6/13/2007

Ilan (Yilan or 宜蘭)



This is a picture of the Ilan (宜蘭) Train Station and also the street that runs in front of it (top). Built in 1918 during the Japanese colonial period, it is another example of Japan's lasting influence on the island. During fifty years of colonization, Japan hoisted Taiwan up from a rebellious and superstitious backwater to become Asia's second most modernized country (after Japan herself). Besides bringing peace and stability, Japan also built the first (with the exception of 42 km of track) railroads, banks, modern hospitals, universities and police force on the island. Taiwan was a world-leader in sugar and camphor production and it is said that Taiwanese rice fed the entire Imperial Army during WWII. Japan also rid the country of malaria and cholera (both came back when the KMT retook the island in 1945).

About the only place to find a cab in Ilan is in front of the train station. It must be hard to get passengers in Ilan. Once I had walked to the train station (no cabs anywhere else), two drivers offered me rides back to Taipei for NT $300 (the train is NT $223). It's an hour drive (1.5 hours on the train). NT $300 is less than US $10.

A rugged mountain range separates Ilan (northwestern Taiwan) from Taipei; much of the train ride goes through tunnels. The mountains made this part of the country fairly inaccessible to both the Dutch and the Ching. Dutch control over the area (1624-61) has been described as weak and the Ching Dynasty, like it did with most of Taiwan, had fits keeping Ilan's restless population, both Hoklo and Kuvalan (one of Taiwan's many Aboriginal groups), in check. In the end, isolation probably hurt the Kuvalan as the Ching Government was unable to regulate Hoklo expansion into the area. In the early 1800s, the Hoklo burst into the area. Within the next few years, some 40,000 settlers had cheated and robbed the Kuvalan out of most of their territory, pushing them down to Hualien (花莲).

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