Conflict and the Aboriginal-boundary Policy of the Qing Empire: The Purple Aboriginal-boundary Map of 1784

Lin Yu-ju 林玉茹


Once Taiwan was incorporated into the Qing empire in 1684, there was a massive influx of Han immigrants from the Chinese mainland. They invaded the living space of the aborigines, resulting in continual dispuftes. There were even incidents of major social unrest and anti-Qing rebellions involving the aboriginal regions.

In 1721, the first anti-Qing rebellion, known as the Zhu Yigui Incident 朱 一貴事件, broke out. During the insurgency, the biggest worry for the Qing court was its inability to grasp the situation in the hillside regions and that of ‘raw savages’ (sheng fan 生番),[1] who were aboriginal groups that had not submitted to Qing authority.[2] In 1722, after the incident had been suppressed, Jiaoluo Manbao 覺羅滿保 (1673–1725), the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, implemented a quarantine policy: he closed the hillsides to immigration and demarcated a boundary (fengsan huajie 封山劃界). This was the first time that an aboriginal boundary (fanjie 番界) was established in Taiwan. Later, the Qing court repeatedly delineated the ‘aboriginal-boundary site’, sometimes piling up stones or digging boundary trenches, called ‘earth-oxen ditches’ (tuniugou 土牛溝).[3] On the other hand, during the reign of Qianlong, policies about Han reclamation of the uncultivated lands of ‘cooked savages’ (shu fan 熟番), who were deemed ‘civilised’ aborigines or plains aborigines, mostly from the Pingpu group), changed significantly.[4] In 1745, Gao Shan 高山 (dates unknown), the Fujian commissioner, proposed an ethnic separation policy.[5] In an attempt to keep the Han and the raw aborigines separate, the aboriginal boundary was gradually transformed into a three-layered system following an ethnic spatial layout, with demarcations for Han, plains aborigines and raw aborigines respectively.[6]

Under Qianlong, the ethnic separation policies not only gradually matured but the aboriginal boundary was changed several times in response to the evolving status quo; the revised lines were drawn on the maps. In 1790, Wu Lana 伍拉納 (1739–95), the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, pointed out that four cadastral surveys had been conducted on lands outside the frontier in 1750, 1760, 1784, and 1790.[7] These redefined the boundaries on the maps using red, blue, purple, and green lines.[8] Each new map retained the former aboriginal-boundary lines, so, over time, the lines on the maps multiplied.

Of these maps, the Taiwan aboriginal-boundary map of the mid-Qian-long period (hereafter the ‘blue-line map’) was, for a long time, the only aboriginal-boundary map available to researchers. Earlier scholars on the aboriginal boundary mostly used it as a basis for reconstruction and discussion.[9] However, there are many mistakes on the blue-line map.

‘The Map and Description of Reclaimed and Prohibited Paddy and Dry Land in Taiwan’ (hereafter the ‘purple-line map’) has only recently been rediscovered. Studies suggest that this map represents the third aboriginal boundary drawn during the Qianlong reign. Created as a traditional landscape-style painting in 1784, and drawn in ink and colour on paper, it is a huge subject map almost 6.7 metres in length.[10] This map covers the area south from Xiaku stream 下苦溪 (now Shiwen stream 士文溪, Pingtung county 屏東縣) and north to Sandiao She (tribe) 三貂社 (now Sandiaojiao 三貂角/Cape Santiago, New Taipei City).[11] The drawing follows traditional directionality, with ‘up’ indicating east and left indicating north; landscape-style paintings are orientated along a horizontal axis.[12]

Compared with other maps of the same period, the major distinguishing feature is its 14,000-word description, which helps us understand how the Qing empire established order on the frontier by designating the boundary of the aboriginal territory. It also offers deeper insights into land development, frontier society, and ethnic relationships outside the boundaries of the Qing territory during the Qianglong period.

In addition, as Su Feng-nan 蘇峰楠 observes, this map used the blue-line map as a blueprint and was drawn with reference to other versions.[13] Wu Lana had said that it should be based on previously archived maps with new purple lines painted on. Thus, the context suggests that the map was drawn in 1784, after the cadastral survey on lands outside the aboriginal boundary ordered by Fuleihun 富勒渾 (?–1796), the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang.

As Ke Zhiming 柯志明 points out, the cadastral survey was decreed due to the Lin Dan Incident 林淡案, which occurred in Danshui subprefecture 淡水廳 in 1783. However, the results of the cadastral survey were not finalised by the court, due to the second large-scale anti-Qing rebellion in Taiwan — the Lin Shuangwen Incident 林爽文事件.[14] To deal with problems arising from the incident, the Qing government separated the property of the Han and the aborigines. Property held by Han was taxable; aboriginal lands were not. The rest was absorbed into the uncultivated lands belonging to the garrisons of indigenes (fantun 番屯).[15] For this reason, even though the purple-line map was not approved and finalised by the Qing court, it was the blueprint before the garrison system of indigenes was implemented in 1790. Through the map, we can reconstruct the ideas and imperial territorial policy of the local officials of Fujian and Taiwan.

In sum, regarding the purple-line map, this paper describes why fighting in Taiwan led the Qing empire to continually revise its aboriginal-boundary policy and the demarcation of the frontier. First, it explains the course of the Lin Dan Incident; second, it analyses the kinds of policies that were made by the central and local government in response to the incident; and finally, it illustrates the evolution of the new boundary and its historical meaning.

The Course of the Lin Dan Incident

At the end of the Kangxi period, the foothills were becoming a blind spot for Qing governance, since many instances of anti-Qing rebellion occurred there and there was continual conflict between the Han and the aborigines. Luohan Men 羅漢門 and Binlang Lin 檳榔林 in the Xia Danshui 下淡水 area, where Zhu Yigui (1689/90–1721) and Du Junying 杜君英 (1667–1721) rose in rebellion, were both located in the new reclamation area on the frontier.[16] On the other hand, officials were often punished or impeached by their superiors because of harm caused by the aborigines. Therefore, to exercise its ruling authority and to maintain law and order, the Qing court delineated clear boundaries between the Han settlers and the aborigines in an attempt to separate their living areas and prevent further Han encroachment onto the aboriginal territories.

During the reign of the Qianlong emperor, the number of Han immigrants from the Chinese mainland spiked.[17] They continually invaded the aboriginal territories along the hills. The Qing court changed its policy into one protecting aboriginal land rights and forbidding Han reclamation. However, because of aborigine attacks, the need for societal order, and the Fujian demand for rice, the Qing court could not reach a firm decision on whether to continue reclamation or stop it. Meanwhile, the aboriginal boundary continued to move eastward.[18] In 1751, disputes between the plains aborigines and the Han over reclamation occurred in the lands of Shuishalian She 水沙連社 and Beitou She 北投社, with the latter leading to a disaster called the Neiao Incident 內凹事件.[19] Beitou She even elicited raw aborigines to kill 22 Han and seven soldiers of Liushunan post 柳樹湳汛 in Neiao She 內凹社. After this incident, the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, Kaer Jishan 喀爾 吉善 (?–1757), was afraid that illegal reclamation outside the boundary would cause major social unrest. He thus commanded all Taiwan local officials to investigate and survey the border comprehensively, and to forbid illegal reclamation and banish those who engaged in it. This cadastral survey was not completely finished until 1760 because of personnel changes, and the resulting map also re-delineated the blue lines.[20]

The blue lines defined the aboriginal boundary between Zhanghua county 彰化縣 and Danshui subprefecture, which was located north of Huwei stream 虎尾溪 and stretched to the Balian harbour 八連港 area. But, after the boundary was delineated, people began to demand that officials repeatedly confirm the actual area, which caused conflicts between the Han and the aborigines to extend gradually northwards. In the 1750s, such conflicts had mostly occurred in Zhanghua county, but, in the 1760s, they transferred to the north central area of Danshui subprefecture. Furthermore, the disputes also changed from centreing on illegal reclamation of the inner regions (jienei 界內) to illegal reclamation of the outer regions (jiewai 界外). In 1766, in today’s Shihu township 西湖鄉, Miaoli county 苗栗縣, the Youwunai 攸武乃 raw aborigines killed the villagers of Houke 鱟殼 precisely because of such outer-region illegal reclamation.

Meanwhile, anti-Qing rebellions continued on the frontier. In 1768, Huang Jiao 黃教 (?–1769) staged an uprising in the hills of Zhanghua county and Fengshan county, which caused a serious security problem.[21] The disputes or conflicts that occurred along the hills often became opportunities for carrying out cadastral surveys of lands outside the border, and for redefining the aboriginal boundaries. A comprehensive cadastral survey of lands outside the frontier commenced in 1784, which reconfigured the purple lines. It, too, was triggered by the Lin Dan Incident of July 1783.

The incident occurred at Huangnitang 黃泥塘, Wushulin 烏樹林 (today’s Longtan township 龍潭鄉, Taoyuan county 桃園縣), Malingpu 馬陵埔 and Wulingpu 武陵埔, which were all located outside the blue lines. These areas were ‘close to the mountains, [and so] raw savages usually haunt them and there is cause for concern’. In 1768, Duan Jie 段玠 (dates unknown), the sub-prefect of Danshui subprefecture hired a local militia of 40 to man each guard post (ai 隘) in Huangnitang and Wushulin, and gave them ‘tokens’ (paichuo 牌戳),[22] which allowed them to open up uncultivated land around the guard posts to raise food for rations.[23] In 1778, Feng Sheng 鳳生 (dates unknown) recruited Lin Dan (dates unknown) and two other Han settlers to reclaim Malingpu in partnership, and decided that, once the crops were well established, they would pay a fixed rent. From 1780 to 1781, Lin Dan and his co-workers recruited 20 more people to reclaim the land together — in a kind of business partnership. In 1781, Asheng 阿生 (dates unknown) also entrusted Lin Dan and Lai Li 賴力 (dates unknown) to open up lands in Wulingpu. Then, Lin Dan called seven people to share his stock again. However, Zhang Ang 張昂 (dates unknown), who was the head of the militia guard post in Wushulin, refused to return the land because his uncle already had an acknowledgement of the right to reclaim Wulingpu from Fang Sheng’s father, Zhi Muliu 知母六 (dates unknown). For this reason, he filed a lawsuit in Danshui subprefecture. However, the sub-prefect of Danshui, Li Junming 李俊民 (dates unknown), determined that Zhang Ang should return this land to Feng Sheng, who could then recruit other tenants to cultivate it. He also determined that the farms near the guard posts should be given to the militia for the cultivation of food for rations.[24]

It is, thus, clear that since the 1760s the local government no longer assigned civilised aborigines to man the guard posts along the hills in Danshui subprefecture, but hired Han instead. On the one hand, the fact that the government had appropriated the land outside the boundary for plains aborigines in 1746, allowing them to farm for self-sufficiency, established a precedent.[25] It meant that this area was reserved for Xiaoli She 霄裡社.[26] Hence, once when a land dispute arose between the Han militia and the aboriginal interpreters (tongshi 通事), the judgement of the sub-prefect of Danshui gave the land to the aborigines for protecting them. Therefore, Xiaoli She’s plains aborigines recruited mostly Han tenants to reclaim lands. They often worked in partnership, so they could gather more than 20 people together and become strong enough to compete with the Han who defended the frontier. That is, they became the two unstable groups on the frontier.

However, the judgements of local officials did not satisfy those who guarded the frontier, and these events triggered fighting with weapons between militia and tenants working on the aborigines’ lands. On 16 July 1783, as Han tenants flocked to Wulingpu, Zhang Ang took guarding the frontier as an excuse to ask the tenants to pay him in food to be used as rations. The tenants ignored his request. Both sides raised a clamour and all left. On 17 July, Lin Dan and other Han tenants, amounting to fifteen people, who were all shareholders in the reclamation of aboriginal lands, went to the guard post with weapons, to destroy houses and to make trouble while the Han militia were escorting villagers into the mountains to fell trees. Although the local constable (xiangbao 鄉保) shouted at them to leave, after Zhang Ang and the others had gone home, they formed a gang of ten people to argue with the Han tenants. They then injured the Han tenants, who later showed their wounds to the sub-district magistrate of Zhuqian 竹塹. On 18 July, with Lin Yun 林雲 (dates unknown) and Lin Dan as leaders, 21 tenants (also shareholders themselves) fought with members of the militia.[27] As a result, four members of the militia, including Zheng Ang, were killed; Lin Yun and Lin Dan burned their bodies. The sub-prefect, Ma Mingbiao 馬鳴鑣 (dates unknown), reported that he then ‘went to investigate this case and arrested the ringleaders’. He held a trial, determining that Lin Yun and Lin Dan had both committed crimes.[28]

In sum, the Lin Dan Incident was nothing more than a case of fighting among militia and tenants based on conflicts over reclamation in the outer region of Danshui subprefecture. Although this case involved 42 people, and killing of four, it did not last a long time, nor did it extend to other areas. Why, then, did it cause the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, Fulehun, to carry out a cadastral survey of all lands of the outer regions and to delineate a new boundary?

The Making of Relevant Policies by Local Officials in Response to the Lin Dan Incident

The Lin Dan Incident started as just a small-scale, local fight on the frontier. For this reason, the Qianlong emperor had extremely little confidence in the local officials of Fujian and Taiwan and strictly enforced policies on Taiwan. Thus, the local officials had to properly handle the aftermath of the incident. In 1782, large-scale fighting between Zhengzhou and Quanzhou immigrants broke out in Zhanghua county. The incident had a huge impact on society; more than 200 people were executed on the spot by local officials.[29]

Yade 雅德 (?–1801), the governor of Fujian province; Mu Helin 穆 和藺 (dates unknown), the Taiwan intendant; and Jin Changui 金蟾桂 (dates unknown), the Taiwan commander-in-chief, had been severely reprimanded by the Qianlong emperor for simply sending the prefect and lieutenant to investigate instead of being at the scene in person.[30] The prefect of Taiwan, Sutai 蘇泰 (dates unknown), was impeached for adopting a ‘peacemaking approach’ (quanyu hexi 勸諭和息) to the case. He was considered to have disregarded the overall situation and been lenient on the criminals because he tried to stop the fighting instead of promptly arresting those involved; he was to be delivered to the Ministry of Punishment for impeachment. The rest of the magistrates and military officials were also impeached and investigated.[31]

The Qianlong emperor considered the fighting was triggered by the local officials neglecting their duty and being lenient on criminals.[32] Therefore, whenever Taiwan encountered any security threats, everyone from high-ranking officials, such as the Taiwan intendant, to prefects and other civil and military officials, were required to go to the scene in person, and execute the criminals on the spot, to serve as a major deterrent. In September 1782, the new governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, Fulehun, was also told several times to immediately go to Fujian and make every effort to rectify the situation. In October, the former Fujian provincial administrative commissioner Yang Tinghua 楊廷樺 (1735–87) was put in charge of the aftermath of the fighting between Zhangzhou and Quanzhou immigrants; he was acquainted with the Taiwan situation, having lived in Fujian for a long time. He was asked to report on the outlaws to the Qianlong emperor directly.[33] However, apart from this large-scale fighting, other groups, such as the Prince (Zhanghua Wangye 王爺會) brotherhood and the Small Knives brotherhood (Xiaodao 小刀會), had shown up one after another. There was also a rumour about gangsters planning to revolt near Fengshan county. This all led to the Qianlong emperor repeatedly stating: ‘As long as the security problems are still unsolved, we should not be lenient to the lawbreakers’.[34]

The Qianlong emperor emphasised again in October 1783:

People in Taiwan are tough and engage easily in affrays. Since last year’s heavy penalties, I thought offenders would be deterred; now, however, the prisoners in this case were still very numerous. Clearly, Taiwan is isolated, located overseas and far away from the provincial capital, and political affairs have long been neglected. We must make more efforts to rectify this.[35]

Under this pressure, the prefects, who had been warned several times, eventually considered every instance of small-scale fighting as a serious crime, and called for more severe retribution. The governor of Fujian province, Yade, responded with this claim from the Qianlong emperor and expressed his opinion about the Lin Dan Incident:

How can we allow those unruly people to break the laws overseas? Moreover, the fighting between Zhangzhou and Quanzhou immigrants in Zhanghua and Zhuluo Counties has just come to an end with severe punishments; there has also been fighting in Danshui. These lawbreakers were not deterred by the former incident at all; thus we must consider this as a major crime, and strict verdicts are needed.[36]

In accordance with the policy of calling for more severe punishments, the Lin Dan Incident was dealt with in the same way as the fighting between Zhangzhou and Quanzhou immigrants in Zhanghua county had been a year ago: the leader of the lawbreakers was executed on the spot. The Taiwan intendant, Yang Tinghua, the sub-prefect of Danshui subprefecture, Ma Mingbiao, and the north-route lieutenant, Zuo Ying 左瑛 (dates unknown) were all impeached due to their poor handling of and tardy response to the incident.[37] In particular, Yang Tinghua was demoted and turned over to the Ministry of Punishment because he ‘did not show up at the scene after receiving the report’, but only dispatched the sub-prefect, Ma Mingbiao, to investigate. His position was filled by the prefect of Zhangzhou, Li Junyuan 李浚原 (dates unknown), on 17 November.[38]

However, on 7 December, Yang Tinghua reported to the Qianlong emperor that he had conducted a survey of Danshui subprefecture regarding the situation of the reclaimed lands involved in the Lin Dan Incident. After receiving the report, the emperor changed his mind and allowed Yang Tinghua to stay in Taiwan to assist with the aftermath due to his familiarity with the area. This was an opportunity for Yang to redeem himself by assisting the new Taiwan commander-in-chief, Chai Daji 柴大紀 (1732–88), with post-incident measures. This led him to approach the cadastral survey and demarcation of lands in an earnest and diligent fashion, making the purple-line map more accurate and detailed than its blue-line predecessor.

After the incident, A-Sheng and the Han tenants were sentenced to a beating of 20 blows each, with the exception of the aboriginal interpreter due to illness. The 42 lawbreakers were punished more severely. The most important problem of how to deal with the disputed lands (fenzheng di 紛爭地) was still unresolved.

In November 1783, Yang Tinghua and Zuo Ying arrived in the outer regions that stretched from Wushulin to Wulingpu to conduct a cadastral survey and discovered that the paddy and dry lands were not the same as recorded. They found there were 547 jia in total.[39] These disputed lands were to be handled as before: apart from the dry land of the aborigines in Malingpu, which still belonged to A-Sheng, the rest were all to become government land or to be classed as prohibited regions.[40] The frontier of Wushulin again recruited 20 locals in order to defend both reclaimed and uncultivated paddy and dry land. Because this area was close to the territories of the raw savages, the local officials had set the boundary below the guard post in Kanding 崁頂. Therefore, reclamation had been permanently forbidden in this region.

The paddy and dry lands in another part of the region — from Anpingzhen 安平鎮 (Taoyuan Pingzhen 桃園平鎮) to Shuzaiyuan 黍仔園 (today’s Pingzhen city, Longtan township, and Daxi township) — were now designated as government land, regardless of their classification as reclaimed or uncultivated. The tenants of these confiscated lands thus had to pay rent to the government (sometimes new tenants were sought).[41] If the government granted the land to the aborigines, then rent was paid to them. Besides the disputed lands, the reclaimed and uncultivated paddy and dry lands outside the frontier in Anpingzhen were also resumed by the government because Yang Tinghua considered them unsuitable for the aborigines; expelling the tenants might cause them to lose their residences. Therefore, he adopted a policy of following the example of official manors (guanzhuang 官莊), and asked the tenants to pay rent as a fixed quota of the harvest; these lands could not be reclaimed by the aborigines and the Han.[42] In other words, on account of the Lin Dan Incident, all the aboriginal lands in the outer regions in Xiaoli She were confiscated by the government, which was the biggest loss sustained due to the fighting between Han tenants and Han militia.[43] Confiscating the aboriginal lands in the outer regions became the main pattern of punishment of the aborigines by the Qing court. As for the Han tenants, they retained their right to be tenants; the only difference was that the proprietorship of the land had been transferred from the aborigines to the government.

Cadastral Surveys on Lands Outside the Boundaries and the Redefinition of the Purple-Line Aboriginal Boundary

In addition to the punishment of people involved in the Lin Dan Incident, cadastral surveys were carried out on the lands located outside the blue lines, and a new boundary to the frontier was delimited. After consulting Huang Shijian 黃仕簡 (1722–89), the Fujian admiral who was in good standing with the Qianlong emperor, the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, Fuleihun, decided that the cause of the incident was a reclamation dispute over the lands in the outer regions.[44] Thus, he appointed Yang Tinghua to conduct cadastral surveys in Danshui subprefecture. On 13 February 1784, the governor-general more formally petitioned for a comprehensive boundary survey on the lands outside the frontier in Taiwan. He pointed out:

I investigated all counties of Taiwan that are close to the regions of ‘raw savages’. Although boundaries are set, lands both inside and outside of the boundaries are uncultivated. Owing to the gradual population growth, reclamation disputes are not uncommon. The Lin Dan Incident is evidence of this. The court has to do cadastral surveys in Taiwan … According to the report of Yang Tinghua, who is conducting a cadastral survey in Danshui subprefecture, the regions that lie between the Han and the aborigines in the rest of the counties must implement comprehensive surveys and delineate the boundaries in order to prevent fighting.[45]

Thus, it can be seen that the cadastral survey on lands outside of the blue-line boundary and the drawing of the purple-line aboriginal boundary were indeed triggered by the Lin Dan Incident. The officials of Fujian and Taiwan also agreed that due to the gradual increase of population pressure, reclamation disputes over lands near the aboriginal boundary had become the key cause of unrest on the frontier. Therefore, it was necessary for the Qing government to undertake cadastral surveys and demarcation of the lands outside of the boundaries. In other words, the redefinition of the aboriginal boundary denoted by the purple lines was caused by reclamation deputes along the frontier; it was not merely due to the aborigine attacks that had characterised the reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng.

Surveys and re-demarcation necessarily involved clarifying land own-ership, and, as Fuleihun pointed out, in order to prevent any trouble, it was essential to select staff members who were conscientious, understood how to deal with local affairs in detail, and who would not be careless. Thus, the governor-general continued to engage Yang Tinghua, who was staying in Taiwan on imperial orders and, as stated, was motivated to make a great effort to manage these surveys well. In conjunction with Chai Daji, the newly appointed Taiwan commander-in-chief, Yang Tinghua immediately took proper charge of the staff, personally visited every place, investigated landownership and measures, and recognised which areas should be prohibited from reclamation or should be reclaimed, as well as drawing the map for reporting.[46] ‘The Map and Description of Reclaimed and Prohibited Paddy and Dry Land in Taiwan’ was the result of comprehensive cadastral surveys and aimed to put an end to the disputes over reclamation in the inner and outer regions.

According to the report of Yang Tinghua, Chai Daji and the Taiwan intendant Yongfu 永福 (dates unknown) carried out the surveys and delimitation themselves. However, since Taiwan was a ‘vast place’, including four counties and one subprefecture, Yang ordered the officials of every county and subprefecture to do surveys on outer regions in advance of their visits. Furthermore, Chai Daji and Yongfu separately reviewed the northern troops and inspected local places; Yang Tinghua also visited each place in person, arranged everything swiftly, and recognised which places should be prohibited or cultivated in order to finish the work efficiently.[47] That is to say, cadastral surveys and delimitation were overseen by Yang Tinghua, but were, in fact, carried out by local officials separately; it was they who investigated and measured the cultivated land, wasteland, paddy, and dry land of the inner and outer regions, and who then drew the map that was submitted to the Qing court with detailed explanations.[48] Therefore, on the purple-line map and in its descriptions, each subprefecture and county are pieced together very clearly. As for the descriptions, the calligraphy describing the area north of Zhanghua county and south of Zhuluo county is obviously dissimilar and represents different hands (see Fig. 1). It should be noted that this map was a draft made after cadastral surveys; it was not redrawn by the imperial painter nor finalised by the Qing court.

Figure 1 Map of the Purple Aboriginal boundary, Zhanghua. Courtesy of Palace Museum collection in Beijing.

Figure 1
Map of the Purple Aboriginal boundary, Zhanghua. Courtesy of Palace Museum collection in Beijing.

Second, the blue-line map made in 1760 functioned as the basis of the purple-line map. During the reign of Qianlong, it had gradually emerged as a template. Once the officials defined the new aboriginal boundary, they followed the previous map, redrawing and revising it. Until 1790, the border included the guard posts of the indigenes, drawn as green lines on the map and finally delimited. Even the huge maps in the Daoguang period depicted the area along the hills quite clearly, but the aboriginal boundary was not drawn in.[49]

Not only did Yang Tinghua personally investigate the locations involved in the Lin Dan Incident and have cadastral surveys conducted in advance of his arrival, Pan Kai, the sub-prefect, also conducted cadastral surveys on the paddy and dry lands of the outer regions in Danshui subprefecture.[50] Therefore, the artificial scenery in Danshui subprefecture, especially the Taipei basin, was drawn in more detail, and even the inner regions of the blue lines also saw many new names added. In contrast, the inner regions south of Zhanghua county approximately followed the blue-line map, and were not changed much. However, although the purple-line map used the blue-line map as its basis, it did not employ the same painting style, and was more detailed. In the Zhanghua county area of the map, much of the calligraphy was written upside down, which means the inspector investigated this region from the perspective of the sea. This figure also reflects practical experience and the actual drawing process.

Fourth, the Qing court delimited the aboriginal boundary three times between 1750 and 1784. In 1750, the red-line map saw a partial adjustment of the boundary of 1722: it was restricted to the region south of Dajia stream 大甲溪, including Zhanghua, Zhuluo, Taiwan, and Fengshan counties, while Danshui subprefecture only added six boundaries; lines were not drawn and it had not changed much.[51] In 1760, on the blue-line map, owing to the official cadastral survey’s focus on Zhanghua county and Danshui subprefecture, blue lines were drawn north of Zhanghua county, while red lines were drawn from Fengshan county to Zhanghua county. However, both red and blue lines were drawn only for some areas; in contrast, purple lines were redrawn on the map from south to north. Thus, it can be said that the first comprehensive aboriginal boundary lines ran through western Taiwan.

This new aboriginal boundary from South Xiaku stream in Fengshan county to North Balian harbour in Danshui subprefecture represented a redefinition of the inner regions and outer regions by the Qing court. In addition to the purple lines from south to north, boundary markers and guard posts were marked along the border. Whereas the blue-line map had boundary markers and locations that were often unclear or incomplete, the purple-line map had carefully drawn new or old boundaries. A total of seventeen old boundaries within the blue lines and 81 new delimitations within the purple lines were drawn.[52] Most of the new delimitations were located in Zhanghua county and Danshui subprefecture; the latter added 30 delimitations. This not only reflected the fact that the subprefecture was a newly reclaimed area, but also implied that the Qing court, in determining the new aboriginal boundary, still adopted a lenient attitude toward the gradual reclamation of outer regions, and mostly acknowledged the reality of the situation.

Along the hills, the guard posts were substantially adjusted. According to the purple-line map, after setting the new aboriginal boundary, 29 old guard posts were assigned to the inner regions, therefore 35 new guard posts had to be deployed on the purple lines. Fengshan county’s guard posts did not change, but from Taiwan county to Danshui subprefecture along the border, 35 new guard posts were established.[53] There were two types of new guard posts. One was an existing guard post that was switched to the new aboriginal boundary, as seen in such annotations as the ‘Tianluo Jue transferred guard post’ of Taiwan county or ‘Huzaikeng post removed to here’ of Zhanghua county. The other type was new guard posts established in new places — all the guard posts in Zhuluo county and Danshui subprefecture. It is clear that the aboriginal boundary mainly moved eastward, rather than the guard posts simply being shifted. New guard posts were mostly located in these two developing areas.

The establishment of the aboriginal boundary denoted by purple lines clearly divided the areas along the hills into two districts. One comprised outer regions, which were forbidden to Han immigration and reclamation, and the other comprised inner regions, which were newly reclaimed areas recognised as legitimate. The areas east of the purple lines were outer regions; all cultivated paddy and dry land or uncultivated wasteland would uniformly be taken out of cultivation. The aboriginal boundary was still demarcated by natural features, such as the bases of hills, big streams, and old ditches. The main criteria for land being delimited as the outer regions were: being very close to the foothills, the proximity of raw savages, or being separated by only one stream from the mountains.

Xiangsanpo was a special case. It was delimited as part of the outer regions because it was difficult to control, although the terms ‘distant from raw savages’ and ‘isolated appearances of raw savages’ were used in its classification. For instance, the Yangmei plain 楊梅埔 in Danshui subprefecture was absolutely undeveloped and was surveyed as consisting of 120 jia of wasteland, but, because it was far away from raw aborigines it was allowed to be reclaimed and absorbed into the inner regions. In other words, ever since the Kangxi period, preventing aborigine attacks and isolating raw aborigines remained a principle for cadastral survey and demarcation of the aboriginal boundary. However, the determination of the distance from raw aborigines was pragmatic and flexible, and, therefore, a large amount of wasteland was allowed to be absorbed directly into the new reclamation area rather than just recognising the existing extent of reclamation.

Except for a few lands that were taken out of cultivation, the cadastral surveys of 1784 mostly accepted the existing situation and delimited lands outside the blue lines that had been reclaimed since 1760 as inner regions marked inside the purple lines. The cadastral survey for the aboriginal boundary was obviously not intended to punish illegal immigration and restore the original demarcation line; rather, it recognised the state of reclamation and absorbed the people and lands of the frontier into the state’s territory and put them under the control of the Qing court.[54] In particular, the areas where ‘the residents live in villages, and fields are connected by ditches’, or where local officials recognised that it would be hard to forbid reclamation had to be assigned to the inner regions.[55]

Disposal of lands in new inner regions generally took place in two ways. One was a continuation of past practice, in which all disputed lands were confiscated by officials without exception.[56] The other was the regulation of lands in the outer regions through cadastral survey and demarcation. Once they had been formally delimited as state territory and taxes imposed, they became new reclamation areas. Land ownership rights of plains aborigines on the frontier, as well as the tenancy relationships between tribes, indigenes and Han settlers, were also confirmed. Thus, as John Shepherd has pointed out, the formation of the frontier policy was the Qing court’s response to changes in Taiwan’s social and economic situation, and was the result of rational calculation based on constant estimations of the national defence strategy, control costs, and tax revenue potential.[57]


Earlier scholarship on the aboriginal boundary mostly used the blue-line map as a basis for discussion, and it rarely focused on the relationship between the fighting, cadastral surveys, and the aboriginal-boundary map drawing. This article uses the rediscovered purple-line map as a lens to explain why fighting in Taiwan led the Qing empire to frequently revise its frontier policy, and to reconstruct the ideas and imperial territorial policy of the local officials of Fujian and Taiwan.

Since the reign of the Kangxi emperor, land reclamation on the frontier was usually a sore spot for Taiwan public security. The Qing court, therefore, adopted the policy of closing the hillsides to reclamation and demarcating boundaries in order to isolate raw aborigines from the Han settlers. However, the aboriginal-boundary delineation was unable to stop encroachment by the Han and plains aborigines onto the forbidden territory. Before the Lin Shuangwen Incident in 1786, disputes and conflicts between the Han and the aborigines were frequent, and even led to major social unrest and anti-Qing rebellions involving the aboriginal regions.

In early-Qing Taiwan, local officials often adopted the strategies of cadastral survey and demarcation in order to resolve the tensions and crises on the frontier. During the reign of the Qianlong emperor, four aboriginal boundaries were drawn — in red, blue, purple, and green — which successively moved eastward. Thus, although the policy of cadastral survey and demarcation emphasised the principal of isolating raw aborigines, it did not punish immigrants for illegally crossing into the territory of the aborigines. Rather, the Qing court accepted the existing situation and redefined the obscure frontier, leading the newly reclaimed lands of the outer regions to be fully integrated into the state’s territory. Every new demarcation allowed the Han and the aborigines working on the frontier to confirm their land ownership and reclamation rights, changing the lands formally and legally from outer regions into inner regions.

The reclamation along the frontier potentially yielded huge profits, and, therefore, these areas became spaces of competition among vagrants, frontier militia, and strongmen, resulting in continual disputes. In 1783, in Danshui subprefecture, the Lin Dan Incident occurred — fighting between the guard posts militia and the Han tenants reclaiming the outer region. Despite its small scale, the Qianlong emperor insisted on a thorough investigation, and Fuleihun, the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, ordered all Taiwan counties and subprefectures to conduct cadastral surveys and demarcation in the following year. One result was ‘The Map and Description of Reclaimed and Prohibited Paddy and Dry Land in Taiwan’, which added the first purple lines delimiting the aboriginal boundary from south to north in western Taiwan. In 1784, in addition to drawing a purple line on the map, boundary markers were erected and guard posts established, removed, or re-established along the border. In other words, the purple lines of the aboriginal boundary were drawn in order to prevent aborigine attacks and isolate the raw aborigines. However, the determination of boundaries could be relatively pragmatic and flexible, and sometimes a large amount of wasteland was directly absorbed into the new reclamation area; demarcation was not only recognition of facts on the ground. Ye Ruiping has claimed that Qing rule in Taiwan during this period was security-oriented and deliberately non-expansive; however, through the purple-line map, we can see that, in fact, the frontier policy of the Qing court was more active and expansive.[58]

Acknowledgement: I thank Jia-Huei Ke for research assistance.

Lin Yu-ju
Institute of Taiwan History
Academia Sinica


  1. Wang Huifen 王慧芬, Qingdai Taiwan de fanjie zhengce 清代臺灣的番界政策 (Taipei: Guoli Taiwan daxue lishixue yanjiusuo, 2000), p.38.
  2. There were two categories of Taiwan indigenes — ‘raw’ and ‘cooked’ ­— on which, see Emma Jinhua Teng, Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683–1895 (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004), pp.123–48.
  3. John R. Shepherd, Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600–1800 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p.16; Shi Tianfu 施添福, Qingdai Taiwan de diyu shehui: Zhuqian diqu de lishi dili yanjiu 清代臺灣的地域社會:竹塹地區的歷史地理研究 (Xinzhu: Xinzhu xianli wenhua zhongxin, 2001), pp.68–69.
  4. Shepherd, Statecraft and Political Economy, pp.18–19; Shi Tianfu, Qingdai Taiwan de diyu shehui, p.131.
  5. ‘Chen Taiwan shiyi shu’ 陳臺灣事宜疏, in Qing zoushu xuanhui 清奏疏選彙, Taiwan wenxian congkan 臺灣文獻叢刊 [hereafter Wencong] no.256 (Taipei: Taiwan yinhang jingjishi, p.41.
  6. On the evolution of this system, see Shi Tianfu, Qingdai Taiwan de diyu shehui, pp.65–116, and Ke Zhiming 科志明, Fantou jia 番頭家 (Taipei: Zhongyangyuan shehuisuo, 2001), Pt 1.
  7. ‘Min-Zhe zongdu Wu Lana zou wei chouyi Taiwan xinshe tunsuo fenbo pudi shiyi zhe’ 閩浙總督伍拉納奏為籌議臺灣新設屯所分撥埔地事宜摺, in Tai’an huilu jiaji 臺案彙錄甲集, Wencong no.31, p.1.
  8. Ibid., p.15.
  9. Regarding the related scholarship, see: Ke Zhiming, Fantou jia; Shi Shengwen 施聖文, ‘Tuniu, fanjie, aiyongxian: Huajie yu huaxian’ 土牛、番界、隘勇線:劃界與劃線, Guojia yu shehui 國家與社會 5 (2008): 46–52; Meng Xianghan 孟祥翰, ‘Qingdai Taizhong pendi dongce Aboquangou yan’an fanjie de yanjiu’ 清代臺中盆地東側阿拔泉溝沿岸 番界的研究, in Xingzhengyuan wenhua jianshe weiyuanhui wenhua zichan zongguanli chu 行政院文化建設委員會文化資產總管理處等編 et al., eds, Disijie Taiwan guwenshu yu lishi yanjiu xueshu yantaohui lunwenji 第四屆臺灣古文書與歷史研究學術研討會論文集 (Taizhong: Fengjia daxue chubanshe, 2010), pp.195–236; Yang Shengjie’s 第四屆臺灣古文書與歷史研究學術研討會論文集 Qing Qianlong 25 zhi 53 nian (1760–1788) jian fanjie wai zhi kaiken 清乾隆 (Master’s thesis, Guoli zhengzhi daxue Taiwanshi yanjiusuo, 2010).
  10. This map is 657 cm long by 62 cm wide. It was originally purchased by the State Cultural Heritage Bureau of China and was given to the Palace Museum in 1957. Its current catalogue number is 73960.
  11. Compared to the ‘Taiwan Aboriginal-Boundary Map of the Mid-Qianlong Period’, this map seems to have omitted the area from Jialuotang to Shamajitou in southern Taiwan; the original description of Fengshan county also lacks the region of Nanshi Lake to Dongshi Lake.
  12. Landscape-style painting adopts the perspective of ‘body–subject’ to give a bird’s-eye view of the space and uses realistic symbols when applied to cartography. Its general level of geometric accuracy is not high. Hsia Liming 夏黎明, Qingdai Taiwan ditu yanbian shi 清代臺灣地圖演變史 (Zhonghe: Zhishufang chubanshe, 1996), p.42.
  13. On the cartographic context and the spatial image and human–land relationship of the aboriginal-boundary maps, please see: Su Feng-nan, ‘Cartographic Context of Aboriginal Boundary Maps of Qing Taiwan: Construction of ‘Taiwan Purple-line Aboriginal Boundary Map,’ Taiwan Historical Research 22(3): 1–50.
  14. Ke Zhiming, Fantou jia, p.248. The governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, Wu Lana 伍拉納, also noted that this round of cadastral surveys, due to ‘the banditry incident in Taiwan, has not yet been finalised’. ‘Min-Zhe zongdu Wu Lana zou wei chouyi Taiwan’, p.1.
  15. ‘Min-Zhe zongdu Wu Lana zou wei chouyi Taiwan,’ pp.1–2.
  16. Wang Huifen, Qingdai Taiwan de fanjie zhengce, p.37.
  17. Huang Fusan 黃富三, Wufeng Lin jia de xingqi 霧峰林家的興起 (Taipei: Zili wanbao, 1987), p.39.
  18. Ke Zhiming, Fantou jia, pp.150–53.
  19. The red lines covered the area of Fengshan county, Taiwan county, Zhuluo county and Zhenghua county. It stretched south from the Xiaku River and north to the Jiaoling around the Dadu River. The 1723 boundary was still in use north of the Dadu River, and only a few new boundaries were added.
  20. Ke Zhiming, Fantou jia, pp.163–70.
  21. Ibid., pp.23–41.
  22. Duan Jie 段玠, who was from Shanxi, served as the sub-prefect of Danshui subprefecture from 1766 to 1768. Chen Peigui 陳培桂, Danshui tingzhi 淡水廳志, Wencong no.172, p.208.
  23. According to the relevant memorials, the property rights of She lands included the public lands (fanshekungyuti 番社共有地), private lands (fanshessuyuti 番社私有地), and private lands of aboriginal interpreters (fantungshihssuyuti 番通事私有地). Those lands belonged to She or interpreters themselves.
  24. ‘Xingbu wei benbu yifu Taiwan dao Yang Tinghua zou yihui,’ in Tai’an huilu jiji 臺案彙錄己集, Wencong no.191, p.297; ‘Hubu wei Neige chaochu Fujian Taiwan zhen zongbing Chai Daji deng zhou yihui’ 戶部為內閣抄出福建臺灣鎮總兵柴大紀等奏 移會, in Tai’an huilu jiji, pp.301–302.
  25. Ke Zhiming, Fantou jia, p.156.
  26. From ‘The Purple Aboriginal-boundary Map of Taiwan in 1784’, we can see that the lands outside the blue lines were all territories of Xiaoli She. Although militia reclaimed lands in the neighborhood of Wushulin, they needed to pay rent to Xiaoli She.
  27. Lin Yun was the elder brother of Lin Dan.
  28. ‘Xingbu wei benbu yifu Taiwan dao Yang Tinghua zou yihui’ 刑部為本部議覆臺灣道楊廷樺奏移會, in Tai’an huilu jiji, pp.298–99.
  29. In 1782, an incident of armed conflict occurred between Zhangzhou and Quanzhou people, which Lin Weisheng 林偉盛 called the ‘Xie-Xiao Incident’. It extended to Zhanghua county, Zhuluo county and Danshui subprefecture. Lin Weisheng, Luo Han jiao: Qingdai Taiwan shehui yu fenlei xiedou 羅漢腳:清代臺灣社會與分類械鬥 (Taipei: Zili wanbao, 1993), pp.29–35.
  30. In this incident, besides the commander-in-chief of Taiwan, the deputy general, the Guards Brigade deputy general, the brigade vice-commander and the garrison were all dismissed. Qing Gaozong shilu xuanji 清高宗實錄選輯, Wencong no.186, p.276, 278.
  31. From 1781 to 1786, an unprecedented number of officials from county magistrates to governors-general were im-peached as a result of serving in Fujian and Taiwan. For a related discussion, please see Shepherd, Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600–1800, pp.321–22.
  32. Qing Gaozong shilu xuanji, p.280.
  33. Ibid., pp.261–62, 275; Tai’an huilu yiji, Wencong no.173, p.166.
  34. Qing Gaozong shilu xuanji, pp.272, 280–81.
  35. Ibid., p.285.
  36. ‘Xingbu wei Fujian xunfu Ya zou yihui’ 刑部為福建巡撫雅奏移會, in Tai’an huilu jiji, p.285.
  37. ‘Bingbu wei Neige chaochu Mindu Fu zou yihui’ 兵部為內閣抄出閩督富奏移會, in Tai’an huilu jiji, p.283.
  38. In September of 1784, Yang Tinghua 楊廷樺 was demoted to be a Shangdong Anchashi. ‘Xingbu wei Fujian xunfu Ya zou yihui,’ in Tai’an huilu jiji, p.285; Qing Gaozong shilu xuanji, p.287, 291.
  39. ‘Hubu wei Neige chaochu Fujian Taiwan zhen zongbing Chai Daji deng zhou yihui’ 戶部為內閣抄出福建臺灣鎮總兵柴大紀等奏移會, in Tai’an huilu jiji, pp.306–307.
  40. Ibid., p.307.
  41. The area included Anping 安平 township (today’s Pingzhen city 平鎮市, Taoyuan 桃園 municipality), Dongshi 東勢 (Longtan 潭鄉 township), Nanshi 南勢 (Longtan township), Huangnitang 黃泥塘 (Longtan township), Shanzaiding 山仔顶 (Pingzhen city), Fangzailiao 番仔寮 (Daixi township), Huaizaipu 淮仔埔 (Longtan township), Shankengzai 山坑仔, Shuzaiyuan 黍仔園, Wulingpu 武陵埔 and Malingpu 馬陵埔. See ‘Danfang ting tushuo’ 淡防廳 圖說 in Lin Yu-ju, Chan Su-chuan 詹 素娟, and Chen Chih-hao 陳志豪, eds, Zixian fanjie: Taiwan tianyuan fenbie kenjin tushuo jiedu 紫線番界 臺灣田園分別墾禁圖說解讀 (Taipei: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan Taiwan shi yanjiusuo, 2015).
  42. ‘Hubu wei Neige chaochu Fujian Taiwan zhen zongbing Chai Daji deng zhou yihui,’ p.307.
  43. Whether the lands of Xiaoli She were confiscated by the government or granted to the aborigines, it was still a change to the original area that had belonged to Xiaoli She. As noted above, Yang Tinghua considered these lands not suitable for the aborigines due to their good quality, which might cause loss to the government. That means it still had some punitive meaning.
  44. The Fujian admiral Huang Shijian 黃仕簡 led troops to Taiwan in 1782 due to the Zhangzhou–Quanzhou conflict and acquitted himself well, earning the praise of the Qianlong emperor. In the winter of 1783, he was called to Beijing for an imperial audience. Qing Gaozong shilu xuanji, pp.267–69.
  45. ‘Zou wei Taiwan lianjie pudi xianchi shangjin qingli gongzhe zouqing shengjian shi’ 奏為臺灣連界埔地現飭上緊清釐恭摺奏請聖鑒事, in Gongzhongdang Qianlongqi zouzhe 宮中檔乾隆朝奏摺, Vol.59 (Taipei: Guoli Gugong bowuyuan, 1987), pp.308–309.
  46. Ibid., p.309.
  47. Zhongguo diyi lishi dang’anguan 中國第一歷史檔案館 et al., eds, Ming-Qing gongcang Taiwan dang’an huibian 明清宮藏臺灣檔案匯編, Vol.69 (Beijing: Jiuzhou chubanshe, 2009), p.416.
  48. For instance, in October 1874, Tang Yi 唐鎰, the sub-prefect in Lugang, commanded that the runners to the Anli tribe arrest the interpreter and some Han because the tribe did not obey the instructions to do cadastral surveys and had hidden the tenant-peasant names. Anli dashe wenshu chuban bianji weiyuanhui 岸裡大社文書出版編輯委員會, ed., Guoli Taiwan daxue cang Anli dashe wenshu 國立臺灣大學藏岸裡大社文書, Vol.3 (Taipei: Guoli Taiwan daxue, 1998), p.1227.
  49. For example, the ‘Daoguang-Period Map of Taiwan’ held by the National Taiwan History Museum describes the area along the hills in significant detail, with each fort clearly marked, but there is no indication of the aboriginal boundary.
  50. ‘Hubu wei Neige chaochu Fujian Taiwan zhen zongbing Chai Daji deng zhou yihui,’ p.307.
  51. Shi Tianfu, Qingdai Taiwan de diyu shehui, p.69. If we look at the ‘Purple-Line Aboriginal-Boundary Map’, we can see, for example, that in 1750 the stone markers of the 1722 boundaries of Dong’anzhuang 東岸庄 and Bayangzhuang 巴陽庄 already lay far from the red lines and had been marked as a red-line inner region.
  52. Lin Yu-ju, ‘Taiwan tienyuan fenpie kenchin tushuo’ yu shihpa shihchimo te Taiwan’ 臺灣田園分別墾禁圖說 與十八世紀末的臺灣, in Lin Yu-ju, Chan Su-chuan, and Chen Chih-hao, eds, Zixian fanjie: Taiwan tianyuan fenbie kenjin tushuo jiedu, Table 9.
  53. Ibid., Table 2.
  54. Wang Huifen, Qingdai Taiwan de fanjie zhengce, p.49.
  55. ‘Danfang ting tushuo.’
  56. For example, in 1750 the outer region of Shuishalian saw fighting, but as ‘the [Han] people had already long been in residence’, it was absorbed into state territory. Ke Zhiming, Fantou jia, p.164.
  57. Shepherd, Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, p.5.
  58. Ye Ruiping, ‘Colonisation Without Exploitation: The Qing Policies in Taiwan during the High Qing Period,’ Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association 6(2013): 1–10.