Episodes

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…

A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Manuel Tsao Talks to Eryk About the 100+ Year-Old Jhuzimen Hydro Power Plant - 竹仔門發電廠

Aug. 21, 2022

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 ha…

Bonus Episode: "Taiwan in 100 Books" - A Priest on Orchid Island Meets Sanmao (三毛)

Aug. 18, 2022

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…

S2-E22 - USS Tang: The Most Successful US Submarine of WWII

Aug. 11, 2022

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 subm…

Special CURRENT EVENTS Episode: Why hasn’t the PRC invaded Taiwan?

Aug. 4, 2022

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…

S2-E21 - Taiwan's Global Shipping Empire - EVERGREEN

July 28, 2022

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 ai…

Bonus Episode: "Taiwan in 100 Books" - A Martial Arts Hoax

July 20, 2022

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, …

S2-E20 - Mr. and Mrs. Giles

July 14, 2022

Why is "Kaohsiung" spelled so strangely? Shouldn't it be closer to "Gao-Shung"? (Or we could just use Hanyu Pinyin, "Gāoxióng"). Well, many names in Taiwan are spelled with the Latin alphabet, using a romanization system pop…

S2-E19 - Golf in Taiwan: A Surprisingly Long History

July 7, 2022

Some might think golf came with U.S. troops after WWII, but the origins of this sport in Taiwan actually go much further back. Listen to this episode for stories of Japanese colonial officials discovering golf as the "new co…

S2-E18 - Teresa Teng 鄧麗君 - "Asia's Eternal Queen of Pop"

June 30, 2022

Teresa Teng (Deng Lijun 鄧麗君) was arguably Asia's first pop superstar, a singer from Taiwan who won hearts across the continent and the world. Teng got so famous in behind-the-bamboo-curtain China that PLA air force defectors…

S2-E17 - The Brief and Often Forgotten Kingdom of Dongning 東寧王國

June 23, 2022

Koxinga's eldest son, Zheng Jing, -- the ruler of the short-lived Kingdom of Dongning (1661-1683) -- almost lost his head in his late teens. Daddy Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) twice ordered his execution for fooling around with…

S2-E16 - Ang Lee in the Spotlight: His Story from Pingtung to Hollywood

June 16, 2022

Two-time Academy Award winning director Ang Lee (李安) is probably the most globally famous person from Taiwan. But this Pingtung-born movie master actually started out wanting to be an actor. And, if it had not been for his w…

S2-E15 - "123 Freedom Day" Taiwan's Shadowy Involvement in the Korean War - Part Two

June 9, 2022

The Korean War would almost certainly have ended much earlier but for the tricky question of what to do with Chinese POWs. The 21,000 Red Chinese soldiers captured were finally given a choice: go home to China...or go to "Fr…

S2-E14 - Taiwan's Shadowy Involvement in the Korean War - Part One

June 2, 2022

It's 1950 and a war-weary world is at it again. Communist China pours fuel on the conflict in Korea by sending in a quarter of a million soldiers. ROC President Chiang Kai-shek has, from the start, offered to send his Nation…

S2-E13 - A Cruise on an Opium Clipper to Takao (Kaohsiung)

May 26, 2022

Kaohsiung Harbor was, in the late twentieth century, one of the world's busiest ports, but back during the time of the Opium Wars, it was still a rather secluded and hard-to-find place. Based on the somewhat embellished "A C…

S2-E12 - "The National Game" -- Taiwan Falls in and out of Love with Baseball

May 19, 2022

After the Americans introduced baseball to Japan in the late 19th century, Japan took the game John Ross might call "a corruption of cricket" to their new colonial possession, where it became a hit. Surviving -- somewhat sur…

A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: ICRT General Manager Tim Berge

May 15, 2022

Taiwan's only English radio station, International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT) has been a part of millions of Taiwanese -- and many an expat in Taiwan's -- lives since it took over from the US military in 1979. Tim Berge, …

S2-E11 - Taiwan's Nearest Neighbors - the 1,000+ Kilometer-Long Ryukyu Island Chain

May 12, 2022

Taiwan lies at the heart of what's called the "first island chain," a boring name for a long line of amazing islands that stretches from Borneo to Russia’s Kuril Islands. The main island of Taiwan's closest neighbor is Yonag…

S2-E10 - Christian Samurai – Japan’s Katana Diplomacy in Taiwan

May 5, 2022

After unifying Japan’s warring states, supreme feudal lord Hideyoshi launched a massive invasion of Korea. In 1593, a year into this Imjin War of 1592-1598, he sent an envoy to Taiwan on a doomed mission to establish formal …