Friday, December 19, 2008

SERIAL 11: Kondo Katsusaburo among Taiwan's Atayal/Sedeq peoples, 1896 to 1930

Kondo starves! Enjoy the latest installment of Dr. Paul Barclay's translation of Kondo Katsusaburo's experiences up to and during the 1930 Wushe revolt, which were serialized in the local Taiwan Japanese-language papers in the early 1930s. Kondo married into an aboriginal family and traveled extensively in aboriginal territory. (For introduction to Kondo and his era, see Installments 1 & 2. Links to other installments are on the bottom of the right-hand sidebar). Dr. Barclay is the general editor of the wonderful Gerald Warner Taiwan Image Collection which I urge everyone interested in Taiwan to visit.


Chapter Seventeen: Kondō’s Expedition on the Brink of Starvation
(Trans. from Taiwan nichinichi shinpō January 28, 1931)

Finally he arrived! The terminus of the central mountain crossing, the place he had dreamt about, was just a little farther ahead! Just as Kondō had pictured it, they emerged directly above the Chiyakan ravine. But they were amid sheer rock faces, at the opening of a broad torrential waterfall. If one were to descend here, they would be pulled to the bottom of a whirling abyss. The cliff walls faced each other, yielding no paths to climb. The gorge they found themselves in resembled a mountain cleaved in half by a malicious Creator. The five of them had arrived in the afternoon, lacking the energy to find a path. They slept on the gorge that night.

On the 26th, they looked for a path right after waking up. Even though Kondō searched, with eyes well attuned to these kinds of situations, not even a trace of a road was to be found. Moreover, the provisions, enough for Kondō himself, were now being shared amongst five. Since they were traveling in haste, there had been no time for hunting game. Thus, they finished all of the food that morning. Even though daylight was slipping away, minute by minute, the five of them were unable to move in any direction. Countless times, Kondō pictured himself removing his clothes and diving into the deep abyss below. On the off chance that he might emerge and be able to swim, he thought, he could reach Hualien, which shined like a silk kimono sash [in the distance]. The Aborigines, even though they wanted to return home, were also aware that their five days' rations had been exhausted. Despite this knowledge, they still feared crossing the terrifying falls and rapids. Getting hungry! The sun had climbed directly above them. When they realized it was already noon, they started to cry, feeling forlorn and helpless. Aui Sama from Palan village howled in a big voice that reverberated in all directions throughout the mountains. He [vainly] called out the names of the wife and children he had left in the village.

Thus, Kondō faced a frantic situation. He folded his arms across his chest and fervently prayed to Amaterasu of the Ise Shrine, Fudōson of Narita Temple, and the soul of Captain Fukahori. "Please help me spirits of Ise Shrine! Captain Fukahori!" Suddenly, Kondō noticed that there were some grains of rice in one of his amulets. As a last resort, he opened the amulet in front of them. He put one grain each into their mouths and said solemnly:

These are grains of rice from the kami-sama. If you eat them and drink some water, you will feel full and will not die of starvation. We still have more in the amulet, as you see, so we can survive for another three or four days. Now, go drink some water!

They gratefully descended to get their drinking water. Upon returning, they said that they felt refreshed. Such simple minds! They were already so revived that they had begun to smile! Wasn't this similar to a scene from the life of Jesus? The story of the miracle where Christ filled the stomachs of three-thousand followers on the plains of Asia Minor, with only a little bit of rice, is still spoken of.

Feeling better, they became quiet and fell asleep without a care. Kondō could not sleep and remained motionless at their side. "Chi-chi!" "Chi!-chi!" As Kondō settled down, he noticed the sound of birds. They had just started chirping in earnest. Again, "Chi! Chi!" The more he heard, the more he sensed they were telling him that there was a road. He attributed this absurd thought to a momentary lapse. He refused to believe, but it still sounded, to him, like there was a road. Slowly and quietly Kondō stood up and started to move. He wondered where the birds could be and began to look for them. It seemed like the birds were to Kondō's left side as he walked, or on the right side of the path if one traveled from Hualien Harbor [to this overhang]. Kondō tried to climb upon the sharp, vegetation-matted rocks. There were patches of deep brush scattered about the mountain's summit. The birds appeared to be alighting from, and in turn disappearing into, these patches. He stared at these clumps, which ran from the bottom to the top [of the summit]. Oh! A shining thread appeared to be running through the crags as one looked up at the grass thickets. Strewn about on this path were something resembling discarded shell-casings!

Chapter Eighteen: The Strenuous Life
(Trans. from Taiwan nichinichi shinpō January 29, 1931)

Kondō climbed up greedily. Yes, these were cartridges! They proved that someone must have passed through these mountains. As one looked from below, it was difficult to detect this path because of the bushes. But he was able to discover the way because he had been looking for the birds. If this could not be called a miracle, then what else could it be? What lovely birds, who were like messengers from God. Will I someday forget the graceful sound of your cry? Kondō was grateful and thanked the birds tearfully. Kondō ascended about another 100 meters. On the back of the mountain he saw what looked like a descending path, one that went up again and down again. It made a continuous sawtooth pattern, repeatedly passing behind the mountains so that Kondō could not see [the whole path] from his vantage point in the valley. Though this was a very difficult path, Kondō tread upon it, quite lightly.

One could call this a path, but it was covered with crags, brambles and brush along the whole way. Kondō danced for joy as he advanced. After another 100 meters, he recognized, just ahead, a man who seemed to be asleep. With a sense of longing and yearning, Kondō practically leapt to his side, but ... what sort of cruelty, what kind of grotesque display should appear? It was a fresh overturned corpse, one which had already lost its head. The racing heart of the man who thought he had found a living person [in these forlorn mountains] stopped in chilling horror. Kondō now felt the coldness of mountain ice and froze in his tracks. Misfortune never strikes just once! With the spent cartridges and the corpse, Kondō knew this was a dangerous place. While staying alert to all four directions at once, he returned to the nearby valley. He told the Aborigines that he had found a road. They were relieved to hear this and climbed the rocky hill.

In Hong Kong, [back in 1895,] Kondō had heard a rumor that Taiwan Aborigines ate the meat of their headhunting victims. Kondō wondered if this could be true; so without telling the Aborigines, he set out to show them the corpse. Before long, they saw the headless body. They were, however, accustomed to such sights and were not overly alarmed. At the same time, they did not look like they were about to eat the corpse. Kondō tried to entice them, entreating, "You must be hungry. Why don't you eat this?" They replied that human flesh was unclean and was therefore never eaten. Thus, the question that perplexed Kondō before he came to Taiwan was easily answered.

They ascended and descended along the sawtooth path a few times when suddenly the road made a bead towards a triangle shaped mountain. He called this "Needle Mountain." The sheer, angularly peaked mountain took several hours to climb. The descent, however, was rapid, much like sliding down a hill. About two hours into their ascent of "Needle Mountain," they found a cave (iwaya). It was quite spacious inside, large enough to spread ten tatami mats. It was very tidy, as if someone had just left.

Kondō was pleased to find a good place to sleep. It was late in the afternoon. Tonight would be their one chance to sleep under a roof ... but, as he stopped to consider things, this cave seemed miraculously clean. Kondō went in and out and thoroughly surveyed the perimeter. The first strange thing he noticed was no sign of fire. If someone had stayed here to rest, there should be a trace of fire somewhere. Perhaps there was no fire because this was an animal dwelling. If so, which animal? They checked the cave everywhere. As a group, they came to an agreement that this was probably the dwelling place of troupe of monkeys.

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