In the woods, amidst dead and dying brethren, the old chieftainMona, son of Rudaoreflected.

Photo: Taiwanese peaks above sea of clouds

Japan’s empire reached Taiwanese shores when Mona Rudao was a youth of 15.

As the eldest son of the chief of the Seediq people, Mona was invited by Taiwan’s Japanese governor to visit the empire’s home islands. Young Mona travelled to Japan and saw the splendid palaces of Kyoto, the factories of Tokyo and the military academies of Nagoya. The young Seediq was deeply awed by Japanese imperial power.

When he returned to Taiwan, Mona Rudao, who succeeded his father as the new Seediq chieftain, knew he could not fight the Japanese. No, he chose to work with those who called themselves his colonial masters. He knew better than to draw the ire of the Japanese upon his people.

In 1920, the empire sought to subdue the fierce Atayal bands of central Taiwan. Tapping into existing Taiwanese rivalries, the Japanese sought indigenous help. Eager to gain favour, Mona Rudao and his people answered the call. Under the Rising Sun Flag, a coalition of Seediq warriors and Imperial soldiers raided Atayal settlements.

The Seediq and the Japanese, out of necessity and out of prudence, were to be friends. As the Japanese said, these savages had been “tamed.”

But the Japanese grew arrogant in their rule of Taiwan, and that fragile friendship was to be tested.

Photo: Taiwanese waterfall

In 1930, at a Seediq wedding, a Japanese police officer, full of hubris, publicly humiliated the bride. Hoping to calm the situation, Tado, Mona’s son, tried to appease the officer with an offer of drinks. Instead, the officer struck the chieftain’s son. A bloody brawl ensued.

“No more,” Mona’s people begged their leader. They wished to put up with Japanese oppression and bullying no longer. Remembering, however, what he had seen as a youth in Japan, the old chieftain sought more appeasement. The chief personally visited the Japanese, offered apologies on behalf of his people and asked for friendship and forgiveness.

But the Japanese would not reconcile. They threatened severe punishment. They forgot that they were dealing with veteran warriorsbattle-tested headhunters who had been performing that bloody ritual for thousands of years.

Mona Rudao, at last, resolved to reclaim his people’s honour. The Seediq had not been “tamed.” Seediq wolves were no Japanese lapdogs.

In October 1930, near a Seediq village, the Japanese called Musha (Taiwanese: Bū-siā; Mandarin: Wùshè), Mona’s warriors mounted a headhunting raid that saw them collect 130 severed Japanese heads. It stunned the colonial regime. This was a bold attack on the empire, launched by a supposedly inferior and tamed people. The Japanese would not stand for this. They would strike back… hard.

Mona Rudao knew that to challenge the Japanese was to commit suicide. He knew his people were doomed. Every Seediq man, woman and child under his leadership was now an outlaw in their own country. Mona Rudao and his people knew this when they launched the attack in October.

By the end of December, over 600 Seediq tribesmen had perished. The Japanese were hunting the Seediq nation to the brink of extinction.

With a loaded pistol in his hand, Mona resolvedthe Japanese would not have the satisfaction of killing him.

Photo: Taiwanese coastline

In the woods, amidst dead and dying brethren, the old chieftainMona, son of Rudaoreflected.

Film poster: Seediq Bale (2011) depicting indigenous Seediq people
Film poster: Seediq Bale (2011) two-part Taiwanese film on the events that transpired at Musha and Rainbow Bridge, Taiwan—showing Seediq people in traditional clothing.
Posted by:Island Folklore

An online repository of Taiwan’s folktales, history, legends, myths and traditions.