Taiwan Fun Magazine, December 2003


On The Trail Of Lin Shao-Mao, The Last Outlaw

Writing, photos and translation provided by David Oakley

     Taiwan teenagers now learn about the island's history at school, and because of this change to the school curriculum, there has been a search for Taiwanese heroes. In today's junior high school textbooks, students read that Lin Shao-mao fought against Japanese rule between 1895 and 1902.Lin remains a controversial figure. Now hailed as a hero, he was of course deemed a "bandit" by the Japanese colonial authorities.
Born in 1866, Lin Shao-mao lived in A-hou (now Pingtung City), where he was a rice miller. Lin, who also sold fish and pork in the markets, rose to have much power in A-hou.

     Lin later became a petty government official, but abused his position. Accused of corruption, he returned to A-hou as an outlaw, and led his followers to settle at Talun, a fertile islet on the Kaoping River. The outlaws robbed nearby villages, stealing not only livestock but also women.

     Then, in the wake of the Sino-Japanese War, China ceded Taiwan to Japan in April 1895. A Taiwan Republic was declared on 23 May 1895. The presidency of the republic fell on Liu Yung-fu. Lin Shao-mao backed Liu, who in turn provided weapons.In late 1895, Liu departed to the mainland, dashing hopes of a Taiwan Republic. But resistance by Taiwanese continued: Lin Shao-mao regrouped his men, and in June 1896 almost seized A-hou. Lin trained his men well, and held a huge advantage in his knowledge of the local terrain. His three main bases at Talun, Tatung Farm and Houpilin were carefully chosen. Talun lay among the channels of the Kaoping River, with access along twisting paths across the streams. The Tatung Farm base lay in a neck of land at the confluence of two rivers. The largest base, at Houpilin, overlooked Fengshan to the north, and Dunggang to the southwest.

     Throughout 1897, Lin launched daring attacks from these bases, usually with a few hundred men, on the Japanese occupiers. An attack on A-hou in 1898 failed, but Lin's men forced Japanese reinforcements to flee into the mountains. Back at Tatung Farm, Lin assembled a force of over 2,000 men, including 700 Paiwan aborigines.
On December 28, 1898, Lin attacked Chaojou, where his men overwhelned the Japanese forces and beheaded the top Japanese official.

     The rebels moved south to Hengchun, but failed to take the town. After a stiff fight, the rebels fled. The Japanese massacred more than 2,000 people, but the now heroic Lin Shao-mao evaded death or capture.

     Goto Shinpei, the Japanese governor of Taiwan, offered surrender terms to "bandits" as early as July 1898, but was rebuffed. Surrender terms agreed on 12 November 1899 gave Lin the right to rule over a tax-free fiefdom at Houpilin. His men were free to carry arms, and were indemnified against lawsuits arising from the partisan days.

     The surrender ceremony was held at A-hou on 12 May 1900. The only conditions the Japanese asked were that the rebels forswear banditry, that all arms be marked and recorded, and that all be photographed and have their names recorded.

     After the surrender, Lin and his men farmed, fished and made wine at Houpilin. Rumors persisted that the "bandits" had kept a base at Talun, and by May 1902 Japanese patience was exhausted. Lin's followers were ordered to assemble at six points in the south on 26 May 1902, where they were gunned down.

     The Japanese next came after Lin Shao-mao, alleging his community "was spreading disease." On 30 May, Japanese soldiers equipped with mortars attacked Lin's stronghold at Houpilin. After four hours the base was in flames; as Japanese forces began to enter the compound, Lin attempted to flee from the front gate. He was shot dead.

     The Japanese authorities declare an official end to the "bandit" problem. But a century on, the legend of Lin Shao-mao has entered Taiwan's school textbooks.
The author would like to thank Lee Ming-chin for his kind help.