In her book Taiwan’s Imagined Geography Emma Tung presents the history of the relationship between China and Taiwan beginning in 1683 and ending in 1895. In this work she presents and defends the crucial role of travel writing in the Qing Empire moving past seeing Taiwan as a “ball of mud” without worth to incorporating the island into the Chinese empire. The majority of the book is a summarization of the history of Taiwan after it was conquered by China, as well as the way in which travel writing was used in developing the Chinese’ early beliefs about Taiwan.
Despite having captured Taiwan the Xangqi Emperor did not feel that the island was of much use or importance. His court agreed and ...view middle of the document...
By adding Taiwan to the maps and producing more information on the island a sense of connection was created between mainland China and Taiwan. One noted example being that the mountain ranges represented a barrier between China and the rest of the world, a good defense from invasion.
As the people of Mainland China began to discover more about Taiwan the opinion that Taiwan was a mirror of ancient China began to form. This was largely in part due to the works of Chen Di, who fashioned himself as an unofficial historian. He focused on the “primitive” practices of the Island’s people – these practices where much like if not exactly like those recoded in texts such as the Shiji. Lin Qianguang on the other hand wrote about Taiwan in a positive way that painted a much better picture of the natives. No matter which text was preferred, the Chinese still went through with “civilizing” the Taiwanese. This was the act of teaching them the Confucian classics.
China never intended to permanently acquire Taiwan and continued to consider it as rather useless despite their relatively bland attempts at “Civilizing” the native people. It remained separate from China in a political sense; in fact China had only conquered a part of the island and had no intention of trying to expand to the rest of it. The land itself was harsh wilderness and the Chinese believed the natives to be “savages”, not to mention the outlaws and bandits that were able to hide easily amongst the heavy vegetation. It was because of the vast wilderness that the area was said to be untouched by humans, and map makers even left things unlabeled and without key identifying markers. However, when Lan Dingyuan arrived in Taiwan he felt that the area had agricultural potential and searched for the positive features of the land. As time passed and the land was utilized it became referred to as an “uncut piece of jade” rather than a “ball of mud”.
The customs of Taiwan were first explored in depth by Censor Huang Shujing after the Zhu Yigui rebellion. During his travels he came to the realization that the Taiwanese were not that different than Chinese people. It was his work that brought forth the question of race versus ethnicity when dealing with the Taiwanese people and their relationship to the Chinese. In this particular work Tung considers racial issues to be based off of physical differences- such as the shape of facial features and skin color- and ethnic issues to be based on culture. Both issues existed at the time, and caused great debate.
The terms “raw” and “cooked” were used to describe the Taiwanese “savages”. Those who had submitted to the authority of the Qing and abided by their rules an way of life were considered to be “Cooked”, those who had not come into contact with the Qing or who did not acknowledge the so called supreme power and authority of the Qing were considered to be “raw”. Most notably the “cooked savages” paid the Qing taxes, thus benefiting the empire despite the...