Taiwanese should construct their own history, instead of relying on China’s historical point of view, Dutch writer Lambert van der Aalsvoort said at a book signing on Friday in Taipei, as he launched a new monograph on history in Taiwan from the 17th to 19th century.
The Chinese-language book is titled Anecdotes About Formosa: Western People’s First Encounter With Taiwan During the 1622-1895 Period (福爾摩沙拾遺：歐美的台灣初體驗1622-1895), published by Rhythms Monthly (經典雜誌).
It includes valuable historical documents and photographs, as well as Van der Aalsvoort’s interviews with descendants of Western figures who had a seminal influence on Taiwan’s development.
It is his second book on Taiwan, after Leaf in the Wind (風中之葉：福爾摩沙見聞錄), which was translated into Chinese and published in 2002 by Rhythms Monthly.
At the book signing, Van der Aalsvoort said that while writing the book, he found it troubling that many historical documents were written from the viewpoint of China.
“If a place’s history is hollowed out at the root, people living in the land will have difficulty forming a national identity,” he said.
As his work refers to many Western studies on Taiwan during the period, he concluded that Taiwan’s history is not shaped by a “single color,” but features colors across the spectrum, Van der Aalsvoort said.
He said that he hoped the book would help Taiwanese affirm their national identity, construct their own history and allow the island’s beauty to shine again — like how it appeared in the eyes of Western visitors centuries ago.
Leaf in the Wind was a surprise hit, with more than 17,000 copies sold, Rhythms Monthly editor-in-chief Wang Chih-hong (王志宏) said.
Most historical documents on Taiwan are in Chinese, but some Western documents, such as documents in Van der Aalsvoort’s book, might have been produced even earlier and include less-discussed accounts about Aborigines in earlier Taiwan, SMC Publishing Inc (南天書局) founder Wei Te-wen (魏德文) said.
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