Dutch Treats

One of the most exciting developments in the field of Taiwan history has been a steady stream of publications that shed new light on the island's development when it was being colonized by the Spanish and the Dutch. Notable achievements include Chinese translations of Dutch and Spanish sources by Chiang Shu-sheng 江樹生 and Lee Yu-chung 李毓中, a volume of collected essays by Chen Kuo-tung 陳國棟, and an in-depth study of Spanish rule by Jose Eugenio Borao (鮑曉鷗). This scholarship represents the fruits of unstinting efforts by Leiden scholars like Leonard Blussé, as well as venerable Taiwanese academics like Ts'ao Yung-ho 曹永和 and Wang Shih-ch'ing 王世慶, who have trained next generation of students. It is also reflects the dedication of pioneers in the field of Taiwan history like John Shepherd. Of equal importance has been the utilization of new primary source materials, especially the Dutch East India Company archives.

Two recent books have made noteworthy contributions to our understanding of this important phase of Taiwanese history. The first, How Taiwan Became Chinese by Tonio Andrade, was originally published electronically as part of the Gutenberg-e project, with a Chinese version having been released as well. This book is particularly noteworthy for its analytical framework, and in particular the concept "co-colonization", which stresses that Taiwan might best be viewed as one of East Asia's many "hybrid colonies", where both the Chinese and the Dutch worked to enhance the island's economic growth.

Andrade also explores Taiwan's early colonial development in the context of modern East Asian history, including the extent to which the Dutch competed with the Japanese for control of the lucrative silk-for-silver trade, as well as how the victory of Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功; 1624-1662) over the Dutch represented the potential for the establishment of a Chinese maritime state. Another striking example involves Andrade's portrayal of 16th and 17th century China as a global "silver sink" sucking in the precious metal from all over the world, thereby affecting the economic development of Europe, which might be of interest to those concerned with China's impact on world energy prices.

Other interesting topics covered in this book include the role of smallpox, with Andrade noting that while Old World diseases proved devastating to the American Indians, this was not necessarily the case for East Asia's indigenous peoples, many of who had already been exposed to Eurasian pathogens. The ritual facets of Dutch colonial rule receive full treatment in Chapter 9, which examines an annual ceremony known as the landdag, a symbolically charged event during which the Dutch governor of Taiwan held an audience for aboriginal elders and bestowed them with staves symbolizing their authority.

The second book, The Colonial 'Civilizing Process' in Dutch Formosa, 1624-1662, is by Chiu Hsin-hui 邱馨慧, one of Blussé's former students who is currently teaching at National Tsing-hua University). Published by Brill in 2008 as part of the TANAP Monographs on the History of Asian-European Interaction, this work documents the expansion of Dutch hegemony over Taiwan not only in terms of political power and economic exploitation, but also the role of Christian missionaries. At the same time, however, Chiu also places great emphasis on Taiwanese agency by focusing on the history of local populations during the colonial encounter, thereby placing Taiwan in the broader context of Austronesian history.

One moving example of the tragic aspects of Dutch colonial rule involves the massacre and subsequent forced migration of Lamey (小琉球) islanders, who hid in caves to escape the invaders only to be (literally) smoked out. One contemporary source estimates that of 1,200 inhabitants, 405 died in the caves while the rest were shipped off to Taiwan and Batavia. Some Lamey boys managed to climb the ladder of colonial success and become Dutch East India Company servants, with a few even making the long journey to the Netherlands.

Chiu also presents fascinating data on intermarriages between Lameyan women and European men, as well as an informed discussion of the "culture shock" that accompanied the imposition of a European legal system (particularly in terms of public punishments). There is also a detailed examination of the religious aspects of Dutch colonialism, and not just Christian proselytizing but also Sirayan religious traditions, including tables listing indigenous deities and festivals. This book is also graced with a useful glossary, as well as maps that neatly delineate the spatial characteristics of Dutch rule.

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