An outlaw who robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, a courageous warrior who fights against injustice and protects the innocent , man of many skills who plays with the authorities and it is impossible to catch, he enters the stronghold of the enemy full of enemy soldiers , steals the treasure and escapes undetected .His fighting skills are legendary , he can fight as many enemies at once as he wants , he has an ability to disappear in front of the eyes of his prosecutors , he is often disguised in his quests . This is not a story about famous medieval English outlaw , Robin Hood , this is a story about Taiwanese version of “kung fu Robin Hood” known as “Righteous Thief”.
While Robin Hood never really existed ,“Righteous Thief” was a real person and legend of him has strong support in real events.
Righteous Thief’s real name was Liao Tien Ding. He was born on April 5, 1883 in a small village near Taichung. When he was two years old his father was killed in a fight and his mother remarried soon after. His family was poor so Liao started to work as a general laborer for wealthy families. His attitude toward work was less than careless and he was unable to keep a job for a longer period. At the end, no one wanted to hire him anymore.
With no job opportunities Liao decided to move to Taipei. Due to his habit to steal from his employers he was fired many times over. Soon , he turned to be a full time thief. He operated all over Taiwan and was caught in Taichung and sentenced to ten month in prison. As soon as he got out, Liao continued his “career”, specializing in burglary of rich people’s houses.
One of his burglaries made him very popular among people . He broke in a Koo family mansion .Koo family was very close to the Japanese colonial government and head of the Koo family was even a member of Japanese parliament at some point . Part of loot from this “job” Liao gave to the poor families and he continued to do so during his later “career”.
His next two “jobs” made him a folk hero. He killed a Taiwanese cop who had been working undercover for the Japanese police. The biggest “achievement” was breaking into Japanese police dormitory and stealing weapons and ammo. After this he became the most wanted man on Taiwan.
While police was trying to find him , common people worshiped him .He was admired for his ability to steal from rich people who were at the time seen as Japanese collaborators. He was even more admired for his ability to attack Japanese police publically and get away with it . His habit to share part of his loot with the poorest families brought him a name “Righteous Thief”.
Over time story about him grew and his abilities were highly exaggerated. People believed that he could fly and walk on the walls, become invisible, use magic and run on the water .
In realty Liao was an extraordinary kung fu practitioner with a set of skills developed for his “line of work”. Besides fighting skills he was good disguising. He liked to disguise as an old woman in order to easily deceive Japanese police. He was a master of the “blue foot cloth” skill. This skill involved various use of a three meters long linen cloth, worn as a belt. Usually it was used as an emergency mean of escape.
Shrine dedicated to Liao Tien Ding
Liao died young , at the age of 26. While hiding in Taipei county he haven't slept for days always in the move in order to avoid capturing. After several days of running and hiding he finally fell asleep. At November 18, 1909.a friend who was with him at the time betrayed him and killed him in his sleep. That is how one of the most popular folk heroes off Taiwan ended his life.