Episode 15 – Red Seal Ships and the Mandate of Heaven

Before continuing Zheng Zhilong’s story, we take a moment to look at piracy in the Taiwan Strait and surrounding seas, briefly discuss two unlikely samurai and get an understanding of the Chinese concept of the Mandate of Heaven.

Painting from 1665 by Hendrik van Schuylenburgh, depicting the VOC factory in Bengal.
1866 illustration of William Adams.
From this story about his life
17th Century painting by an unknown Japanese artist depicting a Red Seal Ship.

For those interested in reading more about former Dutch colonies in Asia,
read more here.

For those interested in reading more about foreigners who became samurai,
read more here (but ignore the picture of Tom Cruise).


The Summer holidays are here and as a teacher this means I have free time, so I’m going to visit family – some of whom I have not seen in ages. This means I will be away for about six weeks, give or take a week.
Not to worry, though. I have books and will get a lot of reading done, so I can jump back into recording upon my return.

Here’s a Taiwan Blue Magpie to keep you company until I return.
Copyright James Shone 2021

Episode 14 – Zheng Zhilong (鄭芝龍)

Born in Fujian Province (like Li Dan) and having spent his teenage years working abroad in European settlements in Asia (like Li Dan), Zheng Zhilong was constantly getting into trouble (like Li Dan) and angled his life toward piracy (like Li Dan). It seems inevitable that these two would meet and become the closest of allies.

Episode 13 – Li Dan (李旦)

The man, the myth, the legend.

Li Dan was arguably the greatest of the pirate princes that operated within the Taiwan Strait. He single-handedly built an empire, uniting the pirate bands from Japan to Java into a coalition – the first Asian mulitnational congolmerate – and he did it all through the cunning use of multiple personas, crafty underhanded dealing and sheer charisma.

The Castle of Batavia painting by Andries Beeckman, 1656.
This painting shows the style of fortress that the Dutch constructed in Southeast Asia.

One name mentioned in conjunction with pirates and Taiwan is Yan Shiqi. As there is limited information on him and his background parallels Li Dan’s remarkably, some scholars have suggested that they are one and the same. Shiqi apparently also went to by Christian name Pedro. Here’s a link to a short article on him.

Episode 12 – Foundation & Empire

After the Dutch were forced off the Penghu Islands (Pescadores), they established themselves on Taiwan’s southwest coast. The Chinese authorities were happy with this, as the Dutch were now outside of Chinese territory.
The Dutch would continue to try open trade negotiations with the Chinese. They also began to explore their new surroundings, getting into conflicts with locals, while also making new friends. They were expanding their empire – but what exactly is an empire?

Bilingual Bible, with Dutch on one side and the Sinkan language on the other, printed in Amsterdam in 1661.

The Alliance of Throne and Altar
For those interested in learning more about the connection between organised religion and governmental control, take a listen to this podcast from Prof. C.J.

Episode 11 – First Impressions

Prior to the Dutch arrival, the Taiwan indigenous peoples had no written language. For this reason, we have little in the way of records of these people before the 1600s. In order to understand the impression they would have of the newly arrived Dutch, we take a look at how European hygiene habits changed from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment era.
We also take a brief look into cultural diets.

Taiwanese Aborigined by Olfert Dapper (1670), property of Radboud University, Nijmegen (Gelderland), the Netherlands

Kurzgesagt video on milk
Ted Ed video on Cheese (a continuation of the milk theme)

Episode 10 – The World the Dutch Were Entering

In this episode we take a brief overview of the history of the Southern Asia and the Far East, paying particular attention to trade and the spreading of religion. This will give us at understanding of the world that the Dutch were stepping into.

The Dutch begin to challenge the Portuguese in the Far East. Here is a link to a site that shows the rise and fall of the Portuguese colonial empire.

Portuguese Colonies

Episode 09 – Japan Part 2 (from the Sengoku Jidai to the mid-17th Century)

The second part of this brief overview of Japan looks at the three great unifiers of Japan, the introduction of arquebus muskets, the Japanese attempt to invade Korea and their mild interest in taking control of Taiwan.

The Extra History episodes on the Sengoku Jidai link.

Link to John Lothe’s reading of Eric Frank Russell’s story, And Then There Were None.
(Note, this reading is around 3 hours long)

Update – A Cold War

As some of you may have known, I appeared as a guest aboard the Cold War podcast produced by Cameron Reilly and Ray Harris aptly named A Cold War. To be fair, I was a bit nervous being interviewed by these giants in the podcasting world and ended up going off on far too many tangents; something which I warned them I was prone to do. Also the slight lag in response time made social cues a little more difficult. Still, I feel the interview went well. They must have concurred as they released the interview.
My interview came out in parts to fit their release schedule and I am happy to announce that all episodes are now out. I have linked to them below.

Taiwan during the Cold War, Part 1
Taiwan during the Cold War, Part 2
Taiwan during the Cold War, Part 3
Taiwan during the Cold War, Part 4

Here is a link to the first episode of Cam and Ray’s A Cold War podcast. If you find it intriguing, perhaps consider signing up for the show.

Episode 08 – Japan Part 1 (From the Heian Period to the 1500s)

To understand Taiwan we also need to understand the other political players in the region. So far we have largely ignored Japan, save to say that there were Japanese pirates operating in the area.
As we are currently in the 1500s, we will take a slight detour into the past to catch up on what has been happening in Japan from the Heian Period (794-1185 CE), the rise of the Fujiwara clan, the Hogan and Heiji Rebellions leading to the rise of the Minamoto family and the rise of the position of shogun over that of the emperor, the Kenmu Restoration and rise of the Ashikaga Shogunate and its demise, leading to the start of the Sengoku Jidai.

Modern day Japan: Link

Akira Kurosawa’s use of movement in Samurai Seven.

Prof. CJ’s Gain and the State Episode and his Dangerous History Podcast.