Butterflies of Formosa - Butterfly Industry

History of Butterfly Industry in Taiwan

1900’s – 1920’s / Initial Stage—Under Japanese Rule

1904 / Kiyomatsu Asakura started collecting and trading insect specimens in Puli.
1906 / Kiyomatsu Asakura established Asakura Kabushiki Kaisha and hired many local Taiwanese (including Mokuse Yu) to collect butterflies for him. Some specimens were sold to Japanese entomologists (e.g. Shonen Matsumura) for research. Most specimens were sold as butterfly handicrafts to the Nawa Entomological Laboratory. Gifu Prefecture, Japan.
1918 / Horisha Omiyage Kabushiki Kaisha, the first butterfly handicraft company in Taiwan, was established in the late 1910s. At that time, Puli was already the chief town for butterfly industry. Between 1918 and 1920, Puli exported about 1.200,000 butterflies to Japan with Asakura help.
1940’s / Decline & Return—Before & After the Pacific War
During the Pacific War, the butterfly industry almost completely ceased because of the war and recession. It was 4-5 years after the war that butterfly collecting and processing began to recover in Taiwan.
1950’s – 1970’s / Prosperity—Enormous Exportation
In 1950, Chingkin Yu and Hsiao Ling, a professor of Taiwan National University, started an export business of butterfly specimens. The market targeted Japan at first, later expanding to include the United States.
Hsiao Ling advertised the business in America as ‘Formosan Butterflies Supply House’ and created great demand. The butterfly industry in Taiwan entered its prosperous stage. In 1960s, the total value of butterflies exported from Taiwan was 30 million US dollars, surpassing that of Brazil. Taiwan became the world’s largest butterfly exporter. Taiwan’s butterfly industry climaxed between 1968 and 1975 when Taiwan exported 15-500 million butterfly specimens a year.
Tens of thousands of people joined the business as full-time or part-time butterfly collectors or processors. Development of butterfly Industry made many opportunities for poor farmers to earn extra money. The butterfly industry also created the handsome foreign exchange reserves needed to transform Taiwan from an agricultural into industrial country.
1980s / Downfall—Effects of Habitat Loss
In 1960s, Puli’s butterfly resource began a dramatic decline because of over development. Sources of butterfly supplies gradually expanded throughout Taiwan.
In the early 1970a, a recession forced many small butterfly processing factories to close down. It was not until the mid-70s that the butterfly industry began to slowly recover. Butterfly materials were increasingly sourced from southern Taiwan, whereas the factories began to move to Taipei. In the mid-70s, only 20 butterfly factories remained in Puli. Factories in Taipei increased to 10.
After 1975, sales of butterfly products began to decrease owing to the OPEC oil crisis. Because the development activities were seriously damaging butterfly habitats, butterfly resources in Taiwan also declined substantially. The butterfly industry began to fail.
After 1983, collecting and trading of Lemon Emigrant Butterflies (Catopsilia pomona) in Liouguei, Kaohsiung County, essentially stopped. More than half of butterfly processing factories in Puli closed.
Since the establishment of Tsiwans first butterfly factory in the late 1910’s, the fame of Puli’s butterflies spread internationally. At its most prosperous stage, Puli had 47 companies processing and trading butterflies. Puli was the main foundation supporting Taiwan's metamorphosis into the world’s largest butterfly exporting country.
When the butterfly industry began to decline, many of the butterfly factories were transformed into insect museums and butterfly houses and farms, such as the Muhsheng Entomological Museum, the Jinji Entomological Museum, and the Tail Ecological Farm.

National Museum of Natural Science