This research project studies the first wave of Chinese migration to Taiwan ever in history, and the fruitful product produced by these immigrant farmers, sugar, which was sold at that time all over the world.
The pushing and pulling forces of Chinese migration are as follows. China experienced a tumultuous period when The Dutch East India Company (VOC) ruled Taiwan from 1624 to 1662. Ever since 1619, Ming Court was in war with Manchu and the latter ended Ming Dynasty and started Qing Dynasty in 1644. Massacre and famine pushed people to seek a secure place for living and for people in Fukien Province, Taiwan across the strait was a natural choice.
When the Dutch first arrived in Taiwan, aborigines were the main inhabitants of the island. Chinese only came here to make trades without being allowed by aborigines to engage in other productive activities. Taiwan was open to Chinese migrants only when aborigines became subjugated by the Dutch after a series of battles. And on the other hand, the Dutch was keen to recruit Chinese labor to hunt deer so that the Company could sell deerskins to Japan, to plant rice to satisfy the Dutch needs of food both locally and elsewhere in Asia, and lastly to plant sugar-cane in Taiwan so that the Company could sell sugar to the world market, including China, Japan, Persia and Europe.
It remains unclear how much sugar was produced and exported in 17th century Taiwan and how importantly it contributed to the Company’s profit. The process of Chinese migration also remains unclear. The pioneering work by Chiang Shu-sheng (1997) gives us some idea about the Chinese population dynamics in 17th century Taiwan. However,
because historical data are missing for quite a few years, some speculation is called for to fill in the gap. Since aborigines were mainly hunters and they engaged in only primitive farming, sugar was solely produced by Chinese immigrants at that time. There apparently existed a monotonic relationship between Chinese population and sugar production. This project will compile time series of Taiwanese sugar exports to complement the work by
Chiang Shu-sheng (1997) so that we could understand the Chinese migration process better.
During my one month visit at IIAS, I’ll collect data in the VOC archive, stored in National Archive in Den Haag. Though the VOC had kept accounting books in Taiwan, unfortunately almost all of them were lost and only some rare extracts are still available (Koo, 2011). So instead of studying sugar exported as recorded in Taiwan, I shall look for
sugar imported as recorded in other places. Among all markets, the sugar imported to Japan should be readily available in the accounting books kept by Japan Factory (Negotie Journaal) which I have used when studying exports of Taiwanese deerskins to Japan (Koo 2011). For markets in Persia and in Europe, I’ll endeavor to collect all the relevant
shipping invoices (factura) in this period. Lastly, because the VOC was not allowed to set up a factory in China, Taiwanese sugar was sent to China via Chinese junks. These junks needed to pay an export tax before leaving Taiwan. Their cargo, including sugar, was carefully recorded in the Company’s Diary (De Dagregisters Van Het Kasteel
Zeelandia, Taiwan 1629-1662) from which I’ll compile sugar exports to China.
Because some of these historical data might be missing, we also need to look for data elsewhere to confirm the accuracy of the compiled result. The annual land-surveys which investigated the reclaimed land in Taiwan for the purpose of taxation will provide us with the supporting evidence about agrarian development. Poll tax collected helps depict population of Chinese settlers over years. Besides quantitative data, letters from Taiwan Governor to the General Governor in Batavia (the VOC’s headquarter in Asia) will provide qualitative description of the situation in Taiwan.
The purpose of this thorough study of the VOC’s documents are two-fold: we wish to use sugar exports from Taiwan to the world market to assess the Company’s business strategy and we wish to reconstruct the Chinese migration process in 17th century Taiwan which was closely related to sugar plantation at that time.