Books about the White Terror

For the past three years Camphor Press has been steadily releasing books about Taiwan, with more in the pipeline. Recently we’ve republished three non-fiction books concerned with 228 and the White Terror, along with the earlier novel A Pail of Oysters on the same subject. If you want to learn more about Taiwan’s dark history, here’s the place to start.

Other books worth reading include Shawna Yang Ryan’s compelling Green Island, Milo Thornberry’s A Fireproof Moth, and Linda Gail Arrigo and Lynn Miles’ A Borrowed Voice. Anyone have any other (English language) suggestions on the period?

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What is the address to your physical shop ?

We are a publishing house – we don’t have a physical shop. But all of our titles are available on our website, with free delivery in Taiwan.

Hi, I know this is an old topic, but I have been referencing your list of books about the white terror and other books about Taiwan as reading materials. Many of them have Mandarin or Taiwanese versions, but I am having trouble finding them. Do you sell those versions of the books or know where to access them? At the moment I am particularly interested in the Taiwanese version of 一桶蚵仔 / A Pail of Oysters.

As an aside, for anyone reading, I highly recommend Formosa Betrayed and A Pail of Oysters.

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Hi! We don’t sell them, but the Taiwanese version is available from 博客來: 博客來-一桶蚵仔

Some years ago I also saw copies in 台灣e店 near NTU.

Hope that helps!


Here’s one to consider.

Taiwan’s National Human Rights Museum has published an English-language memoir by White Terror survivor Fred Chin (陳欽生) entitled Facing the Calamity: A Step Through Hurts & Hardships and Looking Beyond for Generations to Come (2020). The editing is less than impressive, but Chin is an interesting and thoughtful man sharing his experience of being a so-called “Overseas Chinese” student (he’s from Malaysia) getting caught in the web of Taiwan’s notorious security apparatus in the late White Terror period. He ended up spending twelve years of his life in jail for his troubles.

A nice write-up about the book appears here:

I have noticed there are some forumosans who seem, even today, to romanticize the wonders of the ROC on Taiwan. They would do well to read stories like Chin’s to learn more about what this regime did to people (including foreign nationals like Chin) whom it deemed as its subjects.



Thank you, missed this one when it came out.

Coincidentally today is release day for another White Terror-related title: Elegy of Sweet Potatoes, by Tehpen Tsai. First published in English translation in 2002, that original edition is now in short supply, so we are reissuing it.

In 1954 Tehpen Tsai was arrested by the Kuomintang regime on suspicion of being a Chinese communist agent. After initial weeks-long interrogation near his home he was transferred to a detention facility in Taipei specifically for seditionists and enemy operatives. The evidence against him: two books, one on his shelves at home, and one that another arrestee told police he had seen at Tsai’s house.

Tsai was not a communist. But in the febrile atmosphere of the early White Terror era in Taiwan that scarcely mattered; the secret police were commonly thought to operate by a rule to “never miss one true criminal, even if a hundred are killed mistakenly.” He had just one thing counting in his favour: he had recently returned from a scholarship in the USA, and the Chiang Kai-shek government at the time was sensitive to American attitudes and pressure.

In prison he met genuine communists, anti-government activists, intellectuals, and others like him, unlucky people swept up by a tenuous accusation or a chance encounter. One by one his cellmates disappeared, some to the execution grounds, others to Green Island, the notorious political prison off Taiwan’s east coast. Tsai was more fortunate. Sentenced to a term of “re-education”, he was released in November 1955.

Elegy of Sweet Potatoes is a thinly-fictionalized version of Tsai Tehpen’s experiences as a political prisoner. Names are changed, dates are fudged, but the narrative here is true to life. A compelling story full of rich description, pathos, and odd moments of humor, it is essential reading for anyone looking to understand the realities of martial law in “Free China”.