A New Book on the Spanish Experience in Taiwan Coming Soon

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Saturday July 05, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Those interested in Taiwan's early encounters with the West and the outside world will be happy to know of a new book coming out this fall. The work, "The Spanish Experience in Taiwan 1626--1642: The Baroque Ending of a Renaissance Endeavor" by Jose Eugenio Borao of National Taiwan University is sponsored by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and in line to be published by Hong Kong University Press. For researchers of Seventeenth Century Taiwan, this is an important and fascinating part of the Taiwan mosaic. Here we see Taiwan on the furthest reaches of the Spanish Empire with all the hopes, challenges and conflicts faced by the Spanish at that time.

Many familiar with the two volume work, The Spaniards in Taiwan, by the same author will recollect it is mainly a compilation of the numerous Spanish documents of the time. This work is different; it is the story revealed by the documents and reads as such. We see how Spain first pursues access to the Spice Islands and spice trade and then China silk. There is the inevitable consequent competition and conflict with the Dutch and even sometimes the Portuguese. The European supremacy struggles between these three and others spill over into Asia.

Sea battles, blockades, Mexican silver, the China trade, eviction from Japan, the encounter with and treatment of Taiwan's aborigines, all these make up part of the tale. Driven by God, Glory, and Gold (though not necessarily in that order) the Spanish find themselves caught up in their own changing mentality from a hopeful confidence of the receding Renaissance to the more pragmatic, emotional, shadowy and sometimes pessimistic attitudes of the Baroque. Though unrealized at the time, we see the tipping point of an empire at its furthest reaches and the slow downward trend of decline. Taiwan provides the backdrop and Borao captures it well. This book should be on the shelf of any Taiwan scholar.