The mendicant religious orders within the Catholic church, started in the 13th Century, were products of the highly religious and meant to rebuild the church’s failing image. Over the centuries rivalries grew between these orders and, although they had generally the same goals and often worked together, they also vied with one another for power and influence. The Order of St. Dominic led the Catholic charge into Hermosa, partly to counter the protestant Dutch in the south, but mostly with an eye to forging new pathways to China and Japan. Here we look at a few of the most prominent of these Dominicans and their actions in Taiwan.
From 1624 the Dutch were encamped in southern Formosa (their name for Taiwan) and heavily disrupting trade in the region for the Spanish and Portuguese. By 1626 the Spanish had decided to take action and sent an expedition to form a colony in northern Hermosa (their name for Taiwan). After finding an apparently perfect place, complete with a village ready and waiting for them to occupy, they began experiencing difficulties. Supplies were in short demand, as Hermosa was the most distant outpost of the Spanish empire.
(above left) an image of Keelung Bay from 1626 showing what is today known as Heping (Peace) Island in the north. (above right) an image of Taiwan from the late 1630s showing the Dutch in the south and the Spanish in the north.
In this episode we discuss the religion of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, including their gods and ancestors, the duties of the priestesses and how they deal with illness and death. We also look at their architecture, their various arts and crafts, including pottery and fabric, as well as their styles of tattoos.
For those of you interested in reading McGovern’s work for yourself, here are some links to online versions of it. One long scrolling page from Project Gutenberg or as a flip book from Archive.org or another flip book by Manybooks.
Janet Blair Mongomery McGovern was an anthropologist and explorer who visited Formosa from 1916-1918 during the first phase of the Japanese colonial period. While ostensibly working as an English teacher, she spent her free time travelling the countryside to meet and learn about the indigenous peoples of Formosa. Using the information in her book, which has the same title as this episode, we will learn all we can about the Taiwanese indigenous and compare it to Dutch records from the 17th Century.
Link 1 and Link 2 to newspaper articles on the skull discovered in 2022 believed to have belonged to a pygmy.