Colonization of Taipei (1895-1905) – Scheme 1. Strengthening Control As Ruling Stabilizer – 1.4 Public Property Nationalization and Expansion

Nationalizing public property is a common governance means, whether the ruling party is safeguarding its own interest, or ensuring even public resources distribution. Here, we will reveal how the colonial government nationalize water facilities and land to consolidate their interest and promote its authority.

Firstly, the public property is nationalized in an authoritative way. In terms of water facilities, as mentioned in narrative 1.3, the government issued Taiwan Public Zhen Rules in 1901 to offering funds for the construction of public zhen. However, it simultaneously nationalized all public zhens. The authoritative attitude can be observed in the first part of Rule 1 as shown in Figure 1: “The definition of public zhen in this set of rules refers to waterways, ponds and infrastructure constructed for irrigating farmlands. The public zhen also refers to the objects closely matter to public interest as approved by district/ ting officers.” This rule prohibited private ownership and management of the zhen that carried public interest (Xu, 2014), which means the original owner of them would need to hand their control rights to the government without compensation. The policy which directly prioritized national interest to private interest spelled the government’s authority. In terms of land, the Japanese government issued the Forest Nationalization Rule in 1895 which stated that any piece of the forest without a title deed would be nationalized. Since people in the Qing period seldom measure the land in the woods or write title deeds when biding these lands, 730000 hectares of land were all nationalized (Xu, 2017). Again, this policy shows the Japanese’s certain extent of disregard over vernacular rules when nationalizing properties.

Figure 1: 律令第六號「臺灣公共埤圳規則」, 《府報》981號, 1901

Secondly, the water facilities are nationalized to build a solid foundation for modernization. According to the second part of the Tai wan Public Zhen Rule 1, dams of rivers and ponds which connect to the zhens with public interest are defined as part of the public zhen. This reveals the follow-up action of the colonial government in renovating old zhens and connect the water facilities into a nationwide system.  As irrigation infrastructure becomes a public utility, the government can closely track their management and development so that they can expand the water industry (Chan, 2003). As reflected in the map in Figure 2, the water facilities nationalization process boosted the unification of waterways. Together with the renovated zhens and additional zhens constructed under Official Zhen Rule issued in 1908, peasants can have stable irrigation albeit climate fluctuations. The improvement in infrastructure in ensuring productivity is a typical sign of modernization. Whether a colony is developed in a modernized way mattered a lot in the reputation of the colonial government at that time (Anderson, 1999). Especially when the Japanese were eager in showing the world that it was as capable as the European rulers (Kong 2014), the way they perfected Taipei’s waterway system was a proof of promoting authority through nationalization.

Figure 2: Municipal Reform Project for Taihoku City Plan – Ground Plan with Waterway Sections Overlaid, Taipei Official Notice No.64, 1910

Thirdly, the land is nationalized to facilitate the development of the industries favourable to the Japanese. Since Kodama Gentaro has become the governor, the main goal of economic policy has been “Industrialization in Japan, Agriculturalization in Taiwan” (Chan, 2007). While land is crucial in developing agriculture, mass piece of land in hand allow the ruler to manipulate land use for productivity optimization. As shown in the official chart in 1917 in Figure 3, Taiwan forest land owned by the government (green) far exceed that owned by common people (orange) after years of land investigation and nationalization. With land all over the island, the colonial government not only boosted the sugar industry by funding the construction of agriculture infrastructure, but it also invited Japanese leading companies in the industry to set up machines for rapid development. By utilizing the resource in Taiwan which served as a warehouse, the colonial government and Japanese merchants were benefitting each other. However, there is no protection over local peasants’ income. The bias to Japanese merchants showed the Japanese government’s attempt to consolidate its own interest by taking advantage of the colony.

Figure 3: 官有與民有林野土地比例圖, 臺灣林野調查事業報告, 1917

When comparing the content of this narrative to the previous one (narrative 1.3), we can observe that the effective colonial policies were also done for gaining own interest, apart from doing goods for the locals.



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陳其澎. (2003). “框架” 台灣:日治時期殖民現代性的研究. 文化研究學會 2003 年年會. 「靠文化. By Culture」學術研討會, 24.

Anderson, B. R. (1999). 想像的共同體: 民族主義的起源與散布. 時報文化.

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.

徐世榮. (2017). 慘痛的台灣土地掠奪史. 報導者.

臺灣總督府民政部殖產局. (1917). 臺灣林野調查事業報告.

陳明言. (2007). 臺灣的糖業. 遠足文化.


1 Comment on “Colonization of Taipei (1895-1905) – Scheme 1. Strengthening Control As Ruling Stabilizer – 1.4 Public Property Nationalization and Expansion

  1. I believe ruling over a colony was a typical way for countries to showcase their capabilities and especially when they were seeking recognition from the existing strong powers. During the Meiji Period, Japan was eager to achieve modernization through various attempts to imitate and learn from the West. From my own knowledge, they had sent representatives to Europe to learn from their architecture, urban planning, education and etc. Yet I did not know that the nationalization of water facilities and the unification of waterways in Taiwan were the specific ways that the Japanese government adopted to promote their authority. It is informative to know how Japan utilized this colony to showcase its rapid modernization and development not only in terms of military force but throughout its rulership in terms of agricultural productivity and economy.

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