Exhibiting the Colony, Suggesting the Nation: The Taiwan Exposition, 1935


Joseph R. Allen

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


Cheng Jiahui, 40-42.

8 For a discussion of the evolution of the park, see Joseph R. Allen, "Taipei Park: Signs of Occupation," Journal of Asian Studies, forthcoming.

This overpass became one of the iconic images of the exposition, featured on posters, brochures, and advertisements.

There was a variety of exhibition halls in this area, but they were dominated by those that featured commodity displays: in addition to the Transportation and Civil Engineering Halls, there were the two large display halls for Japanese regional products, the forestry building, and the Manchurian (Manchukuo) building. This was also the area for most of the support and administrative offices.

The second exposition site was in the small urban park that was just a few blocks away down one of the most important commercial streets in the city (current Hengyang lu). This park, officially named Taipei Park (Taihoku ko’en/Tabei gongyuan), but more popularly called New Park (shin ko’en/xin gongyuan), had been established in 1900. In 1915 it reached its definitive construction with the completion of its colonial museum; this was accompanied by the structural changes to the surrounding grounds that remain largely intact today.8 By the time of the exposition the other principal architecture in the park, the radio station, was also built. While this site also had a variety of display types and themes, there was predominance of "cultural" exhibits.

9 The Illustration of that park grounds during the exhibition is found in Hakurankai shi, p. 74; a similar diagram appears on the back of the aerial-view map, but it does not accurately portray the exhibit, but must represent an earlier planning diagram.

10 More information on the early years of the club can be found in Joseph R. Allen, "Taipei Park."

While the basic structures of the park remained intact, its internal spatial configurations were dramatically transformed by the exhibit.9 In addition to the temporary halls discussed below, there were a movie theatre and performance hall, the later of which dismantled, moved from the Yokohama exposition, and rebuilt in the park. An important reception building was also constructed that remained in place after the exposition, functioning as the new the headquarters for the colonial club.10 Other existing structures were completely transformed—the most dramatic being the replacement of the music pavilion with a modern amphitheatre and bandshell. Meanwhile other permanent structures were concealed or disguised: the central fountain disappeared under the construction of the dramatic exhibition hall of the Monopoly Bureau; and Governor General Kodama Gentarō statue, dating from 1908, was concealed behind a playful canon in the children’s amusement area. Other exhibitions halls in the park were primarily dedicated to the presentation of colonial culture in Taiwan (of course only in its positive manifestations). These included two large halls for cultural displays, the National Defense Hall, featuring military equipment; the Electrification Hall, Monopoly Hall, and Maritime Hall, These were all displays that suggested Taiwan was an emerging member of the modern world, implying its partnership with Japan.

Of special note here is the National Defense Hall, which was one of the largest on the site—only the museum was larger. This part of the exhibition clearly announced growing

Japanese militarism of the time. The displays for the national defense (and the nation is clearly Japan, not Taiwan) included full scale equipment, models, and dioramas. In one of these displays a full size parachute (with an oddly feminine parachutist) descends from the sky; there are also model amphibious planes, technical equipment, etc. Several of these diorama are dedicated to war strategy, including one of military uniforms for tropical climates.

Thus these exhibits, as do the other displays of technology, both promote contemporaneous accomplishments (the latest in motars), as well as designate future directions—not much would be lost on the Taiwan audience about the Japanese intentions with tropical warfare (and another diorama exhibits "food rations of future wars," with a suspiciously north China look).

As we might expect, the grand colonial museum was the center of attention of this exhibition site, having been transformed from a site dedicated to display of flora and fauna of the empire to one of its colonial triumphs. Here was constructed the Number One Cultural Display Hall, which, along with its companion hall, featured models, displays and dioramas of modern life on the island—the education system was the special feature of the museum site. The museum’s neoclassical architecture, which stands in contrast with the modernist design of most of the temporary exhibition buildings, allows it to serve as the site’s the miniature "white city" (the grand, neoclassical halls associated with the international exhibitions of the late 19th and early

11 See Robert W. Rydell’s All the World’s a Fair for a discussion of the white city phenomenon.

12 It is curious that the center fountain of the park has been covered over, but these two have risen in its place.

20th centuries).11 The area east of the museum (the original sports ground) was most fully and systemically developed: this was one of the few areas in the park that allowed for a formal, geometric array of display halls and space, forming a small quadrangle and mall. At the center of the small mall were two facing fountains that anchor the site and project that sense of modern public space for which the park is noted.12

Framing the mall is a group of buildings that represent two types of displays characteristic of all international exhibitions. The only difference is that instead a display of the "world," we have the display of the empire. First, we have Japanese location specific exhibitions (Tokyo, Kyoto, Aichi and Osaka) celebrating the metropole in its modernity, as well selections of "traditional" Japan, as well. This is seen in Tokyo and Kyoto Halls.

The Tokyo Hall featured an array of exhibits that celebrated the modernity of that city, while the Kyoto Hall featured more traditional cultural display, especially related to its celebrated temples. Thus, in the Tokyo Hall we have electric appliances and other modern commodities, while in the Kyoto Hall we find panoramas of its temple grounds, bamboo pavilions, and mannequins in kimonos.

The last of these displays is a common colonial semiotic system where the woman display the "tradition" (her kimono), while the men bear the task of modernity (suits and fedoras); this distinction is found throughout the exposition, including on the actual bodies of its visitors.

In many ways these two halls represent the "janus faced" nature of the Japanese position in the geopolitics of that time. The Tokyo Hall is the face the metropole turned toward its colonies, while it is the face of the Kyoto (oriental, charming, a feminized) that Japan typically looked toward the non-Asian world. The later look was typically the one, for example, that Japan presented at international exhibitions in Europe and the Americas. Of course, in 1935 this was quickly changing, and the abrupt new face that Japan offered the non-Asian world in December of 1941 was a shock to many in the United States simply because they were much more use to the "Kyoto look," despite the Japan Russian war of 1905 and Japan’s aggression in China during the 1930s. In addition, we have in this area exhibition halls for Hokkaido, Osaka, and Aichi, which were predominantly of the "Tokyo" look. Sometimes there were combinations these two faces: for example, the Aichi Hall was built modeled on the ancient Aichi Castle but its exhibits included of modern commodities, such as "Ritzu" motorcycles.

It is instructive to compare this display of the Japanese homeland, with those of their colonial holdings and aspirations, such as Korea, Manchuria, and the various representations of the"South" (southern China, Southeast Asia, and pacific islands) The last of these were done in "authentic" architectural styles, suggesting the still "traditional," non-progressive state of these

areas. Perhaps most interesting of these was the Fujian Hall of southern China: this was the homeland of most of the Taiwanese (Chinese) on the island, and thus stood in contrast to the progressive nature of the colony.

Nor is it insignificant that these southern halls were all located in the Dadaocheng exhibition area, which was organized and run not by colonial authorities but by local Taiwanese business men. This sort of ethnographic construction is even morely clearly articulated in the displays dedicated to aboriginal (non-Chinese) people in Taiwan. Throughout the exposition, the aboriginal peoples were seen almost entirely as "anthropological subjects" and not as potential members of the Japanese nation. The various displays by aboriginal groups are presented as "living museums," a type of display that was popular in the international exhibitions to portray our less civilized, quaint "brown brothers." The Phillipino Village in the St. Louis 1904 exhibition is the most famous of these. As in other espositions, here we have small groups of aboriginal people in "authentic" village and tribal dwellings, working on their own "handicrafts."

13 Details of the mapping of Taipei can be found in Joseph R. Allen "Mapping Taipei: Ideology and Representation," Studies on Asia, forthcoming.

This use of "live subjects" as opposed to dioramas or models presents the aboriginal peoples as actually (and permanently) "primitive." In contrast, the gaze trained on the Chinese/Taiwanese (who are not live models) is more modulated with an allowance for their potential modernity/civilization.


Among the exhibition technologies used to promote the vision of a colony becoming a nation, and of the tradition becoming modern, maps and models of Taiwan, Taipei City, and the exposition grounds played a significant role. Some of these maps and models were built into the exposition exhibits, and others circulated as part of the literature promoting the event. In either venue they were very much a display of a cultural display. Analogous to Japan’s position in international politics, and Taiwan’s position in the emerging imperialist nation, these maps plot the transition from old to new representations of the island.

The Japanese were nearly obsessive in their mapping of their new colonial possession. With an array of modern cartographic tools, they quickly went to work on island-wide topographic projects, as well as detailed planometric maps of cities. Taipei/Taihoku was a common subject of these latter types, especially manifested in the city planning maps of 1932.13 In the 1930s we also find the emergence of another type of colonial cartography that verges more

14 A collection of these maps is reproduced in Taiwan niaokan tu, ed. Zhuang Yongming (Taipei: Yuanliu chuban gongsi, 1996).

15 Li Qinxian discusses the important painter, Yoshida Hatsuzo, who was trained both in Japanese and Western painting techniques (Taiwan niaokan tu, 236-37).

16 Edward S. Casey describes similar Japanese maps from the pre-Meiji period as "Ukiyoe" maps that "were at once cartographic and painterly, equally and fully both" (209). He goes on to describe the power of these maps in terms of their "depth, encompassability, partial exaggeration, and density of composition," all qualities well displayed in the later Taiwan maps. We can thus read these maps as more "traditionally" Japanese and pre-European.

17 Da Taibei niaokantu, October, 1935. Held in Taibeishi wenxianhui, map. no. 15. This map has been widely reproduced during the last fifteen years as part of the small nostalgia industry reproducing materials from the Japanese period.

toward the traditional Japanese and pictorial: these are the panoramic, landscape "bird’s-eye maps" (chōkanzu/niaokantu) of the island.14 These maps present the island and selected localities as picturesque places in three-dimensional, full color representations, the point of view unified and elevated as the bird/airplane seems to approach the site at shadowless noon, thousands of feet off the ground. These maps are graphic celebrations of the island both in its natural and colonized beauty, combining stunning landscapes with significant signs of modern progress (including airplanes overhead, but under our gaze). The popularity of these maps in the 1930s is testimony to the economic progress of the island (both as it is represented in the maps, and as luxury items themselves), as well as the island’s commoditization as a site of pleasure. They help document the transformation of the island into a postcard destination inviting the tourist’s gaze: the island of rebels and head hunters had become one of tropical fruits and hot springs. In this sense, these maps coincide with the concerted initiative to expand tourism on the island in preparation for the 1935 exposition.

The lush renderings of the island in these panoramic maps of the 1930s exhibit is a consistent pictorial style, with points of view, in both elevation and direction, conventionalized. Edward Casey believes this pictorial style ultimately derives from Ukiyo-e prints.15 Views of the entire island are almost always from the west side looking east, just as in earlier Chinese landscape maps, but the new technology invites views from "twenty thousand feet" so that the east side of the island is also partly visible. The maps are no doubt derivative of aerial photography of the time, yielding horizons and perspective not found in the early Japanese and Chinese maps. In this case the new technology is enhanced by the old, as the paintings increase the depth of field and the width of the lens, creating "encompassability, partial exaggeration, and density of composition." 16

There are several chōkanzu maps of the greater Taipei area, but none is so celebrated as the one issued on the eve of the Taiwan Exposition. 17

This map sets the tone for that celebration. The various sites for the exposition are well marked, but they are not yet constructed. So, for example, a large balloon flies over Taipei Park, tethered to the ground, from which hangs the banner, "Taiwan Exposition, No. Two Site." We can also view this map as complementary to the 1932 planning maps: iconic versus symbolic, isometric versus planimetric, and pictorial versus engineered. Both types of maps present an overly optimistic representation of the city; the chōkanzu map celebrating what "is," while the 1932 maps project what was to come. In the 1935 map we find all the conventions of the chōkanzu panoramic map: the wide unified view in perspective, the detailed rendering of architecture, cartouche labeling, and even the airplanes casting their noon shadow on the airfield south of the city. However, instead of the conventional onshore view that we have for most examples in the genre, the gaze here is from southwest of the city, looking north, down the Tamsui River toward the ocean. This perspective foregrounds the newer, Japanese sections of the city in favor of the older Chinese sections. It also affords a view out to sea where, through artistic license of both distance and direction, Japan, with emblematic Mount Fuji, looms, along with a necklace of other colonies (Korea and Manchukuo) and coastal temptations (Shanghai, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Shantou, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou). Needless to say, the view is one both of colonial acquisition and


In the foreground, Taihoku is laid out as an exciting, teeming but orderly city; its multicolor cartouches reminding us of all its civic activity, although its streets are nearly without traffic. Celebration of colonial success fills the map. The bottom left hand corner of the map is pushed down and the Xindian River bent sharply enough to allow for the depiction of the newly constructed Taihoku Imperial University (1926). And in the upper right hand corner, just beyond the city, rise the great Taiwan Shinto Shrine and mountain spas of Yangming Moutain and Beitou where the hotel will be built for the exposition.

The rail line down the river valley leads finally to picturesque Guanyin Mountain where one can watch modern ships cruise along the coast, on their way back and forth across the empire’s shipping lanes.

18 Zhu Dianren, "Autumn Note," tran. James C. T. Shu in Unbroken Chain, ed. Joseph S. M. Lau (Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1983), 30-31.


In 1935 we are on the verge of Japan’s invasion of China and its full militarization of the homeland; in Taiwan, the economy is at its peak and the kōminka policy is yet to be imposed (although it looms, like Mount Fuji, on the horizon). The exposition was a celebration of a colonial, some would say blustering, confidence, and this map is a visualization of that confidence. We might wonder what the the Taiwanese citizenry saw when they gazed at that representation of the colonial capital? And later, when they wandered the grounds of the Taiwan Exposition, how did they participate in that vision?

Certainly the map called to them, as did the official slogans, to be proud members of the colonial project; asking them to place themselves within, to be co-producers of, the clean, modern, forward-looking constructions of Japanese imperialism. Perhaps they could not yet actually pilot those planes that flew through the skies of the map, but for now they could see the machines overhead, and imagine, like the map, looking down on this ordered modernity. But of course, for now, they would be earthbound. We know that there was some resistance to that call. For example in Zhu Dianren’s 1937 short story about the exposition, its protagonist, an elderly Master Douwen, voices repeated rejection to that call, and when he finally does go, he is confused and angered by the exposition and the changes in the city:

On the street before the Taipei Train Station, the crowd swarmed toward the museum like a wave. Master Douwen was like a rudderless boat without a sense of direction: the geography of Taipei was no longer what he had remembered [from 15 years before]. Somehow, while he was at a loss, he was pushed right to the entrance of Exhibit Hall No. 1. [after taking in the exhibits on education and a confrontation with Japanese students] "Runts, Bandits, Japanese barbarians." He could not help but let it go, regardless of whether they could understand or not. "Even though the rise and fall of a nation is fated, and the Qing dynasty has already ended, yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Chinese people . . . All this fuss about the Exhibit—its just to brag about. . . Forget it. . . [the exhibit’s slogan] "The Great Leap Forward of Taiwan’s Productivity," indeed! Only you Japanese devils are able to have a "great leap forward." I am afraid Taiwan’s youth don’t even have a chance to inch forward. All this talk about education, indeed."18

19 Ibid, 25.

20 By 1935 basic education was widespread on the island, and literacy in Japanese common among the Taiwanese; certain Japanese functionaries (such as police men) possessed basic spoken skills in local Chinese dialect, but their ability to read in Chinese would not have been common. For the Japanese elite, however, there would have been this consciousness of the Chinese origins, thus authenticity, to their character-based vocabulary, and they may have been able to verbalize the terms in both languages.

Yet, the age and an extreme conservative views of Master Douwen (he is portrayed nearly as ossified remnant of the Qing dynasty) does not capture the common doubleness of life in Taipei. We see this better in his village neighbor, who remarks:

"It’s really a shame not to go [to the exposition]. I don’t know about the other villages, but in our village every family has someone going to see it. I heard that there are many tourists groups today. Maybe the train is going to be jammed again. Scholar Chen [Douwen], life is short, and you’re quite old. If you don’t see it now, when are you going to see it. Come on, let’s go. Isn’t it nice to see something different?"19

If we look back at our promotional map, we find is an ambiguous merging of two cartographic statements, somewhat analgous to the tension between Master Douwen and his neighbor: one based on the airplane and aerial photography, is progressive and technologically advanced; the other, based on landscape painting and the ukiyo-e print, is nostalgic and inward looking. These two visions have produced a map that not only represents the city, but also the exposition in the city. When the Taiwanese viewers looked down on their old city transformed by Japanese colonialism into one of both modernity and pictorial desirability, they must have felt that they simultaneously possessed and were being possessed by the city, the so called "double consciousness" of the colonial subject. This representation of the city maps that conscious by placing a Japanese overlay on the older Chinese city, an overlay that is itself layered with modernity and nostalgia. We see all these layers in the multiple cartouches that re-label the city in Tokyo-esque postal nomenclature of the chōmei ward system. Those cartouches are indices of all the other layered qualities of Taipei city. While a few cartouches are written in entirely Japanese kana syllabary, others are neologisms written with Chinese characters (Taihoku ko’en [Taipei Park]), or written in modified characters (Taihoku byōin [Taipei Hospital]), or in hybrids of both orthographies. The vast majority of the names are, however, rendered in standard Chinese characters and phrasing, and thus can be read either in Chinese or Japanese--Zhongyang yanjiusuo or Chūō kenyūjo [Central Research Office]. For most Taiwanese residents of the city, and many of the island, this double reading was available, as it were to some local colonialists themselves.20 When the Taiwanese read this map, they could have verbalized this doubleness, implying an emerging Japanese nationality from their Chinese subjectivity, something that was clearly unavailable to Master Dowen.

Yet when the Taiwanese readers of this map raised their eyes to the horizon, they saw not only the expanse of the Japanese empire but also the limits of their participation in it. On the far horizon, Mount Fuji looms, labeled as nachi (the inner territory or homeland). The effect of this inscription is to label all the other Japanese holdings on the map as gaichi, the outer/other territories. Much has been written, some of it in essentializing terms, about the Japanese cultural ideology of the nai-gai (or uchi-soto) divide, which not only privileges the "inner" over the "outer" but is also commonly seen as an essential, unbridgeable divide between "us" and "them."

Japanese authorities in Taiwan may have felt their own "outsider," bi-lingual status when they were viewed from the homeland office, and that may have contributed to their enthusiasm for this exposition project: to portray Taiwan as a successful, desirable site of (their) modernity. In this they were joined by the Taiwanese elite who also aspired to a higher, if not insider, status; these are the anxieties of the bilingual readers of the Taipei map. They knew they were in a colony but they had aspirations for the nation.