Theorizing Colonial Architecture and Urbanism: Building Colonial Modernity in Taiwan



Theorizing colonial architecture and urbanism:

building colonial modernity in Taiwan

Chu-joe HSIA (Translated by IP Iam Chong)


This paper intends to review the historical research on Taiwan’s colonial architecture and urbanism during the Japanese Occupation and to theorize further our understanding of Taiwan’s speciŽcities.1It is expected to open up a vision of world history for examining and

comparing the colonial architectures and cities in the Third World. The ultimate goal is to enhance our ability to ‘see’ our architecture and city.

I focus on the contested structural historical meanings of the colonial architecture and city and analyse their historical contexts, content, processes, challenges, consequences and effects in order to have a critical reection upon Taiwan’s colonialism. How did these meanings articulate with the social process of modernization? How did they transform and rewrite Taiwan’s landscape?

Analytical hypotheses Hypothesis 1

The transplantation of colonial architecture and the city is the key to understanding the intellectual histories of urban planning and design.

Transplantation of the ideas of planning and design into different times and spaces,2 different

social and historical environments is the critical aspect of understanding colonial architecture and the city. In other words, planning discourse does not equal city building in everyday life.

Hypothesis 2

Modernity is constituted by the nation-state and the organized production of capitalism. It means that urban form and urban experience are embedded in the constitution of modernity, a sort of mode of experience that expresses, as commodity exchange, the reproducing power of machine and creative destruction.

The speciŽc historical transformation of colonial architecture and the city is always a process of industrialization of the colony. This is a capitalist process that parallels urbanization that creates a kind of urban form and an urban experience as a constitution of modernity. Let us summarize the wide variety of notions about modernity as follows. In 19th century Europe, modernity was viewed as ‘a mode of vital experience — experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life’s possibilities and perils’ (Berman 1982: 15). This mode of experience was a ashy and volatile life experience, releasing hegemonic power. This is not only the conclusion of Walter Benjamin’s reection upon commodity exchange and a machine’s reproducing power, but is also expressed in Baron Georges-Eugene Huassmann’s construction of promenade and

ISSN 1464-9373 Print/ISSN 1469-8447 Online/02/010007–17Ó 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080 /1464937022013578 8


the radical transformation of the urban landscape in the Second Empire. David Harvey, quoting Josef Schumpeter, theorizes these processes as creative destruction (Harvey 1989: 16) backed by material imperatives: people come closer through production links; science and technology create enormous productive power; state bureaucrats governed the society effectively and by legalized social organizations; individual’s life was motivated by both self-interest and the will to be free of all constraints. All of these appeared as the triumph of reason (Touraine 1995: 1). Having an impact on the whole world, modernity is two distinct organizationa l complexes in terms of institutional clustering: the nation-state and systematic capitalist production. They were and continue to be the two major transformative agencies pushing forward a Western project (Giddens 1990: 174).

Hypothesis 3

The oppositions between colonial cities and anti-colonial cities always exist.

The great suppression in the colonial city implicates the invisible power and resistances of the anti-colonial cities. The anti-colonial cities consolidate all the class contradictions, the national conicts and even gender struggles into a unity and spell out a wide variety of statements. We have relatively poor knowledge of them and further research is needed.

Some historical cases of Taiwan

Japan’s urban construction of Colonial Taiwan: urban planning and architecture

First, I want to examine the rise and the nature of Japanese imperialism and colonialism from the historical perspective. Meiji Reformation’s project of ‘Escaping from Asia, Joining Europe’, the project of national identity of Yamato, the democratic project during the period of Taisho and the military-state project during the period of Showa, all need to be analysed by articulating with a complex socio-political process. The Shinto state with the centre of Tenno (Emperor), through the identity project of national culture, afŽrmed the ideology of sacredness and uniqueness of Japan (nihonjiron). At the same time, Japan, confronting the challenge from the West, remained ‘incompletely’ westernized. After the Meiji Reformation, the Shinto became a national sovereignty with spiritual authority and political power. The purest symbol of space is the national Jinja in which the state incorporated all good values into the national polity, by which the nationalist power ideologically ‘upgraded’ Japan to a world power equivalent to the major western imperial states. In this process, the public sphere of the state completely dominated the private sphere and de-legitimized civil society and the autonomy of the public/private sphere (space). Within this state-dominated sphere, only the national affairs were to be morally justiŽed.3 In the historical context of rising Europe–American imperialism,

Japan joined the competition in the colonial invasion of Asia. Both the ‘Touyou’ (‘East’)4 and

the ‘Seiyou’ (‘West’) severely affected China and the fate of Taiwan.

Here, the concept of ‘colonial’ strictly refers to the occupation of other countries’ territories and the establishment of an asymmetrical relationship through direct military and political repression, i.e. colonial dependency, which includes economic exploitation, political repression and cultural domination. They are the abstract relations at different levels, underlying the asymmetries between two societies. Since Kodama Gentairon, Colonial Governor-General, and Goto Shimpei, Civilian Governor, ruled Taiwan in 1898, the island was incorporated into the economy of the colonizer. The colonial cities whose spaces were structured by capitalist production, distribution and consumption, were the concrete expression of colonial depen-dency. That is what we call the urban construction of colonial cities. In the process of capitalist modernization, the colonial government began by building the infrastructure required by


capital investment and reconstructing people’s mentality by a new rationality. These processes of historical construction deserve further research in this paper.5

Japan’s capitalist mode of production structured Taiwan society, on top of the foundation established by the Han people’s domination in the Qing Dynasty. Japan not only actualized its primitive accumulation of capitalism in this colony but also formulated the commercial dependency and industrial dependency between the colonized and colonizer. A commercial dependency shaped Taiwan’s landscape through the mechanism of unequal exchange in the trade between Taiwan and Japan — the exchange between Taiwan’s agricultural products and Japanese industrial products. Industrial dependency was initiated in the late colonial period, after the outbreak of the PaciŽc War and the colony became Japan’s frontier as ‘the entrance and the exit of Southeast Asia and China’. The autonomy of Taiwan’s industries never existed because Taiwan’s industrialization and market were totally under Japan’s control. Both com-mercial and industrial dependency under colonial dependency structured Taiwan’s society and space. In the regional spatial structure, due to the extraction of colonial dependency, the ties between the coastal ports in Japan and Taiwan became even stronger than those within Taiwan’s own territory. Jilong (Keelung) concentrated on import while Gaoxiong (Kaohsiung) was export-led. The ports in the northern and southern points experienced rapid development and a south–north highway and railway transportation routes reinforced their functions. Then, along both sides of the railways and highways, cities of agricultural processing industries, and collecting and distributing centres of agriculture and forestry, developed, e.g. Luodong, Fengyuan, Yuanlin, Huwei and Xinying. The former regional administrative cities also had steady development and the urban hierarchy between Taizhong, Tainan, Kaoxiong, Xinchu and Jiayi was rather at (Hsia 1988: 284; Zhang Ying Hua 1986: 252–253). That is to say, in the real social political process, the main mechanism of colonial dependency went through direct military and political repression of territory. The colonial cities, location for the colonial rule, became the military sites for the state apparatus that repressed the surrounding rural areas. The sites within and surrounding the colonial cities were ruled by the military sites, which supported the reconstruction of the colonial cities at different levels. Taiwan’s colonial cities can be illustrated by the juxtaposition of colonial cities under the Japanese rule and the anti-colonial cities that had oppositional and subversive urban meanings. For further analysis, I divide Taiwan’s colonial cities under the Japanese rule into several typologies. These categories help us organize several historical materials: (1) the early colonial cities as the sites for political and military repression; (2) the colonial cities reconstructed by capitalism; (3) the colonial cities during the period of war for advocating the sacredness of the Yamato nation (Hsia 1994: 4–7). For a clear and precise illustration, I will discuss the anti-colonial cities in the later part of this article. Compared with the colonial experience of other developing countries, such as those in Latin America, the several typologies of colonial cities mentioned above are the speciŽc patterns of colonial dependent urbanization in Taiwan’s spatial structure. These cities were the product of the transplantatio n of colonial modernity, a theme emphasized repeatedly in this article. Below I will further delineate the spatial patterns of this transplantation process:

First, research into colonial architecture and cities notices that the colonial eyes did not focus on ‘nature’ per se; instead, accurately speaking, they targeted the ‘colonial landscape’. This Taiwan landscape, transformed in the way of a palimpsest, was exactly the imagined nature of the colonizer, i.e. the ‘other nature’ within the colonizer’s imagined geography of a ‘Pan-Japanese Empire’. Nakashima Koji, a progressive ‘Pan-Japanese scholar, clearly points out that in ‘nature’ as represented by the colonizer’s national ideology, the focus of the Japanese colonial geopolitical structure was the hinterland of Japan. The sub-circle included Hokaitou and Ryukyu. An outer circle is Korea and Taiwan and then Manchu and China, while the outermost circle, the edge of the empire, comprised south-east Asia and the islands of the PaciŽc Ocean. These were arranged in a concentric structure with various hierarchical layers. This hierarchy can be clearly illustrated by the Japanese discriminatory forest policy. In Japan, the forest was


highly protected, but the forest in Korea was viewed as wasted land and Taiwan’s forest was ‘a stepping stone for going into the tropical forest’ (Nakashima 2000: 16–18). Of course, the colonial forest land was not ‘resources’ without people, but inhabited by the indigenous people who had severe conicts with the colonizers.6

Second, city planning and architecture were the means of transplantation. The speciŽcity of Japanese colonial empire lies in the Shinto state, with the centre of Tenno, and in its identity project of national culture in pursuit of Japanese sacredness and uniqueness. Under the legitimacy constructed by the violence of the colonial state, Taiwan experienced its Žrst modern political and military domination, technology and progress. In addition, the Taiwanese elites gained the cultural superiority of the special status of sub-Japanese. Goto Shimpei, sophisticat-edly ruling by the bio-political principles, played a critical role in policy making and implemen-tation and used city planning as a tool of rule.7The collaboration between the state and capital,

with Japan as the subject, helped the colonial state to impose a colonial urban system on Taiwan, which forms the very controlling centre of colonial politics and the economy as well as the strategic regime for colonizers actualizing political and economic rule. The grand city planning, the spectacular building and the well-established urban facilities, comforting Japanese, were the necessary conditions for colonial rule.8 It aimed at enabling Japanese

immigrants to settle permanently.9 Therefore, the motion pushing colonial city planning was

the principle of ‘Sanitary First’. All the means — from the city planning regime in 1899 to the Dai To-A Kyoeiken (‘The Greater Alliance of Prosperity in East Asia’) in 1942, national territorial planning, regional planning and national parks — supported the modernization of Japan and its colonies. These all were embodied within the spirit of the Japanese state.10

Thirdly, the national spirit was expressed by the spatial form of the public buildings, one of which is the colonial monument, a critical aspect of colonialism. The colonizers, with the monumental space characterized by ‘western Europe’s classical tradition’, advocated the reasons of ‘modern civilization’ and ‘civilized life’. Since 1874, when Japan stationed soldiers in Taiwan, the colonizers saw Taiwan as an uncivilized ‘barren land’11 and a ‘virgin land’ waiting for

colonization, a discourse legitimizing its colonial rule. All of these were instrumental in the constitution of ‘colonial modernity’. In the aspect of domination of the urban symbolic, the colonizers transformed the old cities in the way of a ‘palimpsest’, spatial decomposition, respell and erasure of the ‘backward’ spots. We can further reveal the features of this colonial transplantation by other cases.

Comparison between the Governor House in Taipei and Seoul

A comparative study enables us to see the difŽculties in describing the speciŽc ‘image’ of Taiwan. For example, the Governor House in front of the Kyung-Bok Palace located at the city centre of Seoul and the Governor House within the Jingfu Gate (or East Gate) in Taipei were the power centres of the colonial authorities. The relation between the Governor House and the surrounding areas is intriguing enough for further analysis. What are the similarities and differences between them in terms of the architectural expression? What are differences between their ‘fates’ after the Second World War? What are the historical and political reasons for their differences? How do we reect upon these different national identities and the development of nationalism? These differences should not be ideologically attributed to the difference of their mystiŽed nationalities; instead, more theoretical comparison and analysis are needed.

I worked with Choi Sung-Ryul (an outstanding Korean PhD student who died in an unfortunate accident) to compare the differences of the national identities expressed in the colonial architecture. Here, I quote some paragraphs from an article written by us to discuss the urban symbolic.


Kyung-Bok Palace. This was obviously a violent act of overwhelming the palace and the Korean people. Grorg de Lalande, architect of the Korean Governor House, designed that building in 1912 but died in 1914. Then, Nomura Ichiro who had participated in the design of Taiwan’s Governor House, took over his job.

In Taiwan, the Japanese colonial authority expressed similar oppressive attitude towards the urban landscape. Taipei, an administrative centre with key buildings located at the north and facing the south during the Qing Dynasty, was a city transformed drastically in the way of a ‘palimpsest’ for erasing memories. The Japanese colonizers violently changed the directions of the buildings into facing east, i.e. worshipping the ‘rising sun’, a very Japanese symbol. They not only reformulated the directions of the roads within the city but also eliminated and decomposed the traditional buildings. The Mazu temple was replaced by the memorial hall for the Civilian Governor. The provincial magistrate’s ofŽce was decomposed into two parts sent to two separated places. The authoritative and horrible Governor House, surrounded by the military departments and the newly built Žnancial and legal institutions, occupied an urban space, where all historical traces had been demolished and completely restructured.

However, during the colonial period, the expressions of these two Governor Houses remained two different forms, leading to their different trajectories in the post-colonial period. Their differences are related to colonial ruling, which can be explained by the structural reasons of the colonial rule itself. In Taiwan, the colonizers aimed at developing and squeezing surplus from agricultural production and then building the industrial ground for further invasion of south-east Asia. In Korea colonialism was more about politics than economic resources. The Japanese not only attempted to smash into pieces the cultural and power superiority of Korea, but also intended to open up a ‘route’ for moving outside the Japanese islands and to dominate the north-eastern part of China as well as the whole mainland: colonialism in Korea in a politically speciŽc way was necessary for further expansion of the Japanese empire.12In other

words, the interests of the colonizers determined the functions of the colonies. This structural explanation refutes the notion that if Goto Shimpei, Colonial Governor-General in Taiwan, had participated in the colonial building of Korea, then the Korean people’s hatred against the Japanese would not be so stirred up.13

As expressions of power, the Korean Governor House and the Taiwan’s Governor House were different. The former, as a vertical and grand building, represented an authority charac-terized by the western classical tradition, functioning as a contrast to the horizontal and dispersed buildings of the palace courtyard. This created an impression of direct confrontation and violent repression, which persistently stimulated Korean nationalist nerves. In 1995, after the rightist military-authoritarian dictatorship constructed by the anti-communist nationalism in the Cold War collapsed, the demolition of the Korean Governor House became the strategy of Kim Young-Sam’s civil government for building up its image of democratic reform and national legitimacy. The doomed part of the building was taken down by crane, a public gesture of ‘decapitation’. Through a patriarchal policy-making process, the government manip-ulated the rising patriotic emotion, the chauvinistic Korean nationalism and the inferiority-su-periority complex to repress successfully the leftist policy of recognizing North Korea’s status and the uniŽcation movement of Korea advocated by the student movement.

In Taiwan, the picture is radically different. The demolition of all the provincial magistrate’s ofŽce is the very evidence of the horrible violence of colonialism. When, however, the newly built Governor House replaced and wrote off all the traces of the previous building, and the newly constructed landscape became a part of collective memory, this twisted history plunged people into a difŽcult situation. Taiwan’s Governor House, through the way of a ‘palimpsest’, replaced the old power form with the new one. On the one hand, violent repression made people conform to the power. When the colonized were tamed to accept the domination as a part of memory, colonial histories are so seriously twisted that the modernizing construction was/is welcomed by the elites. The lauding of the Japanese colonialism turned into a kind of psychological


compensation for the disappointment of the Nationalist Government and the sadness of the incident of 228 (a massacre by the Nationalist Government in 1947). All these are part of the process of making the ‘others’, of re-building of national identity within the nation-state. On the other hand, the transition of ‘Governor House’ into ‘President House’ symbolized the myth of power and the naturalization process of state domination in Taiwan society. The Governor House had been the commanding centre of the real power and continues to be the symbol of power. That is why it is still the stage for political competition during the process of political democratization in the postwar era.14

Finally, in spite of these differences, both nation-states ‘duplicate’ the model of penetration of the Japanese state into society, a critical aspect of the colonial experience in Korea and Taiwan. Even in the new phase of the nation-state’s restructuring, this experience continues to inuence people’s mentality. No matter for which government — Kim Young-Sam’s or Kim Dae-Jong’s, in South Korea, Li Denghui’s ‘New Republic’ or the ‘New Government’ self-claimed by the candidates in the presidential election of 2000 in Taiwan — there is no structural change in this colonial experience. Reection on, and resistance, against the nation-state can only be seen in the power of the civil society after Taiwan’s economic development, which sprouted a social autonomous power gradually. These subversive forces had appeared in the colonial period as the traces of social power, as detailed in the next section.

Taipei’s Gunghui Tang (Public Hall of Taihoku) and the oppositional space of the anti-colonial cities The colonization of Taiwan’s city and architecture had resulted in a process of creative destruction. For the colonized people, it was also a process of ‘destructive creation’. The Žrst state-led transplantation from Paris to Tokyo still needs further studies. Here, I discuss the second time of transplantation, from Tokyo to Taipei — a striking process for Taiwan, a ‘new’ mode of experience expressing the order, reason and seriousness of the powerful rigidity in the colonial cities. One can clearly understand the historical process of destructive creation by observing the street pattern, block structure, lot division, building type, public space and their mass and volume. Under modern legitimacy reinforced by the colonial state, the colonial society was a dependent society. In other words, a colonial state hegemony characterized by its hierarchical structure, dominated and penetrated into the Taiwanese society which, being deprived of power and the ability to create meaning, was without subject and self. Hence, although Taiwan had city planning, some grand public buildings, technologies, legal system, sanitary means,15 education16 and bureaucracy, it failed to create any self-consciousness or

subject’s reexivity. This is what I term as ‘colonial modernity without Subject.’ This is a colonial city without any autonomous civil society and public space for citizens. Although the physical space was transplanted and duplicated in this colonial city, this was still a ‘pseudo-public space’ because there were no ‘politics’; in other words, there was no ‘‘pseudo-public sphere’. It was different from the ‘urban spatial cracks’17of the old riverside ports in ‘Sanshi Jie’ [Three

Market Streets] (Cities and Towns), for example the streets and temple squares of Dataocheng and Mengjia. By contrast, Taipei’s Public Hall was located at a central square of this emptied colonial city. In front of that serious and silenced building, the site of the former magistrate’s ofŽce in the Qing Dynasty, was a square in European style. In 1931, the Japanese colonizers deliberately imitated the public building and the space of the European city and built the Public Hall as a memorial to the ascendancy of the Japanese Emperor (the construction was completed by 1935).18 Although it was called the Public Hall, with a hall, restaurant, VIP room and

assembly hall, it had the police headquarter on its left side, performing the colonial state function of monitoring and repression.

Public space, a sphere controlled by the state, was an irony of the colonial dependent city, symbolizing the absence of a public sphere. There was no energy or market chaos as seen in European cities. No noise created by a citizen’s forum, no public opinion to be heard. In the


post-colonial period, exactly in this hall, people unskilfully experimented with political debate, the Žrst instance of people’s political participation and also the tragic beginning of the 228 massacre. Since then, the square became a parking lot for the police station and was never a real public space for citizens. Certainly, counter public spaces, which emerged after the 1990s and were supported by Taiwan’s civil society and pursued by the women’s, lesbian and gay organizations, never existed in this square. Rather, the ‘New Park’, called Taipei Park in the past and now the 228 Peaceful Memorial Park, is a good example of a counter public space representing the public and the heterogeneous groups of citizens.19

An absence in colonial modernity is the historicity of the subject, and the very basis for social power of the repressed that comes from resistance against the colonizers. In the process of colonization mentioned above, the so-called ‘Islanders’ were the ruled ‘Second Class Citizens’ because they were not yet ‘modernized’ and remained the ‘slaves of the Qing Empire’. Even after the period of implementing the assimilation policy and ‘changing name’, only a few hundred thousand people among six million Taiwanese were incorporated into the Japanese Empire. Those upper class elites faced a misplaced identity, differentiated from the other classes.20 Because of capitalist differentiation and double constructions,21 peasants and the

working class in the late period of colonialism were exploited and alienated from the system. The most discriminated ethnic group, called the ‘Kaosha’ people, lived at the bottom of society. They were the groups active in constructing the anti-colonial cities, appearing in different forms and in different phases — for example, the severe armed struggle against Japan in the early colonial period, which ended with the bloody event at Xilai Temple. In the 1920s, the formation of the oligarchy of Japanese capital led to the ourishing of nationalist movements led by the bourgeois class. After the 1930s, the spread of poverty among rural villages caused a class struggle in which we saw the active Cultural Association, Taiwan’s People Party (Taiwan Mingzhongdang) , Taiwanese Communist Party, and the development of the peasant and worker movement (Chen Zhiwu 1988: 250). In Dataocheng, Taizhong and other cities, their members launched public speeches and assemblies, leaving their traces in the ‘urban spatial cracks’. For example, Taizhong, despite its urban form shaped according to Kyoto by the Japanese, was the site for the Cultural Association and that is why this city is/was called the ‘cultural city’. Unfortunately, the Central Club (Central Bookstore), Lewutai (a theatre) and Zuiyuelou (a restaurant) have all been demolished. Now the only survival building is Taizhong Middle School (named as Taizhong Yizhong now) the Žrst middle school run by Taiwanese people.22 Regarding the struggles of the indigenous people against the Japanese, such as the

event of Wushe and other rebellions in Nantou, Xinchu and Jiayi, there are still some sites preserved as places of historical witness.

The oppositional and complex relations between the colonial and anti-colonial cities consti-tuted the urban function and form. The city not only acts as the stage for anti-colonial politics, but also a kind of representation through which artists, occupying the spaces, used their imagination to transform and express a counter meaning. This is the socially and culturally active experience forming the collective memory of the anti-colonial city in the oppressed colonial city. We are certainly touched by Guo Xuehu’s ‘The Scene of Disaster Relief in Nan Street ’ (see Figure 1) which shows the prosperity of Nan Street in Dataocheng, the numerous shops, a lot of commodity products piled up in the shops and along the passages under the balconies. The artist showed his familiarity with the speciŽc lifestyle of Dataocheng in the past (not the Huanle Street [Happy Street] at the centre of the colonial city). With his imagination, he captured and expressed the ‘urban spatial cracks’, as the space for residents’ everyday life as well as the symbolic expression of the counter public space in an anti-colonial city. The artistic expression represented the pursuit of a bright future life of Taipei city as well as the performance of the local social and cultural power among the local cities.

The anti-colonial cities remain invisible in historical research: more oral history, studies of the police records of the Governor House, and re-reading of those anecdotal histories of the


Figure 1.

‘rebellion of bandit’ are needed. For example, the location of the police station enables us to envisage the map of the anti-colonial city: the police headquarters beside the Public Hall in Taipei mentioned above, those police stations in the Han people’s settlements, such as the Langzhou police station located in the middle of the road and inserted into the Dalongdong Sishisikan, Baoan Temple, Confucian Temple and Dalung primary school, and those ‘Jingguang (Police Light) Villas’ and the police stations in the indigenous people’s counties. All of them were strategic points for colonial surveillance. Through the scope of the anti-colonial city, we can read the perception of those silenced colonized people who, under the colonial oppression and surveillance, constituted their public space in the ‘urban spatial cracks’ in which they tacitly assembled, discussed politics and created breakthroughs in colonial constraints. The anti-colonial dynamic and identity politics from the representations of space, and spaces of representation, are noteworthy and deserve further illustrations. The space for anti-colonial struggle was built up in cultural speeches, study groups and cultural bookshops, escaping police surveillance. Their voices, through the nascent public sphere, i.e. newspapers, were consolidated into the identity of the colonized. Just like the factory working as a struggling site in production, at the same time, the various elements of collective consumption in reproduction — such as theatres, restaurants, parks, roads, streets, markets and bookshops — provided


spaces for resistance while the representativ e texts, such as drama, literature and folk songs, aroused the emotions and experiences of the oppressed.23

Space of education

In this Žnal section, I use two examples, which opened a debate on the style classiŽcation of Japanese colonial architecture in Taiwan after these buildings were designated as historic preservation sites, to discuss the space of education: the classrooms behind and in front of the Law School of the National Taiwan University and the so-called Red House of the Jianguo Middle School. The former was the site of the Taipei Commercial High School, completed by 1919 and later changed into the Economic Professional School during the Japanese Occupation. The latter was the First Middle School of Taipei, a branch of the Japanese school, exclusively for Japanese students and run by the Taiwan’s Governor House. In 1921, the Red House was built and renamed as the First Middle School of Taipei.

First, these buildings were constructed at the beginning of the 20th century when the Modern Architecture Movement dominated academic institutions and society. However, Japanese colonial policy attempted to introduce the classical architectural vocabularies of the 19th century into Taiwan’s public buildings in order to express the authority and the grandeur of the colonial empire.24 This historical background was critical for understanding Japanese

colonial buildings.

Secondly, these architectural vocabularies were re-interpreted and transplanted into the colonies by Japanese colonizers themselves. The architectures were not completely similar to those in the European countries and their colonies in Shanghai, Qingdao and so on. In the great Taipei Hotel (The Governor’s Mansion) or the ordinary school buildings, the problem is not their differences or ‘variations’ from the ‘standard’ of the European architecture but the speciŽcity of modernity constructed by Japanese colonizers. Japan’s Shinto state, with its notion of national sacredness, through a kind of reason in Japanese uniqueness, formulated the accuracy of building technique and expressed the will to insist on the standards of all architectural details and building materials. The authority of classical forms represented serious spirit paralleling the authority of the military regime.25Hence, it is meaningless to categorize

the stylish vocabulary of the Japanese colonial architecture according to western architectural history. However, was not the variation of Taiwan’s Japanese architecture from the western ‘standard’ the speciŽcity of double transplantation?

Here, for those readers confused by the post-modern architecture, I give some examples as explanation. In the 19th century, the classic architectural language can be characterized as a ‘revival’ of traditions, mainly the Ancient Greek and Gothic. The neo-classical language also lasted for a long time, especially the Romanesque favoured for its simplicity. In England, Gothic architecture — from ‘romantic Gothic’ (nostalgic of the Middle Ages) in its careful and detailed imitation — was widely accepted and viewed as a necessary element of religion. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin is the best example. The inuential Gothic style certainly was not merely used in churches but also hotels, courts and hospitals. After its transplantatio n in the United States, it became the built environment with ‘the aura of an ivory tower’ needed by the educated aristocrats on their university campus or the important spatial element for cultivating high culture and high class.

In the age dominated by modernism, from the viewpoint of the modern architectural historians and critics (they were the advocates of modernism rather than ‘objective’ architec-tural scholars), the examples above were seen as the adoption of historical styles without imagination and the expression of conservative power. From the historical perspective, the dominating values of the adopters of styles become visible as an imaged ideology, or representation of the invisible power relations in the perceptual space. The Romanesque style represents justice and the Venice style is associated with commerce while the Orient is used in


places related to ‘leisure’. Greece is regarded as the origin of the western culture and the Greek style is deliberately used in government buildings as the most dominating ‘public’ symbol. The signiŽcation of these symbols became increasing ambiguous after repeated eclectic uses. The 19th century’s classical language was directly connected to the European nation building starting from the 18h century. For instance, the monumentality of the well-known Cathedral of Cologne was closely related to the myth of the Germanic nation building. This can be traced back to the tradition of art–architectural history inuenced by the right-wing Hegelian thought centring on Zeitgeist and Volksgeist in German.

Architectural language should not be isolated from social context and comparison of different formal categories and stylish classiŽcations are doomed to fail. These approaches, without methodological and theoretical awareness, sneaked the ‘expert’s’ taste and prejudice into historical research. Instead, we have to understand in what historical context, by whom, for what reason, in what form a particular kind of architectural language was ‘imitated’ and transplanted (for example, Taiwan as a Japanese colony). What meaning was produced? What transformation can we initiate in the ‘loopholes’ of the dominant meaning?

The facades of the Law School of the National Taiwan University and the Red House belong to the eclectic ‘Gothic’ element in the classical architectural language of Western Europe. However, the imitation was extremely simple and not without ‘deviations’ because the colonial authority attempted to create the spatial aura for the educated class required by the middle and high education of the ‘colonizer’ (rather than the local people). The spatial experience cultivated by the educational sites ensured the cultural production for the Japanese users. This was a component of the stratiŽed labour within the state bureaucracy.

However, within these learning places, the loophole lies in the colonial desire for power and that control overwhelmed the necessary openness for pursuit of knowledge and innovation. For those ‘non-users’, this was a forbidden hall and a strange colonial institution exclusive for the colonial educated class. In other words, this is the problem of colonial modernity with the absence of a subject. The presence of a subject is the core of education and the activating power in the learning process and education space.

Through these examples, I underline that, in historical research on colonial architecture, the key to interpretation is subject constitution. Once the subjectivity of the researcher is established, histories are full of loopholes. Through practice and historical writing, we persistently open up a space for dialogue, intervention into architecture and the real space. It does not make any sense to argue: what is the ‘typical Red House’ in a red brick construction of Japanese colonial architecture? Some specialists even ask: is the Law School more ‘representative’ than the Red House? This is the wrong question unless knowledge only functions as a disguise for the powerful groups. It is necessary to pose radically different questions in the actual colonial context. The aim of historical writing is to demystify and explore the cycles of history in order to enable the silenced others, such as peasants, workers, indigenous people and women, to speak out. This is a historical project concentrating on rewriting history in the persistent dialogues.


There is a mode of vital experience — experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life’s possibilities and perils — that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience ‘modernity.’ To be modern is to Žnd ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world — and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity:


it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, ‘all that is solid melts into the air.’ (Berman 1982: 15)(emphasis added)

The major urban meanings of the colonial dependent cities are mediated by colonial transplantation. This is the transplantation of colonial modernity

In Taiwan, what are the main characters of the constitutional process of the Japanese colonial city and architecture? This is a question for further theoretical dialogues. The planning and designing ideas in the colonial period were imposed on the city not merely through military and political oppression but also through double transplantation of cultural dependency, from the West to Japan and from Japan to Taiwan. This is Taiwan’s speciŽcities or, precisely speaking, the ‘speciŽcities’ of Japanese colonial cities, because Korea also has the similar features. This is the asymmetrical relationship underlying the method of communication. These speciŽcities are not the arithmetic sum of adding together the western modernity and the Japanese modernity. Rather, we have to focus on the very nature of the colonial transplantation process structured by colonial dependency: doing an ‘experiment’ in Taiwan even before Japan, the direct oppressive mechanism, the concentric landscape with hierarchical distinction, an urban plan-ning institution and system providing a grand vision, the authority of the classical and memorial building, etc. All these shaped Taiwan’s spatial structure as penetrated by the Japanese state spirit represented by Tenno.

In theory, the construction of colonial modernity without the subjects’ constitution is the key to understanding the transplantation of colonial architecture and the city

First, in the common experience of colonialism, we discuss further the commonalities of the representations of colonial architecture and the city as well as the construction of colonial modernity.26 This paper deŽnes the concept of colonial modernity as a kind of modernity

without the subjects’ constitution. This conceptualization enables us to deepen the analysis of colonial architecture and the city.

Secondly, in order to facilitate dialogues among scholars, I raise the example of Paris for reection upon the construction of modernity. Regarding this, David Harvey provides a very clear theoretical foundation.

Charles Baudelaire, in his The Painter of Modern Life, reveals: modernity is the institutional-ization of ashy volatility. From this sense, we can capture the transformation of urban landscape initiated by Baron Georges-Engene Haussmann: the creative destruction of the Second Empire. Walter Benjamin reects upon the nature of this cultural transition and the transitory hegemony within commodity exchanges. In other words, this is the competition between the changing commodity world, the nation state and the production system in different places. This is what Berman said, in the quotation that begins this section: ‘To be modern is to Žnd ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world — and, at the same, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.’ The very core of this universal modernity is the capitalist mode of production.

For colonial Taiwan, industrialization , urbanization and modernization are the historical process of colonialism as well as the major urban experience, a starting point structured by the historical process. Consequently, it turned out that urban planning was as simple as clearing and paving roads. The urban experience, represented by Paris and created by the accumulation of commodities, promises of adventure and happiness, transformation of self and the world, did not occur until the end of the 1970s when Taiwan as a postcolonial city had accumulated enough surplus in the world market. This particular experience and urban form are


character-ized by chaos and active power that we call ‘creative chaos’. The active desire and the cruel character of death given birth by creative destruction are the major features underlying the shadow of death in this new urban experience. The colonial city provided a launching base for increasing competition and expansion of greed that remain to be further discussed in the future. Due to its character of colonialism, Taiwan was plunged into the sadness of the failure to constitute its subjects closely correlated with the suppression of identities and the complex of inferiority-superiority. In the postwar period, in the process of returning to ‘mother land’, the syndrome of ‘orphan consciousness’, stated by Wu Chuliu’s Wuhuaguo, did not get any emotional compensation but was further humiliated and injured by the Nationalist Govern-ment: the incident of 228 and the White Terror in the 1950s. State violence stirred up the complex of shengji (the myth of ‘Taiwanese’ and ‘Mainlanders’). The right-wing Nationalist Government, building up an anti-Communist hegemony, created a seedbed for the new national project of identity in the later restructuring of the state power. Because the construction of nationalism needs ‘others’ (enemies) for fulŽlment, Mainland China, a revolutionary state inuenced by ‘Marxist modernity’, became/becomes a big enemy again. Hence, Taiwan’s post-colonial society embodies the split of national identity and the unspeakable emotion caused.

Reexive knowledge is the necessary capability of the constitution of critical modernity

The history of the anti-colonial city tells us that the relationships between the colonial city and the anti-colonial city are not as simple as a binary opposition. The most embarrassing is the fact that the colonized always duplicates its opposite side because it lacked self-reexivity. Through the process of resistance, the oppressed, trapped in the value system of the colonizers, repeats the colonial values. The colonized people’s resentment obstructs themselves from any self-reection of one’s body from the mirror image. Instead, the colonized unconsciously imitates the object of resentment, represses others and becomes a dominant power. Without subject, the oppressed creates a body without subject and reproduces all the evils of the old oppressor. Decolonization turns into ‘internal colonization’, a reproduction of the colonial system. Such colonial modernity is historically in collaboration with patriarchal culture and the traces of power constructing a body, an unrecognized mixture of conservation culture and the modern state violence. This body dominates the disadvantage d groups in the society and takes ‘democracy’ as an alien culture or only a slogan for manipulation by populist politics.

That is why in the post-colonial architecture of Taiwan, building as a modern engineering technique, lost the Japanese colonizers’ insistence and concentration on accurate techniques and materials. Without subject constitution in Taiwan’s colonial architecture, it is impossible to have any reexivity and ‘cultural’ or ‘humanist’ features. There is no sufŽcient condition for developing the dynamic character in pursuit of reexive knowledge, but only searching for globalization, a process accompanied by uneven development (Giddens 1990: 174–175).

David Harvey, whose theory is very important in the comparison between the colonial city experience of Taiwan and that of European cities, such as Paris, points out that capitalism is preoccupied with a pressing thirst for capital accumulation. Capital creates a landscape according to its need at one point of history and then destroys it for further accumulation. This conceptualization captures the image of Haussmann’s debris and Joseph Schumpeter’s image of the entrepreneurial hero (Harvey 1989: 16–18). As mentioned above, this is a sort of universal modernity representing the capitalist mode of production. This is a process of self-destroying subjective experience, referring to innovation as well as death embodied in the soul of the pioneer’s modern arts and architecture. In other words, the objectivity of modernity is closely associated with socio-economic processes and the subjectivity is related to culture, including individual experience, arts and theoretical reexivity (Heynen 1999: 10). This subjectivity in the uncertainty of challenges acts as the origin of the civil society and individual


innovative experience. In addition, in the antagonism between reason and subject is human senses or, theoretically, the origin of subjectivity constitution in practice.27

Only on the above basis of our understanding of colonial modernity do we gain a historical distance to reconstruct critical modernity with dynamic reexive knowledge. After questioning Euro/Japan-centricity and its particularities, rewriting the colonized others become possible. Without subjectivity, there would be no way to reconstruct the historical distance from colonialism. Through the subject’s practice one reconnects with the two aspects of modernity: rationalization and ‘subjectivation’. The subject is an action of will and an actor. In the context of postcolonialism and post-traditionalism, the individual transforms into self-identity by activating a reexive project and a reexive identity in a mirror-image relation.28 Reexive

self-awareness is the common feature of human activities and also the special and institutional conditions for the crucial elements in modernity (Giddens 1991: 35).

However, regarding Taiwan’s colonial historical experience, what a difŽcult job of construct-ing critical modernity it is! John Pomfret, the Washconstruct-ington Post correspondent in Taipei, wrote an article in June 2000. He quoted the description of Japanese colonialism at the 228 Memorial Hall:

Japanese rulers improved Taiwan’s education and medical system, built up an indepen-dent legal system, reduced crimes, constructed highway and railway, improved peo-ple’s livelihood. Japan played a critical role in Taiwan’s modernizatio n process.

Pomfret takes Li Denghui and Gu Zhenfu as examples to argue that the old generation in Taiwan have a good impression of Japan and this is the feature of Taiwan’s identity. Apparently some scholars or politicians in the name of ‘ofŽcial’ and ‘objective’, sneak the prejudice into the historical understanding of Taiwan’s colonial past. This is the product of the lack of the historical distance of ‘reexive modernity’ that is necessary for subject constitution. The reason is that colonial modernity suffers from the failure to build up a subject, i.e. a modernizing process without the presence of a subject. That is why the elite class loses the discuss courage and power to Žght against the arrogant Japanese for equality.

Japanese colonizers were deŽnitely usurpers who not only gained advantages but also pretended/pretend to be innocent. They establish the legitimacy of usurpation in the cultural discourses and rationalize the domination by legitimizing identity (e.g. ‘Japan crisis’ in Kobayashi Yoshinori’s Taiwanism). Likewise, in the African colonial experience, the usurper’s role suffers from the Nero’s complex forever.29The reason for suffering from the absence of a

subject (like the emotion in Kobayashi Yoshinori’s Taiwanism), is that the colonized lack the reexive ability. The embarrassing situation of the Taiwanese colonized is that the postcolonial oppressors30 exactly reproduce the colonial cultural prejudice, institution and mode of

pro-duction to implement ‘internal colonization’ (e.g. indigenous tribes and women are treated as the object of colonization). Among these colonial institutions, nationalism is the most critical problem requiring further reection. In the post-colonial period, nationalism used the means of developmentalism to play the role of the developmental state that promoted ‘economic takeoff’ and ‘upgraded’ Taiwan. This ideology successfully penetrates Taiwan society. How can we expect these elites who adopt the colonial state’s ‘legitimizing identity’ (e.g. nationalist project), to jump over the resistance identity but articulate ‘project identity’ (e.g. the feminist’s gender identity and environmentalist ’s environmental identity) to construct subjectivity?

Baik Young-Su, a Korean scholar, mentions the red shoes in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale as a metaphor for nationalism in East Asia. The dancing girl in the red shoes is praised and admired by people but she fails to stop and take off her shoes even when she is extremely exhausted. Finally she has to cut off her own feet. This story reminds us that the ‘Dream of a Strengthening Nation’ constructed by the nation state of East Asia is a pair of red shoes (Baik Young-Su 1999: 3). Is not the colonial modern project, a modernity project without subjectivity, a horrible experience? The underlying nature of colonial modernity is a process


without the reexivity of subjectivity, in which the colonized borrow the usurper’s perspective, values and mentality, imitate Japan’s ‘Asianism’ and ‘western’ imperialism, construct a ‘nation’ and ‘strengthen the state’ from ‘development’. Even Liang Qichao, learned scholar, who had visited Taiwan during the period of Japanese colonialism, also adopted the western thought from Japan to formulate ideas for China’s reform. He introduced nationalism in China and expected that the yellow people could defeat the whites one day but dismissed the ‘Brown and Black’ people as lazy races. In Korea, Independent News, a radical reformist publication, argued that Korea would become a civilized country and then could participate in dividing up and dominating China. This situation of lack of reexivity had not been challenged until Li Dazhao, after the First World War, proposed ‘New Asianism’ in the name of liberating all those oppressed ethnicities and asked Japan to recognize all Asian countries Žrst and then further contribute to humanity (Baik Young-Su 1999: 3–5). Just like the critique of modernity, the critique of colonial modernity is a necessary process of subject constitution. Without reexive space, no alternative space can be produced in practice even though there is a space of resistance.

The only way to avoid oppression, depression, sadness, internal colonization and the postcolonial predicament lies on the reexive ability, a capability to reect upon modernity. From a subject’s project identity, one establishes the ability to practice, which is the key to subject constitution. Since the 1990s, the reexive subjectivity and the consciousness awareness of class, gender, and sexuality Žnally have the chances to see themselves, and to construct their subjectivities gradually. Through this, historical researchers must rebuild their own sense of histories, not only the requirement of making histories and practical exploration but also the future vision of Taiwan’s city and architecture. In one wave after one wave of social transform-ation, and the repeated palimpsests of landscape in Taiwan, urban archaeological exploration attempts to search for the traces of colonial modernity and rewrite histories for persistent dialogues. This is the necessary condition for creating alternative space and perpetuating socio-spatial transformation.


1. This paper is based on one of my studies (Hsia 2000) that is an attempt to further theorize Taiwan’s colonial architecture and city; more precisely, Japanese architecture and urbanism in the colonial Taiwan (including urban planning, design and related ideas and techniques) during the period of Japanese colonialism. This paper is not going to discuss all western imperialism from Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands that developed colonial architecture and the city through trading Žrms and missionaries. The ‘western house’ introduced by the homeland of the overseas Chinese from Guang-dong and Fujian will also not be included in this study. Regarding the latter, please read Jiang Bowei’s PhD dissertation (Jiang 2000).

2. Transplantation, the theme of this paper, is the core issue of the thought history of urban planning and design in the last century (Hall 1996: 2–3). My discussion on the colonial architecture and city should be compared with Peter Hall’s discourses on the relations between England, India and Africa. 3. See Masao Maruyama’s (1963: 6–7) analysis, quoted from Castells (2000: 226).

4. ‘Touyou’ (East) is a term invented for comparing Japan with western Europe, referring to the ‘civilized’ countries and expressing the self-conŽdence of Japan’s civilization . This term geographically refers to the region with Japan as the centre surrounded by the not yet ‘civilized’ countries. According to Baik Young-Su’s analysis, Japan took Asia as a unit and then discursively transformed this term from ‘Escaping from Asia’ and ‘developing Asia’. After the Japan–Russia war, the Japanese summarized their ideas of ‘Asia’ as ‘Asianism’ and Žnally advocated the idea of ‘Dai To-A Kyoeiken’.

5. The author tries to construct the concept of colonial modernity and develop it from a descriptive term to an analytic concept for dealing with the historical construction process.

6. Because of nationalism, the Japanese did not notice this imagined geography that still lasts. The Japanese economy tremendously destroyed the forest of Southeast Asia. Its ecological view is questioned as shadows in the forest, i.e. a shadow ecology (Nakashima 2000: 23).

7. Although Hatta Koubu’s historical interpretation of Goto Shimpei lacks structural analysis and reexive perspective, he still provides some useful information to illustrate the transformation of


Japanese colonialism from violent oppression to pacifying policies implemented by civil bureaucrats (Hatta 2001: 20–35).

8. Tsurumi Yusuke’s viewpoint, quoted from Zhang Jingshen (1993: 9).

9. Japan had implemented an emigration plan but the Japanese immigrants failed to compete with the Han people in Taiwan. Most of them failed to settle in Taiwan permanently and all of them returned to Japan after the Second World War (Wakabayashi Masatake, see Matsunaga Masayoshi et al. 1995: 43–45)

10. See Koshi Zawaakira (1986), Huang Shimeng (1987) 1987 ,

and Zhang Jingshen’s PhD dissertation (1991) and Zhang Jingshen (1993)’s Chapter 2. This book is an abridged version of his dissertation. It provides a sharp analysis of the history of Taiwan’s urban planning. Regarding the analysis of Ali Mountain national park, please see Lin Xiuzi (1993).

11. See Matsunaga Masayoshi. ‘Taiwan: Facing with the Challenge of the Future.’ In Matsunaga Masayoshi

et al. (1995: 10).

12. This part is the conclusion of my discussion with my student Hyun Chang-Sung.

13. Hatta Koubu’s feeling of pity not only exposes his methodological fallacy of historical writing, imagining that history can be pushed back and repeat again in a different way, but also the lack of understanding of the structural nature of the colonial history, especially the colonizers’ poverty of self-reexivity.

14. For further information about the two Governor Houses, please see Choi Sung-Ryul and Hsia Chujou (1995).

15. Under the inuence of Foucault, the sanitation syndrome has already become the common theme of knowledge archaeology on various places. The purpose of the colonizers’ concern with health includes the functional reason (the colonizers failed to adapt to the climate) and the modernity construction. This syndrome supported urban planning. Please see Zhang Jingshen (1993: 10).

16. The colonial government promoted an assimilatio n policy, and introduced the Tenno system of education. Following the colonial divide, the Japanese studied in Xiaoxuexiao and Han people in Gungxuexiao (public school).

17. I construct the concept of ‘urban spatial crack’ as a socio-spatial element to make a contrast with that of the western-style square and delineate how the political speciŽcities of the crack of public space had been cultivated by social forces.

18. According to other sources, it was completed by 1936. 19. See Lai Zhengzhe (1998) and Xie Peijuan’s (1999) MPhil thesis.

20. This misplacement of identity experience was further twisted and reinforced by the National Govern-ment’s despicable behaviour, such as the 228 Incident.

21. Tu Zhaoyan’s concept, quoted from Chen Zhiwu (1988: 249). Taiwan was Japan’s agricultural site where land and agricultural labour were the key elements of production. Hence, the articulation of colonial capitalism with the landlord economy formed the ‘dual structure’ of Taiwan’s special colonial society. Among the Han people, the production relation of landlord–tenant remained unchanged. The police violence implemented surveillance on people’s everyday life and oppressed the indigenous people in the most brutal and bloody way.

22. The words on the monument for the founding of Taizhong middle school Taizhong read: ‘Our Taiwanese did not have middle school. This is the Žrst one.’ (Taisho) (This information is provided by Zheng Zhi in the Fungjia University).

23. Although Zheng Wenliang’s thesis does not clearly illustrate the complex relations between the anti-colonial city and identity politics, his work is still a preliminary attempt (Zheng Wenliang 1996: 156).

24. From Goto Shimpei’s son-in-law Tsurumi Yusuke’s work, we know that this was a conscious act of the government. He said, ‘Taiwanese is a species of material. Gold and ritual, mansion and grand garden are what they respect. The poetry of the Tang Dynasty said, “How can you know the nobleness of the emperor without seeing his mansion?” In order to rule this species, grand ofŽcial building has the pacifying function’, quoted from Chen Zhiwu. Chen analysed this issue in detail (Chen Zhiwu 1988a, 1988b: 244–248).

25. The Taipei Hotel (Taiwan Governor’s Mansion) expressed the military authority. This is the most suitable for comparison with Paris, France.

26. Tani Barlow is the Žrst one who used the concept of colonial modernity. As an experienced editor in

Position, she used this term as the headline of the augural issue. She proposes to examine the

complexity from the historical synchronicity of colonialism to modernity discourses (Barlow 1993: v–vii). This paper borrows her rhetoric and gives further theoretical meaning to this concept: modernity without subjectivity.

27. Marx’s idea of practice in Theses on Feuerbach is a good example. 28. Please see Touraine (1995: 207), Giddens (1991: 53), Castells (1997: 10) 29. This is an Albert Memmi’s idea proposed by Hung Guojun.


30. They did not participate in the resistance movement and some of them even joined the colonial project and had a vested interest in it. They gained the result of victory without experiencing anti-colonial struggles.


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Author’s biography

Chu-joe Hsia , is a Professor, Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.

Translator’s biography

IP Iam Chong , is a PhD students at the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University, Taipei. He originally comes from Macau and studies in Hong Kong, Email:





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