Books on Taiwan: something for everyone


Are there are any good books in English on Taiwan history? No academic tomes please.





A good, easy to read book is Island in the Stream: A Quick Case Study of Taiwan’s Complex Historyby April C.J. Lin and Jerome F. Keating. It is available for free online at … rames.html

Some other useful links:
Books about Taiwan
The Taiwan Library Online


Taiwan: A New History by Reubinstein


Whaddaya consider a history book? A broad overview of Taiwan, or something that concentrates on a certain subject?
If its the latter, how about George Kerr’s “Formosa Betrayed” (easiest way to find it is online…google George Kerr and it should be one of the first choices). It’s a moving firsthand account of the 228 Massacre, guaranteed to send you angrily stomping around for a few days.
For a rip-roaring adventure yarn written in plucky high-imperialist British style, go with Pickering’s “Pioneering in Formosa”, an account of a young British officer’s adventures around Taiwan circa 1863 complete with bad-assed head-hunters, and a giant typhoon.
George Mackay’s book (forgot the name…) is a great snapshot of life in Tamshui in the late 1800’s, if you can get past the Jesus talk. Mackay was a Canadian missionary responsible for spreading christianity among the aborigines in northern Taiwan.


Good, except for the fact that it’s crap.

I have never seen a general history of Taiwan, but go to Caves Bookstore and SMC Publishing (Wenzhou, opposite Taida - Chinese is 南天), and you’ll see the best selection of Taiwan history you can find.

If you’re not into ‘academic tomes’ then perhaps the best read is the Taiwan chapter of ‘Lords of the Rim’ by Sterling Seagrave. Personally I like the academic tomes.

I want to make a website about Taiwan history books one day.



ok ok ok!!! I will get it together and make a list of books to suggest. Maybe this weekend.


Formosa Betrayed can be downloaded online at


Here’s a list of some of my favorite books in English about Taiwan. I have read all these so if you have questions please ask. I added the ISBN # so you can hit up the bookstores. stores. I have given stores
in Taiwan grief over the pitiful selection of Taiwanese subject matter yet an ample supply of China info…in case you want to go there. They always say there are no books in English about Taiwan.

Pickering, W.A. 1898. Pioneering In Formosa. London, Hurst and Blackett, Republished 1993, Taipei, SMC Publishing. ISBN 957-638-163-0:
A fun romp through 19th Century Taiwan with an energetic Scotsman. Pickering traveled and took notes on life in Taiwan and especially took an interest in aboriginal life. The reader must understand Pickering was the product of very Victorian times.
Quote: “The first playthings put into the hands of a savage boy are a wooden knife and a gun or bow and arrow. With these toys they play at lying in ambush or taking heads… My clerk Ah-san, upon seeing this mimetic comedy, expressed so much horror, with a terrified face, that some of the more mischievous boys delighted to summon him, and, pointing to his head, to make signs of beheading him, just to increase his peace of mind.”

Mackay, George L. 1896. From Far Formosa. London, Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, Reprinted 1991,1998, SMC Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 957-638-072-3
Mackay details life in the Taipei basin and other parts in Taiwan during the last two decades of Qing rule as he attempts to establish a Presbytarian enclave in northern Taiwan. Again, a man of his time.

Yosaburo Takekoshi. 1907. Japanese Rule in Formosa. London, Longmans, Green and Co. Reprinted 1996, SMC Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 957-638-378-1
With a preface by Goto Shimpei, this book explains Japan’s hopes for colonizing Taiwan and the reader is free to interpret Japan’s future aggression through the subtleties of Japan’s colonial plan. Much of the information is based on Qing records and Japanese understanding of the time.

Montgomery-McGovern, Janet B. 1922. Among the Head-Hunters of Formosa. Boston, Small Maynard and Co. Reprinted 1997, SMC Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 257-638-421-4
J.B. Montgomery represents the beginning of the modern anthropologists and writes an interesting, non-judgmental account of her fieldwork in Taiwan. Many of her observations became the groundwork on which modern aboriginal studies are based. Her records of pre-subjugated tribes are a priceless treasure to Taiwan’s history.
Quote: “It may be true, as Dr. Taylor-in Primitive Culture-points out, that ‘no human thought is so primitive as to have lost bearing on our own thought, or so ancient as to have broken connection with our own life.’ For one thing, as to what would have been the line of social evolution of the so-called superior races had they, like the seban, continued to regard the cutting off of an enemy head as meritorious rather than otherwise. (Yet what is war between ‘civilized’ races, except head-hunting on a grand scale; only with accompanied mangling and gassing and the horrors of which the island seban knows nothing.”

Owen Rutter. 1923. Through Formosa: An Account of Japan’s Island Colony. London, T. Fisher Unwin Ltd. Freprinted 1990, 1995, SMC Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 957-9482-15-2
Owen Rutter took a rare whirlwind tour through Taiwan at the beginning of Japanese rule. Rutter’s writing would be a simple travelogue if it weren’t for the curious attention the Japanese administration spent on showing him their best side. Any scholar of Taiwan should read this book to understand Japan’s propaganda goals for Taiwan and how the Japanese wished to be portrayed to the rest of the world. A type of colonist insecurity bleeds through the Japanese pomp and circumstance.

Bellwood, Peter. 1979. Man’s Conquest of the Pacific. New York, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-520103-5
Peter Bellwood is best known for his work with Robert Blust on the thesis that Taiwan represents the first point of Austronesian culture, the culture that spread across the seas to become the widest spread pre-Columbian civilization in the world. This book gives an archaeological account of the postulated human spread into the Pacific.

Campbell, W.M. 1903. Formosa Under the Dutch. London, Kegan Paul,Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. Reprinted 1987,1992,2001, SMC Publishing, Taipei
Campbell gives a condensed interpretation of Dutch records and histories on Taiwan. This book became the first record available on the subject and is still widely cited today.
Quote: “It would, however, be better still if the unmarried man would choose a native woman to be his wife.”

Shepherd, John R. 1993. Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600-1800. California, Leland Stanford University Press. Reprinted 1995, SMC Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 957-638-311-0
This is one of the most essential books for understanding Taiwan’s history. Shepherd digs deep and uncovers and illustrates the degree in which the Qing relied on aborigines to administer policy in Taiwan. Much of the book deals with land tenure and large land rights. You do not know Taiwan until you have read this book.
Quote: "In a sellers market, aborigine women found themselves highly valued. Chinese settlers began to outbid aborigine men in the competition for wives. Both aborigine women and their enterprising parents saw potential advantages in the greater wealth and higher status a Chinese man would bring to marriage – an aborigine bride need not fear a domineering mother in law.

Ed. Knapp, Ronald G. China’s Island Frontier: Studies in the Historical Geography of Taiwan. 1980. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 957-638-334-X
Although dated, this volume compiles some very interesting essays regarding Taiwan’s past as a frontier. Topics include: From Aboriginal Land to Chinese Frontier, Cultural Contact and the migration of Taiwan’s Aborigines, Settlement and Frontier Land Tenure, The Chinese Settlement of the Iilan Plain, Frontier Social Organization and Social Disorder in Ch’ing Taiwan, Sequent Occupance and Place Names, Walled Cities and Towns in Taiwan, Lukang: A City and its Trading System, The Development and Structure of Transportation Networks in Taiwan: 1600-1972, Push Car railways and Taiwan’s Development, Sugar: The Sweetener in Taiwan’s Development.

Ed. Rubinstein, Murray A. 1999. Taiwan: A New History. New York, M.E. Sharpe, Inc. ISBN 1-56324-816-6
This is a modern compilation of essays on Taiwan’s History from the standpoint of Taiwan as a center rather than a periphery. Topics include: The Shaping of Taiwan’s Landscapes, The Politics of Taiwan’s Aboriginal Origins, Up the Mountain and Out to the Sea: Expansion of the Fukienese in the Late Ming Period, The Seventeenth Century Transformation: Taiwan Under the Dutchand Cheng regimes, The Island Frontier of the Ch’ing, From Landlords to Local Strongmen, From Treaty Ports to Provincial Status, Taiwan Under Japanese Rule, 1895-1945, Taiwanese New Literature and the Colonial Context, Between Assimilation and Independence, A Bastian Created, Identity and Social Change in Taiwanese religion, Taiwan’s Socioeconomic Modernization, Literature in Post 1949 Taiwan, Aboriginal Self-Government, Political Taiwanization and Pragmatic Diplomacy.

Keliher, Macabe.2003. Out of China or Yu Yonghe’s Tales of Formosa. Taipei, SMC Publishing. ISBN 9570-638-609-8
As the title suggests, this book is about the mysterious Yu Yonghe’s adventures leaving China for the sulfur pits run by the Ketagalon of Peitou. Following an explosion at the Fu Zhou armory, China needs sulfur for gunpowder. In 1696,Yu volunteers for the adventure to bring gunpowder back and takes notes on the foreign land of Taiwan.

Ed. Ahern, Emily Martin & Gates, Hill. 1981.The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society. California, Leland Stanford Junior University Press. ISBN 957-638-401-X
This is one of the first modern books on Taiwanese Anthropology available to English Speaking readers. Many of the articles in this volume are the cornerstones of the field of Taiwan studies. Contributors include articles by Stevan Harrell, Edgar Wickberg, Arthur P. Wolf, Harry Lamely, Cheng-min Chen etc.
Quote: “Nevertheless, mainlanders have long benefited from ethnic separation. Between 1945 and 1949, when class and ethnicity were highly congruent, even the poorest mainlanders enjoyed several advantages several advantages over wealthy and formerly powerful Taiwanese.”

Leo T.S. Ching. 2001. Becoming “Japanese” . Berkeley, University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22551-1
Becoming Japanese does not merely deal with the idea of Japanese colonization, but also explores the meaning of a constructed national identity. By reconstructing the Japanese assimilation programs, Ching demonstrates the transience of group identity.
Quote: "The call for a Taiwanese identity does not necessitate a rejection of a colonial Japanese identity. This interdependency is not surprising, given that the imaginable notion of "Taiwaneseness is a product of colonial modernity.

Brown, Melissa J. Is Taiwan Chinese? : The Impact of Culture, Power and Migration on Changing Identities. 2004, University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23182-1
Despite the title, this book deals more with the way han people have been allowed to enter and exit han culture. Brown focuses of plains aborigines of the former Siraya tribe and examines how and when they became Han. Brown also compares the phenomenon of becoming Han to the PRC’s own programs in En Shi, of “creating” minzu out of people who had succeeded in forming a Han identity. The book is very well done and look for more work out of Brown focusing on Taichung.
Quote: "Because Taiwan’s sociopolitical experience took a different path from China’s Taiwanese identity does not neatly correspond to any of these PRC identities-ethnic minority or regional Han. Before 1895, when Taiwan came under Japanese colonial rule, people in Taiwan did not think of themselves as a unified group. Although Han in Taiwan undoubtedly viewed themselves as different from non-Han, there is no evidence of unity among the Han.

Ed. Jordan, David K. Morris, Andrew D. Moskowitz, Marc L. 2004. The Minor Arts of Daily Life: Popular Culture in Taiwan. Honolulu ,University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2800-3
This book includes Taiwan’s History, Religion and Ritual, Fowl Play, Pop in Hell, An Emerging Public Sphere From Hidden Kingdom to Rainbow Community, Taiwan’s mass Mediated Crisis Discourse, The Other Woman in Your Home, Hot and Noisy, Disciplined Bodies in Direct Selling, Baseball History, Yang- Sucking She-Demons. This is a fun book on some interesting subjects. The baseball, religion and gay segments are especially informative.

Wolf, Margery. 1968. The House of Lim: A Study of A Chinese Farm Family. New Jersey, Prentice hall Inc. ISBN 0-13-394973-7
If you are interested in genealogy and anthropology, this work from the heart of the martial law era is an interesting study.

Mendel, Douglas. 1970. The Politics of Formosa Nationalism. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, Ltd. ISBN 520-01557-6
This is one of the first books to pose the question of Formosan nationalism to foreign scholars. Mendel frames the problems and the facts of the tripartite China-Taiwan-USA relationship and exposes the propaganda for what it is.

Copper, John F. 2003. Taiwan: Nation-State or Province? Fourth Edition. Colorado, Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-4069-1
The author explores Taiwan’s sovereignty quandary and speculates on Taiwan’s future following the election of Chen Shui bian.

Hsiau, A-chin. 2000. Contemporary Taiwanese Cultural Nationalism. London, Routledge Press. ISBN 0-415-22648-1
A hard hitting tome on the development of Taiwanese Nationalism and the viability of a Taiwanese identity. Hsiau outlines and details many modern concepts of nationhood and emphasizes the importance of literature in the process of nation building. This is a very important book to read for those interested in political science and identity research.

Roy, Denny. 2003. Taiwan: A Political History. Cornell, Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4070-X
This is a great introduction to Taiwanese politics. Denny Roy includes many of the details that make history fun. Nuclear Weapons and intregue.
Quote: “Having settled in prime opium-producing land within the Golden Triangle, the expatriate Chinese harnesses the local narcotics industry as a means of funding their guerilla war. Drug trafficking continued to thrive after the fighting died out, and these KMT loyalist communities now help supply the world with opium and its derivatives.”

Ed. Edmonds, Richard Louis. Goldstein, Steven M. 2001.Taiwan in the Twentieth Century: A Retrospective View. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-003431
This is a valuable collection of works that appeared in the Cambridge China Quarterly. The subjects include: Aspects of the Taiwanese landscape in the 20th Century, Transforming Taiwan’s Economic Structure in the 20th Century, Taiwan in the 20th Century: Model or Victim?, Taiwan’s Social Changes in the patterns of Social Solidarityin the 20th Century, Political Development in 20th Century Taiwan.: State Building, regime Transformation and the Construction of National Identity, Taiwan in Japan’s Security Considerations, An Uncertain Relationship: The United States, Taiwan and the Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Chu, Jou-juo. 2001. Taiwan at the End of the 20th Century: The Gains and Losses. Taipei, Tonsan Publishing. ISBN 957-8221-73-8
Much of this book deals with the rise and fall of Big Labor in Taiwan. The most interesting chapter illustrates the rise of Taiwan as an economic “Tiger” has more to do with indigenous forces rather than KMT paternal guidance.

Skoggard, Ian A. 1996. The Indigenous Dynamic in Taiwan’s Postwar Development: The Religious and Historical Roots of Entrepreneurship. New York, M.E. Sharp Publishing. ISBN 1-56324-846-8
Every Living Room is a Factory! The slogan from the 1960’s is explained in Skoggard’s book. Skoggard adroitly demonstrates how Taiwanese led the charge from rural farmers to owners of small to medium size enterprises. What Skoggard does not do is link the circumstances of the 1945 farmer to Qing land tenure rights and aboriginal ownership of large rents.

Ka, Chih-Ming. 1995. Japanese Colonialism in Taiwan: Land Tenure, Development and Dependency, 1895-1945. Colorado, Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3637-6
This is an excellently researched history of Taiwanese agrarian development, imperialism and enterprise.

Rawnsley, Gary D. 2000. Taiwan’s Informal Diplomacy and Propaganda. London, Macmillan Press Ltd. ISBN 0-333-75119-1
This is an eye-opening book regarding the ROC’s efforts to legitimize the existence of a single party KMT government and retain the China seat in the UN. Rawnsley covers the GIO, The Love Boat and Jason Hu’s Dollar Diplomacy.
Quote: “Lung-Chin Chen has been critical of such names. Referring specifically to the R.O.C.'s Mission in Korea, Chen writes: Using Taipei instead of Taiwan is another example of the KMT regime’s act of self-contempt, lacking the courage and self-respect to call Taiwan “Taiwan.” The confusion has seeped into international broadcasts of radio Free China. Scripts for news reports following the death of Deng Xiaoping were edited by hand to read ROC rather than Taiwan or Taiwanese, and the word “mainland” was added to precede “China”. The wheels of diplomacy frequently turn on such subtleties.”

Lee, Ta Wei David. 2000. The making of the Taiwan Relations Act: Twenty Years in Retrospect. London, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-592209-3
If you recognize the name as Taiwan’s new representative to the US, you’re right. David Lee writes a fantastic history of the TRA in living detail. Reading this book sheds sheds light on the nuances of diplomacy and on the reality that the US recognizes Taiwan as a separate, independent entity form China.

Ed. Corcuff, Stephane. 2002. Memories of the Future: National Identity Issues and the Search for a New Taiwan. New York, M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 0-7656-0792-1
Read This Book! Includes: The Taiwan Republic of 1895 and the Failure of the Qing Modernizing Project, The February 28 Incident and national Identity, Who Joined the Clandestine Political Organization?, Symbolic Dimension of Democratization and Transition of national Identity under Lee Teng Hui, Mirrors and Masks, The Evolution of Identity Issues in Democratizing Taiwan, National Identity and Ethnicity in Taiwan, Taiwan’s Mainlanders, Toward a Pragmatic Nationalism, The Political Formation of Taiwanese Nationalism. This is a fun book to read.

Chin, Ko-lin. 2003. Heijin: Organized Crime, Business and Politics in Taiwan. New York, M.E.Sharpe Publishing. ISBN 0-7656-1220-8
This is a very interesting book regarding the dirt under Taiwan’s fingernails. The author conducted interviews with heidao members, police, politicians and yakuza to write a detailed account of Taiwan’s struggle with and against organized crime.

Chiang kai Sheck, Madame. 1940. This is Our China. New York, Harper Brothers.
This is a hefty propaganda book by Soong Mei Ling about the efforts to Christianize China and save orphans. The book is really about squeezing aid from American taxpayers.

White, Theodore & Jacoby, Annalee. 1946. Thunder out of China. New York, William Sloane Publishing.
Theodore White was a Time magazine correspondent in the CBI during WWII. White’s book is a serious condemnation of the Chiang regime and a greater condemnation of US policy that fails to reach out to the Communists due to the fear of a Chinese civil war and Lend Lease guarantees.
Quote: "No one knows how many positions Chiang kai Sheck held during the war years. At one time his secretary said there were at least eighty-two: he imagined a complete list could be found somewhere, but he had never compiled one. The Ministry of Information made up an incomplete list, which stated that among other things Chaing kai sheck was: Chief Executive of the Kuomintang; President of the National Government; Chairman of the National Military Council; Commander in Chief of land, naval and air forces; Supreme Commander of the China Theater; President of the State Council; Chairman of the Supreme national Defense Council; Director General of the Central Planning Board; Chairman of the Political Work Evaluation Committee; Director of the new Life Movement Association; Chairman of the Commission of Inauguration of Constitutional Government; President of the Central Training Corps.; President of the School for Descendants of Revolutionary Martyrs; President of the National Glider association.

Tuchman, Barbara W. 1971. Stilwell: The American Experience in China 1911-1945, New York. Bantam Publishing.
Tuchman combines historical notes with notes from Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell’s own diaries to create a detealed review of the war in China during WWII. Tuchman has been criticized as a “KMT hater” , but she makes a good case and writes an entertaining history of Stilwell’s pains in China.

Seagrave, Sterling. 1985.The Soong Dynasty. Sidgewick and Jackson Publishing, ISBN 0-552-14108-9
The Soong Dynasty has risen to the ranks of a “Must Read” book for those interested in the shadowy ways the KMT gained power and lost China. This book sheds light on how the KMT operated and gleams light into the workings of Chiang Kai Sheck. Another KMT hater. Good Fun!

Kerr, George H. 1965. Formosa Betrayed. London, Eyre and Spottiswood Publishers.
This is one of the single most important books you can read about Taiwan. Kerr, a US representative in postwar Taiwan, relies on his research and the research of Alan Shackleton to create a description of what went wrong after 1945. Kerr was an eye witness to 228 and paints a very somber picture of the era. Please read this book and recommend it to your Taiwanese friends.

Peng, Min-ming.1972. A Taste of Freedom: Memoirs of a Formosan Independence Leader. New York, Holt, Reinhart and Winston ISBN 0-03-091388-8
Peng Min-ming has been an influential figure in the Taiwan independence advocacy community. Peng was a dissednet for many years and a founding member of FAPA. This work describes Pengs life as a Japanese-Formosan and as a disillusioned young man in KMT Taiwan.

Sneider, Verne. 1953. A Pail of Oysters. New York, Putnam’s Sons Publishing.
This is a fictional story, but the tale might as well be real to a Taiwanese. The story starts in near Lukang when KMT soldiers steal the god from a family and he is sent to bring it back. Much of the story focuses around an American newsman stationed in Taipei and how he learns Nationalist Taiwan is not what it seems. The true story behind the fiction is that Sneider met Ed Paine, an eye witness to the 228 massacre and Paine hooked Sneider up with his interpreter. The history is fuzzy, the places are not where they should be, but the story is more an allegory of 50’s Taipei with the dreaded race track and deaths. This book is now considered rare following years of KMT student spies stealing it from libraries.

Kuo, Jason C. 2000. Art and Cultural Politics in Postwar Taiwan. Taipei, SMC Publishing. ISBN 957-638-546-6
An interesting book, but could use a revision.

Lee, Ming Yung. 2001, If You Ask. Miss K Literary Foundation. ISBN 957-607-692-7
Lee Ming Yung is the president of the highly influential Taiwan PEN association, as association of Taiwanese writers who have brought the discussion of language and nationality to the fore of Taiwan consciousness. This is a book of Lee’s poetry.

Cheng, Ch’ing Wen, 1983. Three Legged Horse. New York, Columbia University Press. ISBN 0 231-11386-2
A collection of short stories and a fine example of “local” literature.

Ed. Blusse, Leonard & Everts, Natalie. 2000. The Formosan Encounter: Notes on Formosa’s Aboriginal Society-A selection of Documents from Dutch Archival Sources Vol. I & Vol. II. Taipei, Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines. ISBN 957-99767-24 & ISBN 957-99767-7-5
This is a great series that brings the plains of Taiwan into focus. The Dutch sources are invaluable to understanding Taiwan’s history.
Quote: “They have to make sure the islanders, lacking food or drink will be forced by starvation to surrender themselves. In the mean time you should apply all means to lure them out of their caves and caverns. At once our men erected a stockade which completely surrounded the cavern and forty soldiers received orders to guard it, and cut off any food or drinks. At the same time the inhabitants were distressed by all kinds of noxious fumes. From a missive we learn that a pitiful crying can be heard from the women and children in the cavern. Our men believe it contains quite a large number of people when from below no sound was heard anymore, our men went down into the cave and discovered about 200-300 dead bodies – not including those who had been burnt by them. The exact number could not be counted because of the stench. It seems it has pleased the Almighty to conduct this affair is such a way as to let them be brought to justice for beating to death our people and others.”

Matteo, Jose E.B. 2002. Spaniards in Taiwan Vol. I & Vol. II. Taipei, SMC Publishing. ISBN 957-638-566-0 & ISBN 957-638-589-X
A collection of Spanish documents regarding their conquest of northern Taiwan. The documents deal with Senar aborigines, fort building and Gonzalo Portillo’s surrender of Keelung to the Dutch. Great series.

Ed. Blundell, David. 2000. Austronesian Taiwan: Linguistics; History; Ethnology; Prehistory. Taipei, Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines Publishing. ISBN 0-936127-09-0
This book gives a great overview of Austronesian studies and even adds depth to some of the works listed above.

Ed. Faure, David. 2001. In Search of the Hunters and Their Tribes. Taipei, Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines Publishing. ISBN 957-30287-0-0
A very good selections of anthropological essays.
Quote: “In January 1946 the government renamed the earlier Formosan Education Centers run by the Japanese police and called them primary schools. Their previous curriculum was abolished and replaced with one emphasizing Chinese language, history, and citizenship. The aim of the new curriculum was to eradicate the effects of Japanese assimilation and military training. In a 1953 government report on the administration of mountain areas it was reported from 1947 the aims of education in indigenous communities had been : 1) to promote Mandarin to strengthen a national outlook, 2) to teach production skills to create an economic outlook, 3) to emphasize hygiene to create good customs?.?? to make the mountains like the plains”.

Ed. Harrison, Henrietta. 2001. Natives of Formosa: British Reports of the Taiwan Indigenous People, 1650-1950. Taipei, Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines Publishing. ISBN 957-99767-9-1
Interesting accounts from the British.

Taylor, George. Ed. Dudbridge, Glen. 1999. Aborigines of South Taiwan in the 1880s. Taipei, Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines Publishing. ISBN 957-99767-1-6
Accounts from The lighthouse in Kenting by the first lighthouse keeper, George Taylor. An interesting fact: The Ou Luan Pi point was bought for $100 from the Paiwan.

Li, Paul Jen-Kuei and Tsuchida, Shigeru. 2002. Pazih Texts and Songs. Institute of Linguistics Preparatory Office, Academia Sinica. ISBN 957-671-888-0
This is a great book with two CDs. Mr. Li has worked hard to understand a language at the edge of extinction. There is currently an effort being made in Puli to revive the Pazih language, but Ms. Pan Jin Yu, one of the featured singers, is 92 years old and the last fluent speaker of Pazih.
Fact: Ms. Pan remembers Dr. Mackay as her childhood doctor.

Blust, Robert A. Austronesian Root Theory. 1988. Philidelphia, John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 90-272-3020-X
Dr. Blust explains the morphology of Austronesian languages which could be useful in demonstrating how Taiwan is the origin if the Austronesian culture and language.

Eyton, Lawrence. 2004. Shattering The Myths: Taiwanese identity and the legacy of KMT Colonialism. Taipei, Yu Shan Press. ISBN 986-7819-57-8
Eyton is Eyton. Enough said.

Spence, Jonathan D. 1999, 1990. The Search for Modern China. London; New York W.W. Norton and Co. ISBN 0-393-97351-4
No, not Tom Jones’ arranger, but the legendary China scholar. A bit of background into that neighboring country.


Excellent work Maowang. (After being away from this forum for a month or so, it’s nice to come back and see the addition of a well-informed person such as yourself).

I’d like to add my comments to those books that I’ve read. (I’m a history graduate, and finally decided about 6 months ago that I should get into some Taiwanese history, and have been really emjoying reading whatever I can get my hands on).

Shepherd, John R. 1993. Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600-1800. California, Leland Stanford University Press. Reprinted 1995, SMC Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 957-638-311-0

I’ve had it on my shelf for months and finally started reading it (first two chapters last night). It really strikes me as a well-written, thourough and thoughtful piece of history. I like how it starts out by aiming to conter two popular misconceptions - the idea that the Plains Aborigines were pushed into the mountains, and the idea that Taiwan was a neglected frontier of the Qing empire. Although the focus of this book is the interactions between the Aborigines, Chinese and Dutch, it is very close to being a comprehensive general history of the period.

[b]Ed. Knapp, Ronald G. China


Excellent list, maowang.
You could make it even better by presenting it nicely with bold type for title, author and by using quote tags etc. Just a suggestion.


Pickering, W.A. 1898. Pioneering In Formosa. London, Hurst and Blackett, Republished 1993, Taipei, SMC Publishing. ISBN 957-638-163-0:
A fun romp through 19th Century Taiwan with an energetic Scotsman. Pickering traveled and took notes on life in Taiwan and especially took an interest in aboriginal life. The reader must understand Pickering was the product of very Victorian times.

[quote]The first playthings put into the hands of a savage boy are a wooden knife and a gun or bow and arrow. With these toys they play at lying in ambush or taking heads


It looked nice on WORD, but kind of a novice with forums…though I did write most of what you see on Wikipedia’s Taiwan History page.


I’ll add the few on my bookshelf (that I’ve read), not mentioned by Elvis.

Lords of the Rim, Sterling Seagrave, London 1995, ISBN 0 552 14052 X (available at Caves/Page One)

Not about Taiwan as such but has a chapter on Koxinga and a chapter on the KMT in (and before) Taiwan (full of juice about Soong Meiling and Jiang Jingguo and hsi sons in particular). Also great context in a sort of history fo Southern/Maritime China and the Chiense in SE Asia. Gripping and well worth reading cover to cover.

Island in the Stream: A Quick Case Study of Taiwan’s Complex History, April C J Lin and Jerome F Keating, Taipei 2000, ISBN 957 638 576 8

Should be subtitled ‘A superficial study that doesn’t even touch upon the complexities of Taiwan’s history’. Badly written and not worth buying.

The Great Transition: Political and Social Change in the Republic of China, Hung-Mao Tien, Taiwan 1989, ISBN 957 638 157 6 (available at SMC Publishing store)

Out of date, but I liked it as a political science guide to Taiwan’s political and administrative structures at the time. It basically outlines the KMT era party, governmental, administrative, martial law, and electoral systems as well as outlining the Tangwai movement and the formation of the DPP.

Formosa Calling: An Eyewitness Account of the February 28th 1947 Incident, Allan J Shackleton, Taiwan 1998

A junior cousing of Formosa Betrayed, this (much shorter book) tells of one NZ UN workers experiences of Taiwan shortly before and during the 228 uprising. Much the same damning condemnations of the KMT administration and praise for the Formosan people as can be found in Formosa Betrayed.

And that’s all for now.



I have Formosa Calling in Chinese, but Ithought I’d just include books in English. I thouhgt that was a good book. You could tell how surprised Shackelton was to see troops opening up on women and children. I guess I shouls also suggent a good map book to investigate places and understand history through place names. A good exercise is to look for every Fan/huan ( Savage) character on a map and think about the history of the area.


I think the Rubenstein book is patchy, largely as a result of its being academic papers on discrete subjects cobbled together. Best one vol readably history from someone not a KMT shill (such as John F. Copper) is “Taiwan: A Political History” by Denny Roy, published by Cornell University Press. All you need to know in 246 pages, goes up to 2001.


Formosa Past and Present (ISBN# 0195849515) by James Davidson has some interesting stuff from the early part of this century.


The sanity and erudition of this forum…



What do folks think of A History of Taiwan by Hung Chien-Chao ? Although I own a copy I confess I have never read the thing all the way through (it was a gift someone gave me). I used it as a refereance for the early (pre-1800) history of Taiwan for my martial arts book. Flipping through it, it seems a “wee bit” pro-DPP/“Rah, Rah Taiwan Independance” biased.

I will wait for the Segue critics’ reviews before bothering to read the whole thing.

take care,


Are we going to use Chinese language materials too or stick to English?


Let’s keep this list to English and start another thread for Chinese langauge books. There’s a lot of us who can’t read history books in Chinese (yet).

And why not merge this and the other similar thread? Mods?