Institute of Taiwan History


To promote the advancement of Taiwan Studies, Academia Sinica initiated the Taiwan History Field Research Project in 1986 under the leadership of Academician Chang Kwang-chih (also see the profile article on Professor Huang Fu-san in this issue of EATS News). In 1988 the Taiwan History Field Research Office was set up by the joint effort of four major institutes of humanities and social sciences. In June 1993, the Council of Academia Sinica approved the establishment of the Preparatory Office of Taiwan History. The Institute of Taiwan History (ITH) was formally inaugurated on 1 July 2004 after two decades of collective scholarly endeavours.

ITH is the leading research institution in Taiwan Studies aiming to foster first-rate indigenous scholarship and international research on Taiwan. The goal of ITH is to reconstruct the reality of Taiwan’s historical development from macro and micro perspectives and to explore the characteristics of Taiwanese society through comparison. It promotes an integrated approach to Taiwan Studies, and strives to make a genuine contribution to theoretical innovation in humanities and social sciences.

The institute consists of nineteen full-time research fellows with multi-disciplinary backgrounds in history and social sciences. The institute has set up five research groups devoted to major fields of research and collaborative projects spanning the period from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The major themes and ongoing research topics of each group are as follows:

  1. Socio-economic History. This group has two major research fields: the study of migratory agricultural society and business traditions. The former aims to explore the characteristics of Taiwanese agricultural society by studying land reclamation, land ownership and food history. The latter focuses on commercial traditions and trading developments in modern Taiwan.

  2. Colonial History. This group studies the colonial bureaucracy and local administration in Japan-ruled Taiwan and the position of overseas Taiwanese in the Japanese empire and mainland China. Through this, it aims to explore Taiwanese society under Japanese colonial infrastructure, as well as conducting comparison to other colonies and to Taiwan’s post-war experience.

  3. Ethno-History. This group focuses on the history of relations among ethnic groups; plains aborigines; historical ethnography; Han-Hakka sub-ethnic relations; and discourses on local society.

  4. Cultural History. This group concentrates on modern Taiwanese socio-cultural history and the comparative study of East Asian colonies during the Japanese colonial period. Its research scope includes issues such as colonialism and modernity; political thought and comparative politics; native literature and languages; religion, medicine and gender; and women’s history in an East Asian context.

  5. Environmental History. Environmental history and the history of medicine are two current topics for this group. Major analyses span the period from the Qing Dynasty to the post-war period, and explore the relationship between infection and environmental change in Taiwan, as well as in regions of South China.

The scholarly efforts of the ITH researchers are exemplified by the variety of publications they produce. These include monographs, journal articles, edited oral histories, diaries, source collections, local gazetteers, and reference works. The important empirical findings and theoretical insights of the Institute’s leading journal, Taiwan Historical Research along with other academic works have received positive and often outstanding evaluations at home and abroad. The journal’s first issue was in June 1994. From 1994 to 2006, the journal was printed semi-annually and since 2007 has become quarterly. Journal content includes articles, book reviews, literature reviews and analysis of trends. Taiwan Historical Research plays a leading role in integrating research on Taiwan history.

In 1993, the “Historical Records Office” was established for collection and collation of all valuable Taiwan-related archives, files and documents. With the promotion of digital technology, digital archiving has become the main way to collect historical sources. The Archives of ITH was formally established in 2009, and has become the leading institution for Taiwan historical source collection and database compilation. The Archives also plays a significant role in terms of public service. It has created and supports many important information systems and databases, such as Taiwan Archival Information System, Taiwan Rare Book Collections, Taiwan Diary Knowledge Bank, and Taiwan Sotokufu Digital Archive as well as Taiwan Collectanea Search System.

In addition to advanced research, publication and resource collection, the institute frequently organizes and sponsors academic activities such as international and domestic symposiums, conferences, and workshops, as well as informal seminars and lectures. These successful events not only facilitate international scholarly exchanges but also encourage promising graduate students in the universities.

Two Special Panels at the 2017 EATS Annual Conference

With the support of ITH and the Lim Pen-Yuan Cultural and Educational Foundation, Taiwanese historians organised two panels for the 14 th Annual Conference of the European Association of Taiwan Studies, which will be held in Italy in March 2017. The themes of these panels are: “The Development of Dietary Life in Post-war Taiwan” and “Taiwan’s Economic Policies and Financial Transformation during the Japanese Colonial Period”.

Please note that the introduction below is based on the plan of the panels as of 31 December 2016. Details may be changed at a later date due to a variety of factors.

  • Panel on “Taiwan’s Economic Policies and Financial Transformation during the Japanese Colonial Period”, chaired by HSIEH Kuohsing, organised by LIN Yuju and LIN Wenkai

This panel is composed of four scholars from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, National Central University, and National Quemoy University.

Taiwan’s economic and financial system underwent deep transformations during the Japanese colonial period, which strongly affected Taiwan’s economic development after the Second World War. Under the influence of Chinese nationalist historiography, past scholars of Taiwanese history merely focused on the dimension of colonial exploitation. The approach of colonial modernity in international academic circles as well as the historiography of Taiwanese subjectivity in post-martial law Taiwan has had a profound impact on scholars of Taiwanese history. Now they also focus on the dimension of modernity in the economic and fiscal changes during this era. On the other hand, to deepen and broaden analytic perspectives on the history of Taiwan in the Japanese colonial period, historians of Taiwan have also begun to increase their exchanges with foreign scholars of Taiwanese history and engage in comparative analyses drawing on the economic histories of other Japanese colonies such as Korea.

In this panel, Yu-ju Lin’s article focuses on the customs system in colonial Taiwan. From the late Qing Dynasty to the post-war period, the change of Taiwan’s customs system illustrates the continuity and breakage of the governing mechanism under the change of regimes. This paper explores the process and significance of the formation of the Japanese customs from the end of the shogunate to the Meiji Restoration, how it was transplanted to Taiwan, and the nature and significance of the transformation.

Teruhiro Minato’s paper analyses the fund collecting and management of national policy companies via the financial statements of the Taiwan Development Corporation. He emphasizes that the Taiwan Development Corporation’s resources came from not only the national treasury, but also capital markets. Therefore, this company ran some not-for-profit operations under the mandate of national policies and, in order to easily amass capital, engaged in large-scale investments and enterprises in the market for profit.

Wen-kai Lin’s paper examines the finances of the Taiwan Government-General (Taiwan’s central financial body) in the early colonial period (1895–1905). He discusses the transformation of Taiwan’s central revenues and financial institutions from the dual perspectives of colonialism and modernity. His paper focuses on the reforms of land taxes, custom duties, excises (on tea, sugar, etc.), and monopolies (on salt, opium and camphor).

Tsong-min Wu’s paper analyses the effects of policies to industrialise production of tea and sugar of the Japanese colonial government, and their implications for post-colonial development.

  • Panel on “The Development of Dietary Life in Post-war Taiwan”, chaired by Fu-san Huang, organised by Pin-tsang Tseng

This panel is composed of four scholars from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, National Central University, and National Quemoy University.

After the end of the Second World War in 1945 and throughout the Cold War, the level of material life in Taiwan rose by means of the rapid development of agriculture and industry. In regards to diet, Taiwan escaped a food-shortage crisis in the early post-war period, and established a rich and diverse food-consumption culture that has remained characteristic of contemporary Taiwanese culture. This panel focuses on food and consumption, and discusses how Taiwan shifted from its immediate post-war food-shortage crisis to a culture of abundance and richness. Furthermore, this panel discusses the process of how Taiwanese dietary life has established itself as one of the island’s most important cultural achievements, and explores its social and cultural meanings.

In this panel, Li-yung Lee’s paper, “From Grain to Yummy: Rice Production and the Society of East Taiwan after World War II,” focuses on rice production in eastern Taiwan and discusses how this production affected the dietary and social life of local aboriginal society.

Pin-tsang Tseng’s paper, “War-Time Living Regime and the Development of Public Food in Taiwan (1947–1960s),” analyses the stabilising effects that the Kuomintang’s militarised economy had on the diet of the general population when Taiwan was on a war footing against communist China.

Chang-hui Chi’s paper, “Learning to Drink Sorghum Liquor: Taste and Consumption in Militarized Jinmen, 1949-1992,” discusses how the production and consumption of Jinmen sorghum liquor, a local beverage of choice among Jinmen citizens, shaped their militarized society and became a mark of local culture.

Lin-yi Tseng’s paper, “Telling the Stories of Migration in East Asia from the Perspective of a Special Condiment: Sha Cha Sauce,” discusses how sha cha derived from satay dishes in Southeast Asia and evolved in the Chaozhou and Shantou areas of southern China. Later, in the 1950s, sha cha established itself in Taiwanese cuisine owing largely to transplanted Kuomintang supporters. Over time, sha cha has become a popular condiment for Taiwanese people island-wide and is an indispensable addition to local hot-pot dishes.

Lin Yu-ju is Research Fellow at the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica. She is also Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Taiwan History of National Taiwan Normal University.

3rd from left in the 2nd row: Lin Yuju