SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

The Album commemorating the redevelopment of Taipei (1915)

Fan Ya-Ting
Speaker: Ms Fan Ya-Ting

Date: 7 December 2017Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 7 December 2017Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 116

Type of Event: Seminar


The urban redevelopment of Taipei under Japanese colonial rule began in 1900, but progress was slow. Reconstruction was rendered imperative, however, by natural catastrophe. Four typhoons hit Taiwan in the summer of 1911 with devastating effect. Of them the most damaging were the two at the end of August, which hit the island one after the other without respite. They carried a massive amount of rainwater, causing serious flooding in the centre of Taipei. Particularly badly affected were the low-lying areas in the north of Chengzhong, especially the districts of Fu-go Gai, Fu-chu Gai, Fu-zen Gai, Bun-bu Gai, the Hokumon Gai and the Sho-in Gai. Many buildings were severely damaged by the surge of dirty water. They included the older adobe buildings built from locally available materials for the ordinary Taiwanese Han groups, and the more recent wooden structures built by and for the Japanese. According to the report of the Taiwan Daily Newspaper, 2,280 houses had totally fallen down, 2,873 houses had partially collapsed, 89 houses were washed away, and 30,390 houses suffered severe water damage; 389 non-domestic buildings, too, had entirely collapsed, and 442 were partly destroyed.

The devastation wrought by these typhoons reinforced Japanese concerns about the quality of the urban infrastructure. It presented the Japanese administration with a grave problem, but also with an opportunity. It allowed them to implement a more thorough-going urban redevelopment than had previously been envisaged. It entailed the almost total rebuilding of three important streets in the administrative heart of the city. This opportunity gave the Japanese a chance to present themselves to the world as responsible overlords, and as modernisers. What is more it allowed them to establish a model for other cities in Taiwan to follow.

One way in which they chose to disseminate this programme of modernisation was 2 through the equally modern medium of photography. The Taipei Redevelopment Advisory Committee (part of the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office) instructed the Taiwan Daily Newspaper to publish an album of photographs that was to be entitled ‘Commemoration Album of the Redevelopment of the Taipei Urban Area (臺北市區 改築記念)’.

This talk explores why the album was produced, and how it promoted the Japanese colonial government.

About the Speaker

Fan Ya-Ting is a PhD student in History of Art Department of History, School of Humanities, University of Reading (from Oct, 2012). Her thesis title is Representing Japanese Taipei: studies in urban development and architectural style (1895- 1930)


Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

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