Saturday, November 26, 2011

Taiwan: Lonely Planet Guide

Taiwan
Robert Kelly
Lonely Planet; 8th edition (April 1, 2011)
392 pages

Robert Kelly and Joshua Samuel Brown's redevelopment of the Lonely Planet Taiwan guide is 400 pages of excellence packed with beautiful maps, useful information, sidebars of historical and cultural information, and (not enough!) lovely pictures.

Kelly sent me the book for review as I was heading out the door for trips down south to Tainan and Pingtung. It proved a highly reliable and useful companion for the trip. The Tainan section alone is worth the price of the book. The detail map of the temple area has a very clear map with many major sites and a recommended walking route. Good thumbnails of history are provided for many of the city's innumerable temples. A sample:
Medicine God Temple
Just south of Anping Road on Gubao Street, this small temple boasts a lovely example of a swallowtail eave roof, and two small lion statues with an interesting tale (not tail) behind them. Long ago in the days of the Qing Dynasty, a young scholar prayed to the Medicine God to help him pass an imperial exam. Since Chinese religion is largely based on quid pro quo, he promised that if successful he would reward the god by paying for two stone temple lions to be carved and placed out front. Well, the scholar did pass the exam, but poor man that he was, could only afford the two diminutive felines you see outside the temple today.
The rich detail of this book, as well as its great scope, means that it makes for great pleasure reading in addition to its effectiveness as a guidebook. This guide also features copious amounts of information on Taiwan's excellent cycling and hiking. There is also an extensive section on the offshore islands, and discussions of culture, history, and the future of the island at the end of the book. You'll find this blog there too. Thanks, guys.

The sole truly annoying feature of the book is its constant reference to the "Japanese Occupation Period", a time that exists solely in the minds of Chinese Nationalist propagandists. Japan did not "occupy" Taiwan -- the term is used in an attempt to create unbroken Chinese "sovereignty" over Taiwan. Japan had full and legitimate sovereignty over the island and the book should simply refer to the "Japanese colonial period" instead.

If you are traveling or moving to Taiwan, this book should be considered mandatory. It is the most comprehensive guidebook now available on Taiwan. A labor of love from an author who loves Taiwan and knows it intimately, it should be on every Taiwanophile's bookshelf.
______________________ 
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

70 comments:

Jenna Cody said...

I'll have to check it out. I will admit I was not impressed with the previous two editions (the last one was better than the one before) with insufficient coverage, leaving out of some of the most interesting parts of the island and turgid restaurant recommendations that relied more on what's famous than on what's actually good. The two-editions-previous one really bothered me with its "Top Five Restaurants in Taiwan" - most of which weren't Taiwanese at all, and leaving out the genuinely best spots.

So I do hope that this one is better. I'll go into it with an open mind!

Jonas said...

In what sense is the Japanese rule of Taiwan "fully legitimate"? Why not just say it's as illegitimate as the Nationalist occupation of Taiwan? Both are illegitimate governments with unwarranted expansionary ambitions.

Anonymous said...

(Obviously, I take the relevant sense of legitimacy here to be not purely legal or international recognition. If that were the standard, the current government would be illegitimate. Rather, I take the relevant sense to be moral / political.)

偕偕王 said...

It would be nice if you could post a story at Amazon's review section.

Steve said...

I've always been a big LP fan so when I moved to Taiwan in 2000, I picked up a copy to take with me. Unfortunately, it was complete garbage, the worst LP guidebook I've ever owned by a longshot. Everything was out of date, it was full of inaccuracies, the writer pined for a move to India, etc.

I couldn't be happier to hear the new guide is accurate and well-written. I'm grabbing a copy as soon as it is released. For a relatively small island, Taiwan is packed with fantastic scenery, great cuisine and a million things to see and do. I hope this helps bring in more tourism. Taiwan is an undiscovered gem.

JC said...

"Japan had full and legitimate sovereignty over the island and the book should simply refer to the "Japanese colonial period" instead."

It's interesting how you claim the transfer of sovereignty through the Treaty of Shimonoseki - which many historians call an un-even treaty just like the ones between China and the UK, France, Germany, .. – was totally fine and legitimate. Then however you dispute the sovereignty of the Republic of China over Taiwan.

Both cases are a matter of perspective - but saying Japan had legitimate sovereignty over Taiwan while the Republic of China doesn't is a little illogical.

robpastyvoigt said...

Hmm, I don't know... I've had good experiences with Lonely Planets in the past, but I have some pretty severe reservations about the Taiwan one. In my travels I found much of the information to be outdated, inaccurate, historically/culturally underinformed, or otherwise confusing.

One salient example is Taizhong, the third-largest city in Taiwan, for which the description says something along the lines of, if I recall correctly, "There's nothing interesting to see here - if you can skip it, do." and then proceeds to provide no information and literally skip over it.

Having lived in Taipei as well, reading that section I got the strong impression that anyone would be far far better off just asking locals for their advice rather than buying this book. Don't get me wrong, there's a few bright spots in it, and the writing is colorful, but that doesn't make up for a lot of the mistakes and shortcomings in the content.

Michael Turton said...

n what sense is the Japanese rule of Taiwan "fully legitimate"? Why not just say it's as illegitimate as the Nationalist occupation of Taiwan? Both are illegitimate governments with unwarranted expansionary ambitions.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was an internationally valid transfer of sovereignty by the (utterly flawed) rules of the day. Neither party nor any other nation disputed it. Hence the Japanese had full and legal sovereignty over Taiwan.

Of course the Taiwanese werent consulted, but the idea of consulting the ruled came in after WWI.

Note that legitimate sovereignty says nothing about ethics or democracy.

Michael

Michael Turton said...


Both cases are a matter of perspective - but saying Japan had legitimate sovereignty over Taiwan while the Republic of China doesn't is a little illogical.


The treaty of Shimonoseki legally transferred Taiwan to Japan.

No internationally recognized treaty transfers Taiwan to the ROC. All internationally valid documents specifically refrain from doing that.

It's not logical to claim that the ROC owns Taiwan when it has no internationally valid claim to it nor does any internationally recognized document give the ROC such sovereignty.

The illogic is yours.

Michael

JC said...

"The Treaty of Shimonoseki was an internationally valid transfer of sovereignty by the (utterly flawed) rules of the day. Neither party nor any other nation disputed it. Hence the Japanese had full and legal sovereignty over Taiwan."

1) Japan obviously did not dispute it

2) The UK obviously did not dispute it as they had a colony based upon a treaty with China

3) France did not dispute it as they had the French Concession in Shanghai

4) Same goes for Germany and Qingdao

5) Same goes for the USA and Shanghai

.... did you know the European slave traders actually paid for black slaves and therefore entered into a merchant agreement with the African tribe leaders?
Using formally legitimate contracts is something colonial powers and imperialists have always liked.

China was too busy with internal conflict to dispute the treaty they were forced to sign.



"No internationally recognized treaty transfers Taiwan to the ROC. All internationally valid documents specifically refrain from doing that"

No internationally recognized treaty ever transferred sovereignty over America to the United States - declaring independence from the UK doesn't count as the British stole the land from the native population. Yet over the decades and centuries the US government established a widely accepted sovereignty over the territories they control.

Same applies to the Republic of China and the island of Taiwan.

Otherwise, the only people who may decide the fate of Taiwan are the aboriginal people: not Hoklo, Hakka or Waishengren as they were all immigrants and stole the land. Kind of what many independence supporters fear the PRC government might try to do.... history repeats itself over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

When the ROC constitution was established, Taiwan was one of the providences. Representatives from the providences form the 國民大會 to establish the Constitution which is still adopted by the ROC Government to date. So in fact Taiwan is still legally a providence under ROC, and Taipei is the capital of ROC. This is the legal system. I would suggest that if you are serious about knowing the facts, the legality of this can be traced. The PRC Government came into recognition simply because they became powerful enough that they could not be ignored.

George

Kaminoge said...

The Taiwan Lonely Planet guides have definitely improved in quality since the Robert Storey days. However, this recent edition isn't quite as good as the 2007 and 2004 versions. Much of the problem lies in Lonely Plant's new layout, which certainly isn't the authors' fault. However, compared with past editions, the transportation details are less specific, and there is a greater reliance on referring to blogs for further information. The problem with the latter, of course, is that links often go dead or become outdated, as is the case with one given on cycling in Taichung in that section.

For a first time visitor to Taiwan, I would still recommend the Rough Guide to Taiwan. It's much more specific regarding details on getting around, and arranges the sights in the order in which the average tourist is likely to visit them. LP, and especially Bradt, are more useful for foreign residents here.

BTW, do you know both Robert Kelly and/or Joshua Samuel Brown (not to mention Steven Crook (author of the Bradt Taiwan guide)? If so, perhaps a little disclosure might be in order when it comes to book reviews. You wouldn't want anyone thinking you were plugging friends' books now, would we? :-)

Anonymous said...

Anyone who needs a travel guide to "see" a country" -- any country -- is a total effup of the travelling kind. go to taiwan without a LP book or any travel guide and just take it as it comes. It does come.

I been backpacking for 30 yaers and never carried or read a frigging guide book and i had the time of me life everywhere. just use your eyes and get a good map. the rest is up to you.

IMHO, LP has ruined the entire world. Garbage it.

-- Marcus Kang, Toronto

Anonymous said...

Didja see the Golden Horse awards on TV there? AP Annie Huang reports:

Celebrities like Su Chi former AV porn queen from Taichung now overseas in HK also attended the Golden Horse awards and
several of them picked up awards as well, along them: Hong Kong's Andy
Lau and Deanie Ip. Taiwan's well-known film director Hou Shiao-shien, a veteran of
the movie business and a role model for younger talent on the colourful
and film-crazy island nation,
also attended the awards ceremony and served as a stage presenter as well.

Some good movies from Taiwan's geopolitical rival communist China were
also represented at the film ceremony, but mostly came away with
smaller and technical gongs, haha. This year,
the Golden Horse awards put Taiwan in the spotlight, a focus that is
well deserved and promises a bright future for this
Hollywood-on-Formosa mecca of up-and-coming directors, actors
and screenwriters.

hollywood-on-formmosa?

WTF?

Elise Martin (San Francisco)

Michael Turton said...

I would suggest that if you are serious about knowing the facts, the legality of this can be traced.

I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with both the historical record and with the international legal status of Taiwan. It is completely irrelevant what the Constitution of the ROC says. It can make whatever claims it pleases; they have no effect on international law.

It is frustrating to discuss things with people who haven't a clue.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

You wouldn't want anyone thinking you were plugging friends' books now, would we? :-)

It says in the review that Kelly sent the book to me. I've never met either of them, though we're on good terms, of course.

Michael Turton said...

5) Same goes for the USA and Shanghai

You left out 6). Here, I will write it down for you.

(6) The government of China never disputed it.

There we go. Now we have the actual truth.

I did enjoy the way you managed to drag in slaves and N America in fine 50 center style. It's good that we both agree land theft is wrong. Now we can agree that China annexing Taiwan is wrong.

Chinese leaders didn't begin imagining they could annex Taiwan until the late 1930s. Even into the 1940s they were still making statements that it was not part of China. The idea that Taiwan was an indelible part of China is a post-war evolution.

Michael

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Thanks for the review, Michael. It's always great to receive feedback, and rest assured there will be no references to any Occupation in the next edition. LOL.

If any reader has suggestions, complaints, or grievances, you can email me at rscottpk AT gmail DOt com. I'm always open to any feedback, especially the critical kind.

Lovers of the fair city of Taichung, I invite you especially to make the case that your town is inadequately represented as a travel destination (as opposed to a nice place to live). But note that I have made this offer for years and no one has ever taken me up on it. I know you have stuff there, just to be clear, but in my opinion the word count is better spent elsewhere.

Cheers,

Robert

Steve said...

I had a chance to pick up the guide tonight and thought it had both strong and weak points. As Kaminoge wrote, Robert Storey's guides were weak and the new ones are a big improvement. I liked the emphasis on outdoor activities such as hiking and biking since those fit me.

I do agree with robpastyvoight that the Taichung section was incomplete. My wife went to high school there and has a brother in the city, so I've had a chance to spend some time and though I can't say it's a touristy town, I don't think I've ever had a bad meal and if I remember correctly, they did invent bubble tea and betel nut booths. LOL

Our condo is in the Ximen district of Taipei and I know most of those restaurants. I thought the food section was too preoccupied with non-Taiwanese food, at least in that part of town. Taiwan is one of the eating capitals of the world, there are so many great and cheap restaurants to choose from, so why would anyone want to get a cheeseburger or pad thai while visiting?

Outside of that, I thought the rest of the Taipei section was pretty good. I'll have to check out a Rough Guide Taiwan. I wasn't impressed with their European guides so I hope the one for Taiwan is better.

Marcus, it depends on how or why you travel. Obviously a guidebook doesn't fit your style of travel but it might fit others. One man's meat is another man's poison, eh?

Anonymous said...

Ah, Joshua Brown. I remember he acted as a tour guide for our group during a visit to Penghu. One morning we woke up, and were to assemble at 9 or so to begin a bike tour. The hotel didn't serve breakfast, and there were no Starbucks on the island. I set off in search of coffee; found a little nautical themed cafe somewhere, bought a cappuccino, and ran back to meet with the group.

The rest of the group was fussing and sorting things out in the Chinese fashion. I picked up my drink, took a few sips, and realized it was almost cold. Brown was swilling a foamy beverage from an identical cheap paper cup. He finished it without comment. A chance meeting of absent minded coffee drinkers.

Anyway, strange anecdotes aside, the guy was crazy knowledgeable about the area. I'd definitely recommend him in a food and drink finding capacity.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with both the historical record and with the international legal status of Taiwan. It is completely irrelevant what the Constitution of the ROC says. It can make whatever claims it pleases; they have no effect on international law.

It is frustrating to discuss things with people who haven't a clue.

Michael

By all legal definition of an independent country, ROC has already met then. Now whether internationally other countries want to deal with you or not is a different story.

If you know of a place that contains all the relevant information supporting your views, we can do a 24hr open showdown to hash this out if you feel it's worth the effort.

George

Anonymous said...

George-

In 1947 KMT appointees from Taiwan, known as "half mountain people" were denied a voice in the ratification of the ROC constitution for the fact that Taiwan was supposedly still going through the prescribed period of political tutelage as prescribed by the KMT.

Just because the KMT said it was so... doesn't make it so.


X

Anonymous said...

There is a nice android based program "轉乘通"that is very convenient. I have tried it in Taipei and it worked great. Don't know if they have an English version or not.

What it does is it seems to tap into Google maps allowing you to search for transportation from start to destination. It shows you where to go on the map to take transportation and how to change. Sometimes it gives you different options.

George

Michael Turton said...

If you know of a place that contains all the relevant information supporting your views, we can do a 24hr open showdown to hash this out if you feel it's worth the effort.

George, these are not "my views". They are the views of the international community and non-involved legal scholars. In other words, in the world, only Chinese from the PRC and ROC claim Taiwan is part of China, aside from a few small countries that each nation has purchased. All the major powers view Taiwan's status as undetermined, as encoded in the major postwar treaties. Only France among the major powers agrees with China, quite late, in 1994. No one at all supports an ROC claim to Taiwan.

So yes, the information supporting my position resides in a place called "history."

You're like a believer in a strange religion suddenly learning that nobody else thinks the way he does. Welcome to the world, George.

No treaty anywhere gives the ROC title to Taiwan. The determination of the status of Taiwan belongs to the people of Taiwan, period.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

I know you have stuff there, just to be clear, but in my opinion the word count is better spent elsewhere.

Speaking as one who lives in the Chung, I agree with Robert. Great place to live, but not many attractions compared to other places.

Michael

Anonymous said...

George, these are not "my views". They are the views of the international community and non-involved legal scholars. In other words, in the world, only Chinese from the PRC and ROC claim Taiwan is part of China, aside from a few small countries that each nation has purchased. All the major powers view Taiwan's status as undetermined, as encoded in the major postwar treaties. Only France among the major powers agrees with China, quite late, in 1994. No one at all supports an ROC claim to Taiwan.

So yes, the information supporting my position resides in a place called "history."

You're like a believer in a strange religion suddenly learning that nobody else thinks the way he does. Welcome to the world, George.

No treaty anywhere gives the ROC title to Taiwan. The determination of the status of Taiwan belongs to the people of Taiwan, period.

Michael

I guess the American Indians signed a treaty to turn the land to the US? Let's be real, different countries are formed in different ways. As long as sovereignty exists, there is an independent currency, you have a certain population, then you can pretty much declare yourself an independent country. Whether other countries treat you as one is a totally different issue. Buy some land, have your own currency used only within that region, and you have the "Turton Republic".

Taiwan belonged to China since way back in history. After ROC took over the Ching Dynasty, it also took over everything. Taiwan was basically returned to China, and the ROC Government was in power, and accepted it. I would like to see the part of history and legal documents that say otherwise. So if you agree with the others that you claim to think otherwise, and feel that it is worth to get it out in the open. I'd be willing to dedicate 24 hours to dig through with you and those guys to get this thing settled. If those guys still are daydreaming and don't want to show up, fine.

George

Anonymous said...

You're like a believer in a strange religion suddenly learning that nobody else thinks the way he does. Welcome to the world, George.
"Think Different" I with Steve Jobs on this one. "People don't know what they want until we show it to them." Good one Steve

Jason S. said...

I bought the (ridiculously expensive!) book and as someone new to Taiwan, but not to the Chinese-speaking world (5 years in China), I certainly don't need it to get around, but I like having it. It came in handy in when traveling and is all around just good reading.
I would also like to comment on the Taichung section, however. Well it may be true that Taichung doesn't have as many attractions as other cities, it still is the 3rd largest city on the island and people do come here. To only list 3 hotels, 2 restaurants (especially when locals know Taichung as a great place to eat), 2 bars, and not to mention any night markets (including the very well-known 逢甲) or any other activities at all (which there are - 東海s campus, bike ride in 豐原, 大坑, 仙女瀑布, People's Park) is a shame really. I'm not saying Taichung deserves a huge place in the book, but certainly more than what's provided.
Otherwise, so far so good.

Michael Turton said...

Taiwan belonged to China since way back in history. After ROC took over the Ching Dynasty, it also took over everything. Taiwan was basically returned to China, and the ROC Government was in power, and accepted it. I would like to see the part of history and legal documents that say otherwise. So if you agree with the others that you claim to think otherwise, and feel that it is worth to get it out in the open. I'd be willing to dedicate 24 hours to dig through with you and those guys to get this thing settled. If those guys still are daydreaming and don't want to show up, fine.

George, this paragraph is pure Chinese propaganda. As I told you above, nobody agrees with the Chinese.

Here is the US policy, from this Aug, 2011, Congressional Research Service report:

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41952.pdf
The United States has its own position on Taiwan’s status. Not recognizing the PRC’s claim over Taiwan nor Taiwan as a sovereign state, U.S. policy has considered Taiwan’s status as unsettled.

All the major powers except France agree, France having kissed Beijing's ass back in 1994.

In 1945 at the end of World War II, Taiwan belonged to Japan. It would until April of 1952, when Japan finally gave up sovereignty. No nation was awarded that sovereignty, meaning that Taiwan's status is undetermined at present. So there was no transfer of sovereignty in 1945. Further, the ROC could not have accepted Taiwan's sovereignty because even in 1945, under then-prevailing League of Nations rules, transfers of sovereignty could not take place without a referendum by the entire population. See Chen and Reisman's seminal review of the issues for the Yale Law Journal in 1971 -- Who Owns Taiwan: the Search for an International Title (Go herefor a copy). Chen and Reisman review all this stuff, including the longtime Chinese propaganda campaign.

"China" never owned Taiwan; no ethnic Chinese emperor ever owned it. The Manchus, who were never thought of as Chinese, and who did not think of themselves as Chinese, had a portion of it, the lowlands, for a colony, but never controlled the highland areas. During the period of Manchu rule, and until the late 1930s, no one in China thought of Taiwan as part of China. Emma Teng discusses that in Taiwan's Imagined Geography as does Alan Wachman's Why Taiwan. That is why the draft Constitution for the ROC did not include Taiwan nor did the ROC voting rolls from the 1930s, nor did the ROC ever protest Japanese rule over Taiwan or claim it as "occupied territory." Only after Japan attacked China did it occur to some Chinese thinkers they might be able to annex Taiwan if Japan was defeated by the US.

The current Chinese claim to Taiwan is an invention of post-1930s history. The Chinese then back-read it into their own history to manufacture the claims you just made.

I think you need to start reading on these issues to come up to speed. All you appear to know is Chinese propaganda.

We can carry this on by email. Frankly, most of the people who post here are familiar with the international situation and don't need to read Chinese propaganda below my posts.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Michael,

First.
I think you are still in the belief that a Country is a Country only when some other country recognizes as so. By Law, it is not necessary.

Second.
I do not agree to any PRC claims over Taiwan, but both PRC and ROC have claims on each other's territory which is well documented.

Third,
You clearly have territory and Government sovereignty mixed up. Taiwan has never been an independent country, that is true. But the ROC had been fully recognized and at one time been a member in the UN. When territory ROC has sovereignty over is totally a different issue. And ROC currently has sovereignty over Taiwan.

If you do not mix travel with politic in a post, I will not comment in such mixed manner. I discuss personal manners in private, but if the issue is out in the open, I will continue to comment when I feel necessary. You have moderating authority if you chose to exercise it, that is if you do not believe in freedom of speech.

Anonymous said...

I think I might have forgotten to sign the last post.

George

Michael Turton said...

And ROC currently has sovereignty over Taiwan.

Nope. Sure doesn't. Explained countless times. The ROC does not and was not permitted to have sovereignty over Taiwan. It merely administrates the area until such time as the status of Formosa is disposed of.

ROC officials know perfectly well that the ROC has no sovereignty over Taiwan, they lie to their people and especially to their deluded followers. When the ROC concluded its treaty with Japan, ROC foreign minister George Kung-chao Yeh explained to the Legislative Yuan that even with the 1951 Treaty, “the delicate international situation makes it that [Formosa does] not belong to us. Under present circumstances, Japan has no right to transfer Taiwan and Penghu to us; nor can we accept such a transfer from Japan even if she so wishes."

No further propaganda assertions of this nature will be permitted on my blog (not a free speech issue, George. You've been permitted to attempt to make a case, and all you do is assert. Now you're just wasting everyone's time, but especially mine). I expect that your next post will explain how the ROC has sovereignty over Taiwan, with reference to international treaties and agreements.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Taiwan has never been an independent country, that is true

That is false, George. Taiwan declared independence in 1895.

Michael

M said...

Michael - you claim:

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was an internationally valid transfer of sovereignty by the (utterly flawed) rules of the day. Neither party nor any other nation disputed it. Hence the Japanese had full and legal sovereignty over Taiwan.

But then you later argue:

"China" never owned Taiwan; no ethnic Chinese emperor ever owned it. The Manchus, who were never thought of as Chinese, and who did not think of themselves as Chinese, had a portion of it, the lowlands, for a colony, but never controlled the highland areas.

If the Qing only controlled a part of Taiwan, how could they then sign over sovereignty of the whole island to the Japanese? Surely you can not transfer what is not yours.
The Japanese certainly did try and "occupy" the whole island and met with violent resistance over many decades from the aboriginal people in the highland areas.

Also the Manchus may never have been thought of as ethnically Chinese - but they were certainly recognized as the rulers of China. In international treaties from the 19th century, the Manchu emperor is always referred to as the "Emperor of China". I don't see how the ethnicity of the Manchus is relevant.

Michael Turton said...

If the Qing only controlled a part of Taiwan, how could they then sign over sovereignty of the whole island to the Japanese? Surely you can not transfer what is not yours.

Note codocil: "...by the standards of the day." Standards are now changed, and we recognize that such transfers as the colonial powers arranged among themselves are no longer valid due to lack of the consent of the governed. That does not make the T of S less valid for its day, it merely recognizes past injustices. But if you want to invalidate Manchu ownership of Taiwan on the grounds of lack of consent of the governed, you'll get no argument from me :)

Also the Manchus may never have been thought of as ethnically Chinese - but they were certainly recognized as the rulers of China. In international treaties from the 19th century, the Manchu emperor is always referred to as the "Emperor of China". I don't see how the ethnicity of the Manchus is relevant.

Because the Chinese have reconstructed their history to treat the Manchus as "Chinese" and thus anything they might have owned or received tribute from as "Chinese territory". Underlying Chinese thinking about "what Chinese own" is a constantly shifting definition of "Chinese." In the 19th century the Manchus were considered not Chinese. They also saw themselves that way. After Chinese thinkers began imagining a China expanded out to places no Chinese emperor had ever imagined were Chinese -- Taiwan, the South China Sea, etc -- the ethnicity of the Manchus was reconstructed to be "Chinese."

In these back-reconstructions of Chinese history, the Chinese implicitly recognize that international law is right and naked conquest is wrong. They get around this by repositioning their expansion not as what it is -- naked conquest -- but as "recovery" of "lost territories." The switch of Manchus from "not Chinese" to "Chinese" is one of the strategies that expansionist Chinese use to underwrite their claims to other peoples' lands. So is the "5,000 years of history" claim.

Thus, when you understand that Taiwan was a colony of the Manchu Empire that owned China and Taiwan, you can see that Beijing's claim to Taiwan is as if India claimed Kenya because the UK ruled them both.

Michael

Carlos said...

Where exactly is the 921 earthquake museum? (The ruined school.) I visited there while I was staying in Taichung with my uncle, and I'd call it an attraction. Good bars there, too, but it was a long time ago and I can't come up with their names.

Anonymous said...

If I remember the numbers correctly Chinese is a collection of 5 major races,漢,滿,蒙,回,藏, for at least a thousand years. Otherwise, there is officially no Chinese.

George

Michael Turton said...

The 921 quake museum is just south of Wufeng town. Go south from the McDonald's about 1 km or so and you'll see a sign on the left pointing to the museum.

Anonymous said...

"It's frustrating to deal with people that haven't a clue"

"Welcome to the world, George"

"So yes, the information supporting my position resides in a place called "history."

"Frankly, most of the people who post here are familiar with the international situation and don't need to read Chinese propaganda below my posts."

"No further propaganda assertions of this nature will be permitted on my blog (not a free speech issue, George. You've been permitted to attempt to make a case, and all you do is assert. Now you're just wasting everyone's time, but especially mine)."

-------

It's too bad that an otherwise fine, vital, and well informed source of information on Taiwan has to delve into argumentation tactics such as this. Someone as brilliant as the writer of this site should be able to handle challenges to his views from his readers in a debate without snide derision of any comments that don't endorse his own positions verbatim.

The "I'm right and you're a moron if you don't think I'm right" meme does nothing to help dialogue or discussion, nor does it educate anyone, nor does it encourage anyone to further investigate the issues at hand, nor do patronizing comments show any respect to those readers who are attempting to engage in a good faith debate.

I personally side with Turton that Taiwan's status is undecided and the bulk of credible evidence supports that, but JC and George have brought up valid points--namely that you can't just cherry pick out and assign credibility to the treaties and academic works that endorse your own perspective and chuck out the ones that don't.

I also agree with George--if View from Taiwan was willing to bring up the issue during a Lonely Planet book review, it's fair game to debate those claims right here in the open.

Let's try to keep it respectful to everyone, and not just those on our own team, shall we?

Anonymous said...

That is false, George. Taiwan declared independence in 1895.

Michael

So there was individual currency that had be circulating for a certain period of time?

The only information I could find was this:
http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%87%BA%E7%81%A3%E6%B0%91%E4%B8%BB%E5%9C%8B

It lasted for 150 days? A Ching Dynasty official declared it?

What does this mean?

George

Anonymous said...

There is a house on the way to 九分二山where the quake supposedly was centered at that. Initially when we visited the house, you could stick a coin on the wall and it would not fall down. Later when the owners were requested to strengthen the structure, it would not stick any more. Could never figure out what caused it.

George

Michael Turton said...

It lasted for 150 days? A Ching Dynasty official declared it?

What does it mean? It means you want to lecture me about Taiwan and its sovereignty but don't know anything about it. Again i recommend starting with the Chen and Reisman piece I linked to above.

I'm not taking any more comments from you on this post. Continue in the email.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

namely that you can't just cherry pick out and assign credibility to the treaties and academic works that endorse your own perspective and chuck out the ones that don't.

If you think there are treaties that support George's POV, bring them on. I've been asking George to, he doesn't know any. If you have serious texts that support his POV, bring them on!

lanet book review, it's fair game to debate those claims right here in the open.

I totally agree which is why we're having this discussion now into about 100 comments spread across many posts. But the operative word is DEBATE. "Debate" does not consist of me posting links, texts, references, policies, and documents, and George simply reiterating his position without reading or commenting meaningfully on a single one or putting forth alternatives. Of course I'm going to start getting short-tempered after a month of moderating that kind of crap across several different posts. Repetition = waste. It's just trolling at this point.

So the question for me is why you aren't also gently rebuking George for not bringing some serious references to the "debate."

nor do patronizing comments show any respect to those readers who are attempting to engage in a good faith debate.

George opened this debate a number of posts back by claiming that he was politically neutral. Thanks, but he's not, so I am not sure what you mean by good faith here.

Michael

Robert Scott Kelly said...

People, please. Stop fighting. This thread was supposed to be about me. ME!

M said...

Because the Chinese have reconstructed their history to treat the Manchus as "Chinese" and thus anything they might have owned or received tribute from as "Chinese territory". Underlying Chinese thinking about "what Chinese own" is a constantly shifting definition of "Chinese." In the 19th century the Manchus were considered not Chinese. They also saw themselves that way. After Chinese thinkers began imagining a China expanded out to places no Chinese emperor had ever imagined were Chinese -- Taiwan, the South China Sea, etc -- the ethnicity of the Manchus was reconstructed to be "Chinese."

In these back-reconstructions of Chinese history, the Chinese implicitly recognize that international law is right and naked conquest is wrong. They get around this by repositioning their expansion not as what it is -- naked conquest -- but as "recovery" of "lost territories." The switch of Manchus from "not Chinese" to "Chinese" is one of the strategies that expansionist Chinese use to underwrite their claims to other peoples' lands. So is the "5,000 years of history" claim.

Thus, when you understand that Taiwan was a colony of the Manchu Empire that owned China and Taiwan, you can see that Beijing's claim to Taiwan is as if India claimed Kenya because the UK ruled them both.


I still fail to see how the foreign ethnicity of the Manchus is relevant. Back in the days of Kings and Emperors, it was normal for countries to be run by foreigners. George I was a German who hardly spoke English, yet no one denies that he was the King of England.
Likewise, the Manchu Emperor was recognized as the "Emperor of China" and the Qing Court signed international treaties as "China". The Treaty of Shimonoseki itself is signed between "His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and His Majesty the Emperor of China" and states that "China cedes to Japan in perpetuity and full sovereignty" territory including Taiwan and Penghu.

Michael Turton said...

The issue isn't whether the Manchu emperor was the ruler of China, but how the Chinese treated his ethnicity before and after the fall of the Dynasty. Essentially, the Manchus were foreigners until it dawned on people that their territories could be reconstructed as "Chinese" if their ethnicity was similarly reconstructed as "Chinese." That's the point I am making. They are doing the same thing today -- the Tibetans are now "Chinese", so Arunachal Pradesh should be part of China.

Michael

Anonymous said...

George lives in a world constructed from Chinese nationalist ideology, which is a faith-based construct interweaving oft conflicting interpretations of race, history, nationalism, anachronism, pseudoscience, myth and dogma.

To people like George think they are neutral because they have been raised in a "religion" that teaches them that the Chinese Nationalists gods and mythologies are real. The prophet scholars speak sooth.

Of course, from the outside, this is no different from other fundamentalist religions with talking snakes, burning bushes, redeemers and battles of righteousness and sin.

If George could find the courage to look over the walls or face the source of the shadows passing the cave, he might discover what so many of us are talking about.

This is a frightening proposition for anyone raised in a fundamentalist tradition and it would take more courage than George may be willing to venture.

Like The Truman Show, we are asking George to leave the world as it has been constructed for him since birth, where he, as a "Chinese" by holy writ, has been in the seat of privilege, and begin questioning the very foundations of his beliefs.

Unlikely!


There are volumes of academic works written by non-believers in the sacred tenants of Chinese Nationalism, and it doesn't take much to hunt them down. George's citation of Sun Yat-sen's 5 races of Chinese is testament to his faith. Of course modern scholars have torn that concept apart as a timely political construct...

I wish George the best, but I doubt a man of privilege from the preferred class under this program will have the strength to forsake the comfort he feels in a religion that was made to serve him so well.

Steven Crook said...

I thought, "Wow! 46 comments liking or disliking the guidebook or Michael's review. Should be something of professional interest and relevance for me there."

But no, almost everyone is talking about Japanese occupation period vs. colonial period. Personally I prefer the latter, because the Japanese did plant settlers in parts of Taiwan, and tried the mould the island in their own image. Occupiers, by contrast, seize what they can and shoot locals who get in the way, but seldom do anything constructive (the Allied occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II were a bit better than this, of course).

Disclosure: I'm the author of a publication that competes with LP, Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide.

Anonymous said...

It isn't fair to knock Robert Storey's edition. Perhaps it's out of date now, but when I used it back in 2003 it was totally reliable (as well as charmingly written).

FOARP said...

"we recognize that such transfers as the colonial powers arranged among themselves are no longer valid due to lack of the consent of the governed."

Here is where, I'm afraid, you are very much mistaken. No-one disputes the transfer of Hong Kong and Macao from the UK and Portugal to the PRC, but there was no referendum. International law, I'm afraid, has not been democratised in the way you seem to imagine.

I am also interested to know when exactly it became so that countries which do not exercise complete control over the territory they claim automatically have no right to claim sovereignty over it. Saying that the Qing did not exercise complete control over Taiwan is somewhat banal - there was no province in the entire empire that was completely under their control.

Is the sovereignty of the Afghan government over Helmand province, for example, invalid because of their incomplete control over that province? And since the Afghan Republic is a successor state to a minority-origin monarchy, is the modern Afghanistan a nation without sovereignty?

Carrying on as if either side has total legal backing for their position is nonsense.

The people who claim that Taiwan came under ROC sovereignty point to an automatic transfer of land on abandonment of Japanese sovereignty. A somewhat dubious claim indeed - but no more dubious than much that is seen and accepted as valid in the courts on any given day.

On the side against you have - what? The idea that it should instead be the United States that should take sovereignty over the islands, since the ROC forces that occupied Taiwan were under US control?

Or, alternatively, you have the entirely morale boosting argument that the Taiwanese people should have been consulted in a plebiscite. A more than fine argument, except that they weren't, and we are now getting on 70 years of ROC rule in Taiwan, the last fifteen of which have been democratic in form.

I think it is entirely valid, and far more sane, to say that whatever the past situation, the people of Taiwan should have full democratic freedoms - including the right to redefine the state they live in. Why bother with this ultimately pointless and morale-boosting for a small minority dispute over what the true situation of Taiwan is when it is not at all clear, and your goal is anyway to change it into something different?

Anonymous said...

It seems quite unfair to have people post comments on George but not let George respond. Is he banned from all posts?

M said...

The issue isn't whether the Manchu emperor was the ruler of China, but how the Chinese treated his ethnicity before and after the fall of the Dynasty. Essentially, the Manchus were foreigners until it dawned on people that their territories could be reconstructed as "Chinese" if their ethnicity was similarly reconstructed as "Chinese." That's the point I am making. They are doing the same thing today -- the Tibetans are now "Chinese", so Arunachal Pradesh should be part of China.

Yes, of course Chinese nationalist discourse reconstructed the Manchus as Chinese (one of the "five races"). My point was that the Manchus were recognized much earlier as the rulers of China - the Qing dynasty wasn't just the Manchu Empire - it was known overseas simply as "China". In 1895, Taiwan was handed from "China" to Japan.
When we also remember that Taiwan was populated with Han Chinese settlers and run by Han Chinese administrators, and there was no such as thing as a "Taiwanese" identity (people identified with their native place in China) we can see how Taiwanese nationalists also try to reconstruct history - by emphasizing the foreign ethnicity of the Manchu Court they construct a narrative that seeks to deny Taiwan's "Chineseness".

Steve said...

Robert Scott Kelly, like Steven Crook I'm here for YOU!! I have no idea how this managed to spin into a China/Taiwan argufest either. Oh wait! Now I know, it's argument by repetition, a common troll technique, along with argument by half-truth, argument by generalization, red herring arguments (Nazis and American Indians are especially popular) and of course the most popular "Error of Fact" arguments.

Back to the subject. I liked your guidebook a lot... and enough to have purchased it.

Anonymous (seems to be a favorite name over here), I panned the Robert Storey edition, which I used in '00-'03, because half the restaurants in Taipei had gone out of business long before (I checked) along with other great tidbits such as Hakka being a dying language that is rarely spoken in the island. Having a Hakka wife from Miaoli and having lived there for a year, I heard Hakka on the street everyday and in fact, if you didn't speak Hakka, you were going to pay more. I ran into all sorts of these errors as I read the book.

Was there worthwhile information in it? Sure, how could there not be? But it was the worst LP guidebook I've ever read and can in no way compare to the most recent edition. Storey might have been a good guidebook author at one time but he had mentally checked out of Taiwan before he wrote that edition. When I'm going to restaurants in his book that have been closed down for 5 years, I know he didn't do his homework.

Michael Turton said...

by emphasizing the foreign ethnicity of the Manchu Court they construct a narrative that seeks to deny Taiwan's "Chineseness".

That's why those Manchus issued edicts in Manchurian right down to the last days of the Dynasty. They were hoping to help us weird pro-Taiwan propagandists out.

Michael Turton said...

and there was no such as thing as a "Taiwanese" identity (people identified with their native place in China)

When the Japanese in 1895 offered free passage to anyone who wanted to return to the place they identified with, China, among the two-three million "Han" in Taiwan only a couple of thousand took the offer. This is because the identification with the homeland was so strong, no doubt, and the local "Han" thought of themselves as Chinese and no local identity was in the process of evolving. This same powerful identification with China was at work in the recurring revolts against Qing rule.

Michael

Anonymous said...

But no, almost everyone is talking about Japanese occupation period vs. colonial period. Personally I prefer the latter, because the Japanese did plant settlers in parts of Taiwan, and tried the mould the island in their own image. Occupiers, by contrast, seize what they can and shoot locals who get in the way, but seldom do anything constructive (the Allied occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II were a bit better than this, of course).
There are a few things that the Japanese did well, and many of the local elderly appreciate.
1. Education. Although it was targeted for Japan's interest, it did help the general education level.
2. Rail construction. Yes, they were shipping lots of Taiwan resources to Japan, but the railway system became more complete.
3. Many of the larger well know buildings like the 總統府 were build during that period still stand very well.

Sometimes situation like these help local development regardless of the initial intent. I personally appreciate the various eras and their influence on Taiwan culture. The local elderly that I have met around the island feel that crime what at it's lowest during those periods.

George

Michael Turton said...

My point was that the Manchus were recognized much earlier as the rulers of China - the Qing dynasty wasn't just the Manchu Empire -

I understand this point completely. It is, however, not relevant to the deployment of the term "Chinese" by Chinese, only to the way Chinese expansionists use the term to snow foreigners who don't understand Chinese history.

Anonymous said...

"and there was no such as thing as a "Taiwanese" identity (people identified with their native place in China)"

There was no such thing as a Chinese identity either.

Han people in Taiwan often regarded other Han people as "other" and were not bound to create unions based on any preconceived ideas of ethnicity. In Taiwan, group identities were often based on class.

This would explain why Han people informed the Dutch of a revolt by other Han, thus preventing an uprising. This can also be seen in the way Taiwanese Han married across the ethnic boundaries of Hoklo, Hakka and Pepo. Powerful Aborigine gentry would often marry with other gentry rather than Aborigine. They might fight together against other Hoklo or Hakka.

The idea of a Chinese identity is as dubious as a Taiwanese one as the concepts of "one" vs. "other" have been in a constant state on negotiation.

Under the Ming, a "man" was someone who dwelt within the lands of the Emperor bounded by the oceans and the mountains. Under the Qing the border between barbarian and human could be crossed if the barbarian transformed into Han through the adoption of Han customs. They enacted this transformationalist ideology while maintaining their own degree of distance. Under the Chinese Nationalist they created the concept of a "Chinese Race", using the new ideas offered up by the colonial scientism borrowed from the western social darwinism that served to gird global colonial enterprises. This is where Chinese Nationalism is now.

A Taiwanese national identity is no less valid that a Chinese national identity. A Taiwanese national identity rooted in place and experience rather than "blood" may even be more plausible as Taiwan IS our imagined community.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Steve and Steve. Thank you for refocusing the comment section. And also for the words of praise.

Jason, cheers for being the first to take on the defense of Taichung city. I honestly have to say though that it looks like you have made my point: if the only things standing between adequate coverage of Taichung and inadequate is a night market, a park, and a university campus (the rest of the places you mentioned are outside the city), then I contend Taichung really just doesn't cut it as a travel destination. Merely being a large city is not enough.

M said...

That's why those Manchus issued edicts in Manchurian right down to the last days of the Dynasty. They were hoping to help us weird pro-Taiwan propagandists out.

I am not an expert on this, obviously, but according to Wikipedia the use of the Manchu language had pretty much died out by the end of the dynasty.

By the 19th century even the imperial court had lost fluency in the language. The Jiaqing Emperor (reigned 1796 to 1820) complained about his officials being good neither at understanding nor writing Manchu.[3]
By the end of the 19th century the language was so moribund that even at the office of the Shengjing (Shenyang) general, the only documents written in Manchu (rather than Chinese) would be the memorials wishing the emperor long life; at the same time period, the archives of the Hulan banner detachment in Heilongjiang show that only 1% of the bannermen could read Manchu, and no more than 0.2% could speak it.[3]

M said...

When the Japanese in 1895 offered free passage to anyone who wanted to return to the place they identified with, China, among the two-three million "Han" in Taiwan only a couple of thousand took the offer. This is because the identification with the homeland was so strong, no doubt, and the local "Han" thought of themselves as Chinese and no local identity was in the process of evolving. This same powerful identification with China was at work in the recurring revolts against Qing rule.

I said they identified with their native place in China (Zhangzhou or Quanzhou for the Hoklo people). Both "Chinese" and "Taiwanese" identities came later. A strong "Chinese" identity did however emerge among many people in the anti-colonial movement during the Japanese era.

As for taking up the offer to move back to China - I think economic factors are the most likely explanation. Landless peasants emigrated from overcrowded Fujian to Taiwan where there was still plentiful land available to cultivate. Having established themselves in Taiwan, why would any of them want to move back to China where they would be landless and without the social networks they relied on in Taiwan?

Anonymous said...

I think Michael Turton had presented very nice arguments. Unfortunately for him, it is a bit futile. In this world, might makes right. The PRC only needs support of 10% of the current population of Taiwan to control Taiwan in the event of a take-over/(re)unification. I always thought peaceful unification is a pipe dream. Time is on Taiwan's side. The only way for the Chinese to settle this issue is eventually by force, and it can be either very "easy" as pro-China Taiwanese in the government/military could surrender directly in case of an invasion, or a very bloody war with insurgency. I suspect it will be the former, but it's a gamble nobody in the PRC is currently willing to take.

Kaminoge said...

Anonymous November 29, 2011 11:27 AM wrote:

"It isn't fair to knock Robert Storey's edition. Perhaps it's out of date now, but when I used it back in 2003 it was totally reliable (as well as charmingly written)."

I used Storey's then-current guidebook on one of my first visits to Taichung circa 2001 and found several mistakes on the maps in the Taichung section. I also wondered why his restaurant recommendations included so many Western-style establishments, but so few eateries serving Chinese/Taiwanese food. The Taiwan guides that have come out since that 2001 edition have been much better.

(Check out some of the customer reviews for Storey's guidebook on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Planet-Taiwan-Travel-Survival/product-reviews/1864502118/ref=sr_1_3_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)

John Scott said...

It is true that we too often forget how recently our contemporary notions of national and ethnic identity came about. Writers of history textbooks love to over-simply history by projecting modern notions of nationality "back" onto the people they are writing about.

As Mr. Anonymous points out, there was likely very little in the way of either "Chinese", "Taiwanese" or even "Han" group identity a century ago. People's identity (in most parts of the world) was always more local and more based on clan, class, religion or even language sub-groups. Even notions of an "Italian" or "German" people were very new a century ago.

The history of immigration from China to Taiwan was full of recurring battles between Hakka and other groups, and even between Han settlers from different parts of Fujian. Identity was based much more on lineage and local place-of-origin. As one of many examples, as recently as the 1880s, there were still frequent battles between the (then seperate) southern and northen parts of today's Taipei.

One of Sun Yat-sen's main objectives was to get people in China to begin thinking of themselves as one nation and one people. This lack of a cohesive national identity is part of what explains the chaos and regional instability in China during the 1910s and especially the 1920s, and even into the 1930s.

When SYS visited Taiwan, did he think he was visiting one of China'a (or the Qing's) provinces? Or was he visiting a colony of Japan with a significant Chinese population, similar to the Chinese populations he knew in places like Singapore, Maylasia and Hawaii?

Anonymous said...

The only way for the Chinese to settle this issue is eventually by force, and it can be either very "easy" as pro-China Taiwanese in the government/military could surrender directly in case of an invasion,
I certainly do not agree with this. Physical requirements for military personnel have been getting stricter, modernized train reduces need for frequent operations that can be visually spied upon, security is actually getting more strict as well.

If it happens, it's going to be an all out defense effort.

George

Anonymous said...

George, remember the fall of Tripoli in Libya? In case of an invasion, the defense will crumble fast. Especially if the KMT is still in power...Even if the KMT loses power, major elements in the bureucracy and military are still controlled by a 5th colony.

Anonymous said...

George, remember the fall of Tripoli in Libya? In case of an invasion, the defense will crumble fast. Especially if the KMT is still in power...Even if the KMT loses power, major elements in the bureucracy and military are still controlled by a 5th colony.
You have sources that have received military training telling you this?

George

Kaminoge said...

@Anonymous December 1, 2011 7:21 AM

"Even if the KMT loses power, major elements in the bureucracy and military are still controlled by a 5th colony."

I think you mean a "Fifth column"?

Jason S. said...

Thanks for the response, Mr. Kelly.

You said: "if the only things standing between adequate coverage of Taichung and inadequate is a night market, a park, and a university campus (the rest of the places you mentioned are outside the city), then I contend Taichung really just doesn't cut it as a travel destination."

Hmm, well I guess we just have different ideas about well-deserving travel destinations and the purpose of guidebooks. I would definitely say that Taichung's size (in addition to very close proximity to some spectacular places, including the ones mentioned) warrants more information than the book provides - especially as far as eating/staying/transporting goes. Like I said, not a ton, but certainly more. People will come here regardless, and guides are (in my opinion) meant to provide not only suggestions, but helpful information.
That being said, I definitely understand that there's a lot to be considered when writing a guide, and of course, it's impossible to include it all. I just wouldn't have minded if the (already pretty thin) book were just a bit thicker. ;)
Cheers.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Jason, I appreciate you keeping the debate going. You've made a number of good points, some of which I've been considering independently. You are correct, for example, that a lot of people, for one reason or the other, will end up in Taichung. And they likely would appreciate a bit more coverage. And also expect it.

While, again, the size of a city isn't really the issue (I also write for the China guide and there are plenty of larger cities that get little or no coverage at all), perhaps in a place as small as Taiwan, and with a sizable expat population, a fair percentage of travellers will pass through Taichung even if they are not going there specifically for the sights.

Thanks for the input. I will give serious thought to a bit more coverage next time.