Descendant of Britain’s first consul visits Taiwan

By Huang Chia-lin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sun, Jan 20, 2019 - Page 1

A descendant of Robert Swinhoe, the first British consul in what was then known as Formosa, on Thursday visited the British Consulate at Takow (打狗英國領事館) in Kaohsiung, hoping to deepen his understanding of his ancestor.

Robert Swinhoe was stationed in Taiwan in July 1861 as the first British vice-consul, and he set up the first British Consular Office in Taiwan in Taiwanfu (modern-day Tainan), the Kaohsiung Bureau of Cultural Affairs said.

Three years later, Britain relocated the vice consulate from Taiwanfu to Takao (modern-day Kaohsiung), after the Port of Kaohsiung was opened.

The vice consulate was upgraded to a consulate in 1865, with Swinhoe appointed its first consul.

Aside from his official capacities, Swinhoe was also a renowned biologist, introducing the first systematic catalog of Chinese and Taiwanese birds to Asia.

He also discovered more than one-third of birds in Taiwan, including Swinhoe’s pheasant, which is named after him.

Swinhoe was also responsible for certifying that the Formosan macaque was endemic to Taiwan.

Arriving in Taiwan on Thursday, Christopher Swinhoe-Standen visited the old consulate building, which is now a museum, accompanied by officials from the Kaohsiung Bureau of Tourism.

After taking a picture with Swinhoe’s statue on the premises — which showed Swinhoe discovering the macaques and the Odorrana swinhoana, or Swinhoe’s brown frog, which is also endemic to Taiwan — the bureau arranged a boat tour that took Swinhoe-Standen on the route his ancestor took when he cicumnavigated Formosa in 1858.

Learning about his ancestor’s past on the boat ride and taking in Kaohsiung’s excellent scenery was most enjoyable, Swinhoe-Standen said.

He would be sharing the photograph with his 91-year-old mother, Swinhoe-Standen said, adding that he was sure the story would be told for quite a while in the family.