Episodes

[Encore] Japan Puts Paiwan Indigenous Taiwanese on Display at London Expo (1910)

Jan. 26, 2023

At the turn of the 20th century, Japan was on a roll. After taking Formosa and Penghu from Qing China in 1895, Japan beat mighty Russia in 1905. Eager to show the world its newfound economic strength – and to highlight the s…

S2-E39 - Kaohsiung to Kenting Road Trip (1875)

Jan. 19, 2023

The southern peninsula of Taiwan was a "ship graveyard" for a very long time as unseen rocks and reefs gashed holes in the sides of vessels and left them stranded, or on the seafloor. The Western powers and Qing authorities …

[Encore] Taiwan's Orangutan Craze and the Terrors of the Tiger Trade

Jan. 12, 2023

You're hiking in the hills of Taichung in the early 1990s and suddenly come across ... an orangutan? What's more, this massive great ape is um ... in need of some, um ... "affection," and gets handsy. An unlikely scenario, r…

Bonus Episode: Among the Headhunters of Formosa - From Taiwan in 100 Books, by John Ross

Jan. 5, 2023

This week we have another snippet from the audiobook of John's 2020 book, Taiwan in 100 Books. This extract tells the tale of Janet Montgomery McGovern, a feisty anthropologist who managed to cut through the red tape and off…

S2-E38 - Dating in Taiwan

Dec. 29, 2022

No, we're not talking about romantic adventures; in this episode, the "dating" we're discussing is the days, months, and years kind. Why is it about to become the year 112 in Taiwan? Why is 2023 not just the year of the rabb…

Bonus Episode: The Forgotten President 嚴家淦

Dec. 22, 2022

Eryk calls John for a chat about Yen Chia-kan (嚴家淦, Yan Jiagan) the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) for three years following the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1975. Who was C.K. Yen, and why isn’t he better known?…

A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Dr. Dafydd Fell from SOAS takes us on a Mini-Deep Dive into Taiwan's Alternative Political Parties

Dec. 20, 2022

We generally don't discuss politics very much on this podcast, but, when one of the world's most well-established international experts on politics in Taiwan is gracious enough to be willing to chat – we're gonna talk politi…

S2-E37 - A Cunning Count Contemplates Colonizing Formosa

Dec. 15, 2022

Ever heard of Count Maurice Benyovszky? He's not well known in Taiwan, but after this Polish-Slovakian-Hungarian semi-nobleman had a chance encounter with this island in 1771, he wrote a travel account that remained influent…

S2-E36 - Annette Lu – from Prison to the Presidential Office

Dec. 8, 2022

A fighter for women's rights, human rights, freedom of speech, and democracy, you can disagree with Annette Lu's politics (or with some of her very controversial comments) ...but you can't deny the impact this outspoken woma…

S2-E35 - Colonial Tourism: Japanese Visit their Model Colony, While Tokyo Brings Indigenous Taiwanese to “The Motherland” to Show Off “Civilization”

Dec. 1, 2022

We travel back to 1920s Taiwan, first in the company of Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire and then follow a Tokyo travel bureau itinerary for Japanese tourists to the island. Ride the rails with us as we visit Shinto shri…

S2-E34 - "Galloping Oxen" - Emperor Kangxi’s Jesuit Mapmakers in Taiwan

Nov. 24, 2022

Between the late 1600s and mid-1800s, there was no Western presence on Taiwan. There were, however, a couple of special Western visitors of whom the wonderfully-named Joseph-Anne-Marie de Moyriac de Mailla was the most notab…

A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Tobie Openshaw on the Saisiyat Story of Taiwan's "Little People"

Nov. 17, 2022

The Saisiyat Indigenous people in Hsinchu and Miaoli counties have a famous story about magical “little people” or “dwarfs” called the Koko’ ta’ay. The legend goes that tensions between the tribe and the “dwarfs” led to an i…

S2-E33 - Taiwan's Musical Garbage Trucks - And the Sounds of the 1990s!

Nov. 10, 2022

Many new arrivals to Taiwan are perplexed to hear music from an "ice cream" truck playing almost every day, until they discover that those tunes mean it's time to take out your trash. Today, we've got the history of musical …

S2-E32 - “Defectors from the PRC to Taiwan, 1960-1989: The Anti-Communist Righteous Warriors” - Part Two

Nov. 3, 2022

Picking up on last week's conversation between the University of Southern California East Asian Studies Center's Li-ping Chen and author Andrew D. Morris -- a very special collaborative double episode with Formosa Files -- w…

S2-E31 - “Defectors from the PRC to Taiwan, 1960-1989: The Anti-Communist Righteous Warriors” - Part One

Oct. 27, 2022

Formosa Files is delighted to announce a very special episode in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s East Asian Studies Center and the New Books Network! The USC’s Li-ping Chen recently interviewed And…

S2-E30 - The Mysterious Death in Taipei of India's Most Controversial Nationalist

Oct. 20, 2022

Unlike Mahatma Gandhi, fellow Indian pro-independence leader Subhas Chandra Bose advocated taking up arms against the British. WWII presented a golden opportunity for this, and in an "enemy of my enemy" move Bose escaped fro…

S2-E29 - The "Most Powerful Witness" to Modern Taiwan's History: Wu Zhuo-liu (吳濁流) - Part One

Oct. 13, 2022

Sadly, the bloodshed and sorrow that began on February 28, 1947 (228) is the foundational story of post-Japanese Taiwan. Wu Zhou-liu (吳濁流), an ethnically-Hakka poet, writer, and journalist, was born in 1900 and died in 1976,…

Bonus Episode: A Look Back and a Peek Forward

Oct. 6, 2022

As Formosa Files gets ready to end Season 2 and move into Season 3 (fingers crossed), John and Eryk pick season highlights, answer listener questions, talk about topics for upcoming episodes, and discuss those less-than-tidy…

S2-E28 - "Happy" Holidays!

Sept. 29, 2022

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 behin…

S2-E27 - Ghost Planes and the Japanese Fighter Pilot who Became a God

Sept. 22, 2022

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 i…

S2-E26 - Taiwan's First Civilian Martyr: Teacher Lin Ching-chuan (林靖娟)

Sept. 15, 2022

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 …

S2-E25 - Searching for Black Gold in Taiwan

Sept. 8, 2022

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 compl…

S2-E24 - Cats Big and Small

Sept. 1, 2022

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 boo…

S2-E23 - Separated Sisters

Aug. 25, 2022

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 ho…