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Transcending 1624—Taiwan and the World

  • Date:2024-02-01~2024-06-30

How should 1624 be viewed from 2024?

The Dutch landed in Formosa in 1624 and the Spaniards two years later, marking the integration of Taiwan into the Asian-European trade network and the beginning of a series of arrivals that would impact the island. Today, in 2024, 400 years later, our theme is 1624, but we would like to take you beyond existing perceptions of that year. We are not concerned so much about the 400th anniversary. 1624 was not simply just another year. It can be considered, rather, the point in time when 17th century Taiwan became connected to the rest of the world. We want to understand from the time in which we live how to launch an historical exploration from the perspective of Taiwan, while still looking beyond its borders. It was a time when Taiwan made its debut on the world stage. It let the world know that it is an island of the world. With 1624 as an historical theme, we look back at early Taiwan’s connection to the world and maritime culture, discuss how the people of the island viewed the sea, and, more importantly, we invite you to join us at the museum for a history lesson on 1624 to think about, discuss, and dialog about Taiwan’s history.

(1)Taiwan • An island/pathway in the sea

Taiwan is situated just off of the Asian landmass. Historically, it was a large island that ships from the Asian continent would come across when sailing out to sea and an important node that maritime powers that wanted to land on the Asian continent. The ocean has always been how Taiwan has accessed the rest of the world. This is true of the past, present, and will be of the future. In the past, we positioned Taiwan based on the worldviews of other countries, but if we reconsider Taiwan from the perspective of the seas surrounding it and make Taiwan, surrounded on all sides by ocean, the main subject of consideration, can we “flip” Taiwan and make it a “pathway in the sea”, thereby, creating a “Taiwan view” and worldview that differ from the past and reevaluate Taiwan’s role and value?

(2)   Connections: The island and its networks

Taiwan’s history formed by people, events, and connections that transcend Taiwan 

1624 was a landmark year for Taiwan. It began to become increasingly involved in the international trade network and to interact with the outside world. That year, the Dutch came to southern Taiwan. Two years later, Spaniards landed in the north. In the 17th century, two major world sea powers coexisted in Taiwan, one in the south, one in the north. Prior to that, however, starting from the middle of the 16th century, Taiwan was already coming to the fore in East Asian history. For over a century, Taiwan not only became an important player in East Asian and world history, maritime powers from both the East and West were drawn to Taiwan where they competed with each other. These people, events, and connections transcend Taiwan and shaped the “cosmopolitan” nature of Taiwan’s early historical development.

(3) Circulation: Material and cultural exchanges on the sea

Taiwan and the creation of its culture!

In the 17th century, Taiwan was in the midst of a period of intense trade between the East and the West. The East-West trade network was characterized by the circulation of a wide variety of products and goods as well as a rich mix of cultural interactions. Because it was an important node in the East Asian trade in the 17th century, a variety of products and goods naturally circulated in Taiwan. When the goods came to Taiwan, the locals were creative about adapting them to the local culture and they became integral to the local cultures of the diverse ethnic groups. Foreign styles and diverse culture arrived in Taiwan via the sea, became part of life on the island, and gradually shaped a unique maritime and island culture. The 17th century was a time when different cultures came into contact with each other, setting the stage for the later formation and development of Taiwan’s diverse ethnic culture.

(4)Rediscovery: Taiwan's Rich and Diverse Oceanic Character

The philosophy/pathway of the sea of daysent-day Taiwan

The history of Taiwan in the 16th and 17th centuries, centered around the sea, illustrating the richness and diversity of Taiwan’s maritime character and historical development. Looking back at the relationship between the people of Taiwan and the ocean over the past hundred years, there have been times when they have been estranged from the sea, such as under martial law, when the average Taiwanese was compelled to keep a distance from the ocean. After martial law was lifted, the people were once again allowed to go to the sea. Over the past few hundred years, the means of navigation in the world’s waters have changed and evolved, but the need for economic trade across national boundaries has continued to exist and Taiwan has continued to be part of it. Its maritime transportation and offshore fishing industries are among the largest in the world. Contemporary Taiwan as a “pathway of the sea” connects Taiwan to the wider world.

(5) Transcending 1624: A history classroom

NMTH is everyone's history classroom.

This exhibition is not just about history. It is our hope that it will also serve as a history education platform to encourage dialog and provoke thought. The National Museum of Taiwan History is a history classroom for all. We welcome everyone to come ponder, discuss, and dialog about Taiwan history.
Q1 How do we recount the historical accounts of interactions with outsiders?
Q2 How does the museum deal with controversial and dark episodes in history?
Q3 The shaping of the images of historical figures and contemporary memory.
Q4 Historical clues hidden around us.
Q5 How should we view Taiwan in the Age of Discovery?