12/12/2011

National Museum of Taiwan History Opens


The National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan (國立台灣歷史博物館), the size of a small airport, is finally on board. After years in the works, those who are in charge got the doors open last month. As I've been going past the construction site for years, I decided to not to tarry. Last night, the wife, daughter and self hopped on the high speed train in Taipei and sped down to Tainan. We spent this afternoon going through the various exhibits, spanning from about 7,000 years ago through recent years. I'm not going to go into great depth. I'm simply going to throw up a load of pics with a few comments to separate them. If you want to know more, you're gonna have to head there yourself.


The wait to get in (on a Sunday) is about 30 minutes. Every 15 minutes, they let another 100 people in. As mentioned, the museum is huge; it absorbs the crowds easily. They're also waving the entrance fee for the time being.


This is a replica of one of the boats that brought Chinese people to Taiwan during the early 17th century. Actually, most of the first Chinese settlers came on Dutch ships, but I still found this one interesting.


A replica of a 17th century junk, the kind that delivered a small proportion of the original Chinese settlers to Taiwan during the late Ming Dynasty era. 


The placard shows that for most of 18th century, immigration of women to Taiwan was impossible. I appreciated this particular exhibit as it's a theme I've been banging away at for ages on Patrick Cowsill Wanhua Taiwan. The question that naturally should be asked is this: how then was Taiwan's population expanded during this era? If you answered Chinese males normally married aboriginal women, and that is why most Taiwanese people contain aboriginal genes, you deserve a bonus point or two. There is lots of stuff here on the meshing of Chinese and aboriginal culture to create the Taiwan we know today: land ownership issues, tenant-landlord relationships (aborigines actually owned a lot of Taiwan's property) and so on. The development of agriculture in Taiwan is also covered in detail. Taiwan's original prosperity was built on its high productivity in this sector. Some interesting anecdotes on the irrigation wars of the 18th century, when neighbors battled each other to protect their water sources, are finely presented in the museum. 


The first 11 non-aboriginal governors of Taiwan were as follows:

Maarten G. SNOCK 1624-5, Gerard Frederiksz RONG DE WITH 1625-7, Pieter NUYTS 1627-9, Hans PUTSMAN 1629-36, Johan VAN DER BURGH 1636-40, Paulus TRAUDENIUSRONG 1640-3, Maximiliaan LEMAIRE 1643-4, Francis CARON 1644-6, Nicolaas G. VERBURGG 1649-53, Cornelius CAESAR 1653-6 and Frederick COYETT 1656-62

None of these individuals are mentioned in the museum (at least so I could see). The language is problematic regarding early colonization. According to the National Museum of Taiwan History, the Japanese "coveted" Taiwan in 1593. Meanwhile, the Dutch "occupied" Taiwan in 1624. But the Chinese "settled down" here during these years, hoping to establish a Han-Chinese "foundation." Notice when the individuals invading Taiwan are non-Chinese, their actions are described in negative terms. 

Japanese colonial era (1895-1945)

Main Street, Japanese colonial era

*****

There is also a narrative on the KMT colonial era, including the 2-28 massacre in 1947 and Kaohsiung Incident of 1979, one of the KMT's final attempts to stifle the democratization movement in Taiwan. In the non-permanent section on the third floor, someone has managed to sneak this comment in: "After 1949, the elites and entrepreneurs who retreated from the mainland to Taiwan not only transferred capital and technology to the island, but also further implemented land reforms and developed an economic development strategy. This finally enabled Taiwan to move from being a developing country into being a fully developed, modern society." Nice try. The Taiwan they found was already the second most developed country in Asia -- the China they came from was a backwater by comparison. The initial reaction of the "elites and entrepreneurs" was to cart off what was left of Taiwan's infrastructure after World War II to China and to snuff out any reaction to their presence with 38 years of martial law. Taiwan's economic success was built on the backs of small and medium enterprises, operated primarily by Taiwanese individuals. These companies, and Taiwan's democracy, eventually prospered in spite of the presence of the so-called "elites and entrepreneurs" who "retreated here," or so I've been told.


My wife figures this museum is the better than the National Palace Museum for various reasons. I got a kick out of it too. I'll follow up with tidbits about Wanhua (萬華), where I live, in the coming days and anything else that comes to mind.


9 comments:

James said...

Actually, most of the first Chinese settlers came on Dutch ships

Ive heard you saying this before and it is isnt really true, at least not of the early settlers. There were people making the trip across way before the Dutch.

Even under the Dutch, with a frontier as unmonitored and porous as Taiwans was, there were tonnes of people making the trip outside official channels.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Even under the Dutch, with a frontier as unmonitored and porous as Taiwans was, there were tonnes of people making the trip outside official channels."

There are figures, which I am sure you have seen. The actual numbers don't matter. I saw three replicas of Chinese boats assisting immigration during the 17th century. Dutch ships are not represented at all; they are not discussed in the immigration topic whatsoever.

Jeremy said...

Fascinating, I'd like to check it out next time I'm down there!

EyeDoc said...

"If you answered Chinese males normally married aboriginal women, and that is why most Taiwanese people contain aboriginal genes, you deserve a bonus point or two..."

I beg to differ.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"If you answered Chinese males normally married aboriginal women, and that is why most Taiwanese people contain aboriginal genes, you deserve a bonus point or two... I beg to differ."

I know. And you've made a good case for your point of view: http://danshuihistory.blogspot.com/2011/08/illegal-migrationimmigration.html#comment-form

Even if you disagree, isn't this a question that still needs to be asked? To say that this was the ban on immigration and here are the years, but leave it at that is odd. I look at those dates, but they don't tell me anything in the exhibit. In other words, so what?

John Scott said...

My 2 cents: I have not researched the issues, but what I have gotten from what I have read and heard regarding the Dutch influence on immigration into Taiwan is that:

A. Although immigration from China was happening before the period of Dutch control, it grew rapidly during that period, and that increase was due manily to the fact that the Dutch had the military and manpower to control the maritime trading routes and make them safer that they had previously been. Pirates were a on-going threat, but were less of a threat during the Dutch period. Non-native settlements also became more permanent (as opposed to e.g. temporary fishing camps).

B. The expanding immigration into Taiwan was a result not only of more and safer opportunities for actual transport to Taiwan, but also the result of a quickly growing need for labor. With the more reliable access to markets resulting from Dutch control and trading systems, agriculture became more large-scale than ever before (tea, rice, etc.). Other export-oriented activities also expanded enormously for the same reasons, such as deer hides, camphor, salt, etc. The whole Dutch system was based on profits made by taxing all of these activities.

So, yes, immigration expanded as a direct result of Dutch control, and while it would be interesting to know who owned and operated the vessels that actually brought the settlers from China, it is the larger economic push and pull factors of immigration that are more directly relevant.

About women immigrants—it is easy to find evidence of imperial edicts banning it, but we also can be sure that it happened to some extent anyway. Probably even the Dutch brought some Chinese women for various reasons.

Also, Aborigines have never been a single group with homogenous social characteristics, so it would be meaningless for a museum or history book to say that Chinese settlers did or did not inter-marry with them. I think certain aboriginal groups were relatively more settled and agricultural, less warlike, and probably these groups inter-married to a larger extent with non-aboriginal immigrants. Some of the inter-marriage was for strategic and diplomatic purposes, and even the early Japanese colonial settlers did some of that.

John Scott said...

I hope you offered suggestions to the curator of the museum!

Seeing your photos solves another mystery. A couple of months ago, I saw a photo on someone's blog of those faux Japanese-era shopfronts and I couldn't figure out what or where it was. Now I know.

Pretty interesting to see how the recent interest in old stuff has developed in the last 5-6 years. Before it was uninteresting BECAUSE it was old. Now it is cool and vintage, although those types of buildings are still being torn down daily. Maybe the feeling is that it's OK because enough of them can still be seen within a "day-trip-tourist" radius of most of the larger cities.

I wonder if this growing interest in that period is related in some way to the gradual localization of Taiwanese history and consciousness? Maybe the KMT-controlled curricula and media preferred to ignore those cultural and historical elements, because they were obviously influenced by Japanese trends (or sometimes even designed by Japanese architects), and didn't fit well into the KMT narrative that the it was the KMT that brought development to Taiwan, that Taiwan's history began in 1949, or was a continuation of the history of China, etc.

On that subject, I have often wondered why the KMT did not try to re-build the presidential building, and other prominent municipal structures. I know the 50s and 60s were lean times, but I am still surprised that they didn't try to erase more of the Japanese influence for ideological purposes.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"So, yes, immigration expanded as a direct result of Dutch control, and while it would be interesting to know who owned and operated the vessels that actually brought the settlers from China, it is the larger economic push and pull factors of immigration that are more directly relevant."

Yes, that's right. It doesn't matter how "porous" Taiwan was, because without the Dutch, Taiwan was unsafe for Chinese people to immigrate to and not that profitable for them once they were here. There weren't actually that many Chinese in Taiwan prior to the Dutch either -- I think less than 2,000 in the Tainan area and some pirates here and there. Where would they have gone? The aborigines were hostile at this time. That being said, the few Chinese that did make it to Taiwan had the jump on the Dutch and profited as translators and in their early networks.

"it would be interesting to know who owned and operated the vessels that actually brought the settlers from China." I'll look around for figures and put them up later. Remember that the Dutch were bringing in people as labor; thus, they had an interest in getting Chinese safely to Taiwan. They also had sizable ships. The Chinese were bringing people to Chinese to charge them for passage; they didn't care what these people did once they landed. Many of those they brought were dropped off in the middle of nowhere, at the most convenient places for the transporters. These places often included islands and sand bars that weren't even close to Taiwan. And look at the Chinese boat in my post (from the museum). It's hardly a ship. How many people would have even fit aboard?

John Scott said...

Looks like a cool museum, I want to go see it. The only similar thing I have seen is the small exhibit inside the old Dutch consulate near Anping (next door to the cool banyan-tree-covered warehouse).

Good point- All things being equal (and there were probably many things that weren't!), people might have preferred to ride on a Dutch ship (rather than on a Chinese boat), seeing as how the Dutch ships were probably bigger and had more guns... and probably better meals and service!

My point was simply that I hope that these kinds of museums (as well as kids' history textbooks, etc.) promote as much understanding about the larger factors explaining WHY so many people immigrated, as about HOW people actually made the trip (like on whose ships, etc.).

Kids (and adults) like to see the ships, guns, etc., and it is natural for them to focus more on the hows than the whys.

So a kid might say, "Oh, so Chinese came to Taiwan because the Dutch brought them here", and hopefully the teacher or museum curator can say, "Yes, that may be how many of them came here, but the reason that so many Chinese were willing to settle in Taiwan at that time was because..."