Taiwan's Climate, 1895

I've been reading up on Taiwan in 1895, just to get a feel for what was going on at the time China dumped the island on Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimoneseki. Just doing the math, it's now 118 years since China got rid of us. Anyway, I came across this report on the climate, which I found interesting. It was written by N. Perkins, an assistant to the British Consul in Tamsui. I've never seen anything else by him, which is a pity as he writes well. He also types, which makes things a lot easier. Most of the consular reports are in cursive, so they can be quite the slog: 

The Formosan seas are well known for their typhoons, chiefly occurring between June and October.

The velocity and violence of the winds during the height of these storms is almost incredible, and from their rotatory course they test to the utmost skill of the builder, whether of house or ship. 

The rain is swept in steam-like masses along the ground, and the rivers appear to be lifted bodily from their beds. 

These tremendous storms cause the want of harbours along the coast to be more severely felt. Tainan, however, seldom feels the force of typhoons, which usually break off east or west at South Cape.

Earthquakes are also of frequent occurrence, and it is always considered an ominous sign when a long period of time elapses without some shock being felt. There is a record of a severe shock in 1782, which is said to have effected [I checked the dictionary and this seems to be correct] a considerable change in the outline of the coast. A frightful convulsion occurred in 1862, and more recently violent shocks of 1881, 1882, and 1892. 

From what has been said above it will be seen that the island tends, however slowly, to reunite itself with the mainland, from which its severance at remote period was probably due to some volcanic convulsion.

Much has been written about Taiwan's ship-wreckers (bandits who looted and stripped ships in need of repair after storms and thus stranded off Taiwan). Their business was a lucrative one in the past due to the conditions Perkins describes: the violent storms and lack of good harbors for ships to escape from them. We shouldn't forget that Taiwan was a fairly lawless frontier prior to the arrival of the Japanese. I imagine the situation off Taiwan's shores resembled what is going on right now near Somalia. In addition to the law and order provided by Japan starting in 1895, it should be noted that technology and a better understanding of weather patterns also worked to put these groups out of business. I checked the records for the previous year and there were only two wrecks, a Norwegian schooner called the Sylphiden and an American barque called the Mary L. Stone. The Sylphiden, stranded just south of Tamsui, was towed into Tamsui's harbor. She was then dismantled and sold, I am guessing, by the owners. The Mary L. Stone washed ashore at Ilan. The cargo, kerosene bound for Shanghai, was a "total loss." Luckily, nobody died.

The part about the earthquakes reminds me of the 1999 "9/21" earthquake, when a 7.3 quake hit the island in the middle of the night. After that, Jade Mountain, Taiwan's highest peak, was said to have shrunk by several meters. There is a pretty good account of it on wiki. The wiki write-up for the 1935 Hsinchu-Taichung earthquake, Taiwan's deadliest earthquake on record, is solid as well. I want to mention the earthquake of 1654. WM Campbell covers it and others in Formosa Under the Dutch (page 7): 

On 14 December 1654, there happened a mighty one which with short intermissions, continued for seven weeks. Indeed, some have been so unusually violent that the valleys, mountains, and houses moved like a ship on the waves, as if the whole of the land were about to sink altogether. 

I know I am wandering now, but I'm going to close out by saying the 1650s weren't a good time for Taiwan when it came to Mother Nature. Writes Campbell: 

During 1655, [an] abundance of locusts spread themselves over the islands of Formosa and Tayouan [where the Dutch fort Zeelandia was located]. Their first appearance was in Tayouan, where they fell down from the sky like a great fall of snow, and covered all the ground. After two or three days they directed their way to Sakam [modern Yanshui 鹽水, I think] . . . and multiplied in such numbers that no place was free of them. The people of Sakam tried to destroy them, and in four or five days the bodies of those they collected weighed thirty thousand piculs [or shoulder loads]; but it proved in vain and efforts were given up, for the locust[s] continued to increase until all the sugar-cane and rice crops were utterly destroyed.  


EyeDoc said...

Sakam is the 中西區 of modern-day Tainan City.

Patrick Cowsill said...

How are you getting that? The map seems to indicate Yanshui.

EyeDoc said...

You went too far north. Sakam Tower = Ft Provintia (built in 1653). Sakam was the homeland of the Siraya people.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Yeah, I think you are right, based on descriptions from Campbell.

Readin' said...

it's now 118 years since China got rid of us.

But China got us back in October 25, 1945, my friend! Our soldiers fought hard to kill the Japanese beasts and reunited the lost province with the rest of the country. Long live the ROC!

Patrick Cowsill said...

Over 200,000 Taiwanese individuals served in the Imperial Japanese forces. 30,000 Taiwanese died fighting for the Japanese in WWII.

"But China got us back in October 25, 1945, my friend! Our soldiers fought hard to kill the Japanese beasts and reunited the lost province with the rest of the country."

So, considering that all of those individuals perished fighting for Japan, and that Taiwan is what she is today, what on earth are you talking about?

Readin' said...

Those soldiers were forced by the Japanese to fight for them, they had no choice. It is a sad part of history, when brothers had to fight against brothers, no doubt. That's why we have to make sure we never repeat it again. ROC liberated Taiwan in 1945 and now we hope, that we can peacefully reunite with our mainland brothers in the future. We are closer to this goal every year. I have high hopes in Xi Jinping.

Anonymous said...

Brothers fighting against brothers?

Taiwanese drafted by the Japanese in 1942-43 to fight the Chinese in, er, where exactly?

Or was it in 1946, the Japanese-Taiwanese soldiers forced at gunpoint by the KMT to fight the PRC in China?

Or the Taiwanese drafted, starting in 1949, by KMT to fight PRC?

ROC "liberated" Taiwan in 1945? But how?

"We are closer to this goal every year" - according to what sources?

When did Xi Jinping announce reunification with TW?

Can this gentleman enlighten those of us still in the dark?

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Those soldiers were forced by the Japanese to fight for them, they had no choice."

No, that's not true; you're making this up as you go. Taiwanese people were first eligible to join the Japanese military in 1931. Compulsory service did not come into effect until 1942, but Japan and China were at war since 1937.

I interviewed Taiwanese people for my MA thesis who voluntarily served in the Japanese forces. They said they wanted to serve because they could make more money than at home. There were other reasons for them to volunteer. In fact, lots of Taiwanese people were turned away when they tried to volunteer.

Readin' said...

Ok, looks like you're only answering what suits you and avoiding the truth. Fine.

Fact is, there was widespread resistance in Taiwan from 1895 until 1915 until the dōka period. Japanese were good in suppressing the Chinese uprisings and brain-washing a whole generation, who were born after 1915 and send them to fight against their brothers. Luckily Jiang Jieshi changed that, when he liberated Taiwan and today everybody speaks Mandarin very well.

Let me give you a hint - we are all Chinese, we always were: The same roots, the same language, the same blood. And by "the same language" I mean Min-nan. I am originally from Fuzhou, but I'm studying in Taiwan and I have always been Republican by heart. I also believe, that Xi Jinping is a man we could trust, so is Mr. Ma. Together we can solve the cross-Strait issues and reunite in peace again. It's only a matter of few years, so prepare for it, my foreign and naive friend.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Ok, looks like you're only answering what suits you and avoiding the truth. Fine."

I have simply given you the facts. Taiwanese people chose to serve in Japanese forces until 1942 (or 11 years and five years of fighting China). This point contradicts what you have written.

"Those soldiers were forced by the Japanese to fight for them, they had no choice. It is a sad part of history." The reason I responded is because you have been untrue, especially in saying "they had no choice" (see above facts).

The rest of what you have written is an opinion. You would be better served in speaking simply for Readin'. Taiwan has a variety of citizens; you really can't pigeon-hole a whole population and maintain any sense of credibility.

Anonymous said...

A Republican from the PRC now studying in Taiwan? This is as intriguing as the Japanese sending Taiwanese to "fight against their brothers" and Chiang Kai-sek had "changed" it.

What facts are you referring to, Readin'? The 228?

If so, (1) go down to the Hammer and have a good meal there, (2) ask for direction to the 228 Museum and do some fact-finding, and then (3) report back.

Kaminoge said...


Do you know if any of the Taiwanese who either joined the Japanese military voluntarily or were conscripted into service were sent to China to fight there? I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Japanese were careful not to have Taiwanese soldiers involved in the fighting in the China theater, but I could be mistaken.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Yes, they were in China providing logistics. I have provided some information in this comments section on eyedoc's blog: http://danshuihistory.blogspot.tw/2010/01/1945.html#comment-form

Patrick Cowsill said...

The soldiers from Taiwan in China would have been volunteers...

EyeDoc said...

A bit surprised to learn that Kaminoge-san now hails from DC.

Re the Taiwanese fighting men in China issue:

Prior to the draft laws of 1942 (army) and 1943 (navy), no one served in combat as Imperial Japanese 軍人. Those drafted under the two "volunteer military service laws" were sent to SE Asia, no Taiwanese 軍人 ever fought in China, not until 1945/6 when those returning from the SE Asian theaters were forced by the KMT to fight the CCP forces in China. Many did serve as military employees (軍屬) before and after the draft laws, in many capacities, logistical support was one (known as 軍夫, the best known was the Takasago army, initially as 軍夫 with later battlefield promotion to 軍人). In fact, the agricultural corps, for example, served as vegetable growers in Shanghai in 1937. Many more served in SE Asia as food growers. Some were linguists working in Manchuria and in secret wars in southern China. Then there were battlefield and ship-board physicians and medics. These servicemen remained unknown to the West, the latter is only interested in the 200 or so POW prison guards (among the 200,000 drafted). There were quite a number of Taiwanese 軍人 captured in the battlefields in the Dutch East Indies and held in POW camps in Australia and NZ. The First Taiwanese Infantry Corps eventually surrendered in Timor in 1945.

I can only provide a very general outline here. Hope it helps.