Xiao Liuqiu (小琉球嶼), Black Spirit Cave

This is the second article on Xiao Liuqiu, click here for the first on.

A band of trails curls along the limestone rocks and cliffs that surround Xiao Liuqiu (小琉球嶼). As “Wild Boar Trench Trail” and “Black Spirit Cave” (GoogleMaps even refers to it as “Black Devil Cave”), they offer an adventurous path for tourists, leading through caves and along the shore. At each passage, small signs warn the wanderer to mind his or her head.

There is something mythical about the paths, an otherworldly union of water, air, stone, and roots. Narrow steps carved into rocks. Small gnomes hidden at the wayside. Roots reaching out for the wanderer. Stone turtles rising from the rocks, as if to strive towards the sea.

Indeed, if there is a place inhabited by spirits or haunted by ghosts on the island, it is this area. According to Wikipedia, in 1622 the Dutch ship Goude Leeuw (the “Golden Lion”) hit the island’s coral reefs, after which its entire crew was massacred by the island’s natives. Nine years later, the Dutch yacht Beverwijck wrecked on the same reefs. “Its fifty-odd survivors battled for two days before also being slaughtered to a man.” Taiwan was a Dutch colony at that time, under the rule of the Dutch East India company. Its governor-general Hendrik Brouwer personally ordered the natives to be “punished and exterminated.” An expedition in 1933 found a large cave where the Lameyans sought refuge but failed to succeed in their gruesome mission.

Three years later then, an even larger expedition of several hundred Dutch soldiers came to the island and chased the Lameyans into the cave. They sealed its entrances, only leaving small holes where they burned pine wood and sulfur. The screams and pleads of the natives echoed eight days over the island. Then there was silence again. 300 men, women and children have suffocated during this Lamey Island Massacre, 323 more were captured as they tried to flee the cave and sold into slavery.

In the decades following the massacre, the course of events was distorted on its path through history. It was moved thirty years back to a time when the Dutch already fled Taiwan after being defeated by Southern Ming general Koxinga. Thus, instead of the Dutch, legend has that it was the British who burned the cave. Most importantly though, in the deformed legends it was not Lameyan aboriginals who died there, but “negros” who escaped from their Dutch units. The cave is named after these illusionary victims. It is the very “Black Spirit Cave” tourists now lightheartedly stroll through with their smartphones and loved ones.