As a well-known historical figure, who violated the oppressive colonial laws and challenged the authoritarian of Japanese colonizers, Liao Tian-Ding was regarded by Taiwanese as a legendary hero. In Liao’s time, because of journalists’ spread of his stories in newspapers, Liao was regarded as a hero among Taiwanese. Since his death in 1909, Liao’s stories passed from generation to generation, retold and rewrote by numerous writers until the present days.
With respect to Liao’s image as a hero in Taiwanese legendary tales, this thesis aims to explore the transformations of Liao’s stories from Japanese colonial period to the present day. Moreover, in order to explicate my viewpoint on the study of Liao’s tales, I use the following sources: Japanese official documentation of Liao’s detailed personal information; scholarly research of Liao’s life events, and legendaries in the twentieth century; newspaper reports in Taiwan Daily Newspaper representing Liao as a cunning criminal, and literary works of Liao’s legendaries. Although the popularity of Liao’s stories and his heroic images in Taiwanese folklore tales maintain for nearly one hundred and a decade, some scholars of Liao tend to regard the study of Liao’s legendaries lack the potential of further development. My argument is that Liao’s legends still with great potential and possibility to its further development in the twenty-first century.
My thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter one is an introduction to the following aspects: my motivation to engage in this research, critical receptions, and research method. Chapter two is an overview of my sources centered on official Japanese documentary featuring Liao’s criminal cases and Liao’s life event. The following three chapters — from chapter three to chapter five — focus on three subjects of Liao’s legendaries featuring the development of Liao’s image as a hero in literature. These three subjects are as the follow: legendary tales of Liao’s opposition to Japanese colonizers; stories about Liao’s love life, and adventures representing Liao as an affectionate lover, and a trust-worthy friend, and the canonization of Liao — his power as a deity. In these three chapters, I analyze how written works — newspaper reports and fictions — and oral Taiwanese stories — ballads and folklore stories — transform Liao’s original image as a menacing outlaw into a hero. As a result, this transformation is through three periods: Japanese colonial period (from 1909 - 1945), post-World War II period (from 1945 - 1979), and the present period (from the release of martial law in 1987 to now). In the concluding chapter, I center on discussions of my contribution to the study of Liao’s legendary tales.
Inspired by Liao’s stories about his courage to challenge oppressive Japanese colonizers and his adventures, I believe that this Taiwanese folklore hero’s stories will continue. Hopefully, my study will be an aid to this development, and enables Liao’s stories to be everlasting.