The Beidawushan Series: The Japanese on Beidawushan

The Dawu shrine, with the peak of Beidawushan visible in the background

The Dawu shrine, with the peak of Beidawushan visible in the background

As I described in “The Paiwan People: Part 1”, the Japanese first became involved with the people who lived near Beidawushan during the Mudan incident of 1871.

In 1895, the Qing empire ceded control of Taiwan to Japan. The Paiwan resisted, as did other indigenous peoples. The Japanese attempted to make the aboriginal people assimilate, which included building schools for them and teaching them Japanese (these schools were often right next to, or even, inside the police stations which were built to ‘pacify’ the local people).

A Bunun man I once met claimed that the Rukai people (who live on the north side of Beidawushan) were able to avoid the influence of Japanese culture longer than anyone else – for example, they were the last people to accept a writing system. Considering that the Rukai tend to live in isolated valleys, this is plausible.

After Taiwan got incorporated into Japan, a flood of mountaineers came in to explore this ‘new’ island. For example, Yushan (a.k.a. Niitakayama) is higher than Mt. Fuji and became the new high point in the Japanese empire, which of course meant that Japanese adventurers had to come down to Taiwan to bag the peak. Many mountain summits and routes in Taiwan were traversed for the first (recorded) time by Japanese mountaineers. In addition to adventure, many Japanese naturalists studied Taiwan’s ecology and first recorded in writing the existence of many species, which is why so many species in Taiwan have Japanese names.

The route used by today’s national trail was originally opened up by the Japanese. Noro Yasushi became the first Japanese person to reach the summit of Beidawushan in 1909. Japanese settlers built a shelter at the site of today’s Cedar Lodge for the purpose of building Shinto shrines. And indeed, one of the most famous sights of Beidawushan is the Dawu Shrine.

Look at the coins tossed into the shrine.

Look at the coins tossed into the shrine.

The Dawu Shrine is the best preserved mountain Shinto shrine in all of Taiwan. ‘State Shinto’ was a policy to try to use Shinto to get people in Taiwan (and other territories under Japanese rule) to assimilate into Japanese society, and shrines such as the Dawu Shrine were part of that policy. People used to come to this shrine every October 28th for worship.

The shrine was originally at the summit of Beidawushan itself, in spite of the protests of the Paiwan people who regard the summit as sacred. After the shrine got repeatedly hit by lightning (maybe the goddesses of Beidawushan were angry?), it was moved to a safer spot alone the Dawu ridge one kilometer away from the summit, where is remains today.

After the Republic of China took over Taiwan, they tried to erase Japanese culture, and destroyed many Shinto shrines. The Dawu shrine was probably spared because it’s near the top of a high mountain deep in Paiwan territory.

Most photos of the Dawu shrine show the torii standing up, so I was disappointed to find that the torii have recently fallen down. I was also amused to find that hikers had carved messages. For more information, check out Queenie’s answer to my question.

Next to the shrine is the Takasago Volunteers’ Monument, which was set up in 1944 to honor the Taiwanese aboriginal people who served in the Japanese armed forces.

A photo of the Takasago volunteers' monument.

A photo of the Takasago volunteers’ monument.

Continue to the next part: “Life on the Ridge”

***

Some of the information in this entry came from the book Carefree Walks through Mountain Forests in Southern Taiwan (高屏山林縱情遊).


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2 thoughts on “The Beidawushan Series: The Japanese on Beidawushan

  1. Pingback: Six Days in Shikoku: Summiting Tsurugi-san | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  2. Pingback: The Beidawushan Series: The Cloud Forest | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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