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The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files

The Taiwan History Podcast: Formosa Files

The history of Taiwan (1600 C.E. - 2000) told through interesting stories in a non-chronological order. John Ross is an author and publisher of works on Taiwan and China, while Eryk Michael Smith has worked as a writer and journalist for several media outlets in Taiwan. Both hosts have lived in Taiwan for well over 20 years and call the island home. Email: [email protected]


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S4-E8 - The U.S. Breaks Up With Taipei for Beijing (Dec. 1978)

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter only served one term, but those four years were rough: oil embargos, inflation, the Iran hostage crisis, and the decision to recognize the People?s Republic of China (PRC). It was an unpopular move, especially in Taiwan. President Carter asked his deputy secretary of state, Warren Christopher, to go to Taipei and deal with the fallout. Christopher received possibly the most hostile ?welcome? to Taiwan ever experienced by an American government official. 

Pics, videos, links and more at

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S4-E7 - Travel and Tremors ? the 1906 Meishan Earthquake ????

Drawing on an account never before told in English, we visit Taiwan in the company of French war correspondent Reginald Kann. Upon his arrival in Taihoku (Taipei), he hurries down to the city of Chiayi to investigate the aftermath of the massive 7.1 magnitude Meishan Earthquake of March 17, 1906. Kann reports on the damage and the relief efforts being carried out by Taiwan's relatively new Japanese masters. He gives us a fascinating look at the disaster (which took 1,258 lives) and also Japanese colonial rule as it was moving from military subjugation to development. The Frenchman?s ?Report on Formosa? was published in French and Dutch. Now, thanks to AI and the talents of a Formosa Files fan, we can bring you the tale in English. 

Info, pics and more at


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S4 - Special Episode - Remembering 921 in the Wake of 403

Taiwan is in mourning for those lost or injured by the huge earthquake that happened on the morning of April 3rd, 2024. In this short special episode, we hear John Ross' feelings about the earthquake which this latest one is being compared to: 921, or, the quake of September 21st, 1999, which claimed the lives of several thousand people. In our sadness for those affected, it's good to remember that we've been here before, and came out stronger. The 921 earthquake taught many lessons that very likely saved lives on April 3rd, 2024. We are Taiwan. We will rebuild and we will learn lessons for the next time. Our condolences to all those who are suffering. 

Here is the "921 chapter" from John's book "Formosan Odyssey," read by Eryk.  

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S4-E6 ? Taipei?s Architectural Trilogy Part Two: Witnessing History and Changing with the Times

In the previous episode, we told you how these three rather stunning neo-classical Chinese buildings came to exist. This week, we?re looking at them through a ?culture and society? lens. The massive statue of Chiang Kai-shek remains on its pedestal at the CKS Memorial Hall. A place built to venerate a dictator, however, became the site of the Wild Lily protests demanding a democratic Taiwan in 1990, the year after tanks answered calls for freedom in a square in Beijing. We?ll look at what the National Theater and Concert Hall (NTCH) offers visitors, and finally, how do you bring a ?traditional Chinese? theater and concert hall (both inspired by buildings in China?s medieval Forbidden City) into the 21st century?

Pics and links at

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S4-E6 ? Taipei?s Architectural Trilogy: The CKS Memorial Hall, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall

China-born architect Yang Cho-cheng ??? (1914-2006) left his magnificent mark on Taiwan with the CKS Memorial Hall, and the National Theater and Concert Hall (NTCH) among his greatest masterpieces. This week, we?ve got part one of the story of how a classical Chinese-style trilogy of buildings came to stand in the heart of Taipei City.

Pics and more at ?

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S4-E5 - Ghost Brides

People do indeed marry ghosts in Taiwan! Formosa Files does not mean to mock or in any way be disrespectful to local traditions. Instead, we hope this episode?s two main ghost stories ? one (probably) a tall tale ? and the other a true story of a man taking a ghost bride, will offer listeners important insights into Taiwanese culture, belief systems, folk religion, and ideas about family, and filial piety. More common in yesteryears, but ghost marriages remain part of local traditions into the 21st century.

 More info at

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S4 - A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: CNN China Legend Mike Chinoy

In the summer of 1973, a young Mike Chinoy finagled his way onto one of the earliest trips of civilian Americans to ?Red China.? He would later become CNN?s China correspondent ? moving to the PRC in 1987 ? and became famous as he reported live on the infamous events that transpired in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4th, 1989. Chinoy is in Taiwan for an extended stay, working on a documentary project. In this week?s interview episode, hear Chinoy tell Formosa Files about his first trip to Taiwan in 1974, his feelings on the CCP crackdown in Hong Kong, and his pride at watching Taiwan blossom into ?the freest nation in Asia.? Links to Chinoy's books, pics, and more at

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S4-E4 - The Interesting Tale of When the Dalai Lama?s Brother Came to Taiwan

Gyalo Thondup ????????????????? has had a very interesting life. Born in 1927, he?s the second-eldest brother of the current (and 14th) Dalai Lama. Brother Thondup has long been an unofficial envoy for the Tibetan leader-in-exile, and in May 1950, Gyalo Thondup became the first ?officially acknowledged? Tibetan to visit Taiwan since 1949. What was he doing here? Why Taiwan? What were then-president CKS's feelings about Tibet? Find out in this week?s Formosa Files episode. 

See pics and more at

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S4-E3 - The 1973 Qijin Ferry Tragedy - ????

Twenty-five young women and girls drowned after a severely overloaded ferry capsized in 1973. The deaths spurred changes in public transport safety in Kaohsiung, and the victims became part of a social debate over women's rights. 

Photos and more at

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S4-E2 - Taiwan (the ROC) and Israel - Surprising Shared Histories

Did you know:

In 1920, ROC founder Sun Yat-sen wrote a letter in support of Israel?s nationhood aspirations? And, the ROC govt in Nanjing was the first Asian state to recognize the State of Israel in 1948? Israel was the first non-communist nation to recognize the People's Republic of China? However: Israel and the PRC only set up official relations in 1992, and a year later opened a trade office/de facto embassy in Taiwan.  Taiwan sought Israel?s help with atomic-related matters. 

This episode isn?t a commentary on current events. Instead, it?s a conversation with 91-year-old professor Meron Medzini from Jerusalem, who was awarded a medal for contributions to bilateral ties and Taiwan studies. This is an episode for hardcore history lovers, with loads of fascinating stories and, ?now we know? info from a man who watched Israel, China (the PRC), and modern democratic Taiwan grow and evolve from their inceptions.

Check out for pics, links, and more.   

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S4 - [ENCORE] Happy Holidays? (And: ????!)

Welcome in the Year of the Dragon with this encore of a classic episode from Season Two. Eryk claims all Taiwanese/Chinese holidays are based on sad stories filled with misery, terror, and death. John disagrees. And so the two go over the major holidays celebrated here, and, well, you be the judge of who wins this argument. Also, we cover holidays that used to be part of our calendar, until we had to give them up in exchange for two-day weekends. 

AND, a very Happy New Year from Formosa Files and the Frank C. Chen Foundation. Check out for more. 

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S4-E1 - The Lugang Rebellion (?? 1986)

In the left corner, mega-multinational corporation DuPont. In the right corner, farmers from central Taiwan?s Lugang ??. Ready? Fight!! To open Season Four, we have a David vs. Goliath story, made more complicated by the fact that the Davids in this tale weren't sure what weapons they could get away with using. Taiwan was changing fast in 1986, but it was still under martial law, and protests were often dealt with harshly. DuPont, a huge American company, wanted to build a chemical plant in Lugang (usually spelled as ?Lukang?). Taiwan's government said ?sure!? The people of Lugang, however, weren?t so cool with it... and for the first time in modern Taiwanese history they launched a ?rebellion? against a major corporation, and the ROC authorities.  

Check out for links, pics, and more.

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S3-E42 - Taiwan in 1958

1958. Just 66 years ago, yet Taiwan back then was like a completely different country. There was no television, but there were Russian-language radio broadcasts to Siberia. Eryk and John share nuggets from a 1959 ROC booklet, ?101 Questions about Taiwan,? which proves to be both a humorous and fascinating time capsule of facts and stats. Enjoy this journey back to the year 1958, when sugar dominated exports, and Taiwan manufactured 93 jeeps! 

Visit for links, pics, and more.

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BONUS Episode: Linda Gail Arrigo's Verdict on Shih Ming-teh ???

Linda Arrigo has been in Taiwan for many years, working as a human rights activist, as an important member of the early team of fighters who risked life and limb for a democratic Taiwan, and more recently, worked with the Taiwan Green Party on environmental issues such as stopping NPP4. She's also taught in local universities as a professor. Her Ph.D. thesis (1996) was on land  ownership inequality in pre-1949 China, a topic she started working on in 1975 during early graduate study -- but had to return to because her questionnaires on girl factory workers in Taiwan (field research 1975, 1977-79) were confiscated during a police raid on her home following the Kaohsiung Incident. She was married to the late Shih Ming-teh from 1978 to 1995. And while, like many, she has a great amount of respect for the former political prisoner-turned statesman, Linda notes that history will unfortunately remember the errors he made in his latter decades that sullied his once-glowing reputation. has links, pics, and more.

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S3-E41 - Shih Ming-teh ??? ? ?Taiwan?s Mandela?

Shih Ming-teh ??? died on the morning of his 82rd birthday, January 15th, 2024. This Taiwan democracy champion spent a combined 25.5 years in Taiwanese prisons for ?sedition;? what the one-party state called his activism. Shih would live to see Taiwan blossom into a free society, and received recognition for his role in the long, hard fight. But in the last decades of his life, Shih's reputation took a beating - leaving a stain on his legacy. Despite this, ?Nori,? as he was called by friends and family, will always have a place in the pantheon of Taiwan democracy freedom fighters. Here?s his story: 

Visit for pics, links, and more.

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S3-E40 - Sold to a Bargirl at the Age of Five (1955) ? The Nancy Chen Baldwin Story

Nancy Chen Baldwin's early life ? when she was sold by her parents to a bargirl for US$100 ? might sound like something out of a novel set in the Middle Ages. But the old practices of selling, ?lending,? giving, and unofficial adoption of children persisted in Taiwan until relatively recent times. Nancy, in many ways, was one of the lucky ones; she wasn't sold to a brothel, as some other young girls were back in the post-war years when Taiwan was desperately poor. But her tale of suffering, relocating to the USA, and finally triumphing over her demons deserves to be heard, as it's both educational and inspirational. Nancy released her book One Thousand Layers of Water and Clouds: The Tale of A Taiwanese Daughter in September 2023, and not long after, she spoke with Eryk from her home in the United States.  

Visit for pictures, links, and more.

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S3-E39 - Taiwan?s Most Famous Red Light District: Taipei?s Combat Zone

?Blatant sex capital of Asia, where vice is legal and the price is right,? was how one book described Taipei in 1969. Listen as Taipei-based journalist David Frazier takes us through the history of Taipei?s first foreign-oriented red light district, an area of girlie bars and nightclubs that was, and still is, known as the ?Combat Zone.? Frazier explains how this infamous entertainment zone formed around nearby US military bases, the history of prostitution in modern Taiwan, and how a bar zone became a conduit for Western culture.

Visit for pics and more.

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A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Making History in Space, Taiwan Uni Team Puts Nanosatellites into Orbit - With Angel Menéndez

National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) PhD candidate Angel B. Menéndez came to Taiwan from his native Guatemala on a full scholarship provided by the Taiwan government. For Taiwan, this was a wise financial choice as Menéndez first studied mechanical engineering, then Mandarin, and then became involved in the historic achievement of a Taiwanese space program; not with the official Taiwan Space Agency (TASA), but with a team of researchers at Tainan's NCKU. In 2017, they put a ?nanosatellite? into orbit, a model of which is now on public display. They've since put up a few more and, due to Covid, Menéndez has recently been the only expat on the team. Hear Eryk chat with Angel about these remarkable achievements and the team?s plans for the future of Taiwan in space. 

Visit for pics, info, and more.

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S3-E38 - Merry Constitution Day! (and a Happy New Year)

December 25th. A special day celebrating the birth of... the Constitution of the Republic of China. Once a holiday that rather conveniently overlapped with Christmas, today you don't get the day off in Taiwan. So, to relieve the pain of being forced to work on Christm... um... Constitution Day, John and Eryk bring you some festive cheer by recounting the history of the ROC Constitution, examining each and every amendment, and reading it in the original Mandarin. Just kidding. John gives Eryk an ROC citizenship test. Will Eryk have what it takes to become an ROCian? Will he know the answer to important naturalization questions such as, ?Is it permissible to open an emergency door of an airplane in flight?? Find out in this holiday special from Formosa Files

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S3-E37 - Wu Li-pei (???): A Taiwanese-American Immigrant Story, Part Two

In the 1960s and 1970s, many tens of thousands of Taiwanese went into self-exile; most of them headed to the United States. The people who became Taiwanese-Americans did so for a variety of reasons, but it's probably fair to say most were seeking opportunities more readily available in a democratic, free society. Taiwan in the 1960s and '70s was a place where freedom of expression -- be it in art or politics -- was severely limited. One of these exiles was Wu Li-pei (???), a Taiwan independence campaigner. Here's part two of his story.

And make sure to read Wu's memoir if you're interested in Taiwan politics. The book contains plenty of "sensitive" details and other behind-the-scenes insights.

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Bonus Episode: SAVE THE BIRDS! ~ The origin story of the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society

Frank C. Chen was the mayor of Kaohsiung from 1960 to 1968. The foundation that bears his name is the reason we have Formosa Files. Paul Chen is one of Frank Chen's sons (b. 1944), and in 1979, he established the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society. Why? Well, he and his dad were once avid hunters, and Paul Chen kept noticing there were fewer and fewer birds, and set out to do something about it. Today, Mr. Lin Kun-hai ??? is the society's General Secretary, and in this bonus episode, we hear from both the founder and the person still leading the charge to SAVE THE BIRDS! Pics, links, and info on

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S3-E36 - Wu Li-pei (???): A Taiwanese-American Immigrant Story, Part One

A generation of Taiwanese left (or you might say ?fled?) Taiwan in the 1960s and 70s, with most going to the United States. Some went to school there and stayed, while others emigrated as they saw no future for themselves and their families in the then one-party ROC state. This Taiwanese diaspora was a boon for America; intelligent, hard-working, educated people, many of whom went on to contribute greatly to the American economy and US culture. However, some of these exiles dreamed of a day when their political views could be spoken aloud in Taiwan without fear, and when that day finally came in the late 1990s, some returned and some then also participated in local politics. Wu Li-pei, a pro-independence, pro-democracy activist, was one such man. Wu's life (1934-) spans modern Taiwanese history and his story of being from ?two countries?  is one many others experienced ? US immigrants for whom Taiwan always remained home. 

Visit for book links, pics, additional info, and more.

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[ENCORE] Henry Kissinger (and president Nixon) Go to China, and Everything Changes for the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Henry Alfred Kissinger died on November 29, 2023 at the age of 100. This incredibly controversial figure was a massive player in US politics and policies during the last four decades of the 20th century. Among the most consequential choices Kissinger facilitated was the switch in diplomatic recognition by the United States from Taipei (the ROC) to Beijing (the PRC), a decision later followed by most of the world's nations. To mark his passing, we're rereleasing our "Nixon Goes to China" episode from earlier this year, with a special intro. has pics, maps, details, info, book links, etc.

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S3-E35 - Bits and Pieces (of Stinky Tofu ???) and a Pre-Announcement Announcement

Although Eryk is as sick as a dog, both he and John are in very high spirits, and not just because, once again, they get to chat about stinky tofu. In this "bits and pieces" episode there's some jumping around, a look back and a look ahead. But most importantly, we tease an exciting new development! No, Formosa Files isn't going into the Chou Doufu business, but rather... Well, find out by listening to the show.

We hope by now you know that is a must-visit for extras: book links, pics, images, maps, videos and more, all on our newly-redesigned website where you can message us, review the show or even leave a voice note. And please rate us on Apple or Spotify, it really helps!  

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S3-E34 - Fabulous Foods of Formosa (and Stinky Tofu ???)

Taiwan is a food-lover's paradise, with tasty treats, delicious dishes, scrumptious suppers, marvelous morsels... a versatile, vast variety of fabulous foods. John and Eryk aren't really down with the whole clichéd, ?let's make stuff about foreigners eating stinky tofu? phenomenon, but we decided to do a food episode, topped with some yummy yarns from yesteryear. Hear the origin story of the locally globally-famous Chiayi turkey rice, the 15-star gourmet Din Tai Fung restaurant chain, and finally, yes, we'll sniff out some feelings on chou doufu ???, the smelly snack that seems to somehow always steal the show.

Visit for maps, videos, links to books, extra info, and more.

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 S3-E33 - Tales of Tokyo and Taiwan 

This week we're looking at Tokyo, and telling a few tales that connect events in that major world city to people, places, and things in Taiwan. ????????????????

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S3-E32 - Hakka Author Wu Zhuoliu (???), Part 2 - Japan?s Surrender and 2/28

Writer Wu Zhuoliu ??? (1900-1976), sadly, never saw Taiwan blossom into a democracy. But he left us with some of the most important works ever written about 20th-century Taiwan. Among these is the autobiography ?The Fig Tree?, whose early chapters mirror the events in his acclaimed novel ?Orphan of Asia.? In S2-E29, we covered Wu?s younger years as in Japanese colonial Taiwan, his grandfather?s tales of a cultured, ancient China and the influence these ideas had on Wu. We told the story of Wu?s time in ?the Motherland,?  where he discovered that the China of his imagination was simply that ? imaginary. Today, we pick up his story as WW2 comes to an end and the Chinese Nationalists arrive. Wu describes how Taiwanese jubilation soon turned to despair, and how this exploded into riots and killings known collectively as the 2/28 Incident.

Please rate us on Apple Podcasts! -It really helps!

And, visit for pics, links and more.

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WELCOME TO THE PODCAST! - The "White Formosan" - S1-E1

Formosa Files has gained a lot of new listeners of late, and many seem to begin listening from where they first encounter the program. But there are lots of great episodes from seasons 1-2 and, as this one is the one that started it all, we're rereleasing a new edit of Season One, Episode One: ?The White Formosan.? Our sound quality and editing skills have improved greatly (um... we hope you agree) since the launch of the podcast in late 2021, but we hope our enthusiasm and love for telling stories from Taiwanese history has only grown with our audience. Thanks to long-time listeners for sticking with us, and a very big welcome to all the newer folks!

Originally released on September 6, 2021.

Visit for links, picture, images, maps, book reviews, videos and more!

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A Formosa Files INTERVIEW: Manga Artist Mark Crilley Talks About His New Book - LOST IN TAIWAN

Mark Crilley is one of the top 10 American manga artists, and he has a new graphic novel out called LOST IN TAIWAN (2023). Formosa Files caught up with Mark, who spilled the beans on why he was here in the late 1980s and early 1990s, what he loved (and what he loved a bit less) about Taiwan. After listening to this fun interview with Eryk and Mark Crilley, you?ll want to get a copy of LOST IN TAIWAN; it'll make you laugh, could be used as ESL material, and, like for Eryk, might just reignite some affection for things in Taiwan some of us have gotten so used to, we've forgotten just how beautiful and interesting they are.  

Visit, as Mark gave us over 20 ?sneak peek? pages of art from his book.

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[ENCORE] Golf in Taiwan: A Surprisingly Long History

Hear the tale of Japanese colonial officials discovering golf as the "new cool thing for elites" -- and ordering a course built in just a few hours. Plus, the story of Lu Liang-huan (???), a man from a poor family who worked his way up from being a caddy to an impressive 2nd place win at the 1971 British Open.

NOTE: We are re-releasing this episode in celebration of the 62nd anniversary of the Kaohsiung Golf and Country Club ????????, a public course and oasis of nature, trees, and birds in the middle of the city (and, of course, an international-standard golf course). This episode first came out in July 2022. The Kaohsiung Golf and Country Club is managed by the sponsors of the Formosa Files podcast, the Frank C. Chen Foundation.

Visit for pics, links and more.

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S3-E31 - The ?Tea Thief? - Robert Fortune's Very Brief Trip to Taiwan (1854)

Tea was domesticated in China, and the knowledge of how to grow it, harvest it, and process it was a closely guarded secret. After basically becoming addicted to the beverage, the British needed to find a way to grow their own tea, as buying it from China was eating up their silver reserves. So, missions of ?tea espionage? were conducted, most notably by a Mr. Robert Fortune, who had the good fortune to be able to visit Taiwan on a whirlwind trip. He only spent a day on the island, but he wrote about it, giving us a look at pre-treaty port Qing era Taiwan, and he made several interesting botanical discoveries. Visit for links, pics and images, etc.

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[ENCORE] The 4,300-Kilometer Chase of an Illegal Taiwanese Fishing Boat (1989)

Taiwan loves seafood, and boats from this island trawl for yummy ocean offerings thousands of kilometers away from our shores. Taiwanese fishing vessels are very good at what they do, but they weren't always so good in how they did it. The use of drift nets, so-called "walls of death" that entangle species like sea turtles and dolphins, drew international ire. Taiwan boats also did a lot of fishing in waters they weren't supposed to be in. By 1989, the US Coast Guard had had enough and launched a sting operation to catch the violators. They ended up chasing a Taiwan-registered ship for some 2,700 miles (or about 4,300 kilometers). Here's the story: 

Note: This episode was originally released on January 9, 2022, under the title E1-S23 - Walls of Death.

Pics, links, maps, and more at

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[Bonus] Photographing Taiwan ? Interview with Chris Stowers

John chats with photographer Chris Stowers. In 1988, Chris sailed a traditional Indonesian boat on an epic sea voyage (a trip described alongside the three-part series on the Free China junk, S3-Ep23-25). This led to his first story and photos being published, and the beginning of his career in photography. He came to Taiwan on a political photo shoot in 1991 and made it his home base for covering Asia later that decade. Work and wanderlust have taken Chris to over 70 countries, and his pictures have appeared in numerous publications, from Newsweek to the New York Times to numerous guidebooks. In an interview full of practical recommendations, Chris tells John about a recent book, ?Discovering Taipei on Foot,? gives insights on getting great pictures of people, and shares his favorite temples, festivals, and photo spots. 

Pictures, links and more at, and visit for images by Chris Stowers.

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S3-E30 - When the Russians Bombed Taipei (and other aviation stories)

Here's something we bet you didn't know: in 1938, Soviet pilots in Soviet planes (disguised to look like ROC Air Force planes) bombed the main airfield in Taihoku (now the Songshan Airport ?????? in Taipei City). We've got that story and more as this week John and Eryk get a bit geeky and delve into some of the stories behind the planes we saw during recent visits to the Gangshan Aviation Education Exhibition Hall (???????).

Visit for lots of great pics, links and more.

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S3-E29 - Taiwan's Great Pork Apocalypse (1997)

Not gonna lie folks: this episode gets dark; the story of a super swine slaughter. But, there's also some tasty morsels of info on Taiwan's favorite meat, and the pig?s place in the island?s history and culture. Plus, a final happy ending involving little cute piggies, but you'll have to have to visit to see the pics.

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S3-E28 - More Bits and Pieces: Ox Ditches and an Unsinkable Warship

Remember those two Polish cargo ships and one oil tanker from the USSR seized by the ROC Navy in the 1950s? Well, the story has one highly interesting extra element we didn't have time to get to in the last episode. Plus, John wants to write a book about an "ox ditch." 

Visit for all the extras: links, maps, pics, images, book reviews, etc.

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S3-E27 - When Taiwan (ROC) Blockaded China (PRC)

After retreating to Taiwan, the ROC ordered a naval blockade of China, which lasted officially until 1979. There were interceptions and attacks by the ROC Navy, CIA-backed Nationalist forces, and some pirate-like actions by unofficial ROC guerrillas. Even ships from the UK and the US were targeted. But, with several high-profile cases, including a Soviet tanker called the Tuapse, the world grew weary and demanded that Chiang Kai-shek stop the blockade. Meanwhile, the detained crews became political footballs. Some were stuck here for over 30 years!

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S3-E26 - Taiwan as part of the Philippines? Or a British or German colony? ?What Ifs? of Formosan History -- With Michael Turton

Taiwanese history would have been very different except for a few pivotal moments. ?Sure,? you might be thinking, ?that's true everywhere.? However, the ?what ifs? Michael Turton and Eryk Michael Smith talk about today are especially fascinating because of Taiwan?s strategic location. The Spanish and Dutch had short-lived settlements here in the 17th century, but either could easily have lasted for centuries. Later would-be colonizers included the UK (they considered using the east coast as a penal colony à la Australia), the US, and Germany. Turton lays out an interesting list of ?what ifs? to support his argument that Taiwan being in the sphere of ?Chinese? influence is an anomaly of history -- and was never inevitable. 

Check out for links to articles by Michael Turton, pics, images, and more.

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S3-E25 - The Free China Junk Story - Part 3: Victory!

Today John Ross and Chris Stowers (a man who has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to sail on an old-fashioned sailing boat) end our three-part series on the amazing voyage of the Chinese junk (built possibly in the 1890s) that made it -- not without overcoming considerable difficulties -- from Keelung to San Francisco in 1955. We discover the fates of the two chickens brought along for the long sea trip (Mildred 1 and Mildred 2), and, of course, learn what happened to our adventurous crew. We won't give away any spoilers, but let's just say there's also a nice twist on what eventually happened to the Free China junk itself. 

Visit for pics, links, and more. 

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S3-E24 - Crossing the Pacific in a Junk - Trials and Tribulations (Part 2-3)

We continue the amazing tale of six men who set sail from Keelung in 1955 aboard the Free China junk to join a trans-Atlantic yacht race. They were attempting to show that an old-fashioned Chinese vessel could compete against some of the world's best boats. But first they need to cross the Pacific Ocean. It?s an inauspicious start, and we find Paul Chou and his shipmates in need of rescue and ordered to return home. But will they? Guest Chris Stowers draws on his experience sailing on a traditional Bugis craft in Indonesian waters to help us navigate this heartwarming story. This is part two of a three-part story, and part three drops tomorrow.


You really should visit as we post links to videos, pictures, maps, extras and more. 

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S2-E23 - Across the Pacific in the Free China Junk (1955) - Part One

In 1954, a man living in Keelung ?? asked himself, ?Could an old-fashioned Chinese junk beat modern yachts in a race on the high seas?? The answer? -- An almost unbelievable tale involving a boat that would become world-famous: the ?Free China? junk (?????). This week, John Ross and Chris Stowers (Stowers was part of a crew that also sailed on a wind-powered junk-like ship), tell the first part of this incredible story of bravery, perseverance, and a more than a little luck.

Don't forget to visit for videos, links, maps, pics and info.


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S3-E22 - Barbie: Made in Taiwan

Seen the Barbie movie? No worries... Eryk saw it for you, and he noticed one thing they didn't mention in the film: from 1967-1987, most of the world's Barbie dolls were made in Taiwan. Factories in the tiny town of Taishan ?? (now a district of New Taipei City) churned out millions of these well-made toys before Mattel moved operations to cheaper manufacturing locations. Plus, we've got info on traditional Taiwanese toys and John ends this week's episode with a strange tale of "possessed" paper dolls. 

Go to our website for pics, links, and other extras. 

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S3-E21 - Blockading Taiwan

China's People's Liberation Army/Navy has been practicing for a possible blockade of Taiwan with ships, planes, and drones. This week, Formosa Files looks at the history of blockades connected to Taiwan. Plus, hear about the nastiest "ocean blockade" in history -- when the new Qing authorities ordered the evacuation of the Chinese coast for over 20 years! 

Maps, links, pics, and more can be found at

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Bonus Episode: 2-28: A Bad Beginning

In this special episode, we hear Eryk reading from chapter five of John?s ?Taiwan in 100 Books.?  The topic is 2-28, an event named after a date: February 28, 1947. It?s usually referred to as the February 28 incident, but sometimes called the 2-28 Massacre. American vice-consul at the time George Kerr used the term ?the March massacres,? which gives a more accurate impression of what happened; the brutal suppression of uprisings and protests throughout the country, which left perhaps 20,000 dead. It was a bad beginning to ROC rule on Formosa, a dark stain that was a taboo topic until the early 1990s. Listen and learn about George Kerr?s ?Formosa Betrayed?(1965), probably the most important English-language non-fiction work on Taiwan. We also cover the first English-language White Terror novel, ?A Pail of Oysters? (1953), by Vern Sneider, and Allan James Shackleton?s ?Formosa Calling? (1998), an account of 2-28 which took four decades to get published. 

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[ENCORE] The Empire's Last Solider (29 Years, 3 Months, and 16 Days)

The last Japanese "holdout" of World War II was an Indigenous Amis Taiwanese named Attun Palalin, but in Japanese Formosa, he was Nakamura Teruo (?? ??). Palalin was one of a group of Indigenous Taiwanese who served in the Japanese military as part of the Takasago Volunteer Unit ?????. The Takasago Unit was built on the idea that Indigenous Taiwanese were best suited for guerilla-style fighting in Southeast Asian jungles as they could live off the land and were accustomed to tropical climates, etc. Several thousand Indigenous men were recruited. Many Formosans served under the flag of the Rising Sun with distinction during the Second World War; no one, however, was apparently more dedicated than "The Empire's Last Solider," Attun Palalin, who kept "fighting" on an island in modern-day Indonesia until 1974! Enjoy your summer, catch up on episodes, and check out this encore episode, first released in October 2021.

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S3-E20 - John Groot and John Ross Walk and Talk Historic Tamsui ?? - Part Two

Tamsui (Danshui) native John Groot and Formosa Files' John Ross continue their walk and talk around the old town. They?re on the trail of the 1884 Battle of Tamsui between French and Taiwanese forces, a battle which was a rare victory for the beleaguered Qing dynasty. As well as military matters, the two Johns chat about the wider history of Tamsui. It?s a fun mix of travel and history.  Visit for links to videos, maps, images, info and more.

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S3-E19 - Two Johns Take a "Walking Tour" in Historic Tamsui ?? - Part One

Strategically located near the mouth of the Tamsui (Danshui) River, the port town of Tamsui has a long, rich history. The Spanish built a fort here in the 1600s, as did the Dutch, and numerous European traders came here in the nineteenth century when it was a treaty port. But perhaps the most surprising foreign presence was the brief and bloody stay of the French military. This was the Battle of Tamsui of October 1884, which was a part of the Sino-French War. John Groot, the author of ?Taiwanese Feet: My walk around Taiwan,? takes John Ross on a walking tour of his beloved hometown on the trail of this forgotten historical conflict.

Visit for video links, images, maps, extra info and more.

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S3-E18 - Getting Arrested in Taiwan - With Lawyer Ross D. Feingold

Formosa Files and Taipei-based lawyer Ross Feingold very much hope you never get arrested in Taiwan, or anywhere else for that matter. But should this unfortunate event occur, what are your rights? Does Taiwan require search warrants? Are there "Miranda Rights"? Is it really true that you can get in legal trouble for swearing at someone? Are cops allowed to parade suspects in front of the media in what Americans call a "perp walk"? Listen as Eryk gets some free legal advice* from an expert in local law. (*Disclaimer: None of the commentaries in this episode should be taken as official legal advice. Ross Feingold is speaking as an individual legal professional, and his views are his own.)
Visit for info, links, images, and more.

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S3-E17 ? The Wrongful Execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (???) and the Death Penalty in Taiwan

Among the too many killings committed in the lawless year of 1997 was the execution of 21-year-old Chiang Kuo-ching (???), a soldier convicted of a horrific crime after a forced confession. Chiang went to his death maintaining his innocence, and 14 years later in 2011, he was posthumously cleared of all wrongdoing. John and Eryk tell this harrowing story, disagree on capital punishment, and discuss the death penalty in Taiwan. They end with a case John brings up of a serial killer from the 1970s-80s who certainly "deserved" his fate.

For images, links, and more, visit  

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