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A Brief Journey through Tainanfu, Lugang, and Bangkah

Taiwan has been an important stronghold in the Pacific Ocean since the Age of Discovery. Tainanfu, Lugang, and Bangkah were three critical commercial port cities that played a crucial role in the trading history of Taiwan. These three cities witnessed Taiwan’s involvement in the international trade zone and symbolized its busy business activities starting in the seventeenth century. This article investigates records created by a Qing official Shen Bao-zhen, the Hsu family enterprise in Lugang, and the Chen family enterprise in Nagasaki to illustrate the rich history of these three port cities.

A 10-year Cause for Port Construction in Eastern Taiwan

1. Hualien Port in the Eyes of Governor-General Den Kenjiro

With the Truku being ‘pacified’, Japanese rule gradually became stable, thus allowing the Government-General of Taiwan to focus on the development of the eastern region. In 1919, Den Kenjiro (田健治郎, 1855-1930), the first civilian governor-general, took office. On April 20, 1920, he landed at Hualien Port on his official inspection tour by ship and recorded in his diary his impression of Hualien Port, his experience of the inconvenience of getting there, and his conviction of transportation development in eastern Taiwan as of top priority

“At eight o'clock in the morning, the ship entered Hualien Port. Despite being called a port, it is actually in the open sea. The difficulty of passengers boarding, goods loading and unloading in autumn and winter is beyond description. It is not uncommon that regular ferries, unable to anchor, sail away without passengers or goods……We had to transfer to a small boat and headed towards the shore. Strong tide averted us from landing. Dozens of aborigines jumped naked into the sea, took advantage of the tide and dragged the boat ashore. This is typical of Hualien Port……Despite years of colonial rule, inconvenience of sea and land transportation, malaria and scrub typhus, conflicts with the aborigines have hindered Japanese immigrants from settling here, resulting in labor shortage. In view of the desolate situation, development of transportation is absolutely of necessity and urgency.”

Figure 5  Diary of Den Kenjiro dated April 20, 1920
The Diaries of Taiwan Governor-General Den Kenjiro have been published in three volumes. Both full text and images are available at the Taiwan Diary Knowledge Bank of the Institute of Taiwan History.
Source: 1920 Diary of Den Kenjiro, Den Kenjiro Papers (T0818), 1920.

Figure 6  A vertical scroll with calligraphic inscription of a seven-character quatrain written by Den Kenjiro in 1920
According to the inscription and the diary description of Den Kenjiro, this poem was written on April 21, 1920 when he received the aborigines on his official inspection tour in Hualien.
Source: Calligraphic inscription of a seven-character quatrain by Den Kenjiro, Yang Ru-bin Collection (T1052), 1920.

2. Hualien before Port Construction

Although named as a port, Hualien had no natural harbor. Before the port was constructed, the coastal area in Nanbin, where the present-day Taipingyang Park is located, was the main site for communication with the outside world. Supplies were transported by steamship shuttling between Keelung and Kaohsiung 12 times each month. However, the waters along the Nanbin coast were shallow and large ships could not dock. Instead, they had to anchor distant from the shore and transported passengers and goods to the land by small boats or barges, which were often tossed and rocked by the rolling waves while waiting to be pulled ashore.

Moreover, in the absence of man-made facilities for sheltering from wind and waves, transportation was often impeded by storms. The rough sea made it impossible for transfer to barges or for landing despite the destination in sight. Even upon landing, lots of laborers were needed to assist in towing the barges and unloading the cargoes. The poor infrastructure and inadequate port facilities increased both the risk and costs of cargo transport, which was one of the factors hindering the industrial development of Hualien.

Figure 7  Postcard showing coastal area of Hualien during Japanese colonial era
Shown in the postcard was how cargoes were transported. Coolies on the shore took turns carrying the cargoes to the barges, and the barges carried the cargoes to the ships anchored at sea.
Source: Scene of coastal area of Hualien, Michael H. Finnegan Collection (T0203).

3. Eguchi Ryosaburo – Chief Executive of Hualien Port Prefecture

Eguchi Ryosaburo (江口良三郎, 1869-1926) was beyond doubt the crucial contributor to the construction of Hualien Port. A native of Saga Prefecture, Japan and a member of the Army, Eguchi came to Taiwan in 1895 and served successively as the Chief of Police Section in Ilan Prefecture (宜蘭廳警務課長) and of the Aboriginal Affairs Section under the Government-General of Taiwan (總督府理蕃課長). In 1920, he was appointed the Chief Executive of Hualien Port Prefecture (花蓮港廳長), for his meritorious service in the Truku War, to handle the cases of resistant aborigines involved in police assaults.

Between 1921 and 1924, the Commercial and Industrial Association of Hualien Port (花蓮港商工會) had petitioned many times to the Prefecture and the Government-General of Taiwan for constructing a fishing port and a place of refuge. In response to such demands, Eguchi actively promoted the construction of Hualien Port during his term of office. Despite repeatedly asserting the necessity of port construction, the proposal was time and again turned down for various reasons including insufficient budget. At the same time, Eguchi also trained a baseball team named NOKO, made up mainly of aborigines from Hualien. Through NOKO’s participation in the Koshien baseball tournament, Hualien became more well-known in Japan. In 1922, Eguchi secured a funding of 30,000 yen to build near Milun Bay (the present-day Meilun Coast) a small breakwater, which was later called “Eguchi Jetty” (江口突堤). Nevertheless, Eguchi passed away in 1926 before realizing the goal of port construction. A monument was set up in commemoration for his contribution, and is now located in the Niaotashih Memorial Park.

Figure 8  A monument at Hualien in commemoration of Eguchi Ryosaburo
Source: Eastern Taiwan Prospect, Guo Shuang-fu Collection (T1022), 1935.

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