The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files
By John Ross and Eryk Michael Smith
The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files Apr 28, 2022
[ENCORE] Henry Kissinger (and president Nixon) Go to China, and Everything Changes for the Republic of China (Taiwan)
Henry Alfred Kissinger died on November 29, 2023 at the age of 100. This incredibly controversial figure was a massive player in US politics and policies during the last four decades of the 20th century. Among the most consequential choices Kissinger facilitated was the switch in diplomatic recognition by the United States from Taipei (the ROC) to Beijing (the PRC), a decision later followed by most of the world's nations. To mark his passing, we're rereleasing our "Nixon Goes to China" episode from earlier this year, with a special intro.
Formosafiles.com has pics, maps, details, info, book links, etc.
S3-E35 - Bits and Pieces (of Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐) and a Pre-Announcement Announcement
Although Eryk is as sick as a dog, both he and John are in very high spirits, and not just because, once again, they get to chat about stinky tofu. In this "bits and pieces" episode there's some jumping around, a look back and a look ahead. But most importantly, we tease an exciting new development! No, Formosa Files isn't going into the Chou Doufu business, but rather... Well, find out by listening to the show.
We hope by now you know that formosafiles.com is a must-visit for extras: book links, pics, images, maps, videos and more, all on our newly-redesigned website where you can message us, review the show or even leave a voice note. And please rate us on Apple or Spotify, it really helps!
S3-E34 - Fabulous Foods of Formosa (and Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐)
Taiwan is a food-lover's paradise, with tasty treats, delicious dishes, scrumptious suppers, marvelous morsels... a versatile, vast variety of fabulous foods. John and Eryk aren't really down with the whole clichéd, “let's make stuff about foreigners eating stinky tofu” phenomenon, but we decided to do a food episode, topped with some yummy yarns from yesteryear. Hear the origin story of the locally globally-famous Chiayi turkey rice, the 15-star gourmet Din Tai Fung restaurant chain, and finally, yes, we'll sniff out some feelings on chou doufu 臭豆腐, the smelly snack that seems to somehow always steal the show.
Visit formosafiles.com for maps, videos, links to books, extra info, and more.
S3-E33 - Tales of Tokyo and Taiwan
This week we're looking at Tokyo, and telling a few tales that connect events in that major world city to people, places, and things in Taiwan. ポッドキャストをお楽しみください
Visit Formosafiles.com for pictures, links and more.
S3-E32 - Hakka Author Wu Zhuoliu (吳濁流), Part 2 - Japan’s Surrender and 2/28
Writer Wu Zhuoliu 吳濁流 (1900-1976), sadly, never saw Taiwan blossom into a democracy. But he left us with some of the most important works ever written about 20th-century Taiwan. Among these is the autobiography “The Fig Tree”, whose early chapters mirror the events in his acclaimed novel “Orphan of Asia.” In S2-E29, we covered Wu’s younger years as in Japanese colonial Taiwan, his grandfather’s tales of a cultured, ancient China and the influence these ideas had on Wu. We told the story of Wu’s time in “the Motherland,” where he discovered that the China of his imagination was simply that – imaginary. Today, we pick up his story as WW2 comes to an end and the Chinese Nationalists arrive. Wu describes how Taiwanese jubilation soon turned to despair, and how this exploded into riots and killings known collectively as the 2/28 Incident.
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And, visit formosafiles.com for pics, links and more.
WELCOME TO THE PODCAST! - The "White Formosan" - S1-E1
Formosa Files has gained a lot of new listeners of late, and many seem to begin listening from where they first encounter the program. But there are lots of great episodes from seasons 1-2 and, as this one is the one that started it all, we're rereleasing a new edit of Season One, Episode One: “The White Formosan.” Our sound quality and editing skills have improved greatly (um... we hope you agree) since the launch of the podcast in late 2021, but we hope our enthusiasm and love for telling stories from Taiwanese history has only grown with our audience. Thanks to long-time listeners for sticking with us, and a very big welcome to all the newer folks!
Originally released on September 6, 2021.
Visit Formosafiles.com for links, picture, images, maps, book reviews, videos and more!
A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Manga Artist Mark Crilley Talks About His New Book - LOST IN TAIWAN
Mark Crilley is one of the top 10 American manga artists, and he has a new graphic novel out called LOST IN TAIWAN (2023). Formosa Files caught up with Mark, who spilled the beans on why he was here in the late 1980s and early 1990s, what he loved (and what he loved a bit less) about Taiwan. After listening to this fun interview with Eryk and Mark Crilley, you’ll want to get a copy of LOST IN TAIWAN; it'll make you laugh, could be used as ESL material, and, like for Eryk, might just reignite some affection for things in Taiwan some of us have gotten so used to, we've forgotten just how beautiful and interesting they are.
Visit Formosafiles.com, as Mark gave us over 20 “sneak peek” pages of art from his book.
[ENCORE] Golf in Taiwan: A Surprisingly Long History
Hear the tale of Japanese colonial officials discovering golf as the "new cool thing for elites" -- and ordering a course built in just a few hours. Plus, the story of Lu Liang-huan (呂良煥), a man from a poor family who worked his way up from being a caddy to an impressive 2nd place win at the 1971 British Open.
NOTE: We are re-releasing this episode in celebration of the 62nd anniversary of the Kaohsiung Golf and Country Club 高雄高爾夫俱樂部, a public course and oasis of nature, trees, and birds in the middle of the city (and, of course, an international-standard golf course). This episode first came out in July 2022. The Kaohsiung Golf and Country Club is managed by the sponsors of the Formosa Files podcast, the Frank C. Chen Foundation.
Visit formosafiles.com for pics, links and more.
S3-E31 - The “Tea Thief” - Robert Fortune's Very Brief Trip to Taiwan (1854)
Tea was domesticated in China, and the knowledge of how to grow it, harvest it, and process it was a closely guarded secret. After basically becoming addicted to the beverage, the British needed to find a way to grow their own tea, as buying it from China was eating up their silver reserves. So, missions of “tea espionage” were conducted, most notably by a Mr. Robert Fortune, who had the good fortune to be able to visit Taiwan on a whirlwind trip. He only spent a day on the island, but he wrote about it, giving us a look at pre-treaty port Qing era Taiwan, and he made several interesting botanical discoveries. Visit formosafiles.com for links, pics and images, etc.
[ENCORE] The 4,300-Kilometer Chase of an Illegal Taiwanese Fishing Boat (1989)
Taiwan loves seafood, and boats from this island trawl for yummy ocean offerings thousands of kilometers away from our shores. Taiwanese fishing vessels are very good at what they do, but they weren't always so good in how they did it. The use of drift nets, so-called "walls of death" that entangle species like sea turtles and dolphins, drew international ire. Taiwan boats also did a lot of fishing in waters they weren't supposed to be in. By 1989, the US Coast Guard had had enough and launched a sting operation to catch the violators. They ended up chasing a Taiwan-registered ship for some 2,700 miles (or about 4,300 kilometers). Here's the story:
Note: This episode was originally released on January 9, 2022, under the title E1-S23 - Walls of Death.
Pics, links, maps, and more at formosafiles.com.
[Bonus] Photographing Taiwan – Interview with Chris Stowers
John chats with photographer Chris Stowers. In 1988, Chris sailed a traditional Indonesian boat on an epic sea voyage (a trip described alongside the three-part series on the Free China junk, S3-Ep23-25). This led to his first story and photos being published, and the beginning of his career in photography. He came to Taiwan on a political photo shoot in 1991 and made it his home base for covering Asia later that decade. Work and wanderlust have taken Chris to over 70 countries, and his pictures have appeared in numerous publications, from Newsweek to the New York Times to numerous guidebooks. In an interview full of practical recommendations, Chris tells John about a recent book, “Discovering Taipei on Foot,” gives insights on getting great pictures of people, and shares his favorite temples, festivals, and photo spots.
S3-E30 - When the Russians Bombed Taipei (and other aviation stories)
Here's something we bet you didn't know: in 1938, Soviet pilots in Soviet planes (disguised to look like ROC Air Force planes) bombed the main airfield in Taihoku (now the Songshan Airport 臺北松山機場 in Taipei City). We've got that story and more as this week John and Eryk get a bit geeky and delve into some of the stories behind the planes we saw during recent visits to the Gangshan Aviation Education Exhibition Hall (航空教育展示館).
Visit formosafiles.com for lots of great pics, links and more.
S3-E29 - Taiwan's Great Pork Apocalypse (1997)
Not gonna lie folks: this episode gets dark; the story of a super swine slaughter. But, there's also some tasty morsels of info on Taiwan's favorite meat, and the pig’s place in the island’s history and culture. Plus, a final happy ending involving little cute piggies, but you'll have to have to visit formosafiles.com to see the pics.
S3-E28 - More Bits and Pieces: Ox Ditches and an Unsinkable Warship
Remember those two Polish cargo ships and one oil tanker from the USSR seized by the ROC Navy in the 1950s? Well, the story has one highly interesting extra element we didn't have time to get to in the last episode. Plus, John wants to write a book about an "ox ditch."
Visit formosafiles.com for all the extras: links, maps, pics, images, book reviews, etc.
S3-E27 - When Taiwan (ROC) Blockaded China (PRC)
After retreating to Taiwan, the ROC ordered a naval blockade of China, which lasted officially until 1979. There were interceptions and attacks by the ROC Navy, CIA-backed Nationalist forces, and some pirate-like actions by unofficial ROC guerrillas. Even ships from the UK and the US were targeted. But, with several high-profile cases, including a Soviet tanker called the Tuapse, the world grew weary and demanded that Chiang Kai-shek stop the blockade. Meanwhile, the detained crews became political footballs. Some were stuck here for over 30 years!
Visit our website www.formosafiles.com for photos, links, and more.
S3-E26 - Taiwan as part of the Philippines? Or a British or German colony? “What Ifs” of Formosan History -- With Michael Turton
Taiwanese history would have been very different except for a few pivotal moments. “Sure,” you might be thinking, “that's true everywhere.” However, the “what ifs” Michael Turton and Eryk Michael Smith talk about today are especially fascinating because of Taiwan’s strategic location. The Spanish and Dutch had short-lived settlements here in the 17th century, but either could easily have lasted for centuries. Later would-be colonizers included the UK (they considered using the east coast as a penal colony à la Australia), the US, and Germany. Turton lays out an interesting list of “what ifs” to support his argument that Taiwan being in the sphere of “Chinese” influence is an anomaly of history -- and was never inevitable.
Check out formosafiles.com for links to articles by Michael Turton, pics, images, and more.
S3-E25 - The Free China Junk Story - Part 3: Victory!
Today John Ross and Chris Stowers (a man who has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to sail on an old-fashioned sailing boat) end our three-part series on the amazing voyage of the Chinese junk (built possibly in the 1890s) that made it -- not without overcoming considerable difficulties -- from Keelung to San Francisco in 1955. We discover the fates of the two chickens brought along for the long sea trip (Mildred 1 and Mildred 2), and, of course, learn what happened to our adventurous crew. We won't give away any spoilers, but let's just say there's also a nice twist on what eventually happened to the Free China junk itself.
Visit www.formosafiles.com for pics, links, and more.
S3-E24 - Crossing the Pacific in a Junk - Trials and Tribulations (Part 2-3)
We continue the amazing tale of six men who set sail from Keelung in 1955 aboard the Free China junk to join a trans-Atlantic yacht race. They were attempting to show that an old-fashioned Chinese vessel could compete against some of the world's best boats. But first they need to cross the Pacific Ocean. It’s an inauspicious start, and we find Paul Chou and his shipmates in need of rescue and ordered to return home. But will they? Guest Chris Stowers draws on his experience sailing on a traditional Bugis craft in Indonesian waters to help us navigate this heartwarming story. This is part two of a three-part story, and part three drops tomorrow.
You really should visit www.formosafiles.com as we post links to videos, pictures, maps, extras and more.
S2-E23 - Across the Pacific in the Free China Junk (1955) - Part One
In 1954, a man living in Keelung 基隆 asked himself, “Could an old-fashioned Chinese junk beat modern yachts in a race on the high seas?” The answer? -- An almost unbelievable tale involving a boat that would become world-famous: the “Free China” junk (自由中國號). This week, John Ross and Chris Stowers (Stowers was part of a crew that also sailed on a wind-powered junk-like ship), tell the first part of this incredible story of bravery, perseverance, and a more than a little luck.
Don't forget to visit formosafiles.com for videos, links, maps, pics and info.
S3-E22 - Barbie: Made in Taiwan
Seen the Barbie movie? No worries... Eryk saw it for you, and he noticed one thing they didn't mention in the film: from 1967-1987, most of the world's Barbie dolls were made in Taiwan. Factories in the tiny town of Taishan 泰山 (now a district of New Taipei City) churned out millions of these well-made toys before Mattel moved operations to cheaper manufacturing locations. Plus, we've got info on traditional Taiwanese toys and John ends this week's episode with a strange tale of "possessed" paper dolls.
Go to our website formosafiles.com for pics, links, and other extras.
S3-E21 - Blockading Taiwan
China's People's Liberation Army/Navy has been practicing for a possible blockade of Taiwan with ships, planes, and drones. This week, Formosa Files looks at the history of blockades connected to Taiwan. Plus, hear about the nastiest "ocean blockade" in history -- when the new Qing authorities ordered the evacuation of the Chinese coast for over 20 years!
Maps, links, pics, and more can be found at formosafiles.com
Bonus Episode: 2-28: A Bad Beginning
In this special episode, we hear Eryk reading from chapter five of John’s “Taiwan in 100 Books.” The topic is 2-28, an event named after a date: February 28, 1947. It’s usually referred to as the February 28 incident, but sometimes called the 2-28 Massacre. American vice-consul at the time George Kerr used the term “the March massacres,” which gives a more accurate impression of what happened; the brutal suppression of uprisings and protests throughout the country, which left perhaps 20,000 dead. It was a bad beginning to ROC rule on Formosa, a dark stain that was a taboo topic until the early 1990s. Listen and learn about George Kerr’s “Formosa Betrayed”(1965), probably the most important English-language non-fiction work on Taiwan. We also cover the first English-language White Terror novel, “A Pail of Oysters” (1953), by Vern Sneider, and Allan James Shackleton’s “Formosa Calling” (1998), an account of 2-28 which took four decades to get published.
[ENCORE] The Empire's Last Solider (29 Years, 3 Months, and 16 Days)
The last Japanese "holdout" of World War II was an Indigenous Amis Taiwanese named Attun Palalin, but in Japanese Formosa, he was Nakamura Teruo (中村 輝夫). Palalin was one of a group of Indigenous Taiwanese who served in the Japanese military as part of the Takasago Volunteer Unit 高砂義勇隊. The Takasago Unit was built on the idea that Indigenous Taiwanese were best suited for guerilla-style fighting in Southeast Asian jungles as they could live off the land and were accustomed to tropical climates, etc. Several thousand Indigenous men were recruited. Many Formosans served under the flag of the Rising Sun with distinction during the Second World War; no one, however, was apparently more dedicated than "The Empire's Last Solider," Attun Palalin, who kept "fighting" on an island in modern-day Indonesia until 1974! Enjoy your summer, catch up on episodes, and check out this encore episode, first released in October 2021.
S3-E20 - John Groot and John Ross Walk and Talk Historic Tamsui 淡水 - Part Two
Tamsui (Danshui) native John Groot and Formosa Files' John Ross continue their walk and talk around the old town. They’re on the trail of the 1884 Battle of Tamsui between French and Taiwanese forces, a battle which was a rare victory for the beleaguered Qing dynasty. As well as military matters, the two Johns chat about the wider history of Tamsui. It’s a fun mix of travel and history. Visit formosafiles.com for links to videos, maps, images, info and more.
S3-E19 - Two Johns Take a "Walking Tour" in Historic Tamsui 淡水 - Part One
Strategically located near the mouth of the Tamsui (Danshui) River, the port town of Tamsui has a long, rich history. The Spanish built a fort here in the 1600s, as did the Dutch, and numerous European traders came here in the nineteenth century when it was a treaty port. But perhaps the most surprising foreign presence was the brief and bloody stay of the French military. This was the Battle of Tamsui of October 1884, which was a part of the Sino-French War. John Groot, the author of “Taiwanese Feet: My walk around Taiwan,” takes John Ross on a walking tour of his beloved hometown on the trail of this forgotten historical conflict.
Visit formosafiles.com for video links, images, maps, extra info and more.
S3-E18 - Getting Arrested in Taiwan - With Lawyer Ross D. Feingold
Formosa Files and Taipei-based lawyer Ross Feingold very much hope you never get arrested in Taiwan, or anywhere else for that matter. But should this unfortunate event occur, what are your rights? Does Taiwan require search warrants? Are there "Miranda Rights"? Is it really true that you can get in legal trouble for swearing at someone? Are cops allowed to parade suspects in front of the media in what Americans call a "perp walk"? Listen as Eryk gets some free legal advice* from an expert in local law. (*Disclaimer: None of the commentaries in this episode should be taken as official legal advice. Ross Feingold is speaking as an individual legal professional, and his views are his own.)
Visit formosafiles.com for info, links, images, and more.
S3-E17 – The Wrongful Execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) and the Death Penalty in Taiwan
Among the too many killings committed in the lawless year of 1997 was the execution of 21-year-old Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶), a soldier convicted of a horrific crime after a forced confession. Chiang went to his death maintaining his innocence, and 14 years later in 2011, he was posthumously cleared of all wrongdoing. John and Eryk tell this harrowing story, disagree on capital punishment, and discuss the death penalty in Taiwan. They end with a case John brings up of a serial killer from the 1970s-80s who certainly "deserved" his fate.
For images, links, and more, visit www.formosafiles.com
Bonus Episode: AIT/K: The American Institute in Taiwan - Kaohsiung Branch
It's the Fourth of July! Happy 247th Birthday, America! It's estimated that around 80,000 U.S. nationals live and work in Taiwan; most, however, do so in the north. But the U.S. State Department has never forgotten southern Taiwan! The American Institute in Taiwan, Kaohsiung Branch (AIT/K), has been serving both Taiwanese and American citizens in the southern port city since 1979. AIT/K's area includes the south, southeast, and outer islands such as Penghu. Check out this fun conversation Eryk recently had with outgoing AIT/K Branch Chief Tom Wong about his time in tropical Taiwan.
S3-E16 – Kaohsiung and Taiwan Celebrate Five Years of Weiwuying 衛武營國家藝術文化中心 – Part 2: Struggles & Victories!
John and Eryk have been commissioned to tell the tale of Weiwuying as this new Kaohsiung landmark turns five: in part two, we've got challenges galore to overcome, disputes to settle, and finally, a glorious ending as, more than arguably, one of the world's finest performing arts venues opens in 2018. Happy Birthday, Weiwuying!
S3-E15 – Kaohsiung and Taiwan Celebrate Five Years of Weiwuying 衛武營國家藝術文化中心 – Part 1: The Land & the Plan
As this already-iconic structure and performance center turns five, John and Eryk have been commissioned to tell its tale: it's a 40-year saga of a century-old military base becoming a park and home to, more than arguably, one of the world's finest performing arts venues. It's 2023, and Happy 5th Birthday, Weiwuying!
Bonus Episode: Eryk Calls John for a Meanderingly Interesting Chat
Now that we're well into Formosa Files season three, your co-hosts add some background to stories we've told, try to clear up misconceptions about the ROC’s exit from the United Nations, make some “controversial” comments on Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and finally, we agree that Mongolia is an independent country, which the Republic of China (Taiwan) also agreed is a fact, in 2002.
S3-E14 - The Three “Pearl Harbors” of the Chinese Communist Party - with Ian Easton
Author of The Final Struggle, Ian Easton, sits down for a long chat with Eryk about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It's remarkable how close to extinction the CPP came, not once, but thrice. This is a story of spies and counterspies, moles and defectors, violence, treachery and death. Listen to Ian Easton's case on how much we've underestimated the CCP, and how democratic governments, international institutions... and people of all freedom-loving societies, need to "wake up" to the reality of what the CCP is: an authoritarian near-superpower wedded to a fanatic Marxism/Leninism ideology that seeks a new world order, controlled, of course, by a modern emperor in Beijing.
A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: The Team that Gave Kaohsiung the Magnificent Weiwuying Performing Arts Center 衛武營國家藝術文化中心
Have you been to the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, 衛武營國家藝術文化中心, more commonly called Weiwuying? If not, you really should as it totally lives up to the hype, and is now the best such venue in Taiwan. You may have heard stories or seen TV programs about how hard it was to build "the largest ship on land," or "the largest performance center under one roof," but you can't beat hearing about it directly from one of the people who helped lead the team: Dutch architect Friso van der Steen. Trust us: it's a marvelous tale.
Visit www.npac-weiwuying.org for more info on Weiwuying in both English and Chinese.
[Encore] Mao's Taiwanese Spymaster
The Taiwan News recently did a feature on Formosa Files (link below), and in the article, this episode from 2021 is mentioned. We thought we'd re-release it for any new "Formosa Filers" who missed it the first time around. This is a fascinating tale of a Taiwanese man (Japanese Formosan, to be exact), who survived the Long March with Mao Zedong, and was then sent back to Taiwan to build a spy network and prepare for a communist invasion.
Many thanks to the Taiwan News for their detailed feature on Formosa Files.
For more pics, links, maps, images, etc., visit www.formosafiles.com
S3-E13 - The Flag of Taiwan (?)
You'll see the "Blue Sky, White Sun, and Red Earth" flag everywhere across Taiwan, and each year, streets are lined with this banner to celebrate Double Ten Day on October 10th. But is it really the flag of Taiwan? Who designed it? Today's episode is all about the ROC flag: an engrossing tale involving Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a martyr, warlords, and more. Learn about the various flags which contended for the honor to represent the Republic of China. Had fate gone differently, there might have been a five-striped banner flying from Taiwan’s flagpoles, or a really strange one which looks like (well, it has to be seen to be believed, so best pay a quick visit to the Formosa Files website to see the flags we’re talking about).
Visit www.formosafiles.com for pics, links, maps, and flags
Bonus Episode: Way of the Warrior - Martial Arts Master Chris Bates
Ever daydreamed about traveling to East Asia and studying under the great martial arts masters? American Chris Bates did just this, first coming to Taiwan in 1976 to study Mandarin and train in martial arts. Follow Chris’ journey, from meeting the eccentric Liao Wuchang (the Monkey Boxer), training under the retired general and Shaolin master Kao Fanghsien, to getting a wife. John and Chris also discuss other notable figures, including Donn Draeger and Robert Smith, two Americans who helped bring East Asian martial arts to the West.
Chris would gravitate toward the internal Chinese martial arts (xingyiquan in particular), training since the early 1980s under the acclaimed Hong Yixiang and his sons. In fact, Chris has just translated Blurred Boundaries, a magnificent biography of the late Master Hong. Chris wraps things up talking about his latest book, the timely novel Rise of the Water Margin.
Visit www.formosafiles.com for pics, maps, links and more.
S3-E12 - American Luxury Cruise Ship Runs into Green Island (1937)
The SS President Hoover was a ship ahead of its time, with innovative engine designs, air conditioning in all cabins, and space for almost a thousand passengers. But just seven years after being commissioned, the ship ran aground just off Green Island, which in 1937 was a part of the Japanese Empire. Listen to this week's story for a riveting adventure involving a possibly intentional bombing, a journey along the unfamiliar East Coast of Formosa in the dark, a shipwreck, drunken sailors, and some heartwarming pre-WWII kindness between Japan and America.
[Encore] Taiwan’s “Iron Man of Asia” - The Amazing CK Yang (楊傳廣)
Decathlete athletes are special. The sport is TEN events: sprint 100 meters, then 400 meters, then race 1500 meters; then comes 110 meters with hurdles you have to jump, then it's on to the long jump, the high jump, pole vaulting, discus throwing, javelin throwing, and finally, shotput. It's exhausting just reading that list, let alone doing it. But Maysang Kalimud, from the Amis Indigenous group in Taitung, won silver in the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Competing against his friend, American Rafer Johnson, Maysang Kalimud, better known by his Chinese name, CK Yang (楊傳廣 1933-2007), lost the gold medal by a hair's breadth, and became the first Olympic medalist from Taiwan. The man the international press called “The Iron Man of Asia,” may have been the greatest all-round athlete to ever compete for Taiwan. We love this story, so we're re-releasing it this week – enjoy!
Visit www.formosafiles.com for links, pics, maps, images, info, and more.
S3-E11 - Steve McQueen and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)
The Sand Pebbles, which tells the story of the USS San Pablo, a US Navy gunboat operating in China in the 1920s, was shot in northern Taiwan over the winter of '65-'66. The movie was directed by Robert Wise, of The Sound of Music fame, and starred "the King of Cool" Steve McQueen. The film was the 4th highest-grossing movie of 1966 but the shoot was a less-than-inspiring experience for much of the cast and crew (to put it mildly). "Bad Boy" McQueen exhibited plenty of the behavior he was known for and – of course – the weather in northern Taiwan in the winter wasn't friendly to the moviemakers. Listen to this week's Formosa Files episode for the whole story. Visit www.formosafiles.com for pictures, maps, images, info, and much more.
S3-E10 - Lord of Formosa - Part Two: Coyett VS. Koxinga
Joyce Bergvelt's book Lord of Formosa is a novel, but she's an author who has extensively studied the Dutch colonial period and the main characters involved. Lord of Formosa, therefore, might be closer to a history book than fiction. Listen to John speak with Joyce as they discuss the complicated, brash, and violent personality of Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功) and hear the details of how this pirate-warlord Ming loyalist clashed with Frederick Coyett, the Dutch governor of Formosa (who was actually Swedish).
Visit www.formosafiles.com for images, maps, book recommendations, and more!
Bonus Episode: Answering the Mail
Join us as we try to answer some questions we've gotten, such as "What is Whisby and... just why?" You'll also discover Eryk's shameful secret (he loves betel nuts!), and hear John's opinion on re-introducing the extinct clouded leopard.
S3-E9 - Nixon and Kissinger Grovel in China, and Taiwan’s “China” Days are Numbered
Long hailed as a “historic diplomatic breakthrough,” the reality is that US president Richard Nixon's 1972 trip to China has been rather oversold. Yes, the brief Mao-Nixon meeting did start a thaw in relations, but Nixon may have given more than he got. Here’s a gripping tale of geopolitical strategy, grand ambition, secret trips, betrayal and blunders. As well as covering the famous summit which would give rise to the expression, “like Nixon going to China,” we also touch on Chiang Kai-shek’s own plans for “going to China” via Vietnam and the Soviet Union.
S3-E8 - Early Photos of Taiwan - by John Thomson - 1871
Some of the earliest photos we have of Taiwan were taken by a British photographer who visited the southwest of the island in 1871. Taking pics back then was far from “point and shoot.” It was "get inside portable darkroom, grab delicate glass plate, cover with chemical A, then B, then C, then expose the plate to light, then more...” and on and on. We owe John Thomson a debt of gratitude for his short but significant expedition to “photograph wild Formosa!” In particular, his images of the “Pingpu” (Plains) Indigenous peoples of the Tainan and Kaohsiung hinterlands captured the twilight of their old ways.
To see Thomson’s photographs, and for additional information, visit www.formosafiles.com
S3-E7 - Lord of Formosa and the VOC - Part One
Arguably the single most important event in Taiwan’s history – and certainly the most dramatic story – was the arrival in 1661 of warlord and Ming loyalist Koxinga (鄭成功 Zheng Chenggong). After a fierce struggle, Koxinga evicted the Dutch, who had established a successful settlement in southwestern Taiwan in 1624. This clash is the subject of “Lord of Formosa,” a wonderful novel by Dutch writer Joyce Bergvelt. Too epic a historical story for just one episode, in the first of this special two-part series, John chats with Joyce about the Dutch East India Company (the VOC). What was the VOC and why was it here in Taiwan? And why on earth were the Dutch importing bricks from Europe and exporting deer skins to Japan?
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S3-E6 - Gladys Aylward, Ingrid Bergman, and the Inn of the Eight Happinesses (八福客栈)
Eight happinesses? If you’ve heard of or seen the famous movie about the remarkable British missionary Gladys Aylward, you’ll know that the film (which was originally set to be shot in Taiwan) was called “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Well, like many parts of her story, things were changed for the big-screen adaptation with Swedish megastar Ingrid Bergman. And Aylward – who founded an orphanage in Taipei in the late 1950s, and died in Taiwan in 1970 – didn't like the movie version one bit. Here’s an incredible story about an incredible woman.
S3-E5 - Local Language Loanwords: A Lovely Hot Pot of Fujianese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, English, and More
All languages borrow words from other languages. These “loanwords” often come with fascinating historical backstories, their adoption the result of encounters by traders, scholars, and adventurers; and the result of colonialization, as was the case with Taiwan, 1895 to 1945, when many Japanese words came into the Taiwanese language. And because the Japanese are themselves such prodigious borrowers, many of these words were originally from other languages. Find out why English owes such a debt to Cantonese, why John loves “tea,” and why Eryk doesn’t want to “kowtow.” Whether you’re an “obasan” or a “joss-pidgin-man,” we think you’ll enjoy our look at lovely linguistic loanwords.
S3-E4 - Madou, Tainan 麻豆: Pomelos and Priestesses
Today, the district of Madou (麻豆區) in Tainan City is home to about 43,000 people. It has a pleasant small-town feel, an economy mainly based on agriculture, in particular, a citrus fruit called the pomelo (柚子). Back in the 1620s, when the Dutch arrived, Madou -- then called Mattau -- was inhabited by the Siraya (西拉雅族), a Taiwanese Indigenous group. Siraya resistance to Dutch expansion would lead to bloodshed and bring about a major turning point in early Taiwan history. Join Formosa Files as we visit the childhood home of Chen Shui-bian and recount the clash of cultures in the 1600s. You can also hear us stumble over some lines and words – John learns how to pronounce “pomelo” – in this "raw" edition. We left our mistakes in the episode to give listeners a look behind the scenes.
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S3-E3 - Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁: The Early Years
Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was a highly controversial two-term ROC president (2000–2008). How “A-Bian” studied and fought his way out of rural poverty to the highest office, thus bringing 55 years of continuous KMT rule to an end, is the single greatest personal political story in modern Taiwanese history. Sadly, though, this fairytale would have a tragic ending, with a troubled second term and Chen later doing prison time for corruption. But in today’s episode, we look at the early years: his stoic parents, his remarkable local teachers, and the struggles and triumphs that shaped him.
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S3-E2 - Mel Gibson Makes a Movie in Taiwan (1979)
Ever heard of the film "Attack Force Z"? No? Don't worry... almost no one has. Filmed in Taiwan, this WWII story featured both Mel Gibson and Sam Neill, long before they became major Hollywood stars. Gibson later called the film “pretty woeful... it's so bad, it's funny.” That's an unfairly harsh assessment, likely coming from the difficulties encountered making the movie on location in Taiwan back in the winter of 1979-80.
S3-E1 - Storm Stories: Tales of Typhoons in Taiwan
With their fearsome winds and dramatic downpours, typhoons have long been a part of Taiwan's history. Join Formosa Files for a look at a few notable typhoons that have hit Taiwan in more recent times, as well as some interesting asides, such as: When did typhoons get names? Why did they once only use female names? And, do typhoons do anything good for Taiwan?