Kaohsiung Is Still There, But Where Are All Its Old Friends?

An overlooking map of a Taiwanese harbour was accidentally found in a report published by the Naval School of Military Government and Administration of Princeton University in 1944, which was titled TAKAO…..


TAKAO is acutally a Makatao word, one of the Taiwanese indigenous languages now already extinct, which means “bamboo forest”. Takao was later transcribed into Japanese kanji Taka-o, which was then transliterated into Chinese characters, 高雄, or Kaohsiung, the 2nd biggest city now in Taiwan!


The Old Name of the 2nd Largest City in Taiwan is in an Indigenous Language

“When the English adventurer, W.A. Pickering, visited Kaohsiung, the Makatao people were all gone. Where were they?”

Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. This was where the indigenous people, Makatao were supposed to be, and too the place name is in the language of Makatao as takao, which means “bamboo forest”; just like the famous Love River of Kaohsiung nowadays used to be called the Takao River.

In 1862, the conquistadores and the adventurers from the West sailed boats along the Takao River, through the wild jungle among the swamps of Southern Taiwan:


There was the home to many Makatto people in the community Takao at the time. But when the English adventurer, W.A. Pickering, visited Kaohsiung, the Makatao people were all gone.

Where were they?

Who Drove the Makatao People Out of Their Homeland?

“Many regard the practice of beheading of the Austronesian peoples  was cruel and inhuman. But how about the repeated massacres by the “more civilized cultures”? “

They story goes back to the 16th century, when a pirate called Lim To Khiam arrived to Southern Taiwan. Lim and his gang were then chased by the army of the Min Dynasty and fled to Takao, now Kaohsiung, the second largest city, and also the second capital in Taiwan.

These “civilized” people from China believed to apply the humans’ blood to the ships could ward off evil spirits. So Lim and his people slaughtered the local indigenous people of Makatao in Takao and made ships with their blood. Many Makatao people died in the slaughter and the rest of them then escaped to Pintung, the southernmost end of Taiwan. The “civilized” slaughtered was all recorded in the history of China’s Chin Dynasty later, e.g. in the History of Fengshan by Wen-Da Chen:

「…… 原有番居焉.至林道乾屯兵此山,欲遁去,殺土番取膏血以造舟;番逃,而徙居於今之阿猴社 ……」

(“…… Some indigenous people used to live here (in Takao). But when Lim To Khim was about to leave after they had stationed troops here, Lim ordered his men to slay the indigenous people for their blood to make ships. Some indigenous people fled to nowadays Akao community……”)

The story has another version in the History of Taiwan of Hen Lien:

「…… 從者數百人,以兵劫土番,役之若奴,土番憤,議殺之,道乾知其謀,乃夜襲殺番,以血釁舟,埋巨金於打鼓山,逸之大年,是為華人殺番之始。」

“…… Lim and hundreds of his men robbed the indigenous people and had them slave. The indigenous people were so angry and schemed to revolt and kill Lim. However, the plot was leaked to Lim. Lim then attacked the people over night and smeared boats with their blood…… This was the commence of Chinese history of killing the Taiwanese indigenous people.”

If any of the stories is true, it would lead to the diaspora of the Makatao people of Takao to Pingtung, a county to the south of Kaohsiung. And probably this is why the city of Pingtung used to be called “Akao” — probably a later derivation of their homeland “Takao”?


Many regard the practice of beheading of the Austronesian peoples, which used to be practiced for self-protection or prevention from other tribes’ invasion, was cruel and inhuman. But how about the repeated massacres by the “more civilized cultures”? 

Where to Visit Makatao?

Every fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar is the Night Ceremony of the Makatao people in the Kaboran community in Pingtung. In the afternoon of the ceremony’s day, the people will hold another unique ceremony called Tiao-Xi, “Dancing Drama”.

As the Makatao people there have lived next to the communities of Paiwan and Chinese nearby, many aspects of the local Makatao culture have been influenced by their neighbours, e.g. the Fairies, the Fairy Eggs, and the adjacent cups!

  • Event: The Dancing Drama of Makatao in Kaboran
  • Event Time: 3:30pm – 4pm, Feb 14th 2014 (Fri)
  • Venue: The Kaboran community, Pinging
  • E-map:

See Larger Map

 Any indigenous stories to share with us?
E-mail to Mata Taiwan at [email protected]

Don’t wanna miss any beautiful indigenous stories?
Follow Mata Taiwan at Facebook or Twitter!