Colonization of Taipei (1895-1905) – Scheme 1. Strengthening Control As Ruling Stabilizer – 1.1 Post-Qing’s Rule: Internal War Chaos

After China’s defeat in The First Sino-Japanese War in 1984, the Qing government ceded Tai Wan to Japan. Since Taiwan officials refused to accept the treaty, they established The Republic of Formosa. The conflict of Taiwan’s sovereignty sparked the largest scale internal war in Taiwan – the Yiwei War (1985).

Although the low morale of the Qing military leads to the collapse of The Republic of Formosa, southern leader Liu Yongfu and local people still successively fight against the Japanese (Ho & Tsai, 2019). As the Japanese central government realized the governors’ inability of rooting colonial legitimacy in Taiwan, they have changed 3 governors until the third one, Maresuke Nogi, proposed selling the piece of land to France. The central government considered the suggestion since pandemic like cholera was all over the under-developed Taiwan, causing 4642 deaths of Japanese soldiers, which is 30 times the number of Japanese soldiers died while fighting in the war. However, general Kodama Gentaro expressed strong objection to the idea of giving up Taiwan. Therefore, he has been appointed as the 4th governor of the region. To facilitate efficient development, Kodama Gentaro recruited Goto Shinpei who has a medical and foreign study background as the Civilian Affairs Executive.

Reviewing the previous governors’ approach, Kodama Gentaro and Goto Shinpei realized their lack of infrastructural contribution and solely repressive measures are the keys to failure. Adding to this, the Japanese pride when defeating the local army became highly provocative. One historical legacy showing this is a version of the boardgame Sugoroku featuring the Japanese victory in the Yiwei War as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1:〈林文次郎編大日本新領地臺灣征討雙六〉, 國立臺灣歷史博物館館藏 館藏號2011.012.0192 , 2011

With rules similar to Monopoly, there are many stops on the chessboard and each of them is designed with manga depicting how brave the Japanese army is when annihilating enemies in Taiwan.

The highly disrespectful means showcase how the Japanese government disregards Taiwanese’s lives. To change people’s poor perception of the colonial government, Goto Shinpei understands they must address the acute pandemics at that time.

The root of continuous disease lies in the lack of drainage system design in the Qing era. Worse still, unceasing typhoons throughout the years have led to floods, exacerbating the hygienic condition into a hotbed of pandemics like cholera and plague (Kong, 2014). Although thorough development of drainage system throughout the whole Taipei requires extravagant time and monetary cost, it is believed that bettering life expectancy and income is effective in gaining trust from the locals after their persistent sufferance from disease as well as poverty under prolonged wars and neglect from colonial governments (Hok, 1943). Hence, Goto Shinpei took the lead to reform Taiwan, starting from hygiene and water facilities.

Worth noticing is the Biological Principle Goto Shinpei stated as well as the laissez-faire policy ( 無方針主義) the Japanese claimed to have used in the period of 1895-1915 (Chan, 2019). According to the Biological Principle, the Japanese government claimed that they should respect local habitats. They even used the metaphor of flounder to explain that it is impossible to force their two eyes on one side of the body to evenly distribute on both sides. Therefore, they would like to scientifically investigate the characteristics of Taiwanese and at the same time study the hardscape of Taiwan for successors to carry out appropriate governance (Chan, 2019). With doubts over neutrality expressed through the term  “laissez-faire policy”, the latter narrative passages would first verify the Japanese contributions as well as the impact on the ruling party and local people by mainly primary sources. Then, with the aid of the same type of source, the true intention behind government attempts during 1985-1905 would be evaluated.

Were the Japanese gently regaining support from the mass by helping them? Were they vigorously exploiting local resources for their own interest? Were they stabilizing their rule passive-aggressively? We will discuss this in later posts.



何義麟, 蔡錦堂. (2019). 典藏台灣史(六)台灣人的日本時代. 玉山社.

江寶釵. (2014). 論臺北城的殖民現代性 ─ 以市區改正與新興建築為觀察核心. 文與哲 台灣南區大學中文系策略聯盟學術論叢2014/6, 113-150.

鶴見祐輔. (1943). 後藤新平傳: 國民指導者時代: 東京市長篇日ソ交涉篇帝都復興政治倫理化運動篇.

陳皇志. (2019). 後藤新平的「生物學原則」與科學統治. 臺灣學通訊, (114), 10-12.


1 Comment on “Colonization of Taipei (1895-1905) – Scheme 1. Strengthening Control As Ruling Stabilizer – 1.1 Post-Qing’s Rule: Internal War Chaos

  1. You raised an interesting question on whether colonial government are stabilizing their rule or rally helping the locals. We are concerned with the exploitative nature of colonial rule, while combating existing social and cultural practices in colonies. However they did have constructive measures and policies during the rule. This makes me also reflect on my research where Japanese colonial government also proposed utilization of port for economic benefit, we can criticize that might be an exploitations, while it also construct the foundation and helped the city to advance.

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