Season 1

Bonus Mini-Episode: Eryk Calls John for a Chat About Taiwan's Indigenous Peoples

Feb. 24, 2022

When did people first get to Taiwan? Was there a land bridge? Plus... a few interesting legends. A short phone call that's a fun intro to Taiwan’s prehistory.

S1-E26 - Bonus Episode - What Were the Dutch Doing in Formosa Anyway?

Feb. 7, 2022

The Dutch were expelled from southwestern Taiwan by a pirate warlord and Ming loyalist Koxinga in 1662. Their relatively brief stay of 38 years was marked by impressive achievements and lasting impacts. But why they were the…

S1-E24 - Taiwan's Awesome National Health Insurance System

Jan. 16, 2022

In the mid-1990s Taiwanese politicians got together, and, after much wrangling, settled on a national health insurance system that today is the envy of many countries around the world. Here's the story of how we got to a sin…

S1-E23 - Walls of Death

Jan. 9, 2022

In the 1980s, Japan's, South Korea's, and Taiwan’s massive fishing fleets gained notoriety for their destructive driftnet fishing. The use of giant driftnets, sometimes tens of kilometers long, threatened to turn the oceans …

S1-E22 - The Cruel Sea

Dec. 30, 2021

Despite the failed attempt to create a myth of a Pacific Ocean "Bermuda Triangle" near Taiwan, the seas around this island are indeed cruel... ships sometimes disappear without a trace. It's little wonder the majority of tem…

S1-E21 - The "Best" Hijacking in History?

Dec. 23, 2021

The word "stalemate" defined relations between Taiwan and China in the 1970s and early 1980s. Neither side wanted to legitimize the other with "official" talks so ideas such as postal and travel links, as well as the most im…

S1-E20 - The "Iron Man of Asia" - C.K. Yang 楊傳廣

Dec. 19, 2021

Maysang Kalimud, better known by his Chinese name C.K. Yang (楊傳廣), is arguably the greatest Taiwanese athlete of all time. In 1960, this native Taiwanese from the Amis tribe came within an inch of winning the Olympic decathl…

S1-E19 - The End of the Qing

Dec. 16, 2021

War in northern Vietnam spills over into Taiwan, with French troops occupying several ports. This wake-up call for the Qing prompts an upgrading of their neglected frontier prefecture; Taiwan becomes a province, and the auth…

S1-E18 - Shipwreck Savagery and Clandestine Colonization

Dec. 9, 2021

After native people in the far south of Formosa kill survivors from the wrecked US merchant vessel The Rover in 1867, the Americans send a punitive expedition. A few years later, the survivors of a Japanese (Ryukyuan) shipwr…

S1-E17 - Missionaries Pull Teeth in Treaty Ports

Dec. 5, 2021

The Second Opium War (1856-1860) lead to the opening of Danshui, near Taipei, and Anping (Tainan) as treaty ports. Soon after, the Qing authorities opened Takao (Kaohsiung) and Keelung to foreign ships. First came the foreig…

S1-E16 - Japanese Formosa Catches Spy Fever

Dec. 1, 2021

As the Empire secretly prepared for a coming war with the aim of dominating Asia, visitors to and foreign residents on Japanese Formosa fell under suspicion. Spies lurked everywhere in the 1930s!! --in the fevered imaginatio…

S1-E15 - Japan Puts on a Show

Nov. 25, 2021

Determined to prove that they were just as fit to be imperialists as the great Western powers, the Japanese were keen to show off the "model colony" of Taiwan. The most ambitious attempt to do this was at the Japan-British E…

S1-E14 - Buddhism "In Action" – Taiwan's Remarkable Tzu Chi 慈濟 Charity Group

Nov. 18, 2021

Tzu Chi is unique in relying on mostly laypersons instead of clergy, focusing on real-world problems instead of only the spiritual, and having an extremely open-minded attitude towards other faiths – this Buddhist group buil…

S1-E13 - The Orangutan Craze

Nov. 11, 2021

As one of the four "Asian Tigers," Taiwan's economy roared in the 1980s, but free-flowing money came with downsides such as the exploitation of wild animals, including tigers.

S1-E12 - The "Made in Taiwan" Miracle

Nov. 4, 2021

U.S. economic aid to Taiwan ceased in 1965. Mostly agrarian Taiwan needed to come up with new ways to make money... and it did! From manufacturing Barbie dolls to computers, here’s the story of what many call the island’s “e…

S1-E11 - All Hail the Duck King 朱一貴!

Oct. 27, 2021

Uprisings were exceptionally common over the 212 years of Qing Dynasty rule on Taiwan... but only one rebellion actually took the capital (Tainan) and led to officials fleeing for Penghu. Here's the story of Zhu Yi-gui 朱一貴, …

S1-E10 - The Qing Empire Doesn't Really Want Taiwan

Oct. 22, 2021

After the heirs of Koxinga surrender to the Qing, the imperial court isn't sure what to do with the island -- but a wily admiral convinces Emperor Kangxi to keep it. Plus: the story of the person who arguably wrote the very …

S1-E9 - The Empire's Last Soldier 李光輝

Oct. 14, 2021

He was the last Pacific WWII holdout and a native Taiwanese from the Amis tribe... here's the remarkable story of a Japanese colonial soldier who didn't get home until the mid-1970s!

S1-E8 - POWs, Bombing Raids, and Kamikazes

Oct. 8, 2021

Initially relatively spared, as WWII in the Pacific reaches a climax, Taiwan is hit hard by advancing Allied forces. POWs in camps across the island await liberation and in modern-day Tainan, a Japanese commander assembles t…

S1-E7 - Luzon or Formosa? - Taiwan Dodges WWII Invasion

Sept. 30, 2021

World War II in the Pacific is coming to a close... American military top brass meets with the President to pick the island from which to launch the final attack on Japan. Taiwan -- in particular, southern Taiwan -- is a str…

S1-E6 - Big Crises on Tiny Islands

Sept. 30, 2021

The Korean War is over, and Mao turns again to the mission of invading Taiwan. To do that, his forces will need to first take some tiny islands just off the coast of China... which is easier said than done. Here's the story …

S1-E5 - Rioters Ransack the Taipei U.S. Embassy (1957)

Sept. 25, 2021

A U.S. officer shoots dead a 'Peeping Tom' allegedly spying on the officer's wife as she took a shower. The subsequent trial and verdict lead to the incredible -- yet little-known -- story of riots that ransacked the US emba…

S1-E4 - Mao Really Wants Taiwan - and a Taiwanese Spy Almost Gave it to Him!

Sept. 16, 2021

Only one Taiwanese person is known to have survived the famed Long March of Chinese communists led by "Chairman" Mao. Hear the story of Cai Xiaoqian (蔡孝乾) from modern-day Changhua County, who became Mao's spymaster in Taiwan…

S1-E3 - The Fall of Fort Zeelandia

Sept. 11, 2021

The Dutch put up a good fight... but a traitor seals their fate. Here's the end of the story of how the Dutch lost Taiwan.

S1-E2 - Koxinga VS. The Dutch - Round One

Sept. 11, 2021

Pirate Warlord Koxinga's successful invasion of Taiwan changed everything. Here's part one of the tale of an epic, nine-month struggle with the Dutch in Anping, modern-day Tainan.

S1-E1 - The White Formosan

Sept. 6, 2021

How could a 'very white' European man get away with showing up in London in 1703 and claiming to be from Formosa? In this first episode of FORMOSA FILES, we look at this fascinating story of a French con-man, and the bigger …