The Mapping of Taiwan as Reviewed in AmCham's Topics

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Monday April 08, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

The following review by Don Shapiro was presented in "Topics," the magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (December 2012, Vol. 42, Issue 12) Shapiro jointly reviewed two books, "Democratizing Taiwan" by Bruce Jacobs, and "The Mapping of Taiwan" by Jerome Keating; presented below is that of "Mapping."

Unlike "Democratizing Taiwan," which is all text, Jerome Keating's "The Mapping of Taiwan" contains well-written explanations but is mainly brought to life by its numerous pages of beautifully reproduced maps from different sources and eras. A man of many talents, Keating first came to Taiwan in 1988 to work on an MRT project and stayed on as a university professor and writer.

In telling the story of how the world took notice of Taiwan and portrayed it on its maps, Keating presents it a broader context. He depicts the interplay over the centuries among the many powers that took an interest in Taiwan: the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British, Qing-Dynasty China, and Japan. The book covers the evolution of cartography in general; the voyages of the great explorers; the opening of the spice trade between East and West and the later expansion of commerce to tea, camphor, and other products; and the age of colonization (including Japanese rule in Taiwan). When steamships replaced sails and needed supplies of coal for the return voyage, the coal-mines near Keelung became a valued resource.

Keating traces the growing accuracy of cartography from the early efforts that sometimes presented Taiwan as three separate islands, and often failed to locate it on the Tropic of Capricorn. Even when mapping improved, the settled west coast was well documented long before the east, and the interior was left vague as indigenous lands.

In an issue of Taiwan Business TOPICS that also includes an article on the local printing industry, recognition should be given to the exquisite presentation that makes the volume a perfect "coffee table book." It is understandable that AmCham Taipei has chosen to present "The Mapping of Taiwan" as a thank-you gift to guest speakers at Chamber events.