Archives & Databases
Prime Collection: A New Perspective on Taiwan

“In Taiwan, when studying the history of past dynasties, one has access to a group of highly concentrated historical material. However, if you are studying the history of Taiwan, there is no similar body of resources, as the information available is more fragmentary.” In 2008, I was sitting in the office of the director of the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica, face to face with professor Hsueh-chi Hsu, conducting an interview on the introduction of the Digitization of Historic Museum Collection from Taiwan Deposited in Foreign Countries.

The Shan Hai Jing - Domain of Deities, Spirits, Monsters, and Beasts

The Shan Hai Jing (The Classic of Mountains and Seas) is the earliest cultural and geographical record in China. A wondrous book of ancient myths and legends, it serves as a record of geography, regional products and produce, ethnography, and folk customs. With a total of over thirty thousand words in eighteen chapters, Shan Hai Jing is divided into five Mountain chapters (Shan Jing) and thirteen Sea chapters (Hai Jing). The Hai Jing is further split into different sections, with four chapters detailing ‘Regions Beyond the Seas,’ four on ‘Regions within the Seas,’ four covering ‘The Great Wilderness,’ and a short chapter on ‘Regions within Seas.’ With limited transportation and little communication between regions, in ancient times the average person still harbored fantastic visions of exotic countries and distant lands.  Fusing fantasy of worlds apart with true-to-life descriptions of the near-at-home, the Shan Hai Jing is a marvelous mixture of dream and reality. 

Investigation report on Green Island and Orchid Island by Engineer Narita Yasuteru

The Japanese started to survey, compile, translate and publish reports on Taiwan from the early 1870’s. They developed a detailed understanding of Taiwan and regarded the region as crucial to Japan’s future expansion due to its geographic location, terrain and abundant resources. This view advocated the importance of occupying Taiwan and strengthened Japan’s determination for expansion. It is thus apparent that the intelligentsia played a predominant role in related decisions.

Introduction to the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office Archives

The Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office Archives keeps official records about the retrocession and reconstruction of Taiwan in the early years of the post-war period. These written records contain various administrative measures taken by the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office, such as reconstruction of all levels of the administrative system of government authorities, the employment and discharge of official personnel, the takeover of properties owned by Japanese, and the restoration of the nationality and Chinese names, etc. These important historical records can help us understand the transitions experienced by Taiwan in the early post-war period.

Tainan Prefecture Ground Zero

The bombing has long ceased, and the fallen houses are covered by weeds. Yet war has left its traces here …. Among the documents left from the Japanese Colonial Period,  some are now in government custody, and some have been collected by private individuals, families or foundations. Religious groups also have many of these documents.

A Note on the Luxuriance of the Island: A Collection of Forestry Literature of the Japanese Colonial Period

During the Japanese colonial period, Taiwan’s economy mirrored that of a typical colony whose available manpower and natural resources are utilized in ways that conform to the overall planning for the development of the mother country. Thus, one major policy of Taiwan Governor-General’s Office was to tap and channel the island’s agricultural, forest, and animal husbandry resources to the service of the colonial power, which in turn culminated in the first ever large-scale survey on Taiwan’s economic resources. This colonial undertaking not only made up for Japan’s lack of research on tropical timber, but also served as the first step in recognizing Taiwan as an integral component of the Japanese empire’s supply chain. The results of the surveys furnished a sound basis for the economic development of Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period and the early years after the restoration of Taiwan to the Nationalist Government.

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