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.
May 23 to May 29 After holding out for seven years, more than 250 Yunlin-based resistance fighters were finally persuaded to surrender in six separate ceremonies on May 25, 1902. The Japanese had subdued most of the Han Taiwanese within six months of their arrival in 1895, but intermittent unrest continued — in Yunlin, the Tieguoshan (鐵國山) guerillas caused the new regime much headache through at least 1901. These surrender ceremonies were common and usually conducted peacefully, but the Japanese had different plans for these troublemakers. Once the event concluded, they gunned down every single attendee with machine guns. Only Chien Shui-shou
The toll rolls on. A gunman walks into a place where humans are peacefully gathering and slaughters them for a militantly-avowed racially-based nationalism, presented in a long manifesto. We are quickly told that the gunman was mentally ill. Obviously — who but a madman could do such a thing? The newspapers dust off one of their “education of a killer” pieces, change the names and run another 1,200 words useful only to those cultivating such killers. The latest of these attacks, on Taiwanese churchgoers in Laguna, California, has spurred much discussion of the long record of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) violence
Household appliances contain plastic components. Medical devices made of sterile plastic, such as disposable syringes and plasma bags, are indispensable to 21st-century healthcare. By preventing bruising and contamination, plastic packaging reduces food waste. Plastic cups and dishes are less fragile than ceramic tableware. PVC pipes and window frames have made house-building cheaper. But not everyone who benefits from this wonder material knows that plastics production requires huge amounts of energy, most of which is generated by burning fossil fuels. Plastics plants are also a source of harmful pollutants including benzene. Nor do all consumers appreciate the extent to which plastic
Tourism is a lopsided industry in most countries, and Taiwan is no exception. On some days, certain places are packed out with visitors, while others hardly ever see an excursionist. It’s probably true to say that tourism is even more uneven in Changhua County than in other counties or municipalities. Almost everyone has toured the famous temples and old streets of Lukang (鹿港), but how many readers of the Taipei Times have set foot in Jhutang (竹塘) or Sijhou (溪州), rural townships on the north bank of the Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪)? Not many people live in Jhutang — fewer than 14,600