Photography, Bicycle, Phonograph – Chief Civil Administrator Goto Shinpei’s LOHAS years

 After the defeat of the Qing Dynasty in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands were ceded to the Japanese government. An approximately 50-year Japanese colonial period had thus begun. 


At that time, there were still a great number of anti-Japan activists in Taiwan. To eliminate social upheaval, the first seven Governor-Generals appointed by the Japanese government to Taiwan all came from a military background. In 1898, Kodama Gentaro, a former Lieutenant General in the Imperial Japanese Army, was appointed the 4th Governor-General of Taiwan. He was assisted by Chief Civil Administrator, Goto Shinpei (1857 - 1929), who was a former Head of the Medical Bureau of the Home Ministry. With Goto Shinpei’s assistance, the governing style took on a new look.


Goto Shinpei once proposed “Three Strategies for Taiwan Governance”: 1. Taiwanese are mortally afraid of death, so rule them with an iron hand. 2. Taiwanese are greedy for money, sobribe them with profits. 3. Taiwanese are very sensitive about their reputation, so win them over by offering false reputation. Before enforcing policies, Goto would conduct surveys and make plans in advance. These polices were derived from the “Biological Principles” he proposed, which advocated ruling by paying respect to traditional Taiwanese customs instead of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. By doing so, he hoped to restore the original state of local autonomy in Taiwan step by step. Even with opium, which was rather popular at that time, he also took gradual measures to prohibit it: On one hand, the government held a national monopoly over opium; on the other hand, he allowed taking opium under certain conditions. These efforts resulted in a reduction of opium addicts gradually.


Goto not only improved the hygiene system in Taiwan thoroughly, but also conducted population census, land census, custom and tradition survey, etc. to observe and understand the ways of the people before enforcing policies with the assistance of police force. Goto Shinpei can be regarded as the hand laying the foundation for modernization in Taiwan.


Goto Shinpei wrote down his reflections in his own handwriting at the end of the first decade of Japanese rule.

 (Picture credit: Digital Archives Project of National Taiwan University)



Ko, Bunyu. (2001). Taiwan Was Built by the Japanese People. Taipei: Yiqiao

Yang, Bichuan. (1994). Goto Shinpei: A Biography. Taipei: Kening