Who are the people who established the foundations of Taiwan's modernization at the beginning of the 20th century? Who are the heroes of Taiwan's fight against the Japanese colonial regime? Who are the foreigners who showed more love for this land than many Taiwanese? It is their story that will be told in a TV series titled A Century of Outstanding People in Taiwan (台灣百年人物誌) to air on the Public Television Service (PTS) starting Tuesday.
It took PTS more than two years to produce such a large-scale historical documentary series. It is the first time PTS has chosen to air a documentary series during its prime time 8pm to 9pm, Monday to Friday time slot.
Thirty influential people from the last century are to be featured in the series, with each episode featuring one person's life. The first two episodes feature political movement pioneers Lin Hsien-tang (林獻堂) and Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水). In the 1920s, under Japanese rule, the two set up the Taiwan National Council and the Taiwan People's Party respectively, the first political parties to be established in Taiwan. They were the first people who sought to lift the status of Taiwanese during the Japanese occupation period through the creation of democratic political movements.
Lin also set up the Taiwan Culture Association which brought together Taiwan's cultural and intellectual elite in a forum for the promotion of Taiwanese culture.
Also featured in the series is George Leslie Mackay the first missionary to work in northern Taiwan. His name is still common currency among Taiwanese, associated as it is with the Mackay Memorial Hospitals. Less well known are his contributions to modern education in Taiwan.
For the first time in this type of historical documentary, three Japanese have been included on the honor roll. They include Shimpei Goto, who was the first Japanese governor of Taiwan. It was he who commissioned the first large-scale survey of Taiwan's folk culture. He also established the foundations of Taiwan's modern railway and industry.
Then there is Yoichi Hatta, a Japanese engineer who spent 20 years building the Chiayi-Tainan canal, at the time the largest irrigation project in Asia.
This project transformed the area covered by thecounties of Chiayi and Tainan from barren wilderness to the largest rice provider in Southeast Asia.
Finally there is Kanori Ino, who was the first anthropologist to investigate Taiwan's Aborigines and who wrote the world's first ethnography of Taiwan's Aboriginal people.
A Century of Outstanding People in Taiwan will air on PTS at 8pm on Tuesday.