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What Is "Fandz"? Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples in Historical Documents of the Qing Empire

  • #Calligraphy
  • #Painting
  • #Rare Books & Documents


In 1683, the 22nd year of the Kangxi emperor’s rule, the nascent Qing dynasty led by the Manchus began its imperial expansion by formally incorporating Taiwan as part of its domain, thereby beginning its control over the island. In ruling Taiwan, the Qing Empire divided the island inhabitants into two categories: “Min” (or “civilians,” referring to settlers from China proper) and “Fan” (or “peripherals,” the original Taiwanese indigenous peoples). “Fan” were further subdivided into “Shufan (acculturated peripherals),” “Shengfan (uncultivated peripherals),” and “Guihua Shengfan (or Huafan, uncultivated peripherals who became naturalized).”

In traditional terms, the area of the “Central Plains” was viewed as the heartland of the Chinese people, who were considered to have reached the highest level of civilization. Those in peripheral regions inhabited so-called “barbarian” lands with a lower degree of civilization. In fact, the names of several peripheral peoples became synonymous as derogatory terms in Chinese history for “barbarians,” such as “Man” (to the South), “Yi” (to the East), “Rong” (to the West), and “Di” (to the North). “Fan” was also one such disparaging term.

The National Palace Museum has a rich collection of historical documents from the Qing Empire that can be divided into the following general categories: archives, antiquarian books, history books, gazetteers, maps, and “tribute illustrations.” Among them, of course, are many records and descriptions of Taiwanese indigenous peoples. Here, a few of them have been selected to form an exhibition.

This exhibition, first of all, clarifies the meaning behind the terms “Fan” as well as “Shufan,” “Shengfan,” and “Guihua Shengfan (Huafan)” in historical documents of the Qing Empire as well as their ideology. Then, the exhibit analyzes these documents of the Qing Empire related to Taiwanese indigenous peoples and shows what were the image and reality of Taiwanese indigenous peoples. Finally, those who took part in reverse writing and collaborative authorship at the time are used to help explain and interpret the contemporary significance of these historical documents.