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Chapter 1

Bǎo'ān: A Taiwanese Village

This work centers about a village in southwestern Táiwān, a province of the Republic of China. I shall call the village Bǎo'ān 保安.1 Bǎo'ān is located not far from the town of Xīgǎng 西港,2 a township capital just north of the legal limits of Táinán 台南 city, the former capital city of the island and the area of earliest Chinese settlement in Táiwān.3 Bǎo'ān is located beside the Zēngwén Xī 曾文溪, a river that runs a meandering course from the eastern mountains to the sea. Because the Taiwanese mountains are high, and the plain narrow, Taiwanese rivers flow high and fast when there is rain, quickly draining the mountain sources. But when there is no rain, they dry up, sometimes entirely, until the next rain in the mountains. The Zēngwén Xī is no exception, and it has made for itself a wide wadi it seldom actually fills, but in which it unpredictably flows first at one side, then at the other, sometimes covering most of the area, sometimes only a tiny stream. In 1932 the river was confined to this bed by two dikes, about a kilometer apart and running from a point some distance west of Xīgǎng to the sea, which were constructed by the Japanese administration (1895-1945). In 1967, on President Jiǎng's birthday, work was begun for a dam in the mountains far upstream from Xīgǎng. The new dam, to be completed in 1973, is expected to reduce flood expectancy from once every twelve years to once a century and to provide substantial amounts of electricity and irrigation water from what will become Táiwān's largest lake.

Footnote 1. This name was picked as a pseudonym by one of my village friends from a collection of names selected to sound similar to names of villages in this area, to be easily pronounceable in English, and to be representable by the same spelling in more than one system of romanization. The name means "safeguarding harmony" and is taken from a name used for the village temple in many Taiwanese villages: "temple for safeguarding harmony" (Bǎo'ān Gōng 保安宮)

Footnote 2. For the geographically precise, Xīgǎng is located at 23°7'35" north. 120°11'36" east.

Footnote 3. For historical background on Táiwān, see Alvarez 1930, Davidson 1903. Goddard 1963 and 1966, Imbault-Huart 1893. Recently released histories of the island in Chinese include Féng Zuòmín 1966 and Anonymous 1964. For a brief summary treatment, see Hsieh 1964: l23-l94, or C. L. Chen 1967.

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Bǎo'ān is an agricultural village, and the people of Bǎo'ān raise most of the crops common to the area, including three harvests of paddy rice per year, and dry rice, sweet potatoes, and sugarcane. These, plus watermelons (both those produced for their pulp and those grown for their seed) are the principal cash crops. Jute, sesame, sorghum, maize, taro, cotton, or other crops are also planted in smaller amounts. Numerous fruits are grown, though only bananas are sold outside the village.

In addition to their other land, the people of Bǎo'ān farm the fertile land within the wadi of the Zēngwén Xī. This soil is so well endowed by the annual flooding that oxcarts of it can be dug out of the lowest part when the water is low and carted to other areas for sale. But it is always farmed with the understanding that floods will wash out the crops in some years, and this element of chance makes it unprofitable for any but fast-growing crops. The portions of the wadi most often flooded by the river are used for watermelon, while beans, sweet potatoes, sesame, and other crops are grown in the remainder. Rice and sugar, the major cash crops, are confined entirely to safer land beyond the flood dikes.

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According to the June 1966 township census records, the population of Bǎo'ān was 1,669. In the early months of 1967, when I did census work there, they were organized into 227 households. Every resident of Táiwān constitutes or is a member of a household with a known address. Each household has a head 户長 and census records specify the relationship (by kinship or otherwise) of each individual member of the household to the head. For most purposes the household corresponds with the family , but not always. Particularly in urban areas, extraneous people (such as distant relatives, boarders, servants, or apprentices) may be members of the household but not of the family. In Bǎo'ān the correspondence between household and family is in general very close (with some exceptions that will be considered later on), and to avoid tedious repetition of the word family I have tended to use the two words interchangeably except in a few passages in which the distinction is clearly indicated by inserting the Chinese words. One other point should be noted: as in most Taiwanese villages, a certain proportion of registered "resident" family members in fact do their residing in other parts of the island, often for educational or military reasons, but not infrequently also in order to earn money in urban industries, especially in Gāoxióng. The government makes noble efforts to encourage people to change their household registration in such cases, but the campaign is not entirely effective. Accordingly, most village household statistics are slightly higher than the actual resident population, and correspondingly urban records, I suspect, are slightly lower. This inflated figure is entirely in accord with the Chinese notion of a family (if not, strictly speaking, of a household), for family division occurs ritually, and not by moving away, and the nonresident residents are considered to be people of Bǎo'ān as much as anyone else. Moving away has nothing to do with it. Furthermore, they frequently make trips back to the village, especially at holidays, and one is constantly coming up against village people whom one has not seen before. I initially made attempts to differentiate "real" residents from "part-time" residents, but ended by accepting the native categories.

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Bǎo'ān is a "pure" village, entirely Taiwanese ethnically, with no admixture of Hakka, aboriginal, or mainland immigrant populations.4 It is pure in another way as well: there is but one, rather apologetic, Christian family, and no declared agnostics or atheists. Although a small number of village men hold jobs in Xīgǎng or Táinán and commute by bicycle or motorcycle, the vast majority of the residents of the village are farmers with tracts of land situated within about a three-kilometer radius of the village. There were some eight to twelve shops in 1968. The number varies according to the season: in summer many people open small watermelon stands or sell their produce in the village. One of these establishments belongs to an herbalist and another to a maker and mender of bicycles. The remainder sell foodstuffs, and when they become prosperous enough, lay in a stock of stationery, writing brushes, ink, candles, spirit money,5 cigarettes, pencils, matches, pickles, firecrackers, candies, soy sauce, twine, straw hats, soap, paper fans, wine, copybooks, household medicines, and other small items of daily need and comfort. With the exception of the young bicycle smith, all the shop owners also maintain fields.

Footnote 4. The trivial exception is two women from mixed Taiwanese-aboriginal villages in the foothill areas of northeastern Táinán county. Both Women are native speakers of Hokkien, and if they differ from other village Women at ail it is perhaps only in a slightly greater forcefulness in handling their household affairs.

Footnote 5. Spirit money is sheets of paper bearing a thin tinfoil square and overprinted with designs showing gods and bearing expressions of earthly joy. It is burned to provide money to gods or to the dead. This paper is also used by spirit mediums to write charms and in the handling of religious objects too hot to touch (such as the pan in which such paper is burned) and for sundry other purposes. Other terms for spirit money include joss-papers, paper money, and mockmoney. None of these terms has much to recommend it. For a summary of information on spirit money, see Huáng Déshí 1967: 58.

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The village is fairly pure in one more respect: about three quarters of the inhabitants share the surname Guō , although they belong to at least five stocks of Guō, as we shall see in more detail below. Because of the high concentration of Guō in this village, and a neighboring sister village, both are under the special patronage of King Guō, a god whose principal Taiwanese temple is located in Táinán city, from which a joss6 tours and visits both villages once in three years, to which a good deal of money was contributed by individuals and villages a few years ago for its construction, and to which village people have recourse in spiritual need when local gods are unable or unwilling to assist them.

Footnote 6. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word joss first appears English in 1711, borrowed from Chinese Pidgin English and apparently a corruption of Portuguese deos, "god." The term denotes a carved image of a Chinese god. used as an object of worship.

Bǎo'ān is a tightly nucleated cluster of buildings. Many of these are houses of the inhabitants, of course. They tend to face south (for reasons of aesthetics as much as of geomancy) but are placed at just slightly different angles from each other (for reasons of geomancy alone). In the remote past these were simply built wherever there was land geomantically well endowed in the village. In Japanese times a grid of roads was laid out, and today houses are lined up, after a fashion, along these roads, though many buildings also continue to be laid out in the same disorderly, old-fashioned way in the interstices between the roads.

If the human dwellings are built hard by one another, the spacing is rendered yet tighter by the presence of countless pigsties, brick latrines, and enormous spherical wattle-and-daub grain bins in a shape that reminds Western visitors of outsized birdhouses.

Before the construction of the dikes defining the limits of the river wadi, Bǎo'ān was situated in the area that is now enclosed between them. Because of periodic flooding, some people built houses on the present Bǎo'ān site. When the dikes were built, Bǎo'ān and one other village in the flood zone area were dissolved. Most of the Bǎo'ān population moved to the present site. Land holdings, however, were distributed over a wide area, interpenetrating the holdings of other villages, the usual Taiwanese pattern.7 Some of this land was on the opposite side of the Zēngwén Xī, and some families even had most of their land in that area. In time a few families established a new settlement across the river so that they could be closer to this land.

Footnote 7. Cf. Gallin 1966: chapter 4, especially the map on page 100.

Today there are 135 houses in Bǎo'ān proper, and another 20 across the Zēngwén Xī in the daughter settlement, also considered part of Bǎo'ān. This makes a total of 155 houses for 227 households, or an average of 1.47 households to the house. This figure seems low for Táiwān.8 Perhaps the lower ratio of households to houses in Bǎo'ān can be attributed originally to a spate of house building connected with the move of some families out of the primary village in the wadi land to the present Bǎo'ān site before the dikes were built. In recent years the effect may have been amplified by (1) increased prosperity, hence greater funds for house building, (2) the inclusion of adjacent parcels of land within the ritually defined limits of the village, rendering them accessible for building, (3) restricted building land immediately adjacent to some existing buildings into which they might easily be expanded to hold more residents, and (4) recent migration across the river and the construction there of 20 new buildings. In Bǎo'ān even the largest compound contains only 26 people, whereas I have visited compounds in other villages with twice that many inhabitants or more.

Footnote 8. Gallin (1966: 29) reports a population for Hsin Hsing in 1958 of 656 people in 115 households (an average of 5.7 as against 7.3 inhabitants per household in Bǎo'ān), and his map on page 27 shows 39 houses, which would make 2.9 households per compound (assuming he has mapped all the buildings).

Footnote 9. The term kong-chhò· means "community hall" in Hokkien. The usual characters used to write the expression are 公厝. The second of these in Mandarin is Cuò, a temporary shelter in which a coffin may be stored pending its burial. Whether the words are etymologically related, or whether the Hokkien word chhò· has simply borrowed an homonymous character, is not clear to me, but in either case it is important to recognize that the word has somewhat different and potentially confusing meanings in the two languages. Recently the trend in Táiwān has been to build a community center in addition to a temple, the usual term for this being "education and recreation centre 育樂中心. During the period I lived in Bǎo'ān, the village acquired such a building. This is not inevitable, however, and in many villages even very new temples still provide facilities for a kindergarten and a village office, the latter usually equipped with a public address system that can be heard throughout the village.

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In addition to shops, houses, and pigsties, the village bas one other building: a small temple, or kong-chhò· 公厝. This was dedicated during the Dàoguāng 道光 period of the last dynasty (1821-1850), but the present structure was built in the early 1930s. The temple bas served at various times as a village office, as a meeting hall, and as a primary school or kindergarten. When the public health service calls to give inoculations, it is done at the temple. When the manufacturer of puffed-rice confections comes to town, he sets up on the porch of the temple. But its primary function, and today very nearly its only function, is religious. The temple is the site of semimonthly worship by all the village families, as we shall see below. It is also the site of extraordinary worship at New Year and on other festival days, such as the birthdays of important gods.

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The temple owns two of the many josses in the village, or, more exactly, the village owns them in the name of the temple. I do not know the history of these two josses, except that they are considered to be very old. They represent the Queen of Heaven (天 后, 媽祖, or 天上聖母) and Marshal Xiè 謝 府 元 帥, both popular deities in Táiwān. Like most josses, they are decorated with gold plaques worn about their necks, the presents of grateful worshippers. Unfortunately, cases are known of thieves visiting some villages and stealing such readily accessible gold. For this reason a publicly owned joss is not kept in the temple, but is circulated from house to house, remaining at one house until another family wishes to consult the god represented by the image, then remaining with the second family until a third uses it.10 The temple altar bears only one statue: an old one in poor condition representing the goddess Guānyīn 觀音. Most people do not consider it very powerful, and some consider it to have lost its efficacy completely. It bears no gold, and the temple in this way contains little of intrinsic interest to potential thieves.11 A volunteer temple keeper burns incense in the building mornings and evenings, but the actual administration of temple affairs is in the hands of a committee based upon the "portions" into which the village is divided for political purposes, as we shall see in a moment. At New Year, divination blocks are dropped before the temple in connection with the name of each household head, and the number of successive positive throws made in the name of each is recorded. Within the set of names for each portion, run-off throws are made until two names have more points than any others, and these two households are the portion's representatives 股首 to the temple committee for that year. At each semimonthly sacrifice before the temple, one of these families (selected by rotation) provides the sacrifices for the altar itself and sees to the organization of the rites. In addition to the fourteen families thus selected, a censer master 爐主 is chosen, also by divination blocks and points, who has general authority over the temple, including such matters as setting up benches if there is to be a meeting, and tending to the provision of offerings of fruit and flowers on the altar.

Footnote 10. As we shall see below, many privately owned josses also circulate widely in the village. The usual motive in borrowing a joss is that one wishes to consult the god on some subject in a séance or by other means of divination.

Footnote 11. In some villages better doors on newer temple buildings can be securely locked at night, or in some cases iron bars are installed before the naos. At larger temples, such as that at Xīgǎng. good locks at night and constant attendance n daylight hours obviate the need for bars or absent gods, although a substantial wooden picket fence guards the naos nevertheless.

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For more efficacious consultation with the gods, village people visit the temple of the Queen of Heaven in Xīgǎng.12 The Xīgǎng temple is much larger and serves many more worshippers. It is more elaborately fitted than the temple in Bǎo'ān, and provides more elaborate means of divination.

Footnote 12. The temple is officially called the "hall for celebrating peace" 慶安宮. I shall refer to it as the Xīgǎng temple. A description of this fascinating-edifice has been published by Chén Qīnggào and Xiè Shíchéng 1963: 281ff.

Politically, Bǎo'ān regards itself as a unitary entity, almost entirely free of factions. It participates vigorously and enthusiastically in the election of officials at all levels of government, from the provincial down to the purely local. At the township level one can distinguish two important factions, associated with the surnames Guō and Huáng , but incorporating people of all surnames in each faction. Although these seem to derive directly from factions that competed with some bloodthirstiness during Qīng times, today they coexist inconspicuously, almost harmoniously, and share the government of Xīgǎng in an equilibrium that shifts slightly with each election. During the period I was in Bǎo'ān, the Guō faction, with which Bǎo'ān associates itself, was clearly dominant in the township government.

Bǎo'ān is governed internally by a town-meeting system. Until 1968, when the new education and recreation center was completed, these meetings took place in the village temple, and the officers preside over the meeting still bear titles related to the temple.13 The offices, corresponding approximately to president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer, are: chairman of the temple board 廟宇董事長; temple director of miscellaneous affairs 廟宇雜事長; temple secretary 廟宇書記; and temple treasurer 廟宇會計. These officials are elected, but only the chairman of the temple board is officially recognized by higher governmental levels, and not in his capacity as chairman of the temple board, but as mayor, for the mayor is, ex officio, the chairman of the temple board.

Footnote 13. The government of everyday temple affairs is in the hands of the censer master and the temple committee, as we have seen. The use of the word temple in the present context is more or less equivalent to village in connotation.

The mayor is the chief administrative officer of the village. He is assisted in administrative tasks by a committee of headmen chosen from the portions .14 For administrative purposes, Bǎo'ān is divided into seven traditional portions. In each portion one household head is regarded as headman (thâu-kē-á 頭家仔), and the council of seven headmen, together with the elected mayor, provide the administrative apparatus of the village.15

Footnote 14. The "portions" are traditional village divisions. Three of them are named after Taiwanese villages from which Guō moved to Bǎo'ān, and two of these contain only Guō families. The other four are named after sections of Bǎo'ān (e.g., North Road Portion), and of these one contains only Guō families (not surprising considering the number of Guō families).

Footnote 15. On paper, there are fifteen Lín districts in Bǎo'ān, each with a Lín head, but the Lín system, introduced by the national government after the retrocession from Japan, seems less natural than the seven headmen, and the Lín heads are seldom called together.

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Mayors were the only legally elected officials during Japanese times, and seem ordinarily to have served fairly long terms (ten years and up). Two of these elderly and honorable gentlemen are still active in village affairs today. Ex-mayor A is doctrinaire and outspoken, famous for his sharp tongue and his churlish temper. He is noted also for his great knowledge of religious matters and for his fine skill as a storyteller and local historian. Ex-mayor B is more even tempered and easy going, and maintains his political influence in the village through his willing role as a just peacemaker in disputes and through the active and vigilant political intervention in village affairs by his two sons, both men of skill, ambition, and some education, with jobs outside the village but strong local loyalty and interest. These two men often differ with each other on public issues, and B is continuously the victim of A's vilifications even when they are in agreement. Bǎo'ān is not a faction-ridden village by any means, but there are occasional disagreements about public matters, and it is normal for these two elderly men to be important figures on opposite sides of such issues. Each of these men has the backing of his friends as well as of his immediate kinsmen. Both are named Guō, and they are distantly related to each other. Accordingly, their influence is not extended following surname loyalties or even following kinship loyalties to more than a limited degree, but rather on the basis of individual personalities, and to a certain extent of individual issues. The finesse with which these men are able to make themselves spokesmen for different ranges of village opinion, combined with the fact that they are kinsmen, seems to provide a way of channeling village disagreements into a single common decision with few hard feelings.

The present mayor, C, also named Guō, is unrelated to either of the older men, and tends to a course designed to maintain friendship with both sides. He Is a man of great prestige, and his decisions are respected, whether they are about the village and its development or about the settling of private disputes submitted to him for arbitration. When I asked about the most important men in the village, one young woman recited a rhyme that the local children used to sing about it:

D gâu tōa-sian; D (an elderly and well respected Bǎo'ān man) can really shout;
C gâu ko·-chian; C an really talk people into things;
B kiâ chhia bān-bān; B rides his bicycle very slowly;
A kàn-kiāu ū chhut-miân. A has made a name for himself scolding.

Bǎo'ān has other officials who are primarily concerned with government and economic cooperation at higher levels. Five men from Bǎo'ān sit on the representative council of the Xīgǎng Agricultural Association 農會; two Bǎo'ān men are representatives to the Sugar Committee 蔗糖原料委員會; three citizens of Bǎo'ān represent three districts in the Irrigation Association serving Chiayi and Táinán counties 嘉南農田水利會小組長.16 The principal Bǎo'ān official with an outside post, however, is the representative of this village in the township assembly 鄉民代表會. This last is an office of great prestige in the village, and an object of keen competition (often in the form of behind-the-scenes maneuvering) at election time. The township assemblyman and the mayor were commonly represented to me when I first arrived as the most important officials in Bǎo'ān, and are often mentioned together in the same breath as the true governors of the village.

Footnote 16. These districts are not drawn to coincide with village boundaries, and accordingly one of the representatives represents a territory largely outside of Bǎo'ān. The other two represent territories roughly corresponding to the parts of Bǎo'ān on each bank of the Zēngwén Xī.

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Surnames and Lineages

After this quick overview of Bǎo'ān, let us return to a loose end that was (by contrivance) left dangling somewhere between the apologetic Christians and the tightly nucleated buildings; that is, the large number of Guō in the village who are not all related to one another. The point is worth following in some detail, for it is directly related to one of the major differences between southeastern continental China and southern Táiwān: the difference between a lineage-dominated society and one based on other principles and other solidarities.17

Footnote 17. It is not clear to me how much of what I am about to say applies also to northern Táiwān, which was settled somewhat later and under somewhat different circumstances. Although it is convenient to speak of Táiwān and the Taiwanese, what I have in mind is principally southern Táiwān and the southern Taiwanese, particularly the area near Táinán where Bǎo'ān is situated and where earliest settlement took place.

The majority of the modern Taiwanese are descendants of immigrants from Fújiàn. But although Fújiàn is a province particularly remarkable for its baroque lineage organization, Táiwān shows little evidence of this tradition. The Chinese word that has been translated "clan" or "(corporate) lineage" is Zú/chók . I originally arranged that my census forms should include a space in which the affiliation of each household might be recorded. Unfortunately race or ethnicity is often expressed with the same word, and it is this latter meaning that occurred first to the minds of the village people. When I would ask what a man belonged to, he would reply that he was Chinese , that everyone in Bǎo'ān was Chinese, and that it seemed to him a benighted item to include in a questionnaire. The reason was simple: in Bǎo'ān there are no corporate lineages. My question, instead of being sophisticated and within-the-culture —and I had been very proud of it for just these reasons— was irrelevant and prejudiced the case.

Fragments of the complex of things associated with lineage on the Chinese mainland apparently have existed in Táiwān in the past, and one still comes upon maddeningly suggestive hints of them. Although today no descent groups own common land or other communal wealth, nevertheless one group of related families is still somewhat embittered by the alleged embezzlement of funds deriving from a small plot of collectively owned land in the 1930s. But only one group.

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Another group of families in Bǎo'ān has a written genealogy, a small copybook containing names of male descendants and some collaterals beginning with a ninth generation ancestor who immigrated from Fújiàn and ending with the present nineteenth generation.18 The document is kept as a matter of curiosity primarily, and not used in any obvious way. For example, to the best of my knowledge, these families do not worship ancestors more remote than those worshipped by other people because of their knowledge of them through the written genealogy, nor do they attempt to maintain a wider network of kinship ties. Another group of families was recorded on a genealogy kept in another village (and again a bit out of date), but none of the Bǎo'ān families had a copy, and once again the document was not considered particularly important. Gallin's comment on lineage organization in Hsin Hsing (1966: 136) could equally well apply to Bǎo'ān: lineages are of "relatively small size and minimum formalization" in Táiwān, probably in all areas.

Footnote 18. Previously it was not kept that well up to date. In a frenzy of enthusiasm one day, one of my field assistants added the last two or three generations.

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There is a fairly straightforward reason why extensive and well-organized corporate lineage groups should be less imposing in Táiwān than in Fújiàn, and it relates to the nature of early settlement patterns on the island. Táiwān, throughout the history of Chinese settlement, has been almost exclusively a haven for refugees. The bulk of early Chinese settlers seem to have come during the seventeenth century; During the thirty-seven years of the Dutch administration (1624-1661) subsidies were offered to settlers growing rice and sugar on government-owned land, and Chinese settlement was actively encouraged to provide cheap labor (Liao 1949: 13). The seventeenth century was, of course, the period of the decline of the Míng dynasty, and in the course of things the southeastern coastal area fell into the hands of a certain Koxinga, a pirate loyal to the Ming dynasty, whose programs included expelling the Dutch from Táiwān and the Manchus from the mainland.19 In the former he was successful, in the latter frustrated. In iy case, in the course of his crusades he recruited a large army along the mainland coasts, most of whom ended up in Táiwān. Chen Ta writes (1923):

Footnote 19. The name Koxinga is a corruption of the Hokkien kok-sèng-iâ 國姓爺, "lord of a national surname," an appelation referring to the privilege extended to him by the last Ming emperor of assuming the surname of the royal house. His own name was Zhèng Chénggōng / ten-sêng-kong 鄭成功, and this is the usual name used for him in Táiwān today.

Many of his soldiers who were discharged from the army made homes in Formosa. According to whether they came from Kwangtung or Fújiàn, they were known as Hakkas or Hoklos. … Numerically the Hoklos predominated, for in 1661 Koxinga recruited about 30,000 soldiers and marines from the coast villages in Fukien, and three years later his son again recruited between 6,000 and 7,000 from southern Fukien. A great majority of these were unmarried and afterwards settled in Forinosa (pp. 42~43).

Up to 1760 emigrants' sweethearts, wives, and relatives who had been left behind in their own villages were allowed to join them in Taiwan. But when the coast was made dangerous by the frequent raids of the pirates, the Chinese Government prohibited further emigration of emigrants' relatives … (p.42).

In addition to the army of Koxinga and their relatives, numerous other refugees from the Míng collapse found their way to Táiwān (Liao 1949: 13), just as numerous refugees from communist China have done in our own day.

When the settlers were not political refugees, they were economic ones, either forced from Fújiàn by famine and poverty, or attracted to Táiwān by promises of unlimited land at the frontier, or both. Writes Chen:

Fukien [Fújiàn] is a mountainous Province whose scanty production of rice and other food articles is not sufficient to feed its local population. Consequently the inhabitants of the coast villages were under a strong economic pressure to emigrate (p.39).

During the fifteenth century about 25,000 Chinese settled in and around Anping [situated on the coast at Táinán city] and were engaged in agriculture and industry. Fishermen visited the southwestern shore of the island and had temporary homes in the coast villages…. These were pioneer days in Formosa (p.40).

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According to De Mailla, who visited the area in 1715, the only force that prevented truly massive migration to Táiwān at that time was the extortionate price demanded for passports and other "necessary" papers by the mandarins controlling migration across the straits.20 Nevertheless, in commenting on this passage of Father De Mailla's account, Davidson (1903: 69) speaks of "many hundred thousand emigrants" from Fújiàn, Guǎngdōng, and the city of Jìnjiāng 晋江 who apparently succeeded in getting through this gamut of payments.

Footnote 20. Father De Mailla's account, originally in Portuguese, was published in English in the Shànghǎi Celestial Empire and reprinted in Campbell 1903: 504~518.

However encumbered by official policy or abuse, immigration into Táiwān apparently continued throughout Qīng times until it was prohibited under Japanese law. Chen reports arrivals and departures of steamship passengers at the ports of Dànshuǐ 淡水 and Gāoxióng 高雄, the two international ports in Qīng times (Chen 1923: 44). In most years arrivals exceeded departures, and between 1873 and 1895, 9,833 persons arrived in Dànshuǐ and 4,479 at Gāoxióng in excess of the number leaving during the same period.21 Because the bulk of immigrants might have been expected to arrive by junk at these or at domestic ports, the actual number of immigrants during this period must surely have been higher. Immigration to the island was actually encouraged at various times. Davidson (1903: 210) speaks of an immigration bureau organized in the 1870s to bring "coolies from the overcrowded districts of Swatow [Shāntóu 汕頭] and vicinity" to Táiwān, where they were "given grants of land in the sparsely settled districts between Takow [modern Gāoxióng] and the extreme south of the island," presumably both to relieve population pressure on the China coast and to populate Táiwān.

Footnote 21. The number is actually slightly higher, because figures are incomplete for 1885 and 1891 and thus excluded from these totals. The total arrivals at Dànshuǐ were 151,982 as against 142,149 departures. The equivalent figures for Gāoxióng were 15,873 as against 11,394.

It has been suggested that these settlers were lower-class to begin with. They would have come from nuclear or minimally extended families for the most part (or would have come to Táiwān in nuclear family groups), with little direct experience in the leadership of truly successful or elaborate lineage organization, with little direct knowledge of the management of lineage ancestor cults, and no money to operate such things even had they had the necessary knowledge. Indeed, they would for the most part have lacked immediately known illustrious ancestors who had served in high offices such as always formed the particularly attractive objects of worship in the cults of the wealthy. More importantly, it would often have been the case that an immigrant would have arrived in Táiwān with few relatives on the island with whom cooperation along lineage lines would have been useful or even possible. Furthermore, many intended to return to Fújiàn later and would have seen no point in the establishment of full lineage trappings in their semicolonial environment.

But another form of social organization emerged from the wealth of available Chinese social traditions, one that was much better adapted to the frontier conditions. By a polite fiction, Chinese assume that all men of the same surname are relatives, even though no link can be traced.22 Accordingly a man with my surname, wherever he be from, bears a relationship to me that is in some way special, and different from the relationship which I have with people of other surnames.23 Furthermore, the total set of Chinese surnames is not large, and no more than ten surnames account for more than half of the population.24 Thus identity of surname can be made a basis of political support and economic cooperation. It is like a letter of introduction or having a friend in common. In the great reshuffling of different elements of the Fújiànese population as they drifted to Táiwān, surname identity together with place of origin could easily have provided the quickest and most efficient way to form important kinds of alliances.25

Footnote 22. A Taiwanese proverb puts it with all the conciseness of the Napoleonic Code: 'A common surname means a common ancestor" (kāng sèn to-sī kā chó· 共姓就是共祖).

Footnote 23. For this reason Taiwanese surname groups are effectively exogamous, and marriage within the surname group is considered degrading and unfortunate, and possibly dangerous to the children. A girl marries within her surname group only because she is so undesirable that she is a "person with no place to find a husband" (bô-tàng-kè-á 無地嫁仔).

Footnote 24. Liào Hànchén (1960) found a total of 737 surnames in a sample of 828,804 Taiwanese households, of which the ten most common surnames accounted for 429,249 households, or nearly 52 percent of the total, and 479 surnames —more than half— were represented by ten or fewer households. The Taiwanese proverb is not far from the truth when it says, "Chén, Lín, Lǐ, Guō, and Cài are half the people in the world" (tan, lîm, lí, koeh, chhòa: thian hā chiàm chít pòan 陳林李郭蔡天下占一半). For the ten most common surnames, the actual ordering in Táiwān, following Liào's sample, is Chén, Lín Huáng, Zhāng, Lǐ, Wáng, Wú, Cài, Liú, Yáng 陳 林 黃 張 李 王 吳 蔡 劉 楊. In Táinán county, where Bǎo'ān is situated, the ordering is Chén, Lín, Huáng, Lǐ, Wáng, Wú, Yáng, Zhāng, Cài, Guō 陳 林 黃 李 王 吳 楊 張 蔡 郭.

Footnote 25. The importance of surname groups in Táiwān, at least in recent times, is revealed by a Japanese government survey published in 1919 (summarized by S. H. Chen 1956: 10). The survey included religious organizations, but since most organizations have some religious symbolism involved in them, Chen points out that "In fact these were associations in response to various social needs." Of 6,159 associations surveyed, 160 (under 4 percent) were "associations to help the education of kinsmen" and none other were directly related to kinship. On the other hand 1,685 (27 percent) were associations organized by people of the same trade; 1,851 (30 per cent) were associations "organized by people living in the same village or town"; and 1,077 (17 percent) were associations organized by people of the same surname. No doubt the trade organizations are urban phenomena. However the local and surname organizations, nearly half of the total, are presumably general and by their very existence and formality reveal the importance of these principles in organizing Taiwanese society.

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The use of surnames to form social groupings seems to be characteristic of Chinese colonial expansion into other areas as well as Táiwān.26 One short guide to San Francisco's Chinatown contains the following interesting passage:

Footnote 26. Cf. Freedman 1966: 162 ff., in which he discusses the colonization of south China during the Tang and Sung and the overseas expansion from these areas. Although Freedman tends to make the argument in terms of "lineages," he concedes that "the large-scale organization of overseas Chinese on the basis of agnatic kinship has typically taken the form of clan association and not the lineage" (p. 165). A clan association is a form "in which men of a common surname are grouped together for limited purposes" for Freedman. The probable circumstance is put even more clearly by Pasternak (1969), who also suggests a number of other ways in which associations might be created to meet the exigencies of the frontier situation and maintains (probably realistically) that real lineages are next to impossible to form in the face of massive organizational need and fairly random migration.

More important [than special-purpose organizations] are the family associations —the Chans, Wongs, the Four Families and a score more— made up of people who bear the same name. Presided over by a council, each family organization looks after the welfare of its members, and its influence extends across the continent. At their last San Francisco convention, for example, the Wongs attracted 10,000 other Wongs from all corners of the United States (Walls 1960: 37).

One result of the importance of Taiwanese surname groupings, at least in the Xīgǎng region where Bǎo'ān is situated, is that villages in many cases include several different groups of related families, with most of the groups bearing the same surname, but unable to trace relationships of kinship between them. Of 227 households in Bǎo'ān in 1967, 164 (72.3 percent) of them bore the surname Guō. These are considered to be divided into five groups according to the town in Táiwān to which their ancestors migrated from Fújiàn, and from which they emigrated to Bǎo'ān.27 There are in addition some Guō households who are unsure of their identification with one of these origin groups, and others who, though associating themselves with one of the origin groups, cannot trace a genealogical connection within it.

Footnote 27. There are no traditions about the founding of Bǎo'ān. One man, now in his sixties, claims that when his grandfather's great-grandfather (that is, the plus-five generation) first came to Bǎo'ān, it was already a functioning village. Allowing twenty years to the generation, this would place his ancestor's immigration sometime before one hundred and twenty years ago, or before 1847. Allowing twenty-five years to the generation, it would place his ancestor's immigration sometime before one hundred and sixty years ago, or before 1807.

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In addition to this core of same-surname households, families with other surnames also join a village. Table 1 shows the proportions of minority surname households in Bǎo'ān in 1967. Both Huáng and Xú settlements seem to date from at least the mid-nineteenth century, and the Zhāng group is probably almost as old. Like the Guō group it consists of a group of related households plus others not known to be related to them. Single families of various surnames, on the other hand, appear to be of fairly recent introduction. Thus the single Chén household was the result of a matrilocal marriage in 1926 that brought the father of the present household head into the village. During 1967 a neolocal Fāng household moved to Bǎo'ān in order to set up a bicycle shop in an area that seemed commercially ready.

It is far from clear whether groups of surname mates founded the villages or whether a village having, more or less by accident, a preponderance of one surname attracted other settlers who happened to share that surname.28 It seems certain, in any case, that from earliest times Bǎo'ān was a mixed village, dominated however by the Guō surname group. However the villages were originally founded, the identification of surname with village rapidly became crucially important in local wars.

Footnote 28. Chen (1956: 3 ff.) opts for the former model, and suggests that the typical surname village begins "pure" and later expands through the encrustation of matrilateral kinsmen, craftsmen, and itinerant merchants. Whichever pattern applies, the phenomenon seems common. Chen cites a Japanese government survey of a Lín village called "Lin-ts'o-Hau" near "Peikan, Táinán" in which the proportion of Lin in the village is 76.6 percent, startlingly close to the percentage of Guō in Bǎo'ān.

Table 1: Bǎo'Ān Surname Distribution

Surname Number of Households Percentage of All Households
Guō / koeh 164 72.3
Zhāng / tiun 14 6.2
Huáng / nĝ 11 4.9
Xú / chhî 11 4.9
Lín / lîm 7 3.1
Wáng / ông 4 1.8
Hóu / hâun 3 1.3
Lài / lōa 3 1.3
Lǐ / lí 2 9
Xiè / chiā 2 .9
Chén / tân 1 .4
Dīng / teng 1 .4
Zhèng / tēn 1 .4
Jiāng / kang 1 .4
Xiāo / siau 1 .4
Yè / iáp 1 .4
Total 227 100.0%

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The Surname Wars

It is possible to get some hint of how the system of surname villages worked in the climate of Táiwān during the Qīng by reviewing what is known of the history of intervillage conflicts at that time.

Historians of Táiwān speak of battles, even wars, raging between different factions during the late Qīng period.29 One has the impression from the Western sources that at least for the island as a whole the major contingents in these struggles were place-of-origin groups from different parts of Fújiàn, identified partly by dialect (for the Hokkien language is a multidialectical one). At the local level, however, the relevant unit of antagonism seems to have been the surname group. In the Xīgǎng region some villages, because the predominant surname was Guō, constituted a Guō faction, including members of these villages whose surnames were not Guō. Other villages, where the predominant surname was Huáng, constituted a Huáng faction, opposed to the Guō villages, and including members of the Huáng villages whose surnames were not Huáng;

Footnote 29. See Davidson 1903: 63-1 22. Goddard 1966: 92-110, Imbault-Huart 1893: 103-122. Imbault-Huart writes: "The first objective of the Chinese government after gaining possession of the island was to set up administrative machinery capable both of moving and of holding in check the turbulent population" (p. 105). [Le premier objet du gouvernement chinois, après sa prise de possession de l'île, fut d'y établir des rouages administratifs capables de mettre en mouvement et de tenir en bride cette population turbulente.] An anonymous traveler to Táiwān at the beginning of the eighteenth century is quoted by Davidson: "Though they are industrious, yet the emigrants have deservedly a reputation for insubordination and lawlessness. They associate much in clans [probably referring to surname groups], and clannish attachments and feuds are cherished among them; but they are very fond of intercourse with foreigners. Many of them are unmarried or have left their families in China, to whom they hope to return after amassing a little property" (p 69). On the treatment of foreigners during this period, see Pletcher 1949.

Two villages in the immediate vicinity were made up predominantly of Guō: Bǎo'ān and Wúlín.30 At least seven villages were composed largely of persons bearing the surname Huáng. For reasons that are no longer remembered (though they are thought to relate to land tenure31), the Huáng and Guō found themselves increasingly antagonistic to one another until, sometime between 1855 and 1870, open war broke out between the two groups. So few were the Guō in comparison with the Huáng that they are said to have dressed their women as men so that from a distance their forces would look more formidable than they were and thus they might avoid attack.

Footnote 30. Wúlín 梧 林 means "Forest of Sterculia platanifolia." The name is somehow more felicitous in Chinese.

Footnote 31. A somewhat whimsical Taiwanese proverb enjoins the young that "your land comes first, your wife and children second" (tē-it chhān-hnĝ, tē-jī bó·-kián 第一田園第二妻囝).

Little is remembered of these "great wars" of the Qīng period. Those who participated, even as children, are now long dead, as are most of their children, and the tales that are still told are scattered, contradictory, and blurred with the passing of time. Even most of the antagonisms are forgotten, though such standing intervillage antipathies as seem to appear today are often along the same lines that were apparently battle lines a century ago, and the local (township-level) political factions are still those of the Guō and the Huáng, however much they may become complicated by individual issues and particular personalities.

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The incident that began this war was trivial enough: an ox, belonging to a Guō family, wandered into a Huáng field and was slaughtered by the owner of the field. For thirteen years thereafter battles raged. The Huáng seldom made direct forays into Bǎo'ān or Wúlín, but preferred to ambush individuals on the roads, and accordingly people named Guō could not safely travel to sell their produce or to obtain provisions from the outside. (Indeed, as we shall see, there were problems even for people who were not named Guō if they were allied with the Guō.) On roads now often paved and busy with motorcycle traffic, lone travelers on foot were ambushed and occasionally killed. In fields where today one finds only sugar cane and rice paddies, the "soldiers" of the opposing sides met in formal battle and fought with wooden and bamboo swords, clubs, and tridents, and occasionally with rather primitive firearms.

The battles seem to have been inspired partly by the desire that one's own dead should be fewer in number than the enemy dead. Reports vary on the number of people killed in total, the highest estimate being eighty-two (forty-one on either side), but most agree on the figure of thirteen Huáng against twelve Guō when at length government authorities forced the war to a close and decided upon reparations to be paid for the imbalance in the dead. (The Guō faction avoided the reparations by disinterring a recently buried corpse, decapitating it, and presenting its head to the mandarin as a thirteenth victim on the Guō side. The Huáng apparently did not realize the victim was not theirs and did not protest.)32

Footnote 32. To the best of my knowledge the numbers eighty-two, forty-one, thirteen, and twenty-six have no importance in Chinese numerology. See Granet 1934: 127-248. What is significant is not the figures themselves, but the effort to keep the number of casualties exactly equal.

The Guō did not win the war. It was at best a draw. Even a draw is impressive, however, considering the situation in which Bǎo'ān and Wúlín found themselves when hostilities originally broke out. Insofar as it is possible today to reconstruct the events of the period, the local Guō seem to have done as well as they did because they engaged in various kinds of alliances with other groups.

One major source of assistance seems to have been other people named Guō (not known to be relatives) who lived in Táinán city. The Guō of Táinán were worshippers of King Guō, a patron god of places in which Guō are particularly numerous. One heavily mythologized account speaks of a visiting god being implored by a goddess worshipped in Bǎo'ān to assist her in protecting the village. The visiting god suggested that King Guō, divine protector of the Guō surname, was the appropriate deity to apply to, and the goddess accordingly obtained the cooperation of King Guō, who directed his followers in Táinán to assist Bǎo'ān and Wúlín. The cooperation with the Guō in Táinán city seems to have been based heavily upon surname solidarity, and it is assumed by most informants today that the Guō of Táinán contributed their bit in these early struggles because, and only because, they shared a surname. However suspicious we may be of this as a total explanation, it is clearly an important part from the Taiwanese point of view. The assistance, by the way, was rendered by the Guō of one district of Táinán only, and apparently not by any city-wide surname organization.

The aid given by the Guō of Táinán was not directly military, but rather consisted of providing such goods as the people of Bǎo'ān were unable to bring into the village through normal trading channels because of Huáng blockades and ambushes on the roads. The supplies from Táinán were floated on bamboo rafts along the coast and up the Zēngwén Xī to Bǎo'ān. To avoid ambush from Huáng-allied riverside villages downstream, much of this work was done at night and apparently was successful.

A second source of assistance came from alliances with other surname groups in the area. One of these was named Chén and lived in a small village some three or four kilometers to the north of Bǎo'ān. The Chén lent manpower and in at least one celebrated incident provided an armed escort for rafts being brought up the river from Táinán. The basis for the alliance with the Chén is not certain. Local tradition says simply that the patron god of the Chén in that village, Marshal Xiè, commanded them to assist the Guō of Wúlín and Bǎo'ān. Before such a command would have been credible, sentiment must have been running heavily in favor of helping the Guō already.

Village tradition maintains that Marshal Xiè himself joined the Chén in assisting Bǎo'ān, and it is not difficult to imagine a delegation of Chén , perhaps armed, proceeding with the Marshal's palanquin to Bǎo'ān where, through his spirit medium, the god revealed the god of the Huáng to be nothing but a transformed dog demon, formidably powerful in the human world but an inferior being in the supernatural sphere, and revealed a charm for the defeat of the Huáng.

Now a large number of those who bore the name of Huáng lived at XYZ village, and when they were making war a certain god called the Red Duke 紅 公 組 was helping them. The Red Duke was a trans-formation of a black dog devil 黑 狗 精, so their strength was very great. At that time we were very pathetic here. So Marshal Xiè … came and helped us. … Of course he knew what kind of god the Huáng's god was, so he told the people of this village to make a dog tub33 and carry a [black] flag [of the kind used in exorcism]. When we went to war we were to recite a charm: He who meets the black will fall 見 黑 就 倒. From the time we began doing this, we won every battle with the Huáng, that is we defeated the Huáng.

… I understand that after they had produced the dog tub, they won every battle. Whenever they spoke this sentence, the Huáng people would fall down.

Footnote 33. I have been unable to identify the item in question. The Chinese term 狗 桶 means simply "dog tub" but may apply in a metaphorical sense to some other item.

Although we do not know the basis of the Chén-Guō alliance, the important point is that it was somehow contracted, and that the unit that seems to have been involved was defined on the basis of surname and locality.34 Informants maintain that other such alliances were also contracted with surname groups in various villages, a degree that enabled their faction to hold its own against the Huáng villages, but there is disagreement about which villages were involved, partly due to changes in village names at various times.

Footnote 34. To the best of my knowledge research is still wanting concerning "traditional" alignments between surname groups in Táiwān. At the present time there are hints of such alliances at least in restricted areas, but it would be of interest if, say, all Chén were (now or in the past) conceived to bear a friendly relation with all Guō, while all Huáng were assumed to be hostile to all Guō.

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A third source of assistance was immigration of additional Guō families into Wúlín and Bǎo'ān from villages where they were harassed by Huáng. Some villages seem to have been able to maintain neutrality, and minority Guō populations in them were comparatively safe. In other cases, their safety was more chancy, and at least one family still recalls that they moved to Bǎo'ān because their house in another, unallied village was burned to the ground by the Huáng.

A fourth source of assistance came through ties of village solidarity which compelled non-Guō of the Guō villages to assist in various ways. The war was between surname groups, and particularly between surname groups further delineated by village affiliations. At the same time, village dwellers of other surnames' apparently could not remain entirely neutral, but had obligations to the dominant faction. In some cases, village loyalties even took precedence over surname loyalties (not surprising if the alternative is having one's house burned to the ground). Provisions were obtained for Bǎo'ān, for example, by village people bearing other surnames, and; in particular, families named Xú and Huáng (!) are remembered for this service to the Guō of Bǎo'ān. These non-Guō participants were clearly resented by the enemy and apparently were interfered with from time to time, but they enjoyed nevertheless the status of nonantagonists in the struggles. A keen appreciation of this point is displayed by the informant who spoke of a Xú provisioner who ran afoul of the Huáng while on a mission: "I have heard that one time one of our Xú runners was caught by the Huáng and his ear was cut off. This was to symbolize that he was not named Guō, and the Huáng couldn't kill him."

The point of all this is that the relevant units in the Huáng-Guō conflict were surname groups, which were in various ways further defined by village association. The basic units seem to have been same-surname subsets of particular villages, which then contaminated, as it were, sharers either of the surname or of the village with secondary responsibilities in the conflict. The Guō ultimately emerged undefeated because of their successful manipulation of surname and village loyalties. This manipulation entailed enlisting the aid not only of people of their same village and of their same surname, but also of at least one other group defined by other surname and village boundaries, namely, the Chén. It is significant that no specific mention is made by any informants about reliance on kinship links in the formation of these alliances. The units are always the Guō of such and such a place or the Huáng of this village or that; and the authority for participation of outsiders is cited as that of a god who patronizes a group delineated by surname and locale.

I am not saying that the loosely structured units that emerge are not lineage units. That depends upon how one defines lineage, and I understand that Taiwanese surname-village units are similar in some ways to lineage units in other parts of the world. But I am arguing that they are not (Chinese lineage) units. They are not units because they do not recruit their membership as a recruits its membership, because they do not have common holdings of land or other wealth as a does, and because they are not called Zú, but are referred to merely by the surname involved (the Guō of Bǎo'ān, the Lín of Táinán, the Chén, the Wáng).35 They represent an alternative form of social organization, similar in certain ways to organization, but distinct from it: a natural outgrowth of Chinese ideas about social organization that is also well adapted —and I would prefer to say preadapted— to a colonial area such as Táiwān.

Footnote 35. Traditional units are sometimes referred to in the same way. The point here is that this is the only way in which informants refer to these southern Taiwanese social units.


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