April 17, 2012

0175 TAIWAN - The map of Taiwan in 1856

Despite the fact that the island was inhabited 4,000 years of aboriginal tribes, probably descendants of farmers who came from mainland China, and Han Chinese, who had settled nearby (in the Penghu islands) from the 13th century, called it Taiwan, the firsts Portuguese sailors who landed on its shores in 1544 found it necessary to named it Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island). Well, it seems to me rather an exclamation of admiration than a name, but the fact is that Europeans continued to call it so, even though malaria (the island lies on the Tropic of Cancer) and hostile aboriginals created many problems to the few sailors who were lost in this region.

Only on 1623 Dutch traders began to use the island (mainly the South) as a base for commerce with Japan and the coastal areas of China. Several years later, the Spaniards tried several times to establish settlements in the north of the island, but without much success due to Dutch and natives opposition. It followed a first inflow of migrants from coastal Fujian, mainly merchants and traders seeking to obtain hunting licenses from the Dutch or hide out to escape the Qing authorities. "The Gate of Hell", as called it Han Chinese, was largely "pacified" by the Dutch through punitive expedition.

In 1662, Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-gong), a loyalist of the Ming Dynasty, which had lost control of mainland China, defeated the Dutch and established a base of operations on the island. Zheng's forces were later defeated by the Qing Dynasty, and parts of Taiwan was integrated into the Qing Dynasty before it ceded the island to the Empire of Japan (1895) interested in a basis for its colonial expansion into Southeast Asia and the Pacific, but also by the rice and sugar produced on the island.

After the expulsion of the Dutch and Spaniards, contacts with Europeans were not restored until 1858, so in 1856, when it was published the map shown in the postcard (in France, it seems), Formosa was a territory little known and hardly accessible. Given China's situation at that time, which was on one side on the verge of a new war with the British Empire (the Second Opium War, 1856-1860), and on the other devastated by Taiping Rebellion (1850-1854), in which about 20 million people died, i don’t think that the map (Carte complète orographique et hydrographique de Formose traduite du Chinois par J. Léon de Rosny - Orographic and hydrographic complete map of Formosa, translated from Chinese by J. Léon de Rosny) have a purpose only scientific. Even though  Léon de Rosny (1837-1914) was a renowned ethnologist and linguist, founder of the Société d'ethnographie on Paris.

Map (available at a very good resolution here) was included by French cartographer Edme François Jomard in article Coup d'oel sur l'ile Formose, a l'occasion d'une carte Chinoise de cette ile (A glance at the island of Formosa, on the occasion of the arrival of a Chinese map of the island) published in December 1858 in Bulletin de la Société de Geographie.  

In the same year (1856), the Americans also published a map of the island, made during the Perry Expedition (1853-1854), which had as purpose (and as result) the opening of Japan to American and international trade, and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the western Great Powers.

The stamp is part of the New Year’s Greeting Postage Stamps set, issued at the end of 2010. 2011 was the Year of the Rabbit, so the 3 stamps (with the values of 3.50, 12 şi 13 NT$) shows, of course, rabbits. According to Chunghwa Post, "...The designs find inspiration in modern art styles, such as action painting and pop art. The motif rabbits are depicted using black silhouettes that are adorned with orange and purple paint splatters, which create lively compositions. The backgrounds, which are yellow with random red splatters, cleverly make use of traditional Chinese ink-wash effects. The bright colors symbolize joy and convey high expectations about the Year of the Rabbit..."

sender: Sophie (direct swap)
sent from Taipei (Taiwan), on 23.03.2012

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