Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History


A pioneer is one who conceives of themself, or is perceived, as one who opens, claims, and demarcates new territory or charts new directions, in geographic, intellectual, political, or other terms. However, perspective is very important in defining this category of actor: a self-described pioneer might look to others as an invader, a colonizer, an oppressor. In the context of this module, the Southeastern Chinese who settled in Taiwan, including those who moved into the northern part of the island during the 18th and 19th centuries, conceived of themselves as pioneers who opened new territories for settlement and economic exploitation. Those who migrated from Fujian’s coastal regions, in particular, came out of a much longer tradition of seafaring and long-distance trade. They took as their principle deities Mazu (a sort of patron saint for travelers) and Kaizhang Shengwang (who was known for opening up parts of Fujian). However, these same pioneers intruded upon indigenous territories and contributed to the destruction of indigenous society. On the Japanese side, the settlers also saw themselves as pioneers, in the sense of opening Taiwan to modernity and civilization, and they carried with them deities that also had associations with clearing new lands and development. From the perspective of those who resided in Taiwan before 1895, these Japanese pioneers often threatened established communities and their practices. Readers should keep in mind these complexities regarding the human and divine pioneers in this module.

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