12/23/2007

Japanese Dorm




I took these shots of a Japanese all-girls' dorm at Hualien (花蓮), Taiwan, across from the Hualien all-girls' HS. The school, together with local government, is rebuilding the dorm with a plan to open it as a museum. Built in the 1920s, it is another reminder of Japan's influence on Taiwan. (Taiwan was a colony of Japan for 50 years, from 1895 - 1945, after China abandoned the island following the Treaty of Shimonoseki.)

I'll quickly run through Japan's achievements here in Taiwan:

1. Stability. Taiwan suffered through 159 rebellions in 212 years under Chinese rule. The Ching government could do little about all of the unrest on the island, which was divided into fiefdoms under strongmen. The Japanese seemed to have little trouble knocking these strongmen down a few pegs.
2. Taiwan's first banks were established.
3. Malaria and cholera were eradicated. It is worth mentioning that both reappeared after 1945. In 1946, the UN discovered that sewage from cholera wards in Taiwan was actually being dumped into ponds that were commercially fished. T.S. King, the first director of health under the KMT, responded: "Only poor people are contracting the disease" (Denny Roy, A Political History, p. 63).
4. In terms of agriculture, Taiwan had become the second most productive country in Asia, after Japan. Taiwanese rice is said to have fed the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. Rice output was halved immediately after the KMT took over. Much of the rice that was harvested was siphoned off by corrupt officials and sold on the black market in Shanghai while Taiwan entered a period of famine. Chen Yi, Taiwan's first KMT governor, blamed this on private hoarding. Meanwhile, gangsters were imported from China to work the siphon gig. They were given the green light to enter the homes of Taiwanese and to seize "hoarded rice" stores.
5. Whole forests were cut down. The Taiwanese were told the wood disappeared during the Japanese era, and many believe it to this day. I've often been told: "The wood all went to build Japanese temples!" According to Western observers, a majority of the deforestation occurred (began to) in the late forties.
6. The train network, which was both built and maintained with modern efficiency rivaling any Western country, ground to a halt. Signals and rails were stripped and sold for scrap, once again, on the black markets of China.
7. Looting and home invasion became a part of life. The 30/70 principle that Chiang's army functioned on in China was upheld in Taiwan. 30 percent of a Chinese soldier's pay came from his salary. 70 percent was to be made up scavenging off the local population. This kind of behavior led the Taiwanese to protest in 1947 (see the 2-28 Massacre). It is said that 30,000 Taiwanese died during this episode.

The carpet-baggers from China soon gave rise to the popular refrain on the island: "Dogs [the Japanese] leave, pigs [the Chinese] rush in."

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