Taiwan under Japanese rule

Taiwan under Japanese rule
Taiwan under Japanese rule
(Taiwan, Empire of Japan)
台灣日治時期 (大日本帝國臺灣)
Annexed dependency of the Empire of Japan


Flag of the Japanese Empire

Map of Taiwan, ca. 1896.
Capital Taihoku (Taipei)
Language(s) Taiwanese Minnan, Japanese, Hakka Chinese, Formosan languages
Religion Shintō a
Government Absolute monarchy
Emperor of Japan
 - 1895–1912 Emperor Meiji
 - 1912–1926 Emperor Taisho
 - 1926–1945 Emperor Showa
Governor-General of Taiwan
 - 1895–1896 Kabayama Sukenori
 - 1896 Katsura Taro
 - 1896-1898 Nogi Maresuke
 - 1898–1906 Kodama Gentaro
 - 1906–1915 Sakuma Samata
Historical era Empire of Japan
 - Treaty of Shimonoseki April 17, 1895
 - Surrendered August 14, 1945
 - Retrocession October 25, 1945
Currency Taiwanese yen
astate religion during this period

Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan. The expansion into Taiwan was a part of Imperial Japan's general policy of southward expansion during the late 19th century.[1]

As Taiwan was Japan's first overseas colony, Japanese intentions were to turn the island into a showpiece "model colony".[2] As a result, much effort was made to improve the island's economy, industry, public works and to change its culture.

The relative failures of immediate post–World War II rule by the Kuomintang led to a certain degree of nostalgia amongst the older generation of Taiwanese who experienced both. This has affected, to some degree, issues such as national identity, ethnic identity and the Taiwan independence movement. Partly as a result, the people of Taiwan in general feel much less antipathy towards the legacy of Japanese rule than other countries in Asia.[3]



Formosa Map.jpg
Part of a series on the
History of Taiwan
Prehistory 50,000 BC – AD 1624
Kingdom of Middag 1540 – 1732
Dutch rule, Formosa 1624 – 1662
Spanish rule, Formosa 1626 – 1642
Kingdom of Tungning 1662 – 1683
Qing Dynasty rule 1683 – 1895
Republic of Formosa 1895
Japanese rule 1895 – 1945
Republic of China rule 1945 – present




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See also: History of Taiwan


Japan had sought to expand its imperial control over Taiwan (known in Japan as Takasago Koku (高砂国, "Highland nation") since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi undertook a policy of overseas expansion and extending Japanese influence southward.[4] Several attempts to invade Taiwan were unsuccessful, mainly due to disease and armed resistance by aborigines on the island. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Harunobu Arima on an exploratory mission of the island. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.

In November 1871, 69 people on board a vessel from the Kingdom of Ryukyu were forced to land near the southern tip of Taiwan by strong winds. They had a conflict with local Paiwan aborigines and many were killed in the process. In October 1872, Japan sought compensation from the Qing Dynasty of China, claiming the Kingdom of Ryukyu was part of Japan. In May 1873, Japanese diplomats arrived in Beijing and put forward their claims, but the Qing government immediately rejected Japanese demands on the ground that the Kingdom of Ryukyu at that time was an independent state and had nothing to do with Japan. The Japanese refused to leave and asked if the Chinese government would punish those "barbarians in Taiwan".

The Qing authorities explained that there were two kinds of aborigines on Taiwan: those directly governed by the Qing, and those unnaturalized "raw barbarians... beyond the reach of Chinese culture. Thus could not be directly regulated." They indirectly hinted that foreigners traveling in those areas settled by indigenous people must exercise caution. The Qing Dynasty made it clear to the Japanese that Taiwan was definitely within Qing jurisdiction, even though part of that island's aboriginal population was not yet under the influence of Chinese culture. The Qing also pointed to similar cases all over the world where an aboriginal population within a national boundary was not under the influence of the dominant culture of that country.[5]

The Japanese nevertheless launched an expedition with a force of 3,000 soldiers in April 1874. In May 1874, the Qing Dynasty began to send in troops to reinforce the island. By the end of the year, the government of Japan decided to withdraw its forces after realizing Japan was still not ready for a war with China.

The number of casualties for the Paiwan was about 30, and that for the Japanese was 543 (12 Japanese soldiers were killed in battle and 531 by disease).[citation needed]

Cession of Taiwan (1895)

Japanese Soldiers Entering Taipei City in 1895 after the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

By the 1890s, about 45 percent of Taiwan was administered under standard Chinese administration while the remaining lightly populated regions of the interior were under aboriginal control. The First Sino-Japanese War broke out between Qing Dynasty China and Japan in 1894 following a dispute over the sovereignty of Korea. Following its defeat, China ceded the islands of Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed on April 17, 1895. According to the terms of the treaty, Taiwan, Penghu, and regions between 119˚E-120˚E and 13˚N-14˚N were to be ceded to Japan in perpetuity. Both governments were to send representatives to Taiwan immediately after signing to begin the transition process, which was to be completed in no more than two months. Because Taiwan was ceded by treaty, the period that followed is referred to by some as the "colonial period", while others who focus on the fact that it was the culmination of a war refer to it as the "occupation period"[citation needed]. The cession ceremony took place on-board a Japanese vessel because the Chinese delegate feared reprisal from the residents of Taiwan.

Though the terms dictated by Japan were harsh, it is reported that Qing China's leading statesman Li Hongzhang sought infamously to assuage Empress Dowager Cixi with: "birds do not sing and flowers are not fragrant on the island of Taiwan. The men and women are inofficious and are not passionate either."[6] The loss of Taiwan would become a rallying point for the Chinese nationalist movement in the years that followed. Arriving in Taiwan, the new Japanese colonial government gave inhabitants two years to choose whether to accept their new status as Japanese subjects, or leave Taiwan.[7]

Early years (1895-1915)

A 1911 map of Japan, including Taiwan.
Gotō Shimpei, Chief of Home Affairs, 1896-1918. In the dress of Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of Japan, ca. 1924.
Taiwan Grand Shrine, a Shinto shrine constructed in Taipei (then Taihoku) in 1901.

The "early years" of Japanese administration on Taiwan typically refers to the period between the Japanese forces' first landing in May 1895 and the Ta-pa-ni Incident of 1915, which marked the high point of armed resistance. During this period, popular resistance to Japanese rule was high, and the world questioned whether a non-Western nation such as Japan could effectively govern a colony of its own. An 1897 session of the Japanese Diet debated whether to sell Taiwan to France. During these years, the post of Governor-General of Taiwan was held by a military general, as the emphasis was on suppression of the insurgency.

In 1898, the Meiji government of Japan appointed Count Kodama Gentarō as the fourth Governor-General, with the talented civilian politician Gotō Shinpei as his Chief of Home Affairs, establishing the carrot and stick approach towards governance that would continue for several years.[7] This marked the beginning of a colonial government (formally known as the Office of the Governor-General) dominated by Japanese, but subject to Japanese law.

Japan's approach to ruling Taiwan could be roughly divided into two views. The first, supported by Gotō, held that from a biological perspective, the natives could not be completely assimilated. Thus, Japan would have to follow the British approach, and Taiwan would never be governed exactly the same way as the Home Islands but would be governed under a whole new set of laws. The opposing viewpoint was held by future Prime Minister Hara Takashi, who believed that the Taiwanese and Koreans were similar enough to the Japanese to be fully absorbed into Japanese society, and was thus in favor of using the same legal and governmental approaches on the colonies as those used in the Home Islands.

Colonial policy towards Taiwan mostly followed the approach championed by Gotō during his tenure as Chief of Home Affairs between March 1898 and November 1906, and this approach continued to be in effect until Hara Takashi became Prime Minister in 1918. During this period, the colonial government was authorized to pass special laws and edicts, while wielding complete executive, legislative, and military power. With this absolute power, the colonial government moved to maintain social stability, while suppressing dissent.

Dōka: "Integration" (1915-1937)

Koo Hsien-jung, member of the House of Peers

The second period of Japanese rule is generally classified as being between the end of the 1915 Tapani Incident, and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937, which began Japan's involvement in what would become World War II. World events during this period, such as World War I, would drastically alter the perception of colonialism in the Western world, and give rise to growing waves of nationalism amongst colonial natives, as well as the ideas of self determination. As a result, colonial governments throughout the world began to make greater concessions to natives, and colonial governance was gradually liberalized. Xie Jishi became a first Manchurian Foreign Minister.

The political climate in Japan was also undergoing changes during this time. In the mid-1910s the Japanese government had gradually democratized in what is known as the Taishō period (1912-1925), where power was concentrated in the elected lower house of the Imperial Diet, whose electorate has expanded to include all adult males by 1925. In 1919, Den Kenjirō was appointed to be the first civilian Governor-General of Taiwan. Prior to his departure for Taiwan, he conferred with Prime Minister Hara Takashi, where both men agreed to pursue a policy of "Dōka" (同化, Tónghùa in Hanyu Pinyin, literally "assimilation"), where Taiwan would be viewed as an extension of the Home Islands, and the Taiwanese would be educated to understand their role and responsibilities as Japanese subjects. The new policy was formally announced in October 1919.

This policy was continued by the Colonial Government for the next 20 years. In the process, local governance was instituted, as well as an elected advisory committee which included locals (though strictly in an advisory capacity), and the establishment of a public school system. Caning was forbidden as a criminal punishment, and the use of the Japanese language was rewarded. This contrasted sharply with the mostly hands off approach taken by previous administrations towards local affairs, where the only government concerns were "railways, vaccinations, and running water".

Taiwanese also had seats in House of Peers.[8] Koo Hsien-jung was nominated by Emperor in 1934.

Democracy was introduced in response to Taiwanese public opinion, Local assemblies were established in 1935.[9]

Kōminka: "Subjects of the Emperor" (1937-1945)

A map of the Japanese Empire, 1939-09-01. Dates shown indicate the approximate year that the Japan gained control of the highlighted territories.

The final period of Japanese rule in Taiwan began with the eruption of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and ended along with the Second World War in 1945. With the rise of militarism in Japan in the mid to late 1930s, the office of Governor-General was again held by military officers, and Japan sought to utilize resources and material from Taiwan for use in the war effort. To this end, the cooperation of the Taiwanese would be essential, and the Taiwanese would have to be fully assimilated as members of Japanese society. As a result, earlier social movements were banned and the Colonial Government devoted its full efforts to the "Kōminka movement" (皇民化運動, kōminka undō), aimed at fully Japanizing Taiwanese society.[7] Between 1936 and 1940, the Kōminka movement sought to build "Japanese spirit" (大和魂, Yamatodamashī) and Japanese identity amongst the populace, while the later years from 1941 to 1945 focused on encouraging Taiwanese to participate in the war effort.

As part of the movement, the Colonial Government began to strongly encourage locals to speak the Japanese language, wear Japanese clothing, live in Japanese-style houses, and convert to Shintoism. In 1940, laws were also passed advocating the adoption of Japanese names. With the expansion of the Pacific War, the government also began encouraging Taiwanese to volunteer for the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy in 1942, and finally ordered a full scale draft in 1945. In the meantime, laws were made to grant Taiwanese membership in the Japanese Diet, which theoretically would qualify a Taiwanese to become the premier of Japan eventually.

As a result of the war, Taiwan suffered many losses including Taiwanese youths killed while serving in the Japanese armed forces, as well as severe economic repercussions from Allied bombing raids. By the end of the war in 1945, industrial and agricultural output had dropped far below prewar levels, with agricultural output 49% of 1937 levels and industrial output down by 33%. Coal production dropped from 200,000 metric tons to 15,000 metric tons, and electricity production fell from 320 kilowatts to 30 kilowatts.[10] Taiwanese were also recruited as comfort women same as Japanese women during war.

Office of the Governor-General

High school girls standing in front of the Governor-General's Office in 1937.

As the highest colonial authority in Taiwan during the period of Japanese rule, the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan was headed by a Governor-General of Taiwan appointed by Tokyo. Power was highly centralized with the Governor-General wielding surpreme executive, legislative, and judicial power, effectively making the government a dictatorship.[7]


In its earliest incarnation, the Colonial Government was composed of three bureaus: Home Affairs, Army, and Navy. The Home Affairs Bureau was further divided into four offices: Internal Affairs, Agriculture, Finance, and Education. The Army and Navy bureaus were merged to form a single Military Affairs Bureau in 1896. Following reforms in 1898, 1901, and 1919 the Home Affairs Bureau gained three more offices: General Affairs, Judicial, and Communications. This configuration would continue until the end of colonial rule.


Akashi Motojirō, 7th Governor-General of Taiwan.

Throughout the period of Japanese rule, the Office of the Governor-General remained the de facto central authority in Taiwan. Formulation and development of governmental policy was primarily the role of the central or local bureaucracy.

In the 50 years of Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, Tokyo dispatched nineteen Governors-General to Taiwan. On average, a Governor-General served about 2.5 years. The entire colonial period can be further divided into three periods based on the background of the Governor-General: the Early Military period, the Civilian period, and the Later Military period.

Governors-General from the Early Military period included Kabayama Sukenori, Katsura Tarō, Nogi Maresuke, Kodama Gentarō, Sakuma Samata, Ando Sadami, and Akashi Motojiro. Two of the pre-1919 Governors-General, Nogi Maresuke and Kodama Gentarō, would become famous in the Russo-Japanese War. Andō Sadami and Akashi Motojirō are generally acknowledged to have done the most for Taiwanese interests during their tenures, with Akashi Motojirō actually requesting in his will that he be buried in Taiwan, which he indeed was.

The Civilian period occurred at roughly the same time as the Taishō democracy in Japan, Governors-General from this period were mostly nominated by the Japanese Diet and included Den Kenjirō, Uchida Kakichi, Izawa Takio, Kamiyama Mitsunoshin, Kawamura Takeji, Ishizuka Eizō, Ōta Masahiro, Minami Hiroshi, and Nakagawa Kenzō. During their tenures, the Colonial Government devoted most of its resources to economic and social development rather than military suppression.

The Governors-General of the Later Military period focused primarily on supporting the Japanese war effort and included Kobayashi Seizo, Kiyoshi Hasegawa, and Rikichi Ando.

Chief of Home Affairs

Formally known as the Director of the Home Affairs Bureau, the Chief of Home Affairs (總務長官) was the primary executor of colonial policy in Taiwan, and the second most powerful individual in the Colonial Government.

Administrative divisions

Government building of Tainan Prefecture.

Besides the Governor-General and the Chief of Home Affairs, the Office of the Governor-General was a strictly hierarchical bureaucracy including departments of law enforcement, agriculture, finance, education, mining, external affairs, and judicial affairs. Other governmental bodies included courts, corrections, orphanages, police academies, transportation, port authority, monopoly bureau, schools of all levels, an agricultural and forestry research station, and the Taihoku Imperial University (National Taiwan University today).

Administratively, Taiwan was divided into prefectures for local governance. In 1926, the prefectures were:

Name in Rōmaji Name in Kanji Modern district Area (Square km)
Taihoku 臺北州 Taipei City, Taipei County, Yilan County, Keelung City 4528.7
Shinchiku 新竹州 Hsinchu City, Hsinchu County, Taoyuan County, Miaoli County 4570.0
Taichū 臺中州 Taichung City, Taichung County, Chuanghua County, Nantou County 7382.9
Tainan 臺南州 Tainan City, Tainan County, Chiayi City, Chiayi County, Yunlin County 4292.4
Takao 高雄州 Kaohsiung City, Kaohisung County, Pintung County 5421.5
Taitō 臺東廳 Taitung County 5721.9
Karenkō 花蓮港廳 Hualien County 3515.3
Hōko 澎湖廳 Penghu County 4628.6

Armed resistance

Most armed resistance against Japanese rule occurred during the first 20 years of colonial rule. This period of resistance is usually divided into three stages: the defense of the Republic of Formosa; guerilla warfare following the collapse of the Republic; and a final stage between the Beipu Uprising of 1907, and the Tapani Incident of 1915. Afterwards, armed resistance was mostly replaced by peaceful forms of cultural and political activism, with the notable exception of the Wushe Incident in 1930 which resulted in the massacre of Atayal tribespeople.

Republic of Formosa

The flag of the Republic of Formosa, 1895.

The decision by the Qing Chinese government to cede Taiwan to Japan with the Treaty of Shimonoseki caused a massive uproar in Taiwan. On May 25, 1895, a group of pro-Qing officials and local gentry declared independence from China, proclaiming a new Republic of Formosa with the goal of keeping Taiwan under Qing rule, choosing then Qing governor Tang Ching-sung as their reluctant president. Japanese forces landed in Keelung on May 29, taking the city on June 3. President Tang and his Vice-President Chiu Feng-jia fled the island for mainland China the following day. In late June, remaining supporters of the new Republic gathered in Tainan, selecting Liu Yung-fu as the second president. The local Taiwanese Han militia units were mobilized to counter the Japanese occupation. After a series of bloody battles between Japanese and Republic forces which resulted in horrendous Taiwanese casualties, the Japanese successfully seized Tainan by late October. Shortly afterwards, President Liu fled Taiwan for mainland China bringing the 184 day history of the Republic to a close.


Following the collapse of the Republic of Formosa, Japanese Governor-General Kabayama Sukenori reported to Tokyo that "the island is secured", and proceeded to begin the task of administration. However, in December a series of anti-Japanese uprisings occurred in northern Taiwan, and would continue to occur at a rate of roughly one per month. By 1902, however, most anti-Japanese activity amongst the ethnic Chinese population had died down. Along the way, 14,000 Taiwanese, or 0.5% of the population had been killed.[11] Taiwan would remain relatively calm until the Beipu Uprising in 1907. The reason for the five years of calm is generally attributed to the Colonial Government's dual policy of active suppression and public works. Under this carrot and stick approach, most locals chose to watch and wait.

Tapani Incident

Insurgents captured during the Tapani Incident, 1915.

The third and final stage of armed resistance began with the Beipu Uprising in 1907. Between this and the 1915 Tapani Incident, there were thirteen smaller armed uprisings. In many cases, conspirators were discovered and arrested before planned uprisings could even take place. Of the thirteen uprisings, eleven occurred after the 1911 Revolution in China, to which four were directly linked. Conspirators in four of the uprisings demanded reunification with China, while conspirators in six planned to install themselves as independent rulers of Taiwan, and conspirators in one could not decide which goal to pursue. The objectives of the conspirators in the remaining two are unclear. It has been speculated the increase in uprisings demanding independence rather than reunification was the result of the collapse of the Qing Dynasty government in China, depriving locals of the figure or government with which they were originally accustomed to identifying.[12]

Wushe Incident

Perhaps the most famous of all of the anti-Japanese uprisings is the Wushe Incident, which occurred in the mostly aboriginal region of Musha (霧社, Pinyin: Wushe) in Taichū Prefecture (located in modern day Nantou County). On October 27, 1930, following escalation of an incident in which a Japanese police officer insulted a tribesman, over 300 Atayal aborigines under Chief Mono Rudao attacked Japanese residents in the area. In the ensuing violence, 134 Japanese nationals and two ethnic Han Taiwanese were killed, and 215 Japanese nationals injured. Many of the victims were attending an athletic festival at Musyaji Elementary School. In response, the Colonial Government ordered a military crackdown. In the two months that followed, most of the insurgents were either killed or committed suicide, along with their family members or fellow tribesmen. Several members of the government resigned over the incident, which proved to be the most violent of the uprisings during Japanese rule.

Economic and educational development

Poster for the 1935 Taiwan Exposition.

One of the most notable features of Japanese rule in Taiwan was the "top-down" nature of social change. While local activism certainly played a role, most of the social, economic, and cultural changes during this period were driven by technocrats in the colonial government. With the Colonial Government as the primary driving force, as well as new immigrants from the Japanese Home Islands, Taiwanese society was sharply divided between the rulers and the ruled.

Under the constant control of the colonial government, aside from a few small incidents during the earlier years of Japanese rule, Taiwanese society was mostly very stable. While the tactics of repression used by the Colonial Government were often very heavy handed, locals who cooperated with the economic and educational policies of the Governor-General saw a significant improvement in their standard of living. As a result, the population and living standards of Taiwan during the 50 years of Japanese rule displayed significant growth.


Taiwan's economy during Japanese rule was for the most part, a standard colonial economy. Namely, the human and natural resources of Taiwan were used to aid the development of Japan, a policy which began under Governor-General Kodama and reached its peak in 1943, in the middle of World War II. From 1900 - 1920, Taiwan's economy was dominated by the sugar industry, while from 1920 - 1930, rice was the primary export. During these two periods, the primary economic policy of the Colonial Government was "industry for Japan, agriculture for Taiwan". After 1930, due to war needs the Colonial Government began to pursue a policy of industrialization.[7] Under the 7th governor, Akashi Motojiro, a vast swamp in central Taiwan was transformed into a huge dam in order to build a hydraulic power plant for industrialization. The dam and its surrounding area, widely known as Sun Moon Lake (Nichigetsutan) today, has become a must-see for foreign tourists visiting Taiwan.

Although the main focus of each of these periods differed, the primary goal throughout the entire time was increasing Taiwan's productivity to satisfy demand within Japan, a goal which was successfully achieved. As part of this process, new ideas, concepts, and values were introduced to the Taiwanese; also, several public works projects, such as railways, public education, and telecommunications, were implemented. As the economy grew, society stabilized, politics was gradually liberalized, and popular support for the colonial government began to increase. Taiwan thus served as a showcase for Japan's propaganda on the colonial efforts throughout Asia, as displayed during the 1935 Taiwan Exposition.


Bank of Taiwan established in 1897 headquartered in Taipei, Japanese spelling Taihoku.

Shortly after the cession of Taiwan to Japanese rule in September 1895, an Osaka bank opened a small office in Kirun (Keelung). By June of the following year the Governor-General had granted permission for the bank to establish the first Western-style banking system in Taiwan.

In March 1897, the Japanese Diet passed the "Taiwan Bank Act", establishing the Bank of Taiwan, which began operations in 1899. In addition to normal banking duties, the Bank would also be responsible for minting the currency used in Taiwan throughout Japanese rule.

To maintain fiscal stability, the Colonial Government proceeded to charter several other banks, credit unions, and other financial organizations which helped to keep inflation in check.

Compulsory education

As part of the colonial government's overall goal of keeping the anti-Japanese movement in check, public education became an important mechanism for facilitating both control and intercultural dialogue. While secondary education institutions were restricted mostly to Japanese nationals, the impact of compulsory primary education on the Taiwanese was immense.

On July 14, 1895, Isawa Shūji was appointed as the first Education Minister, and proposed that the Colonial Government implement a policy of compulsory primary education for children (a policy that had not even been implemented in Japan at the time). The Colonial Government established the first Western-style primary school in Taipei (the modern day Shilin Elementary School) as an experiment. Satisfied with the results, the government ordered the establishment of fourteen language schools in 1896, which were later upgraded to become public schools. During this period, schools were segregated by ethnicity. Kōgakkō (公學校, Public Schools) were established for Taiwanese children, while shōgakkō (小學校, Elementary Schools) were restricted to the children of Japanese nationals. Schools for aborigines were also established in aboriginal areas. Criteria were established for teacher selection, and several teacher training schools such as Taihoku Normal School were founded. Secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, such as Taihoku Imperial University were also established, but access was restricted primarily to Japanese nationals. The emphasis for locals was placed on vocational education, to help increase productivity.

The education system was finally desegregated in March 1941, when all schools (except for a few aboriginal schools) were reclassified as kokumin gakkō (國民學校, National Schools), open to all students regardless of ethnicity. Education was compulsory for children between the ages of eight and fourteen. Subjects taught included Morals (修身, shūshin), Composition (作文, sakubun), Reading (讀書, dokusho), Writing (習字, shūji), Mathematics (算術, sanjutsu), Singing (唱歌, shōka), and Physical Education (體操, taisō).

By 1944, there were 944 primary schools in Taiwan with total enrollment rates of 71.3% for Taiwanese children, 86.4% for aboriginal children, and 99.6% for Japanese children in Taiwan. As a result, primary school enrollment rates in Taiwan were among the highest in Asia, second only to Japan itself.[7]


As part of the emphasis placed on governmental control, the Colonial Government performed detailed censuses of Taiwan every five years starting in 1905. Statistics showed a population growth rate of 0.988 to 2.835% per year throughout Japanese rule. In 1905, the population of Taiwan was roughly 3.03 million; by 1940 the population had grown to 5.87 million, and by the end of World War II in 1946 it numbered 6.09 million.

Transportation developments

Modern day Taichung Station, originally constructed in 1917 as Taichū Eki (臺中驛).

The Office of the Governor-General also placed a strong emphasis on modernization of Taiwan's transportation systems, especially railways, and to a lesser extent, highways. As a result, reliable transit links were established between the northern and southern ends of the island, supporting the increasing population.


After Taiwan was ceded to Japan, the push car railways was brought to Taiwan. The push car railways were in general service from 1895 to the late 1940s.

The Railway Ministry (predecessor of the modern Taiwan Railway Administration) was established on November 8, 1899, beginning a period of rapid expansion of the island's rail network. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this era was the completion of the Western Line, linking the major cities along the western corridor in 1908, reducing the travel time between northern and southern Taiwan from several days to a single day.

The Railway Ministry building

Also constructed during this time were the Tansui Line (淡水線, today the Tamsui Line of the Taipei Metro), Giran Line (宜蘭線, Yilan Line), Heitō Line (屏東線, Pingtung Line), and Tōkō Line (東港線, Donggang Line). Several private rail lines were also incorporated into the state owned system. Industrial lines such as the Alishan Forest Railway were also built. Plans were also drawn up for the North-Link Line, South-Link Line, as well as a line running through the mountains of central Taiwan, but were never realized due to technical difficulties as well as the outbreak of World War II. Private railways such as the Taiwan Sugar Railways (built to support the sugarcane industry), were also built.

Like many other government offices, the Railway Ministry was headed by technocrats. Many of the railways constructed during Japanese rule continue to be used today.


Compared to the rapid development of the rail system, the highway system saw much less attention. However, faced with increasing competition from motorcars, the Railway Ministry began purchasing and confiscating roads running parallel to railways.[citation needed]

Bus service was available in urban areas, but since the cities in Taiwan were quite small at the time, they remained secondary to rail service. Most bus routes of the time centered on local railway stations.

Social policy

The Old Puji Temple (普濟寺) in Beitou, Taipei. Constructed during Japanese rule.

While the idea of "special governance" promoted by Gotō dominated most policy decisions made by the colonial authorities, the ultimate goal remained modernization. Under these ideals, the colonial government, along with community groups, would gradually push to modernize Taiwanese society. The main thrust of these efforts targeted what were known as the "Three Bad Habits".

"Three Bad Habits"

The "Three Bad Habits" (三大陋習) considered by the Office of the Governor-General to be archaic and unhealthy were the use of opium, foot binding, and the wearing of queues.[13][14] Much like mainland China in the late 19th century, opium addiction was a serious social problem in Taiwan, with some statistics suggesting that over half of the ethnic Chinese population of Taiwan were users of the drug. The intentional disfigurement of female feet through binding were common to mainland Chinese and Taiwanese society at the time, and the queue hairstyle worn by the male population was forced upon Han Chinese by the Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty (Queue Order).


Shortly after acquiring Taiwan in 1895, then Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi ordered that opium should be banned in Taiwan as soon as possible. However, due to the pervasiveness of opium addiction in Taiwanese society at the time, and the social and economic problems caused by complete prohibition, the initial hard line policy was relaxed in a few years. On January 21, 1897, the Colonial Government issued the Taiwan Opium Edict mandating a government monopoly of the opium trade, and restricting the sale of opium to those with government issued permits, with the ultimate goal of total abolition. The number of opium addicts in Taiwan quickly dropped from millions to 169,064 in 1900 (6.3% of the total population at the time), and 45,832 (1.3% of the population) by 1921. However, the numbers were still higher than those in nations where opium was completely prohibited. It was generally believed that one important factor behind the Colonial Government's reluctance to completely ban opium was the potential profit to be made through a state run narcotics monopoly.

In 1921, the Taiwanese People's Party accused colonial authorities before the League of Nations of being complacent in the addiction of over 40,000 people, while making a profit off opium sales. To avoid controversy, the Colonial Government issued the New Taiwan Opium Edict on December 28, and related details of the new policy on January 8 of the following year. Under the new laws, the number of opium permits issued was decreased, a rehabilitation clinic was opened in Taipei, and a concerted anti-drug campaign launched.[15]

Foot binding

Foot binding was a practice fashionable in Ming and Qing Dynasty China. Young girls' feet, usually at age six but often earlier, were wrapped in tight bandages so they could not grow normally, would break and become deformed as they reached adulthood. The feet would remain small and dysfunctional, prone to infection, paralysis, and muscular atrophy. While such feet were considered by some to be beautiful, others considered the practice to be archaic and barbaric. In concert with community leaders, the Colonial Government launched an anti-foot binding campaign in 1901. The practice was formally banned in 1915, with violators subject to heavy punishment. Foot binding in Taiwan died out quickly afterwards.


The Colonial Government took comparatively less action on queues. While social campaigns against wearing queues were launched, no edicts or laws were issued on the subject. With the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the popularity of queues also decreased.

Urban planning

The Colonial Government initially focused on pressing needs such as sanitation and military fortifications. Plans for urban development began to be issued in 1899, calling for a five year development plan for most medium and large sized cities. The first phase of urban redevelopment focused on the construction and improvement of roads. In Taihoku (Taipei), the old city walls were demolished, and the new Seimonchō (西門町) (modern Ximending) area was developed for new Japanese immigrants.

The second phase of urban development began in 1901, focusing on the areas around the South and East Gates of Taihoku (Taipei) and the areas around the railway station in Taichū (Taichung). Primary targets for improvement included roads and drainage systems, in preparation for the arrival of more Japanese immigrants.

Another phase began in August 1905 and also included Tainan. By 1917, urban redevelopment programs were in progress in over seventy cities and towns throughout Taiwan. Many of the urban plans laid out during these programs continue to be used in Taiwan today.

Public health

In the early years of Japanese rule, the Colonial Government ordered the construction of public clinics throughout Taiwan and brought in doctors from Japan to halt the spread of infectious disease. The drive was successful in eliminating diseases such as malaria, plague, and tuberculosis from the island. The public health system throughout the years of Japanese rule was dominated primarily by small local clinics rather than large central hospitals, a situation which would remain constant in Taiwan until the 1980s.

The Colonial Government also expended a great deal of effort in developing an effective sanitation system for Taiwan. British experts were hired to design storm drains and sewage systems. The expansion of streets and sidewalks, as well as building codes calling for windows allowing for air flow, mandatory neighborhood cleanups, and quarantine of the ill also helped to improve public health.

Public health education also became important in schools as well as in law enforcement. The Taihoku Imperial University also established a Tropical Medicine Research Center, and formal training for nurses.


According to the 1905 census, the aboriginal population included 450,000+ plains aborigines, almost completely assimilated into Han Chinese society, and 300,000+ mountain aborigines. Japanese aboriginal policy focused primarily on the unassimilated latter group, known in Japanese as Takasago-zoku (高砂族).

The aborigines were subject to modified versions of criminal and civil law. As with the rest of the Taiwanese population, the ultimate goal of the Colonial Government was to assimilate the aborigines into Japanese society through a dual policy of suppression and education. Japanese education of the aborigines bloomed during WWII, who proved to be the most daring soldiers the empire had ever produced. Their legendary bravery is celebrated by Japanese veterans even today. Many of them would say they owe their survival to the "Takasago Hei."


The modern remains of Ōgon Shrine (黃金神社), a Shinto shrine located in Jinguashi (金瓜石), Taipei County.

Throughout most of Japanese colonial rule, the Colonial Government chose to promote the existing Buddhist religion over Shintoism in Taiwan. It was believed that used properly, religion could accelerate the assimilation of the Taiwanese into Japanese society.

Under these circumstances, existing Buddhist temples in Taiwan were expanded and modified to accommodate Japanese elements of the religion, such as worship of Ksitigarbha (popular in Japan but not Taiwan at the time). The Japanese also constructed several new Buddhist temples throughout Taiwan, many of which also ended up combining aspects of Daoism and Confucianism, a mix which still persists in Taiwan today.

In 1937 with the beginning of the Kōminka movement, the government began the promotion of Shintoism and the limited restriction of other religions.


After 1915, armed resistance against the Japanese colonial government nearly ceased. Instead, spontaneous social movements became popular. The Taiwanese people organized various modern political, cultural and social clubs, adopting political consciousness with clear intentions to unite people with sympathetic sensibilities. This motivated them to strive for the common targets set up by the social movements. These movements also encouraged improvements in social culture.

Besides Taiwanese literature, which connected with the social movements of the time, the aspect of Western culture which Taiwan most successfully adopted was the arts. Many famous works of art came out during this time.

Popular culture led by movies, popular music and puppet theater prevailed for the first time in Taiwan during this period.


Lai He, father of the new literature in Taiwan

In 1919, Taiwanese students in Tokyo restructured Enlightenment Society and established the New People Society. This was the prelude for various political and social movements. Many new publications, such as "Taiwanese Literature & Art" (1934) and "New Taiwanese Literature" (1935), were started shortly thereafter. These led to the onset of the vernacular movement in Taiwan as they broke away from the classical forms of ancient poetry. Many scholars acknowledge possible connections of this movement with the May Fourth Movement in China.

These literature movements did not disappear when they were repressed by the Japanese governor. In the early 1930s, a famous debate on Taiwanese rural language unfolded formally. This event had numerous lasting effects on Taiwanese literature, language and racial consciousness.

In 1930, Taiwanese-Japanese resident Huang Shihui started the debate on rural literature in Tokyo. He advocated that Taiwanese literature should be about Taiwan, have impact on a wide audience, and use Taiwanese Hokkien. In 1931, a resident in Taipei named Guo Qiusen prominently supported Huang's viewpoint. Guo started the Taiwanese Rural Language Debate, which advocated literature published in Taiwanese. This was immediately supported by Lai He, considered the father of Taiwanese literature. After this, dispute as to whether the literature of Taiwan should use Taiwanese or Mandarin Chinese, and whether or not the subject matter should concern Taiwan, became the focus of the New Taiwan Literature Movement. However, because of the upcoming war and the pervasive Japanese cultural education, these debates could not develop any further. They finally lost traction under the Japanization policy set by the government.[16]

In the two years after 1934, progressive Taiwanese writers gathered up and established the Association of Taiwanese Literature and Art and New Taiwanese Literature. This literature and art movement was political in its implications. After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, the government of Taiwan immediately instituted "National Spirit General Moblization", which formally commenced the Japanization policy. Taiwanese writers could then only rely on organizations dominated by Japanese writers, e.g. the "Taiwanese Poet Association", established in 1939, and the "Association of Taiwanese Literature & Art", expanded in 1940.[16]

Taiwanese literature focused mainly on the Taiwanese spirit and the essence of Taiwanese culture. Ordinary as it seems, it was actually a revolution made possibly by political and social movements. People in literature and the arts began to think about issues of Taiwanese culture, and attempted to establish a culture that truly belonged to Taiwan.

Western art

Outside of Chiayi Street/ Chen Chengbo/ 1926/ Painting on canvas/ 64x53cm/ Selected as part of the 7th Imperial Japanese Exhibition

During the Qing Dynasty, the concept of Western art did not exist in Taiwan. Painting was not a highly respected occupation, and even Chinese landscape painting was undeveloped. When the Japanese occupied Taiwan in 1895, they brought in a new educational system which introduced Western and Japanese art education. This not only set the basis for the future development of art appreciation in Taiwan, it also produced various famous artists. Painter and instructor Ishikawa Kinichiro contributed immensely in planning the training of new art teachers. He personally instructed students and encouraged them to travel to Japan to learn the more sophisticated techniques of art.

In 1926, a Taiwanese student in Japan named Chen Chengbo published a work titled Outside of Chiayi Street (see left). His work was selected for display in the seventh Imperial Japanese Exhibition. This was the first Western style work by a Taiwanese artist to be included in a Japanese exhibition. Many other works were subsequently featured in the Imperial Japanese Exhibitions and other exhibitions. These successes made it easier for the arts to become widespread in Taiwan. Ironically, the Japanese-appreciated Chen was executed by the Chinese after WWII without trial for being a "bandit."

What really established the arts in Taiwan was the introduction of official Japanese exhibitions in Taiwan. In 1927, the governor of Taiwan, along with artists Ishikawa Kinichiro, Shiotsuki Toho and Kinoshita Shizukishi established the Taiwanese Art Exhibition.[17] This exhibition was held sixteen times from 1938 to 1945. It cultivated the first generation of Taiwanese western artists. The regional Taiwanese art style developed by the exhibition still affected various fields, e.g. art, art design and engineering design, even after the war.


Sayon's Bell, a Japanese movie produced in Taiwan during this period.

From 1901 to 1937, Taiwanese cinema was influenced immensely by Japanese cinema. Because of Taiwan's status as a Japanese colony, the traditions of Japanese movies were generally accepted by Taiwanese producers. For instance, the use of a benshi (narrator of silent films), which was a very important component of the film-going experience in Japan, was adopted and renamed benzi by the Taiwanese. This narrator was very different from its equivalent in the Western world. It rapidly evolved into a star system. In fact, people would go to see the very same film narrated by different benshi, to hear the other benshi's interpretation. A romance could become a comedy or a drama, depending on the narrator's style and skills.

The first Taiwan-made film was a documentary produced in February 1907 by Takamatsu Toyojiro, with a group of photographers that travelled through various areas in Taiwan. Their production was called "Description of Taiwan", and it covered through subjects such as city construction, electricity, agriculture, industry, mining, railways, education, landscapes, traditions, and conquest of aborigines. The first movie drama produced by Taiwanese was called "Whose Fault?" in 1925, produced by the Association of Taiwanese Cinema Research. Other types of films including educational pieces, newsreels and propaganda also helped form the mainstream of local Taiwanese movie productions until the defeat of Japan in 1945. Sayon's Bell, which depicted an aboriginal maid helping Japanese, was a symbolic production that represents these types of films.

In 1908, Takamatsu Toyojiro settled in Taiwan and began to construct theaters in the main cities. Takamatsu also signed with several Japanese and foreign movie companies, and set up institutionalized movie publication. In 1924, theaters in Taiwan imported advanced intertitle technique from Japan, and the cinema in Taiwan grew more prominent. On October 1935, a celebration of the fortieth year anniversary of annexation in Taiwan was held. The year after, Taipei and Fukuoka were connected by airway. These two events pushed the Taiwanese cinema into its golden age.

Popular music

Popular music in Taiwan was established in the 1930s. Although published records and popular songs already existed in Taiwan before 1930s, the quality and popularity of most of them was very poor. This was mainly because popular songs at the time differed slightly from traditional music like folk songs and Taiwanese opera. However, because of the rapid development of cinema and broadcasting during the 1930s, new popular songs that stepped away from traditional influences began to appear and become widespread in a short period of time.

The first accepted eminent popular song in Taiwan collocated with the Chinese movie, Peach Blossom Weeps Tears of Blood (Tao hua qi xie ji). Produced by Lianhua Productions, Peach Blossoms Weep Tears of Blood, starring Ruan Lingyu, screened in Taiwan theaters in 1932. Hoping to attract more Taiwanese viewers, the producers requested composers Zhan Tianma and Wang Yunfeng to compose a song with the same title. The song that came out was a major hit and achieved success in record sales. From this period on, Taiwanese popular music with the assistance of cinema began to rise.

Puppet theatre

Many Min Nan speaking immigrants entered Taiwan during the 1750s, and with them they brought puppet theatre. The stories were based mainly on classical books and stage dramas, and were very refined. Artistry focused on the complexity of the puppet movements. Musical accompaniment was generally Nanguan and Beiguan music. According to the Records of Taiwan Province, Nanguan was the earliest form of puppet theatre in Taiwan. Although this kind of puppet theatre fell out of the mainstream, it can still be found in a few troupes around Taipei today.

Important cultural entertainment during the Japanese rule period: Puppet theatre

During the 1920s, wuxia puppet theatre (i.e. based on martial arts) gradually developed. The stories were the main difference between traditional and wuxia puppet theatre. Based on new, popular wuxia novels, performances focused on the display of unique martial arts by the puppets. The representative figures during this era were Huang Haidai of Wuzhouyuan and Zhong Renxiang of Xinyige. This puppet genre began its development in Yunlin's Huwei and Xiluo towns, and was popularized in southern-central Taiwan. Huang Haidai's puppet theatre was narrated in Min Nan, and included poems, historical narrative, couplets and riddles. Its performance blended Beiguan, Nanguan, Luantan, Zhengyin, Gezai and Chaodiao music.

After the 1930s, the Japanization policy affected puppet theatre. The customary Chinese Beiguan was forbidden, and was replaced with Western music. The costumes and the puppets were a mixture of Japanese and Chinese style. The plays often included Japanese stories like Mitokomon and others, with the puppets dressed in Japanese clothing. Performances were presented in Japanese. These new linguistic and cultural barriers reduced public acceptance, but introduced techniques which subsequently influenced the future development of the Golden Light puppet theatre, including music and stage settings.

During this era, the world of puppet theatre in southern Taiwan had the Five Great Pillars and Four Great Celebrities. The "Five Great Pillars" referred to Huang Haidai, Zhong Renxiang, Huang Tianquan, Hu Jinzhu and Lu Chongyi; the "Four Great Celebrities" referred to Huang Tianchuan , Lu Chongyi, Li Tuyuan and Zheng Chuanming.


The Japanese also brought baseball to Taiwan. There were baseball teams in elementary schools as well as public schools, and the Japanese built baseball fields such as Tainan Stadium. It became such a widespread sport that, by the early 1930s, nearly all major secondary schools and many primary schools had established representative baseball teams. The development of the game in Taiwan culminated when a team from Kagi Nōrin Gakkō, an agriculture and forestry high school, ranked second in Japan’s “Kōshien” national high-school baseball tournament. One legacy of this era today is the existence of players such as the Nationals’ Chien-Ming Wang, the Dodgers’ Hong-Chih Kuo, and Chien-Ming Chiang of the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.


Chen Yi (right) accepting the surrender of General Rikichi Andō (left), the last Japanese Governor-General of Taiwan, in Taipei City Hall.

With the end of World War II, Taiwan was placed under the administrative control of the Republic of China by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) after 50 years of colonial rule by Japan. Chen Yi, the ROC Chief Executive of Taiwan, arrived on October 24, 1945 and received the last Japanese Governor-General, Andō Rikichi, who signed the document of surrender on the next day, which was proclaimed by Chen as "Retrocession Day". This turned out to be legally controversial since Japan did not renounce its sovereignty over Taiwan until April 28, 1952, with the coming into force of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which further complicated the political status of Taiwan. As a result use of the term "Retrocession of Taiwan" (台灣光復, Táiwān guāngfù) is less common in modern Taiwan.


At the Cairo Conference of 1943, the Allies adopted a statement declaring that Japan will give up Taiwan at the end of the war. In April 1944, the ROC government at the wartime capital of Chongqing established the Taiwan Research Committee (台灣調查委員會, Táiwān diàochá wěiyuánhuì) with Chen Yi as chairman. Shortly afterwards, the committee reported its findings on the economy, politics, society, and military affairs of Taiwan to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

Following the war, opinion in the ROC government was split as to the administration of Taiwan. One faction supported treating Taiwan in the same way as other Chinese territories occupied by the Japanese during World War II, creating a Taiwan Province. The other faction supported setting up a Special Administrative Region in Taiwan with special military and police powers. In the end, Chiang Kai-shek chose to take Chen Yi's suggestion of creating a special 2000 man "Office of the Chief Executive of Taiwan Province" (台灣省行政長官公署, Táiwān-shěng xíngzhèng zhǎngguān gōngshǔ) to handle the transfer.

Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on August 14, 1945. On August 29, Chiang Kai-shek appointed Chen Yi as Chief Executive of Taiwan Province, and announced the creation of the Office of the Chief Executive of Taiwan Province and Taiwan Garrison Command on September 1, with Chen Yi also as the commander of the latter body. After several days of preparation, an advance party moved into Taipei on October 5, with more personnel from Shanghai and Chungking arriving between October 5 and October 24.

Surrender ceremony

The formal surrender occurred on the morning of October 25, 1945 in Taipei City Hall (modern Zhongshan Hall). The Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan formally surrendered to Chen Yi representing the Commander in Chief of the Chinese Theatre. On the same day, the Office of the Chief Executive began functioning from the building which now houses the ROC Executive Yuan.

See also


  1. ^ Shao, Minghuang; Miller, Lyman (June 29, 2002). "“The Out-of-Tune ‘Flowers on the Rainy Nights’: Some Observational Aspects of Taiwan at Wartime”". Minutes from the Conference on Wartime China: Regional Regimes and Conditions, 1937-1945. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University. http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~asiactr/sino-japanese/session9.htm. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  2. ^ Emanuel Pastreich (July 2003). Sovereignty, Wealth, Culture, and Technology: Mainland China and Taiwan Grapple with the Parameters of "Nation State" in the 21st Century. Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20060614080920/http://www.acdis.uiuc.edu/Research/OPs/Pastreich/cover.html. Retrieved 2006-07-18. 
  3. ^ Shu-ling, Ko, (Kyodo News), "Intricate bonds behind Taiwan aid", Japan Times, 21 May 2011, p. 3.
  4. ^ "Chapter 3". A Brief History of Taiwan. ROC Government Information Office. http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/5-gp/history/tw04.html. Retrieved 2006-07-18. [dead link]
  5. ^ Zhao, Jiaying 1993 A Diplomatic History of China, ISBN7-81032-577-9
  6. ^ "男無情,女無義,鳥不語,花不香" (nán wú qíng, nǚ wú yì, niǎo bú yǔ, huā bú xiāng). (This expression has also been attributed to the Qianlong Emperor.)
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Chapter 7". A Brief History of Taiwan. ROC Government Information Office. http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/5-gp/history/tw07.html. Retrieved 2006-07-18. [dead link]
  8. ^ "The Koo family: a century in Taiwan". Lindy Yeh. Taipei Times. Apr 15, 2002. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2002/04/15/132003/wiki. Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  9. ^ "戦間期台湾地方選挙に関する考察". 古市利雄. 台湾研究フォーラム 【台湾研究論壇】. http://www.nittaikyo-ei.join-us.jp/koichi.html. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  10. ^ "歷史與發展 (History and Development)" (HTML Big5). Taipower Corporation. http://community.nat.gov.tw/event/goodsits/A28/. Retrieved 2006-08-06. 
  11. ^ "History of Taiwan". Windows on Asia. Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University. http://www.asia.msu.edu/eastasia/Taiwan/history.html. Retrieved 2006-07-23. [dead link]
  12. ^ Wang, Yu-deh (王育德) (1979). 台灣:苦悶的歷史. Taipei: 前衛. ISBN 957-801-203-9. 
  13. ^ Wu, Wen-shing (吳文星). 近代台灣的社會變遷 (Recent Changes in Taiwanese Society). 
  14. ^ Wu, Mi-cha (吳密察). 台灣史小事典 (A Brief Timeline of Major Incidents in Taiwanese History). 遠流出版. 
  15. ^ Government figures show 2,000 opium permits issued in 1945.
  16. ^ a b National recognition of Taiwanese political movements in the past hundred years, by Lee Xiaofeng in 1995. Excitement! Taiwan's history: Taiwanese's self-recognition, by Zhang Deshui in 1992. Discussion on Taiwanese nativism: An investigation in cultural history., by Chen Zhaoying
  17. ^ This exhibition was held ten times from 1927 to 1936. It did not occur in 1937, due to the Second Sino-Japanese War. After 1938, the exhibition was held by the government of Taiwan, and was renamed "Taiwan Government Art Exhibition".


External links

Preceded by:
Under Qing Dynasty rule

History of Taiwan
Under Japanese rule

Succeeded by:
Under Republic of China rule

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