Hughes, T. F., of the Chinese Imperial Customs, Shanghai. "Visit to Tok-e-Tok, chief of the eighteen tribes, southern Formosa." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16 (1872): 265-271.
[P. 265] The wild aborigines who inhabit the central, eastern, and southern districts of Formosa, have ever inspired, not only a certain amount of curiosity on account of their dogged, and, to a considerable extent, successful opposition to the inroads of strangers, Chinese or others, but also an immense amount of terror to the unwary stragglers across the borders -- the enterprising Chinese who push their agricultural industry within the shadow of their hills, or the ill-fated mariners who may be driven by storms upon their inhospitable shores. Of late years, however, there have been signs of a change: the untamed mountaineers seem to be emerging from the seclusion which has hitherto surrounded them, and to be more tolerant than formerly of the approach of strangers to their native wilds and fastnesses. Foreigners have more than once penetrated into the savage territory eastward in a direct line from Takow; father north, the savages in some districts have now become quite accustomed to the casual visits of Europeans, and on three or four different occasions small exploring parties have visited the tribes who inhabit the hilly regions in the neighbourhood of the South Cape. In almost every case the savages proved themselves ready to meet kindness with kindness, and in a great many instances the hand of friendship and of hospitality was readily extended to the foreign visitor. It is to be hoped that such a disposition on their part will be encouraged as much as possible by all who have an opportunity of exercising a beneficial influence upon them; for there can be no doubt that contact with civilized people will, gradually but surely, exercise happy results upon these unsophisticated, and, in many respects interesting, children of nature, and will in time bring to their minds the persuasion that in the outer world, to which they have hitherto been strangers, there is much good to be learned, and much usefulness to be acquired. Already the slight intercourse they have had with Europeans has commenced to tell. Until recently no unfortunate mariners, driven on the southern coast, met with any mercy at the hands of the savages; and the massacre of Captain and Mrs. Hunt and the crew of the American barque Rover, by the wild Koa-luts, is still fresh in the memory of us all. Thanks, however, to the energy of General Le Gendre, United States Consul for Amoy and Formosa, an agreement has been made with the chief of the eighteen tribes of South Formosa, by which the lives of shipwrecked sailors are for the present secure on the most dangerous part of the coast, from Tui-La-Sok River (about 22û 3' N. lat.) on the east, round by the south of the island to Loong-kiao Bay on the west. The good faith of the aborigines, surrounded as they are by the wily, plotting, avaricious Hakkas, is with many a moot question; but, taking results as our guide, we can only say, that up to the present, so far from any breach of the agreement having taken place, a desire has been manifested by the savages to carry out the stipulations agreed upon in their integrity. The only opportunity which has hitherto taken place to test the good faith of Tok-e-kok [sic], and his subjects, occurred last October under the following circumstances.
A junk, chartered by Messrs. Millisch and Co., of Tamsui, had proceeded to a point on the north-coast for the purpose of procuring timber, required for [p. 266] certain buildings at Kee-loong. Mr. Horn, an employé of Messrs. Mellisch and Co., accompanied the party on board the junk, and they were all returning with a full cargo to Kee-loong, when they met a furious gale of wind which blew them to the southward, and, after depriving them of sails, masts, &c., flung them on a rocky shore to the north of Tui-la-sok River, where the vessel went to pieces. A mighty wave sweeping over the wreck, unfortunately washed Mr. Horn and 17 Pei-po-hwans overboard; but the remainder of the party, consisting of 1 Manila man, 1 Malay, and 16 Pei-po-hwans, were carried safely on shore. Mr. Horn and the others who were washed away were never afterwards seen; and the 18 castaways, after walking for some distance along the shore, came into the territory of Tok-e-Tok, by whom they were taken over and treated with forbearance, if not with kindness. Soon after their arrival, the chief sent a messenger, through the intervention of some friendly Chinese in the neighbourhood, with a few scanty particulars of the case to Mr. Pickering: a gentleman in the employ of Messrs. Elles and Co., at Taiwan-foo, who is well known amongst some of the savage tribes, and who, by his knowledge of the local Chinese dialect, rendered valuable assistance to General Le Gendre in his efforts to bring about and ratify a convention in 1867. Mr. Pickering, on receipt of the intelligence, started, in company with another gentleman and the writer, for the South Cape, without knowing all the details of the disaster, but with the intention of rendering assistance where it might be required, and with the hope that the castaways, whoever they might be, whom Tok-e-Tok was detaining, should accompany us on the return journey.
On the 12th of November we sailed from Takow in an open fishing-boat, and, coasting along the western shore of the island in a southerly direction, we came next morning to Hong-kang, a small straggling village inhabited by Chinese, who live by fishing and by trading with the neighbouring half-castes and savages, with whom they seem to be on friendly terms. Firewood, large loads of which come down from the interior on carts drawn by buffaloes, appears to be the principal article of export. Deer-horns and sinews are also to some extent exported, and the small quantity of rice which finds its way out of the place is said to have a whiter and larger grain than that raised in any other part of the island. Leaving our boat at Hong-kang we continued our southerly course on foot, and proceeded along the base of the magnificent range of mountains which here skirts the sea, through a country thickly covered with brushwood, and apparently uninhabited. On either side of us, Nature, in its grandest and most sublime attitude, reigned supreme: on our right lay the open sea, stretching away to the distant western horizon; on our left rose the massive hills, clad to their very summits with primeval forests, and our path lay through a close jungle, which is said to afford cover for wild animals of various kinds. The savages frequently hunt in this neighbourhood, and occasionally lie in wait here for any unfortunate wayfarer who may happen, for any reason, to be obnoxious to them. No half-measures seem to be employed, or expected, by the savages whilst at war with the Hakkas; quarrels are constantly occurring between them, and, as they are far from the reach of any lawful authority, the lex talionis is their only guide and arbiter. When a quarrel takes place, and lives are lost, which not unfrequently happens, more lives must be taken, and these murders call again for fresh reprisals, so that the country is almost always in a state of war. Hence the very coolies who accompanied us from Hong-kang were armed to the teeth; and when we emerged from the jungle, and came once more to a populated region in the neighbourhood of Chia-siang, we found that all the inhabitants, from the sturdy peasant at his plough to the youngest herd-boy in the fields, were armed with matchlocks, spears, or bows. The Chinese settlers have, therefore, to carry on their industrial pursuits with fear and trembling; and the [p. 267] soil, in consequence, even in the immediate vicinity of towns, is not nearly in such a high state of cultivation as it is capable of becoming under more favourable auspices. Chia-siang, or Loong-kiao, as it is sometimes called, is a partly walled town, inhabited by the descendants of some Fokhien immigrants, who settled down here some two centuries ago. Many of the neighbouring Pei-po-hwans, or aborigines of the plains, come to Chia-siang to trade; and in this place, goods of foreign and Chinese manufacture, as well as all kinds of savage curiosities, matchlocks, swords, embroidered jackets and pouches, belts of silver filagree work, &c., are exposed for sale. It may be mentioned here that Loong-kiao Bay affords a capital anchorage for vessels in the north-east monsoon. A few li further south lies Hia-liao, a village picturesquely and comfortably situated on the shores of Loong-kiao Bay, and the most southerly of all the villages inhabited by Chinese. Here, as indeed at all the other places we visited, we were received with the most marked hospitality and kindness. Our host happened to be an old friend of Tok-e-Tok, the savage chief, and next morning he deputed his son to act as our escort to the savage territory. The scenery along the road between Hia-liao and the hills is grand in the extreme: a great portion of the ground is uncultivated, but it is thickly covered with tropical plants growing in wild luxuriance; the plantain, wild pine, and feathery bamboo, all add their beauty to the scene, while here and there the graceful areca-palm rears its long tender stem, with its ornamental tuft of leaves at the top. In the neighbourhood of the hamlets through which we passed, we noticed a few patches of millet, sweet potatoes, &c.; but the nearer we got to the savage dominions, the wilder became the scenery, and the less frequently did we meet with cultivation of any kind. The hamlets themselves are generally embowered in foliage: long stately bamboos clustering round the dwellings, and the houses, as a rule, are clean and tolerably well provided. The people are most profuse in their hospitality: everywhere we were not only invited to sit down, but food and drink were almost invariably offered to us. It was interesting to observe the gradual disappearance of the true Chinese type of countenance the farther we penetrated into the hills; the greatest difference was noticeable in the women, of whom the last true Chinese type was observed at Hia-liao. As far as appearance and manners go, both men and women seemed to be all the better for the admixture of savage blood: the men appeared to be all the more honest, brave and generous; the women more beautiful, natural, and dignified.
Towards evening we came in view of the Pacific Ocean, and the valley in which Tok-e-Tok resides was also pointed out to us. Here the real savage hunting-grounds commence. Cultivation is no longer visible; vast prairies covered with thick, waving grass, but which in civilized hands might be made to teem with useful vegetation, stretch away far as the eye can see, and the neighbouring lofty peaks are thickly covered, up to their very summits, with venerable forests, where the wild deer, as well as game of a more formidable nature, are said to abound.
In the course of our journey through the hills, we passed one of those strange phenomena, by no means uncommon in Formosa, a bright flame jutting out of the hard-baked earth. It was shown to us as a volcano; but it was quite evident that the fire was caused by the ignition, chance or otherwise, of the vapour issuing from a petroleum spring existing underneath. The frequency of this spectacle proves the existence of another mine of wealth as yet undeveloped in this island.
We arrived about sunset at Tok-e-Tok's residence: a long one-storied building, the central portion of which is some few feet higher than the rest of the house; the walls are built of mud-bricks, the floors are hard and dry, and the house is divided into a half-a-dozen compartments, separated by partitions of bamboo and mud-plaster. A permanent screenwork of bamboo runs along [p. 268] the entire frontage from the ground to the projection of the roof, about three feet from the main wall, forming a protection against wind and heat, and leaving a covered passage, like a verandah, between the doors of the principal apartments. The rooms are without ceilings, but the inner portion of the roof is very neatly and artistically finished with dried grass and strips of bamboo. No ornament of any kind was noticeable about this savage palace, except the few skulls of various wild animals suspended near the principal entrance; none of the trappings of sovereignty were visible, nothing, in fact, to be seen which of itself went in any way to prove that we rested beneath the roof of the Chief of the Eighteen Southern Tribes.
Most of the savages, we were told, were away on a hunting-expedition, and the Chief himself was engaged in the settlement of a brawl which had taken place between two of his subordinate clans. In the mean time, we were shown to the house w[h]ere the shipwrecked Pei-po-hwans were detained, and the intense delight which our appearance gave these poor people was enough of itself to recompense us for our lengthened journey. No doubt they looked upon our arrival, after fifteen days' suspense as to their ultimate fate, as the harbinger of hope, and the almost certain presage of their speedy liberation.
Before we returned to the Chief's house we had an opportunity -- which we did not seek for a second time -- of seeing a savage work himself up almost to the killing point. We were just about to leave, when two or three Koa-luts -- the tribe which perpetrated the Rover tragedy -- appeared upon the scene, apparently the worse for liquor. One of them, as wild a looking specimen of humanity as it has ever been my lot to see, became, apparently without cause, momentarily more excited, and at last drew his sword, and rushed violently about, brandishing it and plunging it into the ground, shrieking and foaming at the mouth all the time. Knowing, as we did, that there was a strong difference of opinion amongst the savages as to the advisability of taking off strange heads that might happen to come in their way, we did not feel particularly comfortable as we walked away with this wild Koa-lut performing a war-dance at our heels; and our composure was by no means strengthened when, on venturing upon a look behind, we found that the man had got his bow and arrows in readiness, and was only being soothed and kept under by a woman, possibly his wife. Untrustworthy and fickle as the savage temper is, especially when inflamed by drink, there may have been a little danger to us here: but, from that moment until we left the savages, we met with nothing but uniform kindness and patriarchal hospitality, and even this wild Koa-lut himself became most friendly with us before our departure.
On our return to Tok-e-Tok's house, we found that dinner had been prepared for us: venison, pork, and excellent rice formed the principal dishes, and a very good species of samshoo, distilled from the sweet potato, was served out to us by some of the ladies of Tok-e-Tok's household. I was astonished, not so much at their hospitality, for we were prepared to meet with that, as at their natural refinement of feeling and manner. Profuse apologies were constantly being offered for the scantiness of their fare, and the lowliness of their entertainment generally; and when a crowd of curious members of both sexes had assembled round the door to gaze upon and watch us at our meal, they wee quickly dispersed and chid for their want of manners. In various other ways, too, we were surprised to find a considerateness and a rough politeness amongst these "savages" which might have done credit to many a civilized and more ostentatious people. After dinner, we adjourned to the principal apartment, -- Tok-e-Tok's drawing-room in fact, -- and, squatting down amongst our newly acquired friends, we soon managed to make ourselves quite at home. We smoked socially together, and chatted away through our Chinese interpreter; and when our hosts discovered that we desired to hear them sing, they unhesitatingly burst into melody. They gave us several songs, all of them sung with [p. 269] the natural voice, in a minor key, and, although rather monotonous and droning, occasionally containing some really quaint melody and musical pathos. Congreve says "music hath charms to soothe the savage breast;" and these rude vocalists, who could become on occasions fierce and cruel as tigers, yielded to the gentle influence of the muse, and appeared to us as quiet and tractable as little children. In fact, with the one exception already alluded to, we saw little of the savage temperament amongst Tok-e-Tok's people; and if we had to complain of any peculiarity of their character, it would be of their too expressed kindness and hospitality -- qualities which we do not usually associate with uncultivated taste. Your thorough-paced savage is a creature sui generis. He has his good and bad qualities; but the former are all his own, for they are not at all prominent amongst the Hakkas, with whom he principally comes in contact, whilst the latter may in a great measure be attributed to the various vitiating circumstances which surround him.
Like most uncultivated people, the savages look upon life as a mere bagatelle, and take it as lightly as other men do their dinners. But we ought to remember what Professor Huxley has somewhere said, that "in the early ages of the world, the first impulse of man was, not to love his neighbour, but to eat him;" and when we consider that there is, as far as we can ascertain, a total absence of cannibalism amongst this primitive people, and that they are even showing a disposition to abandon their inclination to slaughter, wantonly, strangers who give them no grounds for provocation, we may safely infer that they have made, at all events, some progress, however slight, on the road to enlightenment and civilization. There is still, of course, very much room for improvement, but the germs of a fine people are to be found amongst them. As a race, they possess physical advantages which are not shared by their Chinese neighbours; and this is owing, doubtless, in some measure, to that "struggle for existence" which must take place amongst savage races, to a more palpable extent than amongst civilized people. The men are all straight, well-formed, and vigorous; the women approach as closely to the perfection of the "mortal mixture of Earth's mould" as it is possible to conceive. However much the fact is to be regretted, there are no doctors or patent medicines amongst the savages, to enable the weak and sickly to survive; and, in their almost daily conflicts, the strong men of course conquer, and the weak go to the wall.
The Southern savages mix more with the Chinese -- Hakkas principally -- than do the tribes farther north, and they have so far adapted themselves to the customs of their conquerors as to wear the "pig-tail," and shave their heads. The most remarkable peculiarity about their appearance is the large piece of wood or shell which is fitted into the lobe of the ear, giving an unusually large and intensely ugly aspect to the organ of hearing. The men wear neat, tightly-fitting, embroidered jackets; and the nether portion of their dress is a scantily-cut piece of embroidered cloth, which goes rather more than half-way round the waist, and extends downwards to about the middle of the thigh. The dress of the women is particularly modest and becoming, and is well calculated to show to advantage their graceful figures. The style of arranging their luxuriant hair is an improvement on the Chinese mode, and approximates, to a considerable extent, to some of our European fashions. We did not notice a single bad face amongst the many women we saw, and their features would be most striking, were it not for the repulsive appearance the constant chewing of betel-nut gives to their lips and teeth.
Betel-but chewing is practised to a very great extent amongst the savages of Formosa, as it is amongst all the Malay and Polynesian races. The old and young of both sexes alike indulge in this fascinating narcotic; and, when people meet, it is the custom to open out their pouches, where the "materials" are kept, and offer a "chew" with an off-hand grace which would put many of our snuff-takers of by-gone days to the blush. The preparations for chewing are simple enough: some leaves of the betel-pepper, [p. 270] Chavica Betle, are smeared with a lime formed from calcined shells, and the nut is then neatly folded in the leaf, and placed in the mouth. The pleasant effects of this masticatory performance, not having been to any extent, if at all, experimentally investigated by Europeans, cannot with accuracy be pronounced upon; but there certainly must be a considerable amount of fascination in it, when so many millions of people, scattered up and down the Pacific, chew it almost constantly, from their cradle to the grave. No other narcotic, except perhaps tobacco, is so extensively used. It is difficult to discover, even from the chewers themselves, what the particular pleasure obtained really is. They say, generally, that the process promotes flow of saliva, and lessens the propensity to perspire freely; that it imparts an agreeable odour to the breath, secures the teeth, cleanses the gums, and cools the mouth. It stains the lips and teeth red, and thus gives an appearance to the chewers highly disgusting to European taste; but the natives, no doubt, consider it ornamental and à la mode. It is possible that the exhilarating and agreeable effects may arise from the chemical action of the lime and saliva upon the ingredients of both nut and leaf.
On the morning after our arrival, we had an interview with Tok-e-Tok concerning the main object of our visit. This Chief, who is a tall, active, robust man of sixty or thereabouts, was surrounded by his principal advisers, and received us very graciously. We all took our seats on benches, without any ceremony; and, before the proceedings had been regularly opened, an old woman went about the room offering a cup of samshoo to be sipped by each one, and muttering all the time a sort of chant or monologue -- probably an incantation -- to ward off evil influences from our conclave. We were speedily informed that the shipwrecked people were at liberty to depart, the Chief only claiming an amount of dollars to cover the expenses, he said, that had been necessarily incurred during their detention; and, as we did not consider the sum exorbitant under the circumstances, we took upon ourselves the responsibility of guaranteeing it to him, in the event of his continuing to treat the castaways with forbearance, and restoring them to liberty when the proper messenger should arrive with the money. Business over, we expressed our desire to depart without further delay; but the Chief lent a deaf ear to our entreaties, and actually compelled us to remain and share a feast with him. No sooner had our reluctant consent been obtained, than a wild whoop was raised, and every savage, with his bow and arrows, rushed off to share in the destruction of the animals which were to form the principal attraction of our banquet. In a few minutes they all returned, bringing with them a supply sufficient to regale the entire tribe, and the cutting up and cooking were forthwith entered upon in a highly artistic style. The feast at last commenced, and we were honoured with benches and a table, while Tok-e-Tok and his subordinates squatted in two parallel rows upon the floor. The spoils resulting from former raids must have been carefully ransacked, for silver spoons and forks were produced on our behalf. All the tit-bits of the slaughtered animals were reserved for us; in fact, every effort that could possibly be made was exercised to render us comfortable and happy. At the end of the repast, we managed to get away with some difficulty; and, accompanied by the Manila man, we started on our return journey. Many of our kind entertainers escorted us some distance along the road; and a wild valedictory shout, which found many an echo amongst the surrounding hills, was the congé we received, on our departure from the territory of Tok-e-Tok.
It only remains to be told, that the savage Chief treated with kindness the Pei-po-hwans we left in his keeping; and when, owing to the news we brought back to Takow, that some Chinese subjects were temporarily detained among the savages, the local authorities despatched messengers with the requisite funds to Tok-e-Tok, the people were at once handed over, and subsequently reached [p. 271] Taiwan-foo in safety, from whence, it is to be hoped, they easily found their way to their homes in the north.
climate. -- During the prevalence of the north-east monsoon -- i. e. from October to May -- the climate of South Formosa is very salubrious, the temperature being similar to that of Italy and the south of France.
Takow is on a narrow strip of land, between a large lagoon and the sea; fully sheltered from the north and east by a high hill, situate [sic] at the northern part of the narrow entrance to the harbour, called Ape's Hill, on account of the large number of large apes inhabiting its rocky sides.
This settlement enjoys the full force of the south-west monsoon; and, although the hot season is a long one, the thermometer seldom, if ever, exceeds 90û or 92û Fahrenheit.
I believe that no port south of Tientain can boast of such a moderate maximum temperature. It is certain that the winter here is milder than at other ports, -- too mild, in fact, for the robust; but, for the weak and consumptive, it might afford a very fair substitute for the health-resorts of the Mediterranean.
To the indolent, the intemperate, and the sedentary, the prolonged heat is most enervating and dangerous; but to a moderate man, who will take the trouble to find occupation and take exercise, no tropical climate could be more healthy and enjoyable. A week or two of heavy rain in the summer is all the rain that falls near the coast; while, only a few miles inland, it rains and thunders every afternoon from July till September.
The city of Taiwan-foo lies very low, and some distance from the sea. It therefore gets but little of the summer breeze, and that little, after it has been heated by passing over a desolate, uncultivated plain. The city is, consequently, in summer time exceedingly sultry and unhealthy.
I should here mention, that while vessels can visit Takow at any season during the year, Anping, the port of Taiwan-foo, being only an open roadstead, is closed, during the south-west monsoon, to native and foreign craft.