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2013 Chuan Lyu Lectures in Taiwan Studies

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies | News and Events | DEAS Events


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Prof. Chen Kuo-tung, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Lecture starts at 5pm in Rooms 8&9 (Ground Floor)
Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Sidgwick Site)

  • Wednesday, 15th May, 2012
    Beautiful Island, Inhospitable Shores:
    British Ship-wreckers' Impressions of Taiwan, 1841-1842

All are invited for wine to celebrate after the lecture.


After being taken over by the Qing government, Taiwan was very seldom observed or commented on by Europeans except for chance visitors, such as Commodore George Anson, who sighted the southernmost tip of Taiwan and left a few lines in his Voyage. Nearly a century and a half later, changes in shipping routes in the Pacific Ocean are said to have Taiwan become a target of foreign powers' scramble for power in East Asia from the 1850s. Instances of shipwrecks, often labeled by the Qing government as "interferences in Taiwan's affairs," increasingly took place near and around Taiwan, as did reported cases of inhumane mistreatment of the survivors. In fact, before the 1850s two British vessels, the Nerbudda and the brig Ann, were shipwrecked, and their surviving crews suffered worse mistreatment at the hands of the islanders. Some of the survivors recorded their experiences, leaving us moving accounts of their misfortune and escape. In addition, they left revealing information about the daily lives of the island's inhabitants, who are rarely described in other sources, since they were considered common and their lives often deemed trivial. These British accounts of the Taiwanese thus enable us to enrich our understanding of the Taiwanese people's life on the eve of their entry into the modern world.

For further information, contact:

Dr Joe McDermott
Reader in Chinese History
Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge