The Age of Exploration and Meiji Gakuin

After a few days in my Japan long-staying, I found out that my host institution, Meiji Gakuin University, has a study abroad group that will visit Taiwan soon. As a study abroad faculty veteran, I have to find out what the trip is about and perhaps tag along since I have a plan to visit Taiwan as well. It turns out the MGU travel group itinerary does overlap mine! The faculty lead of the group, Professor Nishihara, is super nice and invited me to join them in Taiwan – so here it is; I went to Tainan, the first capital of Taiwan, in a beautiful (but hot!) afternoon to join him and his students, exploring Fu Cheng (meaning “capital”)’s history and delicious Tainan street foods.

Professor Nishihara (center first row) and his students in Fort Zeelandia

Textbooks in Taiwan did not really teach much about the role of Tainan, or the history of Taiwan for that matter when I grew up. Education at that time existed only to serve ruling Kuomintang’s “great China” ideology, so much of my knowledge of the history of the land where I grew up comes from my reading after I started college. But even though I only read about the events and stories under Dutch rule, Koxingya rule, Qing rule, and then Japanese colonial rule – but in Professor Nishihara’s lecture to his students, I came to realize that history has many lenses….and his as a scholar studying international trade shows that we can look at the role of Taiwan in the age of great exploration – when Europeans and Asian nations interacted and traded – not necessarily political in the beginning but simply explorers trying to find their wealth. Fu Cheng happens to be in an exact location where Europeans, Chinese, and Japanese merchants can meet and trade. Anyway, my quick trip to southern Taiwan was a time well spent and I look forward to meeting with more MGU stuents in Tokyo when the new semester starts!

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