2011年8月8日 星期一

Land transaction 1804

[Click to enlarge]

It is often assumed a priori that the Aborigines in Taiwan were forced out by the newly arrived Han settlers. While the contests for land between the highland Hakka and the Aborigines were quite frequent, often with deadly results, it was far more common for the Qing era new immigrants to acquire land through purchases.

The above [source: http://www.darc.ntu.edu.tw] is an executed purchase agreement between a plaines aboriginal seller by the name of 利加力龜達 and two "honest [according to the document]" Han-buyers 郭然 and 石普. The transaction took place in the 11th Month of 嘉慶九年 (1804) for a parcel of land located in 金包里 (now 金山, north of Danshui).

The agreement detailed the boundaries of this piece of land and the purchase price of 40 silver dollars. And the reason for selling was because the owner was no longer capable of tilling the land which he had inherited from his grandfather. The permanent nature of this sale was also stipulated in the contract. It was signed with a thumb print by the seller and also by his witness, a relative named 順生. The official seal of approval was stamped by 翁麗力, the village manager/interpreter, a Han-Chinese, and the commission was also specified in the agreement. The aboriginal seller, most likely an illiterate, had also approved the deal with a palm print.

This was usually how the Aborigines parted with their land ownership during the Qing period that had actually continued into the early Japanese colonial [the Meiji] era. Many such purchase agreements have survived and some archived. The transactions appeared fair and square, at least on paper. Although, despite the lack of evidence, argument to the contrary, i.e., the Han-Taiwanese must have short-changed the ignorant/innocent Aborigines in some way, persists to this day. Naturally, this is not to say that there had never been any instances when the Aborigines were cheated by the Han-people [or vice versa for that matter] for 400 years is a long time. In fact, in early years, there were reports that some Han-men married Aboriginal women for their properties. At least one aspect appears clear that the Aborigines were not forced at knife-/gun-point to give up their land. Now, with more primary documents becoming available, a better understanding should result.

To complete the post: there were other ways for the Aborigines to lose their land ownership. During the Japanese era, those who leased their fields to Han-tenant farmers lost the land title to the government - which abolished the "big bad landlords slave-driving the little tenants" system, allegedly. The land was actually confiscated for developmental purposes, e.g., for growing sugarcane crops and building of sugar processing factories. And often through the eminent domain, whole tribes were relocated to remote areas. This vast governmental land holding was taken over by the KMT gov't in 1945, never returned to the original owners/tribes. And starting in 1947, the 公地放領 [Distribution of the Public Land] component of the 耕者有其田 [Tillers Own Their Own Land Reform] policy has made the situation from bad to worse. This has been a major source of discontent ever since.

4 則留言:

  1. Please elaborate on how the 公地放領 [Distribution of the Public Land] component of 耕者有其田 [Tillers Own Their Own Land Reform] made the situation from bad to worse.

    Was [Tillers Own Their Own Land Reform] 耕者有其田 itself a good policy by KMT? I learned in junior-high textbooks that this policy helped Taiwan's economic development during Chiang Kai-shek's reign. Was there some truth in that?

    On the part about land contest between highland Hakka and the Aborgines, did those Hakka get pushed into the mountains by the Han settlers? Hakka is 客家, or guest families, and not a very honorary title in some respect. I read somewhere that they might be descendents of 蚩尤, the tribal lord that was defeated by the Yellow Emperor 黃帝 in the mythical battle involving fog-and-compass-chariot 指南車, and Hakka people got pushed to the fringe of China's territory ever since. Is there something to that?

    Another thought: that contract of land sale between a Han settler and an Aborigine looks fair and square. I wonder if the Aborigine kept a small parcel in the lowlands for himself or if he sold all and then move to the mountains? Life in the mountains was much tougher than in the plains, wasn't it? How come the Aborigines live en mass in the mountains and don't live in the plains anymore? I mean statistically a small number of Aborigines must have stayed on in the plains even if the majority of them relocated to the mountains. Even if the Japanese government bought up their land through eminent domain, some would have relocated to other lowland areas. If ALL of them moved to the mountains, wouldn't that indicate some forces at work that caused such statistically lopsided distributions?

    Maybe they didn't have the concept of land ownership like the Han settlers did... Maybe tribal dynamics dictated that they always stayed in group and did together as a group... Maybe they were just care-free or care-less...Maybe they liked hunting in the mountains more than farming in the plains...Maybe there's a lot of plains Aborigines still living in Taiwanese cities as middle-class families that I don't hear about...

    I'm short on facts but long on speculations. Maybe someday I should find out where NTU campus is and go there to breathe in some scholarly air or to visit the library. Just kidding.

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  2. Hi Herman,

    NTU = 台大, a tiny school in Taipei.

    Well, the land reform did benefit some small farmers - these and their children are the "deep blue" Taiwanese [as opposed to the "deep green" kind]. The problem was that there were no big bad landlords as that in China. The majority of owners in Taiwan were simply middle-class citizens holding on to some 不動產 passed down from their forefathers. And in a changing society, the owners might move into cities and lease out their farmland to other farmers, the latter not necessarily worse off than the former. It was a KMT political move to demonstrate that it was different from the CCP as far as the land reform. Whether the reform was necessary was not the issue at all. And the owners were compensated with worthless stocks. For more, please read my post on 11/29/10.

    Some of your questions about the fate of the Aborigines can be found in two previous posts (4/10/10 and 4/29/10).

    Did the Hakka get pushed around [by the, you mean the Hoklo, Hakka are Han-people too]? Not really. They came to Taiwan late because, for years, Ming-Cheng turncoat 施琅 would not allow the Cantonese to migrate to Taiwan, Hakka included. The only land available by the time they arrived would be in the hilly areas. Plus the highland Hakka preferred to live in the the hills anyway. As to the origin of the Hakka, no one really knows. One far-fetched proposal is 匈奴, for example.

    You maybe confusing the plains with the mountain Aborigines, only the latter were hunter-gatherers (they hunted with rifles BTW). The land ownership concept was ingrained in the plaines aboriginal peasants. They were very good farmers and certainly knew their rights, not as backward/ignorant as perceived by many. The Han-people, themselves farmers, understood and respected it, hence the purchase agreements. Indeed, the plaines people did not totally disappear, in Danshui area for example, some families are still around.

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  3. Herman has good questions and Eye-Doc has excellent answers. I must agree with Eye-Doc.
    Cho-San

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  4. I neglected to mention:

    公地, the government-owned land, was previously the properties of private owners including the Aborigines. After 放領, the land changed hand again [from bad to worse for the previous rightful owners.]

    Hi ChoSan,

    Haven't heard from you for a while. Thanks for commenting. See you in Danshui soon?

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