Note: I received this email a couple of weeks after
publishing The Vile Secret of Black Ghost Cave on www.xpatmag.com.
I’ve run it here exactly as I received it, save for
a light copy edit.
Regarding Matt Gibson's travelogue on the Black Ghost Cave
on Xiao Liouchiou ("Lamay", or "Golden Lion
Island" during Dutch times), the actual story of the
cave is much more interesting than the "official story"
about the black slaves posted on the plaque outside the
The incident at what would become Black Ghost Cave had
its roots in the hostility between the Dutch colonists in
southern Taiwan and the Lamayans (the aboriginal tribe that
inhabited Xiou Liouchiou) in the early years of Dutch rule.
The Lamayans were a fierce people who earned the Dutch's
enmity after massacring the shipwrecked crews of the ships
The Golden Lion in 1621 and Beverwijck in 1631.
The Dutch enforced a policy of depopulating areas it considered
troublesome, and launched a punitive raid against the Lamayans,
successfully depopulating the island of its 1,100 inhabitants
in May 1636. In the raid, Dutch forces aided by aboriginal
braves from the Lamayans' enemies the Saccam, Soulang, and
Pangsoya tribes of southern Taiwan, cornered a large group
of Lamayans (mostly women and children) in a cave that had
acted as a traditional refuge for the islanders. Intent
on solving the "Lamayan problem" once and for
all, the invaders dumped hot oil and pumped smoke and gas
into the cavern until the screams of the Lamayans could
no longer be heard. 327 Lamayans died in the cave, most
of them women and children.
The massacre convinced the remaining Lamayans to surrender,
and the island was thus depopulated. The surviving male
Lamayans were sent to the Dutch colonial capital of Batavia
(Jakarta) as slaves, while the females were sent to Taiwan
to become servants and wives of Dutch officers.
I believe the "black slave" and "Chinese
daughter" stories surrounding Black Ghost Cave were
circulated later by the Chinese government to downplay any
reference to the existence of aborigines on the island (a
fact that is inconvenient to the thesis that Taiwan was
Indeed, many reminders of Dutch colonial rule and the primacy
of aboriginal culture in pre-Qing Taiwan have been lost
or erased over time, to the point where the only references
to this particular act come from contemporary Dutch sources
(check out William Campbell's anthology of Dutch correspondence
"Formosa Under the Dutch" ISBN: 957-638-083-9).
It should be added that there is no documentation of an
African slave rebellion on the Dutch record, although the
Dutch did at times refer to aborigines as "blacks".
During my own trip to the cave, I went off the beaten path
a bit inside the main cavern and, in a corner, I found burn
marks from candles and small shards of earthen pottery and
white porcelain. These shards were later taken to the Academia
Sinica in Taipei and verified to be around 400 years old
(about the time of the massacre). Finding the shards brought
the events of that day 369 years ago to life for me, and
reminded me of the importance of looking for the real story
that often hides behind the official one.