Formosa Files

Formosa Files

FORMOSA FILES -
THE AMAZING HISTORY OF TAIWAN
This top-rated history podcast tells stories from the history of Formosa (Taiwan) from circa 1600 C.E. - 2000 C.E., via interesting, lesser-known short stories presented in a non-chronological order.

The Formosa Files podcast
is sponsored by the
FRANK CHEN FOUNDATION
(陳啟川先生文教基金會)
Website: https://www.frank-chen.org.tw/

HOSTS: John Ross is an author and co-founder of publisher Camphor Press, which specializes in books on Taiwan and China in English, while Eryk Michael Smith has worked as a writer and journalist for multiple media outlets in Taiwan, including the island's only English-language radio station ICRT (FM 100.7). Both Ross and Smith have lived in Taiwan for well over 20 years and call the island home.

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-Formosa Files Podcast

Email us at: formosafiles@gmail.com

Recent Episodes

Eryk said to John, "All the traditional festivals celebrated in Taiwan have sad -- or even horrific -- backstories!" John said, "Really? Hmm... I doubt that." And so we recorded this episode, in which we tell the tales behind traditional festivals from Moon Festival to Tomb-Sweeping Day... and we'll let you be the judge, but it seems like Eryk won the debate.

Plus: John quizzes Eryk on forgotten or lost holidays that were once part of the ROC calendar

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John loves aviation stories and in this episode we've got two: the first raises some serious questions about an oft-told "ghost plane" tale, while the second features a heroic young Japanese Zero fighter pilot who perished in Tainan in the last year of WWII...and then became a deity in that southern Taiwanese city! Photos and additional info at Formosafiles.com

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Preschool teacher Lin ran back into a burning bus six times, saving as many kids as she could, before succumbing to the flames on her seventh rescue attempt. Lin's body was found with her arms around four children...four of 20 preschoolers who sadly died that day in 1992 -- along with Teacher Lin and two other adults. In 1999 Lin became the first "civilian martyr" inducted into the Taipei Martyr's Shrine. Hear her story, as well as more info and history on martyrs and martyrs' shrines in Taiwan. Visit our website for pictures and info on the people and places discussed in this episode - www.formosafiles.com

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Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s two expeditions of 1852–1854 pried open Japan. Less well known is that one of the American ships visited Keelung in northeastern Taiwan to investigate the harbor and its coal resources. And completely forgotten is another American project, the North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition of 1853 to 1856, which saw two visits to Taiwan. At that time, the United States was one of several Western powers which had an eye on establishing a foothold on Formosa’s wild East Coast. The mysterious region lay outside of Chinese control and promised all sorts of possible utility, whether as a coaling station or a penal colony. In today’s podcast we’re aboard the John Hancock in the company of Lt. Alexander Habersham, who wrote an account of the expedition.

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Virtually everyone on this island knows the famous feline folktale: "The Tiger Aunt." In this episode, we tell that tale -- relying for source material on Taiwanese folktale translator and collector Fred Lobb's wonderful book -- as well as a few other stories related to cats, large or small, real or imaginary. And don't worry dog lovers, your preferred animal will get its day soon when we delve into native Taiwanese dogs and their fascinating history. But for now, sit back and enjoy some wild and weird stories about cats...big and small.

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Imagine this: It's 1949. You and your family live in Fujian, China. A friend invites you to the island of Kinmen for a short vacation. You hop on a ferry and, a 10-kilometer ride later, you're on Kinmen. While there, your hometown falls to PLA troops, the People’s Republic of China is founded, and the ROC retreats to Taiwan (and off-shore islands like Kinmen). You're stuck on one side while your sister and family are on the other. Each of the million-plus refugees who fled to Taiwan has some type of "exodus" story, and while people already on Taiwan would bear the brunt of the brutality of the then-one party authoritarian state the Nationalists would set up, those who fled China also suffered -- especially the pain of being stranded from their families. Drawing on Li Zhuqing’s best-selling biography “Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden,” we tell the story of Jun and Hong, two sisters separated by civil war.

(NOTE: Eryk has a bad cold and we apologize for his voice quality. Doctors say his resonant tones should return next week)

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The Jhuzimen Hydro Power Plant (竹仔門發電廠) was built by the colonial Japanese authorities in 1908 -- in what's now Meinung District (美濃區), Kaohsiung City. Manuel Tsao is a German national in the renewable energy business who has lived in Taiwan for over 15 years. But before coming here, he spent time in Japan -- and speaks Japanese fluently. And, while in Japan, Manuel became somewhat of an expert on the Jhuzimen Hydro Power Plant -- now called the Jhumen Unit of Kaohsiung/Ping-tung Power Plant of Taiwan Power Company (高屏發電廠竹門機組). Hear the story of this still-operating power plant, and learn a bit more about renewable energy in Taiwan from Manuel, in this special Formosa Files INTERVIEW.

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In this special episode, we thank listeners and talk briefly about season two (We are now being listened to in 90 countries/regions!!), and share an excerpt from the audiobook of John Ross' 2020 "Taiwan in 100 Books" related to Father Barry Martinson and the famous globetrotting Taiwanese author Sanmao (三毛).

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War is not glorious, and shouldn’t be glorified. But war does provide the chance to be brave, and bravery can be glorious. Such was the case of Commander Richard O’Kane and the crew of the USS Tang. In 1944 the American submarine was on its fifth and most dangerous patrol yet, in the vital shipping lane of the Formosa (Taiwan) Strait. After their final torpedo was fired and the men already talking of home, a freak accident would leave the crew fighting for their lives, some on the surface and others trapped underwater.

NOTE: This was also the first time in history submariners were able to escape a sub without help from the surface, using a "Momsen lung."

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We've gotten so many questions from Formosa Files listeners about the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that we thought we'd do a round-up of previous attempts, fill in some history from 1949 to 2014 or so, and tell you why invading Taiwan isn't an easy mission... for the PLA of China, or any military, for that matter.

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Go virtually anywhere in the world and you'll see them: green shipping containers with large white letters reading "EVERGREEN." The company is one of the biggest and best in the shipping world, while also having a hand in air travel and a dozen other ventures. The man who started it all was one of those rare "self-made" billionaires. Overcoming poverty and personal tragedy, he worked his way up from the “banana boats” to build his own company, starting with one small vessel in the 1960s. Today, Evergreen’s giant container ships, some as long as 400 meters, ply the seas to bring people across the planet everything from cars to toilet paper. This is the story of the remarkable 張榮發 Chang Yung-fa (Zhang Rong-fa ), 1927-2016, the founder of Evergreen Marine.

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In this special episode, we talk about where the inspiration for the Formosa Files podcast came from, and share an excerpt from the podcast's origin source: John Ross' 2020 book "Taiwan in 100 Books." After our quick chat, enjoy a segment from chapter one of the audiobook of "Taiwan in 100 Books" read by Eryk

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