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1890 Qing Map of Formosa / Taiwan illustrating Aboriginal Tribes

臺灣番地圖 / Táiwān fān dìtú / 台灣番地圖 / Map of Taiwan’s Aboriginal Tribes.

1890 Qing Map of Formosa / Taiwan illustrating Aboriginal Tribes


Qing mapping of Taiwan's Aboriginal communities - Kaishan Fufan!



臺灣番地圖 / Táiwān fān dìtú / 台灣番地圖 / Map of Taiwan’s Aboriginal Tribes.
  1896 (undated)    42 x 19.5 in (106.68 x 49.53 cm)     1 : 10000


A discovery of considerable interest to Taiwan / Formosa enthusiasts, this 1887 / 1896 thematic map of Taiwan aboriginal population and tribes. It was drawn under the Qing as part of the Kaishan Fufan (開山撫番) policy to pacify and integrate the aboriginal tribes of Eastern Taiwan in the 1880s. Oriented with east at the top – itself quite unusual – the map covers all of Taiwan with particular attention to mountains, indigenous groups, and river systems (which appear in blue).

A Divided Island

The island of Formosa, modern day Taiwan, is divided along its north-south axis by a massive mountain range with elevations reaching 3,860 meters (12,660 ft). West of the mountains, wide arable plains extend to the coast. This region was settled by the Chinese from nearby Fujian as early as the 16th century. It was also frequently visited by European merchants, particularly the Dutch and Portuguese, who briefly maintained factories there.

To the east of the Central Mountain Range, the mountains descended into a series of rugged foothills almost to the Ocean. While the west of Taiwan developed along with China, the eastern part of the island, lacking good ports, easily arable land, and roads, was left to the island's tribal aboriginal population, most of which were of Austronesian rather than Chinese ethnicities. The mountains proved a formidable barrier between the two Formosas, and the few mountain passes that allowed passage to the eastern part of the island were heavily fortified as part of the Qing quarantine on the territory to the east of the 'earth oxen' (土牛) border, which ran along the eastern edge of the western plain. Some of these fortifications are visible on this map.

Kaishan Fufan Policy : open and pacify

It was not until 1886 (光绪 12), when the Qing Guangxu Emperor (1871 –1908) officially sanctioned Formosa as a Chinese maritime province, that further exploration and an attempt to catalog the indigenous tribes ensued – of which this maps is a part. The Qing sent Liu Mingchuan (1836–1896) to administer the island province in 1887. Liu instigated a series of changes with regard to the aboriginal peoples of eastern Taiwan. He believed that only through subjugation of these tribal peoples could the new province be defensible against foreign (Japanese) invasion and therefore self-sufficient,
The revenue of Taiwan is more than that of Guizhou and Xinjiang. However, the majority of the eight coastal counties belong to the aboriginal territory. The island is isolated by seas and depends solely on the Fujian province during the time of crisis … In order to implement the imperial edict, it is necessary to pacify the raw aborigines in order to resolve internal threats, expand the territory and encourage new settlements. Only after the increase in cultivated land and growth of population will Taiwan be self-sufficient to become an independent province. (Ming-chuan Liu, Liu Zhuangsu gong Zouyi. [Memorials of Liu Mingchuan], TW vol. 27, pp. 155-156.)
Mingchuan supported Kaishan Fufan (開山撫番) a policy which is roughly understood as 'opening up the mountains and pacifying the savages.' It signified a major Qing policy transition from passive quarantine to aggressive colonization. Commissioner Shen Baozhen (沈葆禎, 1875–1879), writing in 1875, after the Japanese Taiwan Punitive Expedition of 1874, anticipated the Kaishan Fufan campaign,
It is impossible to open up the mountains without first pacifying the aborigines. And it is unrealistic to talk about pacifying the aborigines without opening up the mountains. To open the mountains, we need to station soldiers, cut through forests, burn wild grassland, build waterways, regulate land tax, encourage Han reclamation, provide livestock and seeds, establish villages and fortresses, introduce commerce, select officials, build walled cities, and set up postal communications and official buildings.
Eventually the aboriginal peoples of the eastern highlands were brought into the fold of greater Taiwan, but only and extensive and enormous expense, as described by the Qing official Hu Chuan who severed in Taitung during the 1890s,
It has been more than twenty years with several hundred million taels spent on road construction, military deployment, suppression and pacification of aborigines, as well as their migration and settlement. Yet, we still could not withdraw the troops and the annual cost is more than one hundred thousand taels. Until now, there has not been any increase in population or cultivated land. It seems to have become the source of deficit with no end in sight. (Chuang Hu, Taidongzhou Caifangce [Survey of the Taidong Subprefecture], TW vol. 81, pp. 5-6.)
The Kaishan Fufan policy finally ended under the Japanese, who conquered Taiwan in 1895. The Japanese, whose limited experience with the aboriginal peoples was derived almost exclusively from the 1871 Mudan Incident, in which a group of 54 shipwrecked Ryūkyūan sailors was massacred by a Paiwan group from the southern Formosan village of Mudan. The Japanese military interpreted Taiwanese aborigines as vicious, violent, and cruel. Under Japanese governance, the aborigines were thus treated with a much heavier hand than under the Qing, including vicious suppression, mass beheadings, and more. The common enemy finally united the Chinese-Taiwanese and the aboriginal-Taiwanese who staged several joint anti-Japanese revolts.

This map was originally produced around 1886 by the Qing governors of Taiwan. The present example is a restrike issued by the Japanese, about 1896, shortly after the 1895 invasion of Taiwan – note the 'top secret' designation in the upper right border. Its issue in Japan reflects not only an interest in Formosa / Taiwan related to the Mudan Incident, but also long-standing imperial ambitions for the island as part of a great multi-ethnic multi-cultural East Asian empire.

This map exceptionally rare and in 20 years of specializing in East Asian material, we have not previously encountered it. It does not appear in the OCLC nor are there any references to the map in any major collections. A once-in-a-lifetime discovery.


Very good. Minor wear and slight discoloration on original fold lines. Even overall toning.


Lung-chih Chang, From Quarantine to Colonization: Qing Debates on Territorialization of Aboriginal Taiwan in the Nineteenth Century, 2008.
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