The Mona Rudao Files


The Takao Club

The response of the Japanese authorities matched their fury at the insurrection.


Taiwan Governor-General Eizo Ishizuka countersigned the orders for Japanese-commanded forces from Hsinchu, Tainan and Taipei to mount a counter-offensive against the Atayal rebels.


      The Atayal rebels, who numbered between 2 and 300, were to be outnumbered by almost 10 to one. The Japanese forces consisted of 800 soldiers, 1163 police officers and 1381 paramilitary forces, this group containing only 4 Taiwanese (Hoklo) yet 331 aborigines.


      The aborigines in the force included scouts from the Wanta community who were specialised in tracking through the mountainous terrain. These same scouts would later be used to train and support Imperial Japanese troops during the Pacific War, or World War II.

      The Atayal braves remained in possession of the local police stations and other government offices for several days in defiance of immediate Japanese counterattacks. As news of the size of the approaching reached the rebellious braves, Mona Rudao decided to retreat into the mountains with his followers and their families.

      Seeing that the Atayal had already retreated the first Japanese strategy was to induce surrender using first Mona Rudao's sister and then even more ominous methods.


      The picture on the right shows one of the leaflets that were dropped down onto the Atayal mountain fasts after the initial attempts with pack howitzers had failed.


      The images of women and children in the background are to be noted.


Japanese leaflet encouraging rebels to surrender to the Japanese flag under pain of aerial bombing


      The Japanese threats and inducements were to no avail. The Atayal braves surely understood the situation : there could be no surrender. Other Atayal had been killed for even thinking about insurrection for them their duty was to fight for their ancestral lands and to die as necessary.


      The battle had begun.

      The Japanese began with a bombardment by 3 inch cannon. The picture on the left shows Japanese spotters on the terraced hillsides above the cannon from where they could identify targets in the steep mountain terrain.


     However the Atayal braves knew the terrain well. They had secreted themselves into the warren of caves that infests the terrain to the north east of Wushe.


     Whilst the braves were unable to attack the Japanese troops by day, they were free to harry them by night. Mere cannon bombardment was only containing the Atayal force not defeating it. Japan was a modern nation. Modern methods as exhibited by the European nations in World War I were called for.

     The Imperial Japanese airforce had already been deployed on bombing runs against the rebels as indicated in the leaflets dropped over Atayal positions.


     The political need was for a faster solution to this shocking insurrection.


     In mid November the order was given to use more draconian methods.


     The Japanese aircraft were now laden not with explosive but with poison gas canisters to drop on the lightly armed Atayal.




Japanese planes shown at Taichu airfield prior to the attack on Atayal rebels at Wushe

Photo : Taiwan's 300 Years History

      The position became hopeless for the Atayal braves. Virtually entombed by now in the caves  with their families fatal decisions were taken.


      The rebels largely decided to kill themselves. The women first for honour. The men mainly hanging themselves on trees nearby. An eyewitness records that the scant trees were so laden with bodies that the branches all touched the ground.


      The picture above on the left is believed to show one of the sons of Mona Rudao.

     Chief Mona Rudao killed himself on 1 December 1930 within one of the caves.


     The fight continued briefly under the command of the two Hanaokas (see the picture to the left). 


     All resistance was finally crushed in the third week of December 1930. 


     Chief Mona Rudao's insurrection had lasted more than 50 days against the might of the Japanese Empire.

     The outcome for all the parties involved was harsh.


     The number of Atayal involved directly in the insurrection has been put at 1236 coming from six communities under the leadership of Chief Mona Rudao. Of these some 644 died : 267 were slain and 290 committed suicide. Over 500 surrendered to the Japanese authorities and were taken to Wushe barracks.


     The Taiwan Governor, Eizo Ishizuka, was obliged to resign on 16 January 1931 to accept responsibility for the incident. His career was over and he died in 1942.

Eizo Ishizuka 

Governor-general of Taiwan

30 July 1929 to 16 January 1931


     A new governor, Ota Masahiro, was appointed to Taiwan and immediately set about expunging all traces of this embarrassment. It should however be noted that Masahiro did in fact continue and expand the liberal policies of his predecessor.


     As an initial step aborigine bounty hunters were recruited. These men were given weapons by the Japanese and offered the following bounties : leader's head - 200 yen ; young man's head - 100 yen ; female head - 30 yen. The results were 140 killed and 7 suicides ; 2 of the 6 communities wiped out instantly with 3 more erased later. The weapons were handed back to the Japanese along with 105 heads (see below). The perpetrators were rewarded with the land of the six Mahebo communities.


     This treachery is often referred to as the Second Wushe Incident

Bounty collection after surrender

Photo : Taiwan's 300 Year History


     The saga had two final bitter twists. The Mahebo who had surrendered and been taken to Wushe became easy prey. 


      What happened is unknown, but some 216 captives were killed by 'aborigine fighters'. The remaining 298 were relocated to an island in Peikang River (see right). Their land was gone.

Peikang River island penal colony

Photo : Taiwan's 300 Year History

     The second twist concerns the body of Chief Mona Rudao.


     The body was discovered by the Japanese in 1934 in the cave where he had died. Half the body was reportedly mummified.


     The Japanese took the remains to the Department of Archaeology at Taihoku Imperial University where they were subsequently put on display as a warning to all Taiwanese.

     After the Japanese left in 1945 the skeleton plus his presumed gun (see photo on left or enlarged link) remained in the university. No-one knew the identity of the relic and it was believed that the Japanese had taken the body back to Japan.


     In 1981 the skeleton was finally identified as being Chief Mona Rudao - 'the man who dared stand up to the Japanese oppressor' - and he was finally laid to rest.

Mona Rudao's skeleton in Tai Da University