Story of the”Sculpture of Righteous Man Wu Feng”

In the national museum of Central University for Nationalities, there has collected an ordinary but extremely precious and important historical relic of Gaoshan ethnic group–“sculpture of righteous man Wu Feng” (Wooden, 42 centimetres tall). It is considered to be ordinary because it is not an extraordinary and refined masterpiece and is nothing but an ordinary wood carving work. People view it highly precious because of the heart-breaking story related with it, which has been passed on within Gaoshan people for more than 200 years.

Wu Feng (1699-1769), lived in Zhuluo (Nowadays Jiayi) of Taiwan. His ancestral home was Pinghe County of Fujian Province. Though belonging to the Han nationality, he understood Gaoshan’s language thoroughly. In 1722, Wu was sent to the Cao people tribe in Alishan region, where he served as an interpreter. Though his rank was not high, but was closely linked with life interests of people there. In the early days after he took up the official post, he set up his office in a Gaoshan stockaded village, where he worked in a conscientious and down-to-earth manner. Gradually, he had known about the situation there. After soliciting the local people’s suggestion, he started to take a series of measures favorable to Gaoshan people and help them develop production and improve culture. Soon he gained Gaoshan people’s respect and love, and became their bosom friends. Every one preferred to discuss things with him.

In the Cao tribe there had handed down a cruel and backward custom, commonly called “Hunting the head,” which means that at the harvest time of each autumn Cao people would go outside to hunt the heads of people from other tribes to hold a memorial ceremony for god. In the autumn when Wu took up his official post, Gaoshan people planed to go down the hill to hunt the head as usual. After Wu learned that, he did his utmost to talk them out of doing that again. Also, he was determined to help them get rid of the bad custom. He told them, “It is heartless to kill innocent people,” advising them not to kill at will afterwards. He also suggested them to use the 40 human skulls hunted before to offer sacrifice, one for each year. After hearing his words, people felt them very reasonable and then follow his suggestions. Wu himself was also very happy, and asked his subordinates to send a lot of cattle, sheep, and cloth to Gaoshan people. Also, he sent some soldiers to help them gather in grains and participated in their memorial ceremonies in person. Thanks to his prestige and earnest persuasion, Gaoshan people, for more than 40 years, never went down the hill to hunt the human heads. However, time flying, Gaoshan people came to him again after all the human skulls stored was used up. He managed to delay two years.

Till the third year, every one was really unable to stand it any more and insisted to resume the human head hunting custom. Knowing that he could not go over again, Wu was determined to sacrifice his own life to persuade and educate Gaoshan people. He said, “Your killing custom should not be tolerated by the law! But you and I have already made it clear at the beginning that I will help you tackle this problem. Tomorrow morning, one wearing red clothes and cap will pass by the village; you can kill him and get his skull. But you must not kill others, or the gods will get angry and punish you. ” On the early morning of the next day, the man as described by Wu appeared on time and Gaoshan people shot arrows at him. Shouting and jumping for joy, they went up to cut his head, only to find that it was nobody but Wu, who closed his eyes and blood was spilling out his body. They are all stupefied, and could hardly accept the fact. All of sudden, the calls out of their true sentiment and uncontrollable sobbing for feeling guilty interweaved together. Even trees all over the mountains in the morning wind uttered deep wail for him. It seemed that all in the world was grieving for the righteous man who sacrificed himself for Gaoshan people to expel their bad customs. The day was August 10 of 1769.

In order to commemorate Wu’s heroic behavior, the local Gaoshan people cut trees and cogongrasses to set up temples, pavilions and platforms, holding memorial ceremonies regularly for him. They also vowed to follow Wu’s words forever and never hunted human skulls any more. Later, Gaoshan people set up a square stone tablet, on which it was carved “Righteous man Wu sacrifices his life here”. By the tablet there erected a gigantic bronze statue of Wu riding a horse and planted two banyan trees. In 1820, the interpreter in Alishan took charge of building Wufeng Temple, also named as Alishan Zhongwang Temple” or Chengren Temple. After that, it had been rebuilt and repaired for several times, finally expanding into a large shrine, where there was a Wufeng sculpture. Every August 10 of the lunar calendar, the temple attracts many visitors to go there to burn incense and worship him.

For the past 200 years, despite the huge change in the Alishan region, the deed of Wufeng has been handed down from generation to generation. He dedicates himself to the great cause of national unity and progress. His achievement and his illustrious name will be recorded in history and go together with Alishan forever.