Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wu Feng's Residence

According to a controversial legend, Wu Feng became a hero on August 10, 1769 when he sacrificed himself to bring peace between the aborigines and the local Chinese. For over 40 years Wu Feng (pronounced Ew Fong) worked for the government as an interpreter and liaison to the tribes in Alishan. At the age of 24, when Wu Feng first befriended the aborigines, he was horrified at their practice of head hunting and diligently went about convincing them to abandon the ritual. It is said that he talked them into using heads which had been taken in earlier years and were stored in the villages. Each year for 40 years one of the heads was taken from storage and used in the ritual. When all of the heads had been "recycled," the tribe decided they needed to go out and gather new heads. At this time, Wu Feng came up with a plan to stop the headhunting. He told the tribe that if they were able to take the head of a man riding a horse and wearing a red cape and hood on a particular night at a particular time, this would satisfy their gods forever and no more heads would be needed. The aborigines agreed to this. On the night Wu Feng predicted, the hooded rider appeared and was killed and beheaded by the tribe. It turned out that the rider was Wu Feng. The tribe was shocked that they had killed Wu Feng and in their sorrow, gave up the practice of headhunting and convinced the other tribes to do the same. What a great story-- true or not -- I loved it. I was even more delighted with this tale when I learned that Wu Feng lived about 6 miles from where I live here in Chiayi City. He really did exist. I knew that this was one of the places I had to visit while in Taiwan. As the story continues, 15 or 20 years ago the local aborigines began a protest to dissolve the legend of Wu Feng because they believe it casts them in a savage and degrading manner. They want this legend removed from the history books and all of the statues of Wu Feng and the temple to be destroyed. They claim that the Japanese fabricated the tale during their reign in Taiwan. I have no way of knowing if the legend is true or make believe. I do know that the first temple or statue of Wu Feng was built within 30 years of his death. I do know that with the exception of one single tribe of the aborigines of Taiwan, headhunting was definitely something they practiced. It is very likely that the legend of Wu Feng will die away in time and eventually, few people in Taiwan will know of him. In the meantime, here are a few photo's of Wu Feng's place.

1 comment:

Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

Oh my goodness. I love reading about your visit. I grew up in this neighborhood