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NTU Digital Taiwan-Related Arhives Project

One of the conventions of governments that have administered Chinese society throughout history was to have announcements deemed important or historic by the administration, carved onto stone stele to avoid paper posters being blown away or destroyed by natural elements. This was adopted by the Qing Dynasty when it controlled Taiwan and therefore all over Taiwan at that time, erected stone steles with announcement regarding social norms such as prohibitions, bulletins and which depicted public facilities were being constructed or renovated.

This stele inscription was the kind to announce prohibitions. The content first listed the names of local gentry who had expressed their concerns about local problems, deemed that the ‘thugs’, i.e., those who self-proclaimed as leaders of aborigines, had been used to cheat and bully local residents. Then followed with the incidents that during weddings or funerals at the area, those ‘thugs’ would assemble their crowd and take the pretext of ‘social regulations’ to extort money from residents, they threatened the rich to get what they sought, they mistreated the underprivileged; it was hoped that local authorities could put an end to such abuses. The inscription finally clearly indicated the announcement from the government authority that henceforth, during celebrations of wedding or in occasions of funeral, exacting any form of money or gift was strictly prohibited, and that violators would be subjected to justice.

The end of the inscription instructed that the stele be placed on one of the major roads, the Sha-lu Street of the Da-du Sub-district, to notify the public. This annotation reflects the methods local authorities of the time used to disseminate governmental decrees: the message would be printed by block printing, typically be printed on paper and posted in public places. In the case that the decree was deemed to be of utmost importance would it be carved in stone and thus ensure that this mandate would be known to all for ages to come.

This stele dates back to 1886.  The printed version of this decree is no more in existence, but the stone stele with inscriptions of the decree remained. Before the inscriptions became obscured by the passage of time, rubbings of it were taken, and reprinted in several publications.

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