Season 2

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 …

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?…

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…

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-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,…

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-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…

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…

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…

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 …

S2-E9 - The Murder of Pai Hsiao-yen 白曉燕 and the Alexander Family Hostage Crisis

April 28, 2022

April 1997. Taiwan’s crime story of the century starts with the kidnapping and murder of a celebrity’s 12-year-old daughter by a trio of hardened criminals. In the seven-month crime spree that follows, there are more kidnapp…

S2-E8 - Makalu Gao 高銘和 : The Taiwanese Climber Who Survived a Night on Mt. Everest

April 21, 2022

The high number of deaths during the 1996 Mt. Everest climbing season supplied a tragic plotline for books, movies, and documentaries. Taiwanese climbers did not come out of these accounts looking competent -- to say the lea…

S2-E7 - Part 2: Dr. Peng Ming-min 彭明敏 (1923-2022) - Escaping Taiwan and a Hero's Return

April 14, 2022

How do you get a famous, one-armed democracy activist -- who is under house arrest and being watched 24/7 by the authorities -- off of a well-guarded, militarized island? Hint: A team of brave supporters, some forgery, and a…

S2-E6 - Part 1: Dr. Peng Ming-min 彭明敏 (1923-2022) - The Incredible life of a Democracy Fighter

April 8, 2022

Dr. Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) was a Taiwanese pro-independence/pro-democracy activist who lived an exceptional life - losing an arm in a WWII US air raid, witnessing the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and being arrested for sedition …

S2-E4 - Searching for the "Motherland"

March 31, 2022

Western-style adoption (as in a couple taking a baby home from an orphanage) has not been and is still not very common in Taiwan. But there are plenty of local ways kids find new homes here, including a now-abandoned, rather…

S2-E3 - The Lamey Island Massacre

March 24, 2022

In 1622 and then again in 1631, crew members (including foraging parties and shipwreck survivors) from Dutch ships were killed by the aboriginal people on Lamey Island, what is today’s Pingtung County’s Xiao Liuqiu (小琉球). Th…

S2-E2 - Thomas Barclay: The Man Who Helped Save a City

March 17, 2022

It's 1895 and Formosa has officially become part of the Japanese Empire. Not everyone on the island is super happy about this, and bursts of violent resistance are put down by imperial troops as they march for the rebel capi…

S2-E1 - The CIA vs. Made in Taiwan Nukes

March 10, 2022

After the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, nations around the world began thinking about acquiring nuclear weapons of their own. Among them was China, then ruled by supreme leader Chiang Kai-shek. The Nation…