying port for the city. All entering goods only stay at Tamsui for a short time, and then they are stocked in the merchant warehouses in Banka to be transported to the neighboring settlements. If the influence of Chinese government officials is too little in Tamsui, it terminates completely at Banka. One merely smiles at the mandarins, and their orders fall on deaf ears. At Banka the agricultural products are sold at the market, import and export articles being exchanged in return. The city, like all Chinese cities of secondary importance, is built according to the standard pattern. The Confucian temples are not higher than the houses, no pagodas break up the monotonous skyline, and thus all buildings have the same height. Therefore, in order to get a good view of the panorama, one has to climb the roof of a house.

From this place my adventure began.

As soon as we had left Banka behind us, the flat lands gave way to hills, and mountains came into sight. Ten hours to the southeast of Banka is the independent hamlet Tsing-tam-kai. At this spot travel by boat also came to an end. To the east of Tsing-tam-kai one reaches the [frontier] border, which is inhabited by the ferocious aborigines of the interior.

At Tsing-tam-kai my travel companion wished to say goodbye, after he had recommended the village head, a bandit of first rank, to guide me through the mountain passes inhabited by colored men. This guide was to receive a considerable amount of pocket money only after he had deposed of me safely as far as Tamsui. This condition, in fact, would arouse the greed of the village head. However, had the agreement not been made, the chap no doubt would have left me to my own devices halfway past the curving mountain passes, or he might even have robbed or murdered me.

[p. 15] My guide seemed to command some respect. His name was Ling-ching, and he was not only the head of his village; with the years of a real Methuselah, he was also lively and crafty. The number of his offspring in the area was considerably large. In conformity with Chinese paternal custom, he had been given the name "elder brother." For the time being, my life was in his hands. I had taken some small presents for the aborigines: a couple of necklaces made of glass, a couple of suckling pigs, a couple of kalabas [bags?] filled with a kind of rice wine, which at this juncture deserves a special mention because wine or spirits made from other plants and not indigenous to Formosa are unknown here.

The preparation of this beverage, sought after in China and Formosa, is as follows: one slowly cooks some rice and leaves it to swell, and then that is beaten into a dough. An old woman who prepares this beverage takes some of this rice gruel, chews on it and spits it into an earthen bowl, [and continues the same procedure] until the content of the bowl weighs about a pound. She then mixes the chewed portion with the rest of the rice dough. This mixture is then covered with water, put in a jar, and left to ferment for twelve months. During that time the fluid mass transforms into a strong, pleasant and fizzing beverage, reaching its utmost maturity after 20 to 30 years. When consuming this treat, one first pours off the liquid, and then eats the rest with a spoon.

[To resume my narrative,] the carriers of the bamboo cages confining the suckling-pigs walked up front, followed by Ling-ching, who occasionally blew heavy smoke clouds into the eyes of the poor animals, who responded with a hellish grunt.

The region became increasingly mountainous, and the cooler temperatures made climbing the mountain passes rather pleasant and easy. The twisted paths along our way looked as if no one ever walked on them, as tall and wild bushes were to be seen everywhere. The farther we proceeded, a taller and more impressive range of mountains appeared, alternating with hills and fertile valleys.

When we arrived at Kattin-poo, about 5 miles east of Tsing-tam-kai, the diminished Tamsui River appeared again, streaming down from colossal rock formations, foaming and conquering all obstacles. At this spot, the branch of that river, Savae, also poured into its river basin. Bloody battles had taken place here because even now my guide shivered and felt like avoiding the place.

For the remainder of the day, we moved along the forested hillsides and deep ravines, crossing through the hamlets of Cio-kam-bai and Hu-bea. Ling-ching had smoked up his entire provision of tobacco, the coolies had finished their rice ration, the four-legged animals had yelled their throats hoarse, and I had walked to the extent that my legs were tired. In the late afternoon, we finally arrived at a place called Takui, which was famous for its indigo culture. Not long ago, this place was still inhabited by Formosan aborigines, until they were chased away by the Chinese. Because there was not a single cabin to be found in Takui to spend the night and put my tired limbs to rest, and as my Chinese coolies and the guide could not be moved to spend the night under the bare sky, we had to continue on, covering a considerable distance before arriving exhausted at a station post established by camphor producers. Here we saw beautiful camphor trees, among them such gigantic ones that more than a hundred people could be seated beneath the branches of a single tree. One rarely finds such gigantic trees in Formosa. In the Chinese settlements camphor twigs barely have time to sprout before a covetous hand immediately tears them out. Poor Chinese who despise the pirate's way of life, driven from their native land by poverty and want, arrive empty-handed in Formosa. They venture into aborigine territory to obtain camphor so as not to starve to death -- still capable of escaping by running away very quickly. They prepare the camphor in a most unusual way. Underneath a large oven made from clay (with many levels of clay cylinders), they maintain a fire that burns continually. The cylinders consist of three parts that interlock just like the components of a coffee pot or teakettle. In the bottom component that is exposed to the fire, boiling water produces steam that passes through a small oblong gap in the lid and escapes to the second cylinder, and from there it creeps slowly and with difficulty through a bundle of finely chopped camphor wood up to the second gap in the top cylinder, and finally condenses in the form of crystals along the sides. The wood from which the camphor has been extracted is not thrown away, but rather is used for fuel. The extracted camphor is transported to Banka to be sold there via a monopoly established by the resident mandarins, who purchase the camphor at a ridiculously low price from the poor people who risk their lives producing the commodity. At this important halting-place [Takui], I was offered a cupboard-bed that made a pigsty or dog kennel seem like a beautifully decorated drawing room. Naturally I preferred to spend the night on a downed camphor tree. Mosquitoes and all kinds of crawling creatures, in addition to a cock that started crowing at two hours past midnight, understandably did not render my night's rest very pleasant.

At this place, Ling-ching also wanted to bid me goodbye and not move another step further because otherwise, as he claimed, his life would surely be in danger. We were very close to the dwellings of the aborigines, only separated from them by a big valley, through which mountain water was streaming. Around us we saw mountains rising high into the heavens like an amphitheatre. Some camphor producers stood at the border, where Ling-ching and his grunting travel companions returned, after they had left behind the above-mentioned, relatively less valuable, but still odd gifts. I must add that Ling-ching, when taking his leave, had tears in his eyes -- crocodile tears -- because he had not had an opportunity to rob me.

I stayed only one day among the camphor producers; my food consisted of nothing more than a mouthful of dried rice. In the morning of the second day, together with my goods, I went to the farthest part of the valley, where the water [of the river] demarcated the border with the aborigines. My piglets did not seem to be very happy when I put them and their rattan cage in my raincoat and carried them on my shoulders because they continued to produce the most terrible noises. Happy to be out of sight of the camphor producers, who would have liked to consume me together with my four-legged animals, I had not traveled for more than half an hour when I heard a strange and not so pleasant screaming coming from the woody mountain slope. The farther I walked, the closer I seemed to be surrounded by these invisible angry ghosts uttering long screeching noises. Without doubt, I had been noticed by the savages.

[p. 16] Maybe they were surprised by my unusual clothing or were expecting an ambush. In short, the situation became critical and at the same time painful. One would rather deal with an avowed enemy than with hidden, unknown powers. I did not begin with any political actions but rather tested means of persuasion of a domestic nature: I swung the screaming piglets in the air around me and pulled out my red flannel shirt to use it as a peace banner, but to no avail. I really must have been a curiosity for the Formosan natives because some time passed before their fierce-looking faces started to appear among the nearby bushes. This gave the signal for my peace signs, which I used while also doubling my shouting and yelling, to which the other party responded with a kind of strange howling, until two human figures whose shapes unambiguously betrayed the beautiful sex finally appeared. I was considerably surprised to see defenseless women instead of islanders armed to the teeth, and this boosted my courage. I also counted myself lucky with the female encounter, especially when the brown Venuses, with hair loose to the wind, came swimming over from the other side of the river. They had not dismissed my invitation as a kind of flighty coquette but instead rendered willing eyes to my pantomime requests to come and accept the gifts. Without showing much concern for me, they went straight for the suckling pigs, which they laughingly caressed, pulling them by the ears and screaming with laughter at the animals' squealing, which pierced one's bones to the very marrow. Afraid to see my animals unexpectedly being taken away from me, I did my utmost with all sorts of gestures to communicate the purpose of my gifts: I wanted to offer these small presents to the headman of one tribe or another. This proposition did not seem to displease the women; they quickly made up their minds. As though in battle, they urged me to situate myself on one of their well-built backs and even fought over who was to be first to carry me. I had to cross the deep stream that ran through the valley, and because I was an experienced swimmer (having learned in my youth) but less proficient at diving, I decided to reach the shore not on the back of the brown female swimmers, but in between them. No sooner had we reached the shore and shaken off the water from our bodies -- me putting on my clothes again and my nymphs playing with the piglets -- than the same unbearable screams started up again, having much in common with the harmonious sounds and noises of all kinds of wild animals in the primitive forests and reminiscent of the fierce inhabitants of the African sand deserts. The strange screaming had been heard at a far distance because one could hear a clear howling answer carried by the wind. The female islanders thereupon pricked up their ears and suddenly started to run forward very fast, to the extent that I had to use all my speed and muscle power to keep track of them. The slope of the mountain on which we found ourselves was covered in cracks that formed little hillocks, which we scrambled up and down with such a speed that not even a roebuck could have imitated us.

I came to dislike this entire contest that was occurring in my presence. On the way other men, women, and children joined us. Finally the strange procession reached a pretty, high plateau, where we came to a halt in an insignificant aborigine village. It was about time, too, because breathless and exhausted, I was close to collapsing. The people surrounded me, and this gave me the chance to observe these primitives in greater detail. The native inhabitants of Formosa, with very few exceptions, have something terrible in their appearance, similar to the staring and wild gawking of certain lunatics. This is mainly because the eyes are wide open and the white around the eyeball becomes more visible. I note this phenomenon because at the time it really started me, and I have never noticed this feature with any other isolated nature people [i.e., uncivilized aborigines] before. Their build is regular and proportionate, and the ones who excel in beauty are about 5' 9" in height. Their hair is not as thick as that of the Mongols or as black as that of the Malay, yet it is plentiful. Their facial features approach the Indian type but incline more to the Caucasian race and evoke a pleasant impression. Sensually raised lips show two rows of shiny white, well-formed teeth. It is a pity that they lack graceful -- I don't mean in the strictly anatomical sense of the word -- hands and feet, the kind one often observes among the South Sea islanders.

The Formosan inhabitants have a strange way of tattooing themselves. They lack the excellent skill of the Japanese, who are not surpassed in their genre. The Formosans know how to transform the lower parts of their face and make it completely unrecognizable. From one temple to the other they draw elliptical lines close to one another that run parallel to the upper lip. On top of these lines there are a number of broad net-like figures, and these microscopic designs come together in a pyramid shape at the corner of the mouth, and the base of the tattoo includes the earlobe.

The women are tattooed in this fashion, but the men adorn themselves in a much more simple way. From the hairline in the middle of the forehead they draw a perpendicular line the width of a finger down towards the nostrils. From a distance, this line is vaguely visible, but close up one sees the cross-hashes. They do the same with the cheeks, starting from the under lip and extending half way up the cheek. Ears and neck are decorated with all kinds of valueless ornaments. Their clothing is most simple and made from natural materials. Only during the rainy season, which is their winter, do they cover themselves entirely in a calico overdress, which they drape around themselves as carelessly as the Abyssinian deer hunters.

The inhabitants of Formosa should be counted among the Malay race because the roots of their language are similar to that of the Malay people. "It seems," says Valentin, "that the Formosan language includes several dialects, which, it is true, are very different from one another though still belonging to the Sidean [Sideisch] group. The most unique one is the Favorlang dialect -- Sakam and Favorlang are the two most important districts of the island. Favorlang differs from the related dialects by having a certain harshness in its pronunciation and with the frequent use of the guttural letters ch, something which one does not find at all in the other Malay languages." This harshness is also noticeable in the frequent use of r instead of l, of t instead of d (the opposite of the languages spoken by the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands), and the avoidance, as much as possible, of harsh consonants.

Gablenz (Mémoires relatifs à l'Asie, Vol I, p. 345) has also published something on the Formosan languages and their place within the Malayan family, and Klaproth (Deutsche Morgenlandische Gesellschaft) also claimed that this language belongs to the Malay branch, which is spread over all the islands of the great ocean.

[p. 17] I would not venture to classify the inhabitants of Formosa with the people of the Sunda Islands any more than I would call the Polynesian people "Malays" -- strictly speaking, that is. Otherwise, one would not have invented a new name and instead would simply have given them the name Malay. Yet, in comparing their [racial] type with people from several islands of the Pacific Ocean, as I had the opportunity to do on several occasions, I'd rather conclude that the Formosans belong to the Polynesian group.

After this brief digression, let me return to the central environment of my trek. It was a beautiful sight, these brown, naked creatures with their short spears or medieval guns, staring at me like a troop of wild animals. I did not have much time to make any comments and observations about this encounter because suddenly this group opened up and made room for a decent-looking savage, who, so it seemed, was influential among the group. Similar to the way in which the brown women took to my suckling-pigs, this man raised his hand to my raincoat. I tried to defend it in vain.

Accompanied by fierce screams, the suckling-pigs were quartered without delay, and the raw pieces, still dripping with blood, were devoured. Because the inlanders had gathered in considerable number, it was impossible to speak of a general participation in the meal. Only the headman enjoyed the meal and once in a while he grabbed the samshoo bottle, after he had tried to convince me to take part in the banquet. At this juncture, in the presence of the arak, protestation of friendship had to be exchanged.

With the Arabs in the desert, one has to smoke the chibauk; and with the inhabitants of the South Sea islands, one has to rub one's nose with force to express one's feelings of friendship. The Formosans have a peculiar, yet unknown and strange manner to form a bond by means of the lips. The parties involved face one another and push one another's lips as if to kiss. Then they both pucker up their lips and make a funnel-shaped opening, into which alcoholic beverages are poured in a theatrical pantomime fashion. Neither of the drinkers is allowed to make a movement or stir the lips with yearning. They stand immobile like statues, and in this fashion they make offering to Bacchus. Imagine these people, their lips still dripping with blood from a hastily devoured victim, just like the mouth of a bloodthirsty forest animal, and you will understand why, under such unattractive circumstances, I did not give in so easily to this act of friendship.

After the meal was over, I was ordered to go to the dwellings of the chief, which was a murder hole in the true sense of the word. The huts of the Formosans are made of clay and some of bamboo. They are only one story high, but they have two doors and two windows that give views of the four directions. Furniture is made of bamboo or scooped-out tree trunks, and carvings in all kinds of shapes decorate the interior. With the more "well-off" class of aborigines one notices colored calicos hanging on the walls in between various types of weapons and macerated human skulls.

The greatest fortune of the Formosan consists of headhunting, and he experiences a heavenly feeling when he can customarily macerate with anatomical skill the head of an enemy, expose it to the scorching sunrays, and later hang up this well-deserved bounty as decoration in the bedchamber. We also notice this mania among some inhabitants of the Sunda Islands who are given the name "headhunters." They are always armed, the sword always at hand, and they consider everyone their enemy. Pillage and murder, gunpowder, lead and decapitated human heads belong among their ideals and favorite dreams. They express no higher delight than that of torture; there is no greater pleasure than on such occasions being able to decorate the poles of their houses with bloody heads. The same kind of cruelty still exists among some Dajak tribes in Borneo, despite the zealous interference and severe attempts of the Dutch government to put an end to this barbarism.


What a night! What shouting by this wild, crazy bunch! The howling of jackals and hyenas, alternating with the screaming or roaring laughter of other forest dwellers in the dark night or at daybreak cannot compare to what I heard. Whereas the previous day the curious savages had turned up in big numbers, now I was greeted by a deafening screaming, uttered from hundreds of throats, when I appeared at the entrance of the chief's house at daybreak. After an initial meal, very similar to the above-described bloody dish, they seemed to gather in public council because the brown ladies bravely moved their tongues. I do not know whether I was the subject of the lively discussion, but it soon seemed to take another turn.

A small number of Formosans approached, and with their heads turned away, they added a few words to those of the chief. These fellows seemed to bring important news, because one of them started to debate with the crowd, or rather, he started to scream ferociously, upon which all heads and hands gave expression of agreement. Soon afterwards the savage crowd was muttering and a motley bunch of women, with loose hair and carrying strange looking swords in their bare hands, descended from a nearby mountain slope. The shouting did not end; with furious movements all of them started on a march -- men, women, children and gray-haired men, the latter forming the rearguard, including me.

The Formosans are extremely good runners; they compare with the ancient Aztec [Indians] who alternately crossed the 300-mile [i.e., English mile] distance from Mexico to Vera Cruz within 24 [hours]. One can understand that I, despite my goodwill and greatest effort but with lesser-trained muscles, could not keep up with them. Fortunately they stopped at certain intervals during which they conducted some type of apparently religious ceremonies that were incomprehensible to me. If they had not done do, they would have had to drag me along -- just like the Pampas treat their sacrifices -- in order to arrive at the same time.

The region that we crossed for hours on end, stretching over hilly land with fertile valleys and meadows in between, was also cultivated here and there. The aborigines did not seem very familiar with the art of farming; they are not used to working the fields. The males despise working and leave it all up to the weaker sex: the women are the ones who do the work.

We ran for five hours northward, until we reached a second village.

[p. 18] We were given rice, watermakronen [?], and mainly a strong starchy root, which served as a substitute for bread. As one might know, hunger is a strong sword, and without showing any fear of these goods, I fell right to eating, an action that seemed to please the Formosans more than had I remained an onlooker with a dissatisfied face. To my dismay, the chief, under whose power I was, again grabbed the samshoo, and I was forced against my will to drink once more the drink of Formosan friendship bonding, to lift my lips funnel-shaped together with his, and to consume my share of arak, which this time strengthened my tired limbs.

After the meal the journey continued through mountains and valleys, pastures and dense forests, and by evening we reached a place where everything seemed in a state of rebellion. In all directions, fires were burning, and in between, well-formed female figures and ugly brown witches were moving fast. They headed in the direction of a clay house, out of which lamentations and a uniform beating were to be heard. One glance inside showed me the image of an Indian, as thin as a skeleton, with hair all cut off. Judging from the ceremonies, he seemed to be an important man who was lying down moribund on a carpet. His eyes were deeply sunk, his eyelids were almost closed, and his heavily marked facial bones, leaving no traces of flesh, showed a severe and painful suffering. People carried this unhappy man, who appeared barely alive, outside and ended his suffering by throwing a rope round his neck and hanging him from a nearby tree. In this fashion, he rapidly withdrew from his earthly existence. He uttered no word or complaint when he was lifted up and quietly breathed his last. I noted that such was the usual practice conducted by the priestesses in helpless cases when no other methods were to any avail.

This was one remedy that even surpassed the medical practice of the inland eskulapes [?] that aims to cure in a radical way all sorts of fever and influences from evil ghosts by ingesting the roasted parts of half-rotten cockroaches. The chief, to whom my status had been made clear, had consulted me about the condition of the patient. Unfortunately I had passed only three grades in medicine at Wiener College (in Vienna), and irrespective of having the honor of being a member of the medical faculty in Vienna, as well as of some other associations, I was not a 'particular doctor' of Formosa, and therefore I was not able to prevent the execution of this practice, given the label "hanging the patient." At the time, it was beyond my powers to oppose the confusion of abstract terms. Such original primitives are not easily talked into abandoning a deeply rooted custom. They never witness their medical practitioners discussing remedies with one another. They show little understanding for professional jealousy and lack appreciation for the merits of the profession, even to the extent of prosecution for slander and libel. These people are too simple to plot; they do not belong to the kind of people without heart and soul [literally, sans coeur et sans culotte] to be found in the civilized world, who grudge each other the light of the eyes. Their doctors use very simple methods; and should they need to consult, they always agree with one another: their final word is "Hang him," and they follow this advice blindly.

The ceremony was not yet finished, as is the case known to us when criminals are sentenced to death and hung. As already noted, the aborigines of Formosa are real philosophers, who delightfully welcome the moment when the fragile body is returned to dust. Similar to the ancient Greeks, they meet death with courage and happiness, and lament the birth of a new world civilian. The sight of a deceased person, either a dead body turned to ash and dust or a corpse partly consumed by worms and vermin, gives them more pleasure than life, when this has become a burden. The old inhabitants claim that the mortal remains need to be exposed to the elements for years, until they bury the entirely paled skeleton at the end of the third year. The Formosans consider this as beautiful as we do our funereal customs and ceremonies. It is difficult for me to say what the priestesses do in case the average mortals are not able to pay for these ceremonies with samshoo, skins or other goods.

The following day they cut down the hanged man, after having celebrated the entire night under his corpse. They erected a railing, on which they threw the dead man, and lit a big fire, intending to roast the corpse to prevent it from decomposing too fast. When the roasted corpse started to spread an unpleasant smell, we were seated around it in a big circle. Because these events required the offering of rice, roots, produce from the fields, pigs and samshoo, even during the following day, the drinking and other kinds of excesses seemed to have no end.

The reader now surely expects some other important adventures that befell me at that time. I shall concentrate on a few specific points only.

First, my clothing was distinguished by its rather strange and heavy nature. These strange "children of nature" took everything from me, even my last and most indispensable piece of clothing, which they divided among themselves like a kind of relic. Thus, in the morning and the evening, the fresh mountain air seeped into the pores of my skin. Around my waist I had wrapped a piece of cloth, which had been white once, but now surpassed the brownness of the Formosan skin; on my feet I was wearing old sandals that would not last much longer.

Secondly, I feared too close a bonding with my savage hosts could lead to nothing else but servitude. Was I to become a second don Pacheco? Should I be able in the course of time to lay claim to a position of headman, leading some Formosan tribe or another, and going to battle with warlike neighbors? Such a role was not much to my liking. My return was bound to cause bigger trouble if I were to stay here longer, whereas I ran the risk of being dealt with according to the customs of the tribe if I were to make a public attempt to escape. Therefore, I longed to see the end of this adventurous journey. My bodily forces had suffered badly after the latest efforts, and I was in want of spiritual and bodily rest. I was certain that I had to disappear in the same strange way as I had come.

[p. 19] A good-natured and touching parting was out of the question. In order to reach my goal, I had to wait for the opportune moment, when the drinking customs, which (as described above) continued uninterrupted until supplies ran out, presented me the opportunity to escape and reach the Chinese settlements in a westerly direction. However, that soon seemed easier said than done.

Slowly the sun hid behind the woody mountaintops, and the fire, lit for the deceased, was still crackling. Nearing nightfall, dark figures were howling and screaming, as if to make the very faces of the cliffs shake, while the priestesses performed strange dances and ceremonies in front of the flames and moved about in a lustful and sensual manner. While musing and beholding this scene of the roasted corpse surrounded by these strange brownish groups, and thinking about the different customs and manners of civilized and savage people; while pondering my intended escape, I suddenly felt the iron fist of the Formosan chief on my shoulder. I was startled, thinking that my plan to escape had been discovered. The staggering colossus held up a big jar in his shaking right hand to toast a drink to his roasted "nature-companion." Once more I had to press my lips against his and pour the samshoo into the funnel-shaped opening of my mouth. This time I made sure that not even one drop passed through to my throat, and because the man had already had enough, after taking another big draught, he literally fell down next to the corpse. The right moment had come.

One more time I saw how the corpse was turned around and around, in order to dry it better -- the fire being stirred, and this amazing group moving about. I took one more glance at this scene before heading in a westerly direction to where the sun went down. Blessed by the bright moonlight I pursued my journey, and when the first faint rays of the silver planet appeared between the bushes and treetops, I dared to tighten my Formosan sandals to escape this boisterous place of crude customs unnoticed.

I had crossed a considerable distance over hill and dale, when I heard a hellish, confused screaming of women and children -- probably upon noticing me and guessing my purpose -- closing in behind me louder and louder, like the rolling of thunder or the fury of the released elements, becoming stronger and stronger in size. The proximity of the danger and the knowledge that being captured by a drunken people I had no appeal to mercy, mixed with the prospect of regaining my freedom, gave my muscles such a strength that I could feel the speed of a deer awaken in me. In moments like these a man does not know fear; anguish gives birth to determination, conquering all, like the rising current of a swollen river. In moments of overexertion, man equals a raging demon, taking up battle with the heavenly and earthly forces, to triumph at all costs.

One condition was to my benefit: the heads of the raging Formosans hastening after me were heated with alcohol. Had this not been the case, I would have benefited little from my lead; and I would not have endured much longer their swiftness in running. The crowd was close upon my heels and one swift glance convinced me that the aborigines were serious. They had drawn their weapons, swung them up into the air and were uttering terrible noises, by which they instigated and encouraged one another. I hurried on at full sprint over neck-breaking mountain paths. Fortunately my youth had not spoilt me and having spent a fair number of years in all sorts of places, my will had grown to determination, which now came in extremely handy.

But everything has its limits and despite my hurry [literally "running in hesitation"], I felt that I would not last much longer. In spite of the tripping, falling and stumbling of my intoxicated pursuers, they were visibly gaining ground, albeit slowly. The faster I moved, the more angry they became, and as soon as the distance closed in, they started to shout for joy. Right when I felt I had lost all my strength and had decided to crash into the first tree on the way, rather than meet with an obloquy and cruel death, rescue by means of a deep riverbed suddenly came to me. From a distance I heard the murmur of the water, which probably was streaming downwards from the rocks. Instinctively I guided my tired and waggling steps in that direction; a glimpse of hope arose at the happy discovery that the terrain was changing, although I was not sure at all of the nature of the change. Some thousands of steps away from the bank, I saw that the bottom deepened into a small abyss, and I was soon looking eighty meters straight down below. One glance convinced me that the deep bottom was not even in all places. The water (which from nearby must have come from an average height) carried heavy rocks, in between which it foamed and formed deep brooks here and there.

A hurrah that pierced me to my very bone marrow, uttered by thousands of throats, reminded me again of the dreadfulness of my situation. The drunken crowd was screaming with pleasure when they fancied themselves sure to take possession of their victim, because a way out down the inclining hills was out of the question. I could already see their fury. With rolling eyes, only a few steps away from me, they stretched out their armed hands, about to take the desired booty, when suddenly a terrible scream was heard. I had trusted my soul to God, and after taking one more glance at the deep stream, I decided to make that dangerous jump. Almost numb I floated over the abyss, which took me with incredible speed, as if by magic, away from the fury of the stunned crowd. But just as rapidly and fatally, I was washed by the cold moving water, which made me return to my senses. The moment I jumped I doubled up, wondering if my bones were to crash against the protruding rocks and be splattered with the blood of my skull. In the wet element, however, my limbs soon stretched out, and from the slippery, moss-covered bottom I pushed off with my feet so fast that, swift as an arrow, I returned like a cork to the foaming surface.

Fortunately, the water was not flowing too fast or with so much violence that the moment when I had preservation of life in mind, it would have been impossible to withdraw myself from the stream with any effort whatsoever. I barely made it to dry ground and was about to shake myself and thank God for the miraculous rescue, [p. 20] when gunshots from above -- clearly aimed at me but missing their target -- reminded me of the mountain dwellers, in whose reach I had been only a few moments earlier. Despite their drunken state of mind, no one dared to follow me and imitate my jump; they did nothing but scream and yell with increasing anger. For hours I walked barefoot, only taking short breaks, and although I much wanted to lay myself down on the first green pasture, I did not dare to rest.

According to my calculations, I had to be in the proximity of Chinese settlements. Daybreak found me in a desolate area, with no sign of human or animal. I thought it wise to look for a safer shelter, where I could rest during the night without any fear or danger. Despite my fatigue, my eyes did not close. The cause for the insomnia was enormous corporal and mental effort. [Finally,] I lay down and dozed on a pile of earth between the dense bushes. Whether it was a dream, or whether it was reality, I seemed to keep hearing the howling and screaming in the distance, echoed all around by the mountain range.

Again the sun was high up in the sky and I was hungry and in doubt, afraid and insecure about having turned the right direction or not, when all of a sudden familiar sounds rose from the earth and suddenly struck my ear. I was not mistaken. With great vehemence, a mixture of Chinese and English abusive language, convinced me that I had returned to the world of the living [literally "found myself among people"] and that help was at hand. I aimed my searching eyes to the left and right, but did not succeed in detecting a living soul. It soon seemed that, when raising myself from my strongly wavering bottom, my hearing had not deceived me. People were approaching my screams.

Over there between the hills a stream flowed among the depths, which soon appeared to be the north branch of the Tamsui River. Sampans, those famous Chinese vessels, loaded with goods, cleaved through the water and invited me to take a place among them. Who can paint the amazement of the Englishman and the astonishment of the pigtailed chiefs when they discovered me in Formosan costume? My skin was all but white, and my lower limbs were covered in mud and earth. I was forced to provide a detailed explanation of my appearance; no one recognized me in this shape. A cool drink quenched my thirst, gave me new strength and enabled me to live up to the rightful curiosity and tell the story of my adventures.

We were in the proximity of Kelung, and being instructed by the Europeans, among whom I discovered one of John's clerks, I had to walk to this port city about 15 miles northward through fields and farms. The clerk was thankful having me as his travel companion because he was not especially pleased crossing the way from Tamsui to Kelung through Chinese settlements partly along the river and partly along paths. He had every reason to be concerned because several times a year he had to go to Chinese customs officers to pay them tract-money and give orders. Four times a year he had to brave the greatest dangers, carrying a loaded gun, and Argus-eyed clear a way back for himself.

It is possible to reach Kelung with a sampan in bad monsoon weather, but it takes a long way round to do so. Because he trusted my assistance and had given me a redoubtable weapon in order to command the respect of the Chinese, we pursued our journey through the several villages of the Sons of Heaven and the settlements of the coolies. Pondering the real and assumed dangers of this journey, it did not take long before I fell into a deep and comforting [refreshing] sleep next to my savior, the sampan.

The next day we continued our journey through rice paddies, fields and little hamlets, whose pigtailed inhabitants assaulted us and showed their hatred towards us by throwing rocks, which fortunately, be it on purpose or by coincidence, flew over our heads. Our guns lifted high up in the air proved fearful and kept them at a respectful distance. The fact that these people were given the security of Peking-appointed bureaucrats, for whom they took me as well, was a phenomenon that assured us a safe journey.

Late at night we descended mountains and hills until we finally arrived at the northern harbor of Kelung. To me, Kelung is one of the most pleasant harbor cities. Big volcanic rocks have fallen down from the neighboring heights into the sea and formed a natural barrier, which at the same time offers a safe mooring for ships. About four English miles to the east there are coalmines. There is much to say about the method of operation. The sight of the dangerous pits, where human creatures, starved and exhausted from hunger and despair, crawl in and out on their hands and feet, putting the excavated coal on small wheelbarrows, scares the visitors who look on the mine from nearby.

As a nation that currently plays an important role in history, and sooner or later shall reach her summit of magnanimity and acquire a foot on the shore on the international scene, I surely wish her [China?] the full possession of this island. Should that happen, the pirate scum of the Chinese sea would soon disappear, nothing more of piracy and murdering histories to be heard, and the civilized world would gain a beautiful piece of this earth in return. As far as I was concerned, in those days I would have desired to build a hut on this soil and spend my days on Formosa with long beard and hair, like the Spaniard Pacheco (had other duties not called me elsewhere) because it does not take long for a "nature-man" to feel at ease with "nature-people."