Overview of Qing Dynasty Taiwan
清領時期總論 中文版本

Classification:History > Sovereignty under Qing Dynasty > Broad Essay
Contributor: Huang Fusan Bio
Hsu Hsuehchi Bio
In 1683 (22th year of Kangxi [康熙] Emperor), the Qing (清) court defeated the Zheng (鄭) regime, annexing Taiwan into its realm in 1684 and ruling it for 212 years, until it ceded Taiwan to the Japanese in 1895 (21st year of Guangxu [光?] Emperor). This time under the Qing is known historically in Taiwan as the Qing regime or Qing rule. This was the first time Taiwan had been united with the mainland, and also the time of greatest development in Taiwan. Politically, the fixed Chinese regime allowed the development of patriotic ideology; economically, Taiwan developed rapidly, forming a reciprocal economic system with the mainland; socially, there was a large influx of Han (漢) immigrants, who took over the most fertile parts of the plains, superseding the aboriginal people as the dominant ethnic group and reinforcing the establishment of Han society there. Culturally, Confucian thought and cultural and educational systems were established.

(1) Political Aspects

In 1683, Zheng Keshuan (鄭克塽), the last Zheng clan King of Yanping (延平郡王), surrendered to the Qing. Having pacified the anti-Qing powers abroad, the Qing court turned to its former intention to “move its people to abandon their lands” while guarding the Pescadores Islands as a smokescreen. Later, Shi Lang (施琅), the Jinghai General (靖海將軍, commander-in-chief of the navy), who had a great understanding of Taiwan because of his success in conquering it, urged the court not to abandon it, but to annex it into China’s territory, forming Taiwan Fu (臺灣府, Taiwan Prefecture) and dividing it into the three counties of Taiwan, Zhuluo (諸羅) and Fengshan (鳳山), under the government of Fujian (福建) province. The civil service established the Taiwan Dao (臺灣道, Taiwan Intendant), while the military established the Taiwan Zhen Zongbingguan (臺灣鎮總兵官, Garrison Commander of Taiwan Zhen); these were highest-ranking civil and military offices on Taiwan, both stationed in the capital Fucheng (府城, now Tainan [臺南]). Along with the gradual predominance of Han migrants, the Qing government established administrative divisions as necessary. In 1723 (1st year of Yongzheng [雍正] Emperor), the one prefecture and three counties changed to one Fu (府, prefecture), four counties and two Ting (廳, subprefectures); in 1812 (17th year of Jiaqing [嘉慶] Emperor), this changed to one prefecture and three sub-prefectures; in 1875, this changed to two prefectures, eight counties and four subprefectures; in 1885, after Taiwan was made a separate province, this changed to three prefectures, one department, eleven counties and four sub-prefectures. The prefectures were governed by Zhifu (知府, prefect); the department by a Tongzhi (同知, sub-prefect), the sub-prefectures by Tongzhi and Tongpan (通判, local magistrate) and the counties by Zhixian (知縣, county magistrate).

After Taiwan was made a province, the highest-ranking official was Xunfu (巡撫, provincial governor), under whom was the Buzheng Shi (布政使, Financial Commissioner). The provincial capital was Qiaozitu (橋孜圖, now Taichung [臺中]) in Changhua (彰化); however, the office of the xunfu was in Taipei, as the provincial capital was not yet established. In 1891, after Shao Youlian (邵友濂) was appointed xunfu, Taipei was made the provincial capital. In 1894, the First Sino-Japanese War broke out between the Qing government and Japan over the sovereignty of Korea; the Qing were defeated and signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki on 17 April 1895, annexing Taiwan to Japan. To resist Japan, the Taiwanese aristocracy appointed the Xunfu Tang Jingsong (唐景崧) as president and formed the Republic of Formosa. However, as the Qing government had already signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, it reassigned its civil and military officials to Fujian, and the democratic republic received no support. Nevertheless, the Taiwanese militia used firearms taken from the Japanese army to resist the Japanese all over the island. On 17 June, Kabayama Sukenori (樺山資紀), the first governor-general of Taiwan, held a “Ceremony for the Inauguration of Rule”, symbolizing the beginning of the Japanese possession of Taiwan; the Imperial Guard, led by Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa, quelled the anti-Japanese resistance to the south. Japanese reinforcements attacked Budai (布袋) in Chiayi (嘉義) and Fangliao (枋寮) in Pingtung (屏東); on 23 October, the Japanese army entered Tainan, ending Taiwanese resistance for a time. This Taiwanese armed resistance against the Japanese is known as the Battle of Yiwei (乙未之役); details are recorded in Wu Degong’s (吳德功) Rang Tai Ji (讓臺記, Record of the Annexation of Taiwan).

During the period of Qing rule, the central government in Beijing dealt with Taiwan through two channels: one was the deployment of the Green Standard Army (綠營) in Taiwan from Fujian (and partly from Guangdong [廣東] and Jiangxi [江西]); the other was the establishment of cultural and educational institutions in Taiwan, such as prefectural Confucian schools, county Confucian schools and regional classical academies (書院). Ambitious scholars could work their way through their scholarly honours in the prefectural examinations (府試, in Taiwan prefecture), provincial examinations (鄉試, in the provincial capital in Fuzhou [福州]), metropolitan examinations (會試, in Beijing [北京]) and the court examinations (殿試, in Beijing) and enter the bureaucratic system. As well as the arts, those of military background could also rise up through Taiwan’s social hierarchy. This competitive road for scholars also provided a certain avenue for the Qing central government to interact with remote, coastal Taiwan. Through the imperial examination system and governmental promotion, Taiwanese society could become more civilized and less likely to revolt against the Qing.

In order to maintain social order, the Qing government deployed the Green Standard Army to Taiwan; divisions would rotate on a three-yearly basis called the Banbing (班兵, troop rotation system, or shift army system) system. A total of 10,000 troops were divided into 10 camps, three camps were the main force, with at least one third of the shift army stationed as security forces and on guard duty. The shift army was at its peak in the Daoguang (道光) era, with a total of 14,000 troops; after this, the Green Standard Army gradually began to decline, with reducing troops while increasing their pay (裁兵加餉) during the Tongzhi (同治) era; the number reduced further in the early Guangxu (光緒) era; by 1893, only 2400 troops remained. With the Green Standard Army thus reduced, it was replaced by the Yong Ying (勇營, Brave Camps) and the 4000-strong Fantun (番屯) force, established after the Lin Shuangwen Incident (林爽文事件), which became the main force for keeping the peace and resisting foreign aggression in the mid to late Qing Period.

The Brave Camps came from all over China; with the name of the Xiang Army (湘軍), the Chu Army (楚軍), the Huai Army (淮軍), the Henan Force (河南兵, soldiers recruited south of the Pearl River [珠江] in Guangdong [廣東]) it was called the Guest Army (客勇). Its task was to suppress the aborigines in remote areas, and to resist the French and the Japanese. The strength of the Taiwanese army was the Tuyong (土勇, local braves); its power was with the foot soldiers who were all connected with the Lin family in Wufeng (霧峰林家). Another Taiwanese army was a successful force of villagers taken to Fujian and Zhejiang by Lin Wencha (林文察) to fight bandits; Lin Wencha later met his end against the Taiping Army (太平軍) and the force was no more. His son Lin Chaodong (林朝棟) inherited his title and led the Dong Army (棟軍) to success against the French in the First Sino-French War and also pacified the aborigines of Zhaolan (罩蘭, now Zhuolan [卓蘭 ] in Miaoli [苗栗] county) and the Shi Jiuduan Incident (施九緞事件). Later, as the Dong Army was demobilized to be stationed in other places, they gradually took on other expeditions opening up farmland; their military might diminished and by the end of the Qing era they lacked any power to resist the Japanese.

Even though the Qing Empire had annexed Taiwan into its territory, people from Fujian and Guangdong who wished to cross to Taiwan had to have a permit and to go through the authorized ports (正口). Those doing so at first were not able to be accompanied by their wives and children, which led to many stowaways. Even though restrictions were imposed on the “scourging flood,” it was impossible to impede large-scale migration. Men outnumbered women in early migrant society in Taiwan; there were many luohanjiaos (羅漢腳, vagrants), as well as vices and secret societies brought over from Fujian and Guangdong, such as the Tiandihui (天地會), which spread among the people, causing uprisings which shook the whole of Taiwan. There were three major uprisings during the Qing rule: the Zhu Yigui Incident (朱一貴事件) in 1721, the Lin Shuangwen Incident (林爽文事件) in 1787 and the Dai Chaochun Incident (戴潮春事件) in 1862. The Dai Chaochun Incident was the largest of these; at this time, the Qing government was overwhelmed with the Taiping Rebellion, which had reached Fujian and Guangdong; there were limited reinforcements able to be sent to Taiwan, which made the situation worse. As well as the three major mass uprisings, the pirate Cai Qian (蔡牽) harassed the coastal areas during the Jiaqing era, scattering Taiwan to the north and south and causing the Qing court to change its thinking on Taiwan, which was “guarding the mountains, not the sea; guarding inwardly, not outwardly.” In later years, all of its conflicts came from across the sea: the Rover Incident (羅發號事件) of 1867, the Mudan Incident (牡丹社事件) of 1874, the First Sino-French Wa in 1884 and 1885, and the Battle of Yiwei (乙未之役) in1895.

The Rover and Mudan incidents were both caused by “natives” murdering shipwrecked foreigners. Before Han migrants reclaimed parts of Taiwan, it belonged to the indigenous peoples; once ruled by the Qing, Taiwan’s indigenous people were divided into “wild aborigines (生番, Shengfans)” and “tamed barbarians (熟番, Shoufans),” depending on whether they were naturalized and paid taxes. To make it easier to govern, and to implement education, schools were established for the noble savages; some of them even passed the county examinations. Chen Baohua (陳寶華), an “educated aboriginal(番秀才),” set up an aboriginal school to educate the children of the chieftains (頭目, Toumu) when Liu Mingchuan (劉銘傳) was in power. There were many conflicts between the Han and the aboriginals; the Qing court, using the divide-and-conquer principle, allowed chieftains to retain their status and established agents to mediate between the chieftains and the authorities. The Han became more and more populous, matching the number of aboriginals by the end of the Qianlong era. To prevent Han immigrants overstepping their boundaries and grabbing more land, the Qing court set up a “Tuniu Red Line (土牛紅線)”; however, this was often ineffective and the Han would encroach on the living areas of the aboriginal people; guards (隘勇) were set in place but were unable to ensure the safety of the Han settlers. Land grabbing by the Han often incurred resistance from the aborigines, with the Dajiaxi Incident (大甲西社事件), the Battle of Dakekan (大嵙崁之役) and the Lujiawang Incident (呂家望事件) among the more major of the incidents that occurred.

(2) Economic Aspects

During the Qing Dynasty, Taiwan made significant progress in farming, trade, mining and transport.

It is widely known that Taiwan exported cane sugar from the Dutch colonial period to the early Qing period; however, towards the end of the Kangxi era, at the turn of the 17th century, there was increasing pressure on the mainland population, and immigrants came to Taiwan in large numbers. This led to large-scale land reclamation and paddy field movement (水田化運動). The increased rice output surpassed sugar in volume; rice and sugar became the two largest export products.

Taiwan’s tropical climate, high rainfall and fertile soil are suitable for agriculture; however, the large, flat plains were undeveloped deer farms. These plains were very attractive to the Han, who were skilled in rice cultivation. As a result, the Han used every means possible, legal and illegal, honest or dishonest, to acquire land and develop it.

As land reclamation used a lot of resources and labor, most immigrants were not rich; their secret to completing their reclamation within a short time frame was to embark on joint ventures. The method of land reclamation in the Qing Dynasty was usually done by a request for permission for land cultivation by someone rich and powerful, an investor or a joint venture, who would then set up a land development company (墾號). Land development companies were often partnership organizations and sometimes family organizations; many people could work together to raise large amounts of capital. Additionally, as the land to be developed was very expansive, and the allotted period for development was only three to five years, many developing households (墾戶) would recruit tenant farmers (佃戶) to provide labor and capital, as well as engaging in actual development work. Thus, both parties used their strength, shared the risks and completed their redevelopment missions as quickly as possible. Because it was a joint operation, once the land was reclaimed, the developing households became the tax-paying proprietor (業戶) and the tenant farmer had perpetual tilling rights. Later, tenants could assign their fields to another; they were even free to buy and sell their perpetual tilling rights, virtually becoming landlords themselves; they paid large-rents (大租) to the landowner and took small-rents from their tenants; this formed the “large-and-small rent holder system (大小租制)” of one field having two owners. To begin with, the large-rent holders were the rich and powerful; however, later, they began to decline and were replaced by the small-rent holders. Most of the land was rented by the small-rent holders, such as the Lin family in Banqiao (板橋林家) and the Lin family in Wufeng (霧峰林家). Kavalan (噶瑪蘭, now Yilan [宜蘭]) also had the jieshou system (結首制); the mountainous area in Hsinchu (新竹) had the frontier defense system (隘墾制); there were different renting systems according to the different production environments.

The success of land reclamation in Taiwan depended on the paddy fields. Before the 17th century, Taiwan’s main agricultural export was sugar; the irrigation facilities were low walls and pools with a limited volume of water. Later, greater irrigation was needed for rice cultivation; furrows began to appear in the land. Well known irrigation works include Babao canal (八堡圳) in Changhua plan (彰化平原), Huludun canal (葫蘆墩圳) in the Taichung (臺中) Basin, Liugong canal (?公圳) in Taipei and Caogong canal (曹公圳) in Fengshan (鳳山). The plains were rapidly converted into rice paddies; rice production sharply increased, with large quantities exported to the mainland; Taiwan became China’s barn of the southeast.

Although Taiwan is rich in agriculture, it never developed handicrafts; on the other hand, Fujian had a shortage of rice and north and central China had a shortage of sugar, but had a thriving handicrafts industry. There were many kinds of items for daily use that were also cheap; so trade flourished between the two sides of the strait, and a reciprocal economic system was formed. Taiwan exported agricultural products to the mainland, such as rice, sugar, peanut oil and indigo, and imported textiles, porcelain, building materials and items for daily use. Due to the large volume of trading, the “jiao” (郊, guild merchants) trade system emerged. Jiao were mercantile trade associations responsible for charting business regulations; jiao merchants were engaged in trade on both sides of the strait.

Jiao were normally named after the trading locality or the merchandise; for instance, the “Xia Jiao (廈郊)” was the organization for trading at the port of Xiamen (廈門); the “Cloth Jiao” dealt with transactions in textiles. Fujian had three jiao: the “North Jiao”, the “South Jiao” and the “Sugar Jiao”; Lugang had eight, including the “Quan Jiao (泉郊)”, the “Cloth Jiao” and the “Oil Jiao”. As trade was flourishing, a number of prosperous trading ports began to appear in Taiwan’s coastal areas, such as Fucheng, Lugang and Manka (艋舺); these were known as “1st Fucheng (Tainan), 2nd Lugang, 3rd Manka (一府二鹿三艋舺).” . At the same time, many rich jiao were beginning to form, even rivaling the large landowners.

From 1858 to 1860, Taiwan began to open up trade relations; in 1862, Tamsui (淡水, Danshui) was the first port opened for trade, followed by Anping (安平), Quelang (雞籠, now Keelung [基隆]) and Tagau (打狗, now Kaohsiung [高雄]) in 1863. Due to the abundance of camphor, tea and coal in Taiwan, foreign merchants established foreign trading companies and reintroduced a global trading system. Well known foreign trading companies include Jardine, Matheson & Co., Dent & Co., Dodd & Co., Elles & Co. and Boyd & Co. As well as opium, the foreign trading companies imported Western products such as textiles, metals, kerosene and matches, and sold Taiwanese sugar, camphor and tea all over the world. Tea became the greatest of these exports and the greatest source of trade surplus; Formosan Oolong (福爾摩沙烏龍) became world famous.

With the foreign trading companies as incentive, local merchants also began to emerge as the new Taiwanese merchant class (新臺商). Many of these were from backgrounds as compradors or rich merchants; they used their new business methods to cut their own slice of heaven. Among these were Li Chunsheng (李春生) of Taipei, Chen Fuqian (陳福謙) of Dagou, the Lin family of Banqiao and the Lin family of Wufeng.

Because of the trade surplus, people’s livelihoods greatly improved. The relationship between Taiwan and the foreign merchants grew steadily closer; great changes were made in Taiwan’s industrial makeup. The rice and sugar economy transformed into a tea, sugar and camphor economy; as tea, camphor and coalmines were in the north, Taiwan’s economic centre also moved to the north.

From 1875, China, viewing increasing foreign aggression, altered its policy of “guarding against attack from Taiwan” to one of “guarding Taiwan’s borders from foreign encroachment,” promoting modern construction and making a certain degree of progress in transport and mining.

In terms of land transport, Taiwan formerly had official roads with relay stations, including zhengzhan (正站) and yaozhan (腰站); these were used for the passing on of documents and letters. There were also private roads; there were lanes for people and “wagon roads” for oxcarts. The most famous road is the railroad; the Quelang-Taipei section was begun in 1887 and completed in 1891; the Taipei- Hsinchu section was completed in 1893. These were the first railroads built by the Qing Empire; Taiwan led the mainland in the modernization of its transport mechanisms. In terms of waterways, the Qing Empire had ferry ports (對渡口岸); initially there were only Anping and Xiamen; later, Lugang, Tamsuy and Wushigang opened one by one; cross-strait transportation grew increasingly easier. After the ports were opened, steamships began to run between China and other countries and the transportation grew quicker and easier again. In terms of communications, aside from the early private “post offices” for sending and receiving mail, the Qing Empire opened its first official post office in 1888. From 1875, domestic and international telegraph lines were laid, speeding up the transmission of information.

Some progress was also made in the mining industry. New enterprises gradually developed, such as sulfur, coal, gold, salt and oil. Jilong had the first machine-operated coalmine in the Qing Empire.

We see now that Taiwan was not only a barn, but also the most modernized province in the Qing Empire.

(3) Social Aspect

The greatest Han immigration was during the Qing Dynasty. The immigrant replaced the aborigine as the dominant race, and Taiwan was completely Sinicized. The immigrant brought about new developments in social structures and customs, with a few social issues also arising. However, they also brought with them emergency relief and lessened the degree of damage.

In terms of social structure, the immigrants first of all brought with them a revised version of the Chinese clan system. In order to forge relationships and develop socioeconomic connections, the immigrants formed clan associations (宗親會) and common property for ancestor worship (祭祀公業). The early population was small; immigrants would offer ancestor worship to any Chinese historical figures of the same surname. These were called “Tangshan Zu (唐山祖)”; the members had the same surname but were not necessarily directly related by blood. Later, some clans multiplied and became very populous; they looked fondly on their progenitors who had first come to Taiwan and revered them in ancestor worship; these were called “Kai Tai Zu (開臺祖).” This shows that as time progressed, villages became ancestral homelands; these were the branches growing from their ancestors’ roots. The immigrants also formed unions to solve issues in day to day life in practical ways, such as the Parents Association (父母會) and the Deities Association (神明會). The villages also had Martial arts schools (武館) and performing arts buildings (曲館); the soldiers and civilians alike had entertainment, education and social interaction.

The immigrants brought with them their local customs, which they adapted into peculiar traditions to suit the new environment. For example, men outnumbered women in Taiwan and it was not easy to find a marriage partner; it was common to burn joss sticks for adopting a child or a child bride for a future daughter-in-law; likewise, many families without a son would have a son-in-law as their successor. It was also common in immigrant society to be extravagant and boast of one’s wealth; temple fairs were numerous and magnificent, with plays to entertain the gods, banquet and all kinds of competitions in which people tried to outdo each other.

There were many social problems in Qing Taiwan. As the immigrants would encroach on the territory of the aboriginals, this brought about conflict between the Han and the the aboriginal people. As a result, there was a problem of aboriginal appearing from nowhere and attacking the Han. Next, many of the immigrants were “luohanjiaos (vagrants)”; these were men who lacked vitality, smoked opium, wasted money, harmed themselves, looked for get-rich-quick schemes, gambled and squandered their family’s fortune. As the immigrants were far from home with nobody familiar to turn to, they would often form gangs, which led to many feuds and murders. Furthermore, many immigrants congregated together with others from their region or who spoke the same language; consequently, conflicts of interest or trifling matters escalated into ethnic group armed conflict, such as the Min-Hakka Dispute (閩客械鬥), the Zhang-quan Dispute (漳泉械鬥) and the Dingxiajiao Conflict (頂下郊拼); this was carried down to the next generations and affected economic development and social security. Even more serious was the opposition between the Quan, Zhang and Hakka communities, which affected the formation of “Taiwanese” consciousness.

During that time, there were also relief facilities for the poor and unfortunate. As harvests could be poor, the authorities and private individuals set up Public Rice Warehouse (義倉) for relief needs. There were free schools (義學, gratuitous elementary school) for the poor and education for their children. There were common graves for the burial (安葬) of unidentified remains and also for the deceased among the poor. There were also Orphanages (育嬰堂) to assist with the raising of children and to dissuade poor parenting habits. Also, as there are many streams in Taiwan that could obstruct transportation, the major centers had ferry transportation (義渡). However, the social emergency relief was a mere drop in the bucket and nowhere near enough to match the need.

(4) Cultural Aspects

In order to raise up docile imperial subjects, the Qing court introduced an education system to Taiwan based on the imperial examinations (科舉). As a result, Taiwan’s prefectures, sub-prefectures and counties all had Confucian schools (儒學) for selecting and examining scholars; there were academies (書院, Shuyuan) to provide lectures, such as Wenkai Academy (文開書院) and Haidong Academy (海東書院). Along with developments in education, the number of graduates achieving scholarly honors steadily increased until the middle of the 19th century. There were also those who obtained scholarly honors (功名) through financial contributions, such as imperial academy students (監生) and tributary students (貢生). Consequently, a traditional gentry class began to take shape. Following the opening of Taiwanese ports by the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858, not only did commercial trade begin, but missionaries also came from all over the world to evangelize Taiwan. They also established Oxford College (牛津學堂), Danshui Girls’ School and Xinlou Girls’ School (新樓女學校) and began to provide the latest education. Inspector-General Liu Mingchuan also established a Western college (西學堂) to train compradors; he also established telegraphy colleges (電報學堂) to train telegram technicians. However, there were too few of these to take any effect.

According to the provisions of the Qing court, the provinces compiled general records and the prefectures, sub-prefectures and counties compiled local records to record everything happening within each administrative district. The records were called encyclopedias with a Chinese style. The local records did not reach the Taiwanese interior; before the manuscript of the General Record of Taiwan (臺灣通志稿) was drafted, Taiwan was annexed by Japan. However, with the annals compiled in 1892 as a basis, the local records and related documents began to be completed; these became the most important historical records of late Qing Taiwan. These general records and local records were compiled by officials and archivists from the mainland; the Taiwanese held only a “reporter” role; however, Taiwan’s first graduate of the palace examination, Zheng Yongxi (鄭用錫), alone compiled the Tamsui Subprefecture Gazetteer Manuscript (淡水廳志稿).

As well as local records, the Presbyterian church (長老教會) of England established the Taiwanfu Church News (臺灣府城教會報, Tai-oan-hu-sia? Kau-h?e-po), which reported church and social news in the Roman alphabet. This was the first newspaper printed in Taiwan.

Copyright © 2011 Council for Cultural Affairs. All Rights Reserved.  

Chinese Keyword
臺灣府 , 民變 , 水田化運動 , 樟腦 , 書院

English Keyword
, Taiwan Fu , The Civil Revolts , Paddy Fields Movement , Camphor , Classical Academies


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  2. Huang, Fusan., Ku, Weiying., & Tsai, Tsiahsiu. (Eds.). (1997). Tai wan shi yan jiu yi bai nian [臺灣史研究一百年]. Taipei: Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica (Preparatory Office).