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The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files

The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files

By John Ross and Eryk Michael Smith

The history of Taiwan (1600 C.E. - 2000) told through interesting stories in a non-chronological order. John Ross is an author and publisher of works on Taiwan and China, while Eryk Michael Smith has worked as a writer and journalist for several media outlets in Taiwan. Both hosts have lived in Taiwan for well over 20 years and call the island home. Email: formosafiles@gmail.com
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Currently playing episode

S2-E9 - The Murder of Pai Hsiao-yen and the Alexander Family Hostage Crisis

The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files Apr 28, 2022

00:00
25:49
[ENCORE] Henry Kissinger (and president Nixon) Go to China, and Everything Changes for the Republic of China (Taiwan)
Nov 30, 202329:50
S3-E35 - Bits and Pieces (of Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐) and a Pre-Announcement Announcement
Nov 24, 202323:17
S3-E34 - Fabulous Foods of Formosa (and Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐)
Nov 16, 202325:23
 S3-E33 - Tales of Tokyo and Taiwan 

 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.

Nov 09, 202326:05
S3-E32 - Hakka Author Wu Zhuoliu (吳濁流), Part 2 - Japan’s Surrender and 2/28
Nov 02, 202325:13
WELCOME TO THE PODCAST! - The "White Formosan" - S1-E1
Oct 31, 202324:50
A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Manga Artist Mark Crilley Talks About His New Book - LOST IN TAIWAN

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.

Oct 26, 202321:07
[ENCORE] Golf in Taiwan: A Surprisingly Long History
Oct 23, 202324:45
S3-E31 - The “Tea Thief” - Robert Fortune's Very Brief Trip to Taiwan (1854)
Oct 19, 202324:54
[ENCORE] The 4,300-Kilometer Chase of an Illegal Taiwanese Fishing Boat (1989)
Oct 12, 202325:46
[Bonus] Photographing Taiwan – Interview with Chris Stowers
Oct 12, 202328:17
S3-E30 - When the Russians Bombed Taipei (and other aviation stories)
Oct 06, 202326:52
S3-E29 - Taiwan's Great Pork Apocalypse (1997)
Sep 28, 202324:57
S3-E28 - More Bits and Pieces: Ox Ditches and an Unsinkable Warship
Sep 21, 202325:35
S3-E27 - When Taiwan (ROC) Blockaded China (PRC)
Sep 14, 202328:59
 S3-E26 - Taiwan as part of the Philippines? Or a British or German colony? “What Ifs” of Formosan History -- With Michael Turton

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.

Sep 07, 202329:09
S3-E25 - The Free China Junk Story - Part 3: Victory!
Sep 01, 202327:15
S3-E24 - Crossing the Pacific in a Junk - Trials and Tribulations (Part 2-3)
Aug 31, 202327:06
S2-E23 - Across the Pacific in the Free China Junk (1955) - Part One
Aug 24, 202326:18
S3-E22 - Barbie: Made in Taiwan
Aug 17, 202327:04
S3-E21 - Blockading Taiwan
Aug 11, 202328:18
Bonus Episode: 2-28: A Bad Beginning

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. 

Aug 03, 202320:58
[ENCORE] The Empire's Last Solider (29 Years, 3 Months, and 16 Days)

[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.

Jul 27, 202327:16
S3-E20 - John Groot and John Ross Walk and Talk Historic Tamsui 淡水 - Part Two
Jul 21, 202322:23
S3-E19 - Two Johns Take a "Walking Tour" in Historic Tamsui 淡水 - Part One
Jul 20, 202320:36
S3-E18 - Getting Arrested in Taiwan - With Lawyer Ross D. Feingold

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.

Jul 13, 202330:35
S3-E17 – The Wrongful Execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) and the Death Penalty in Taiwan

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  

Jul 06, 202327:04
Bonus Episode: AIT/K: The American Institute in Taiwan - Kaohsiung Branch

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.

Jul 04, 202325:15
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!

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! 

Jun 30, 202328:22
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

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! 

Jun 29, 202330:19
Bonus Episode: Eryk Calls John for a Meanderingly Interesting Chat

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.  

Jun 22, 202326:26
S3-E14 - The Three “Pearl Harbors” of the Chinese Communist Party - with Ian Easton

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. 

Jun 15, 202338:13
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

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.

Jun 08, 202329:32
[Encore] Mao's Taiwanese Spymaster
Jun 06, 202323:03
S3-E13 - The Flag of Taiwan (?)
Jun 01, 202324:15
Bonus Episode: Way of the Warrior - Martial Arts Master Chris Bates

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.

May 25, 202327:32
S3-E12 - American Luxury Cruise Ship Runs into Green Island (1937)

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. 

May 18, 202325:21
[Encore] Taiwan’s “Iron Man of Asia” - The Amazing CK Yang (楊傳廣)
May 11, 202324:34
S3-E11 - Steve McQueen and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)
May 04, 202327:54
S3-E10 - Lord of Formosa - Part Two: Coyett VS. Koxinga

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!

Apr 27, 202321:54
Bonus Episode: Answering the Mail

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.

Apr 20, 202321:37
S3-E9 - Nixon and Kissinger Grovel in China, and Taiwan’s “China” Days are Numbered

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.

Apr 13, 202327:25
S3-E8 - Early Photos of Taiwan - by John Thomson - 1871 
Apr 06, 202326:30
S3-E7 - Lord of Formosa and the VOC - Part One

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?

Visit www.formosafiles.com for pics, links, and much more!

Mar 30, 202327:00
S3-E6 - Gladys Aylward, Ingrid Bergman, and the Inn of the Eight Happinesses (八福客栈)

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. 

Mar 23, 202326:19
S3-E5 - Local Language Loanwords: A Lovely Hot Pot of Fujianese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, English, and More

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.

Mar 16, 202326:05
S3-E4 - Madou, Tainan 麻豆: Pomelos and Priestesses

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.


Visit our website for info, pics, links, and more! www.formosafiles.com

Mar 09, 202326:54
S3-E3 - Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁: The Early Years

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.

Visit our website for info, pics, links, and more! www.formosafiles.com  

Mar 02, 202327:07
S3-E2 - Mel Gibson Makes a Movie in Taiwan (1979)

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.

Feb 23, 202324:50
S3-E1 - Storm Stories: Tales of Typhoons in Taiwan

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?

Feb 16, 202327:50