The early voyages of the Europeans to the East were appallingly risky affairs. Navigation was still an \nuncertain business, the wooden ships were easily damaged by rocks or ice, food and drink were often inadequate, the vessels were subject to attack by locals eager for bounty, and there was little knowledge of how to protect crews from disease by a healthy diet, and no immunity to the tropical diseases encountered on land. Ghostly ships like those in Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner or Wagner's The Flying Dutchman were \ncommon, their crews dying and their progress in the hands of half-crazed maniacs desperate for rest. These were commercial enterprises set up in London, Lisbon or Amsterdam trying unknown routes to destinations often only learnt about through hearsay. Success was chancy at best, and the men who set sail not surprisingly a ragged bunch. \nGiles Milton has made a career for himself by re-telling in popular form tales from what in retrospect is grandly called Europe's Age of Exploration. His previous ventures in this genre have included a look at the Elizabethans in Virginia (Big Chief Elizabeth) and an investigation into the very lucrative spice trade in what is now Indonesia (Nathaniel's Nutmeg). \nThis time he tells the story of the first Englishman ever to set foot in Japan, the 17th century rough-neck adventurer William Adams. \nAdams set out for the East in June 1598, serving with a Dutch fleet of five ships. It opted for the southwestern route, around South America, and experienced all the usual horrors of scurvy, starvation, attacks by natives, gales blowing the ships off course, and captains frequently only vaguely knowing where they were. Only one of the five ships made it to Japan, arriving in April 1600 with all the crew sick and many dying. Of the 24 men who landed, only seven could stand. \nAdams stayed in Japan for the rest of his life, 20 years in all, and became an important figure once an English "factory" (the name used at the time for a trading settlement complete with warehouses) was established. He visited what are now Thailand and Vietnam, and was said to be able to walk into the presence of emperors and talk to them when the most prominent officials in the land were refused admission. He certainly enjoyed his enhanced status in the East, like many an expatriate today, and quite possibly in addition simply couldn't bear to contemplate the rigors of a return voyage home. \nGiles Milton's method is to read up the authorities on the period (his chapter-by-chapter bibliographies are lovingly detailed) and then produce a colorful but not irresponsible account in his own words. This is not original historical research, but it is popularization of a reputable, and in many ways admirable, kind. \nAdams' adventures in Japan are not enough to fill a whole volume, so Milton frames his account with chapters on the Portuguese voyagers who were the first Europeans to get there, the rivalry between the English and the Dutch for the profits of oriental trade, earlier attempts to reach the east by sailing along the north coast of Russia, the successes of Portuguese missionaries in southern Japan and their subsequent terrible persecution, and so on. These put Adams' experiences into context, and help to make up an entertaining, informative and readable book. \nFor the material pertaining to Adams himself, Milton has been considerably helped by the publication of The British Factory in Japan 1613-23 (two volumes, 1991). These books contain the letters and logbooks of Adams and his colleagues in full. Adams' diaries have always been accessible to researchers, but Milton comments that they are "extremely hard to decipher." Their publication in a printed edition was probably what gave him the idea for this book -- as someone specializing in the period, he would have instantly registered the possibilities inherent in their appearance. \nMilton's style is roistering and casual. The following passages can be taken as typical: "The Trouw's crew were made of sterner stuff. Throwing caution to the winds, they pointed their vessel west and headed for the East Indies." Queen Elizabeth "chose to ignore Captain Pet's Arctic failure, condemning him to return to the obscurity from which he had briefly escaped. Preferring to back a winner, she prepared a lavish celebration in honor of Drake's triumph in the tropics ... it was a splendid affair." \n"When Ferdinand Magellan had crossed the Pacific, they had only survived by eating stewed mice and sawdust." \nAnything amusing, outrageous or grotesque is highlighted. It's not that Milton offers a frivolous account of history exactly. Rather, he extracts vivid and bizarre details from his sources and binds them together with a breezy style. The result is history without tears, something palatable and likely to be highly popular, but it isn't in essence a perversion of the truth. Readers deriving their knowledge from these books will be amused, but they won't be led astray. Milton is a cheerful and entertaining guide, though no one will gain a PhD by using his books as source material. \nAdams died in 1620, three years before all the English merchants were forced to leave Japan. At one time James I in London had written letters to the "king" of Japan, but now that episode was over. The brief English trading presence in Japan was all but forgotten, and the country would have to be discovered all over again in the 19th century. \nThese early figures, with their quarrels over their local lovers, their influence out of all proportion to their real capabilities, and their consequently inflated ideas of their own importance, are amusing precursors of the resident expatriates in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan today. The horrors of the journey out are for the most part things of the past, but the enticements and rewards for living so far away from home, and the psychological and economic reasons for doing so, remain little changed. If you bear this in mind while reading Samurai William it becomes still more entertaining than it is in its own right. It's more likely, therefore, to give pleasure in Tokyo or Taipei than it is even in New York or London, and that's saying quite a lot.
It’s as if the outside world conspired to rob Yanshuei (鹽水) of its importance and prosperity. As waterways filled with silt, access to the ocean — which had made it possible for this little town, several kilometers from the sea in the northern part of Tainan, to become a major entrepot — was lost. The north-south railway, a key driver of economic development during the 1895-1945 period of Japanese rule, never arrived. Then, in the 1970s, the sugar industry went into terminal decline. Like Taiwan’s other old settlements, Yanshuei used to be a walled town. The defensive barrier is long
Taiwan’s history is full of three-digit numbers indicating the month and day of major events: there’s 228 denoting the pivotal White Terror incident in 1947 and 921 for the devastating Jiji earthquake of 1999. Not quite as well remembered are 823, which represents the start of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1958 or, 524, the date of an attack on the US Embassy in Taiwan by rioters the year before. One date that is now forgotten by all except the staunchest Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) nostalgists is the snappiest of the lot: 123. On Jan. 23, 1954,
We weave our way through an old cemetery in the dark, as the sound of our quarry gets closer. At the foot of an old tomb, beneath a pile of rubble, we find what we are looking for. Tonight we embark on the seventh and final stage of the Taipei Grand Trail (台北大縱走). Starting with an ascent up to Zhinan Temple (指南宮), on past the famous Maokong Potholes (貓空壺穴), we then meander through the tea plantations and tea houses overlooking Taipei city, finally ending the epic adventure back down at National Chengchi University (國立政治大學). This section was deliberately left until the end
Before he passed away in 2019, Dan Howard was a concept artist, working with major video game companies and posting his drawings online, where he had amassed a loyal fan base. Late last year, an anonymous account online started auctioning off Howard’s work as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a kind of digital asset often linked to an image or piece of artwork. Howard’s family only found out about the sales when a fan alerted them. “We felt like we’d been the victim of a high-tech grave robbery,” his brother Donovan, said. Donovan emailed OpenSea, the NFT marketplace where his brother’s work was posted, and the