This paper reviews the development of printing in Taiwan during the Japanese rule and discusses the link between the printing industry, education, and local awareness in Taiwan. Based on the official reports of industrial statistics, I also provide a preliminary analysis of the development trend of the localization of the printing industry in the 1930s, when the island of Taiwan absorbed various cultural or technological experiences. Before the middle of the twentieth century, there was a three-way importation of printed products, printing methods, and techniques from mainland China, Japan, and Western countries. In addition, the interactions of modern printing activities among Taiwan, mainland China, and Japan were extremely frequent before the Second Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s.
The internal development of printing plants in Taiwan during the Japanese rule has been neglected in past studies. The historical study of Chinese books seems to be more concerned with printed productions than with their places of origin. Most research indicates that the publishing business in colonial Taiwan was tightly controlled and exclusively occupied by the Japanese.¹ Therefore, this paper aims to present the changes in Taiwan’s printing industry itself by analyzing the annual reports of industrial statistics, including printing plants and workers, rather than merely looking at the massive content of printed products. The cumulative process of the printing enterprises in colonial Taiwan needs to be further explored.
Printing is considered to be one of the four great inventions of China.² According to Mengxi bitan 夢溪筆談 (Brush Talks from Dream Brook) in the Song Dynasty, Bi Sheng 畢昇 (?–1051) created the technology of movable type printing in the mid-eleventh century. Although movable type was invented in China in 1040, the printing press was only established by Johannes Gutenberg (1400–1468) in Europe by the fifteenth century. Scholars have claimed that an irreversible revolution occurred after this invention by Gutenberg.³ In the Western experience, printers and publishers played a major role in laying the intellectual foundations to support this initiative of cultural exploration.⁴ Also, the involvement of literacy and books with a wide range of knowledge outside of the literati culture could in theory have forged more practical bodies of written and printed knowledge.⁵ Comparatively, economic historians have calculated that the average annual book production in China was much lower than the book production in Europe at the same time, even lower than the production of a small country like the Netherlands and the Asian country Japan in the eighteenth century.⁶ This statement, however, does not take into account the fundamental difference between book production in Chinese characters and Roman script by simply comparing the size of the Eastern and Western publishing markets in terms of the number of books published each year. Due to the nature of the Chinese script, the use of movable type was financially impractical for most printers.⁷
As the historian and editor Lien Heng 連橫 (1878–1936) indicated, most of the books traditionally printed in Taiwan were published in Quanzhou and Xiamen in China before the advent of typographic printing.⁸ Song Yun Xuan 松雲軒, the first woodblock printing house in Taiwan, was founded in Tainan by Lu Chongyu 盧崇玉 during the early years of Daoguang 道光 (1821–1851) in the Qing Dynasty. Most of the books printed by Song Yun Xuan were textbook essays, poetry collections, and children’s books. However, because Lu’s heir was involved in the Selai Temple Incident Xilai’an shijian 西來庵事件, one of the serious armed rebellions against the Japanese government, this printing house was sold to another printing house, the Chang Ren Tang 昌仁堂, after 1915.
Textbook printing needs to be included into the history of knowledge. From the photos of the Educational Achievements Exhibition in 1915, teaching materials such as textbooks and wall charts were major outputs of the printing industry in colonial Taiwan and imperial Japan (see Figure 1). In the same year of 1915, the largest modern bookstore in colonial Taiwan, the Xin Gao Tang 新高堂 Bookstore, was rebuilt by Murasaki Nagaaki 村崎長昶 (1870–1950) in the Sakaecho 榮町 District of Taipei City. The printing of books such as the “Textbook for Taiwanese Citizens” (Taiwan kōmin dokuhon 臺灣公民讀本, see Figure 2) was one of the most important outputs of the Xin Gao Tang Bookstore between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Two years later, Lan Ji 蘭記 Bookstore, founded in Chiayi in 1917 by a local Taiwanese, Huang Maoshang 黃茂盛, was the first bookstore in southern Taiwan. Not only selling common books such as shanshu 善書 (morality tracts) from China, Lanji Bookstore (Lanji shuju 蘭記書局) also published Chinese products by using metal movable type printing. The modern Chinese bookstores in colonial Taiwan, such as Wen Hua 文化, Chung Yang 中央, and Ya Tang 雅堂 were set up during the 1920s. These modern bookstores were similar to publishing houses called shufang 書坊 (lit. book workshops) in China; they produced and distributed books and even expanded their business to selling stationery. Since then, business diversification has become a normal phenomenon for modern bookstores.
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the Western new style printing press arrived in Taiwan. Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell (馬雅各, 1836–1921), the first preacher of the English Presbyterian Mission, moved to southern Taiwan in 1865 and donated a small printing press with Roman movable type. This printing press was made in England in 1872, but no one knew the proper operation of this machine after it arrived in Taiwan in 1880. Thus, the printing press and equipment were left unused. In 1881, the preacher Thomas Barclay (巴克禮, 1849–1935) went to the Aird & Coghill printing and publishing house in Glasgow to learn how to properly operate this machine. He tried to assemble the press after he returned to Taiwan in 1884. The following year, Taiwan Church News (Taiwan Fucheng Jiaohui Bao 臺灣府城教會報), the first modern newspaper in Romanized Taiwanese, was printed on this machine in Tainan. With strong support from the church system, Taiwan Church News has been the longest-running newspaper in Taiwan to date.⁹
Finally, the Japanese brought their refined printing experience and improved technology like offset printing to Taiwan after 1895. The Taiwan Daily News (Taiwan Riri Xinpao 臺灣日日新報), published in Chinese and Japanese in 1898, overcame problems such as inadequate technology and lack of manpower to become the most influential, enduring, and widely circulated newspaper in colonial Taiwan at that time, with government support.¹⁰ Finally, the oldest and largest printing enterprise in Taizhong in central Taiwan was Taiwan News (Taiwan Xinwenshe 臺灣新聞社), a joint stock company founded in 1903 with a workforce of one hundred people. In summary, it is clear that different printing techniques were in use on the island of Taiwan before 1945. Whether it was woodblock printing from China, the new typeset machine brought by the missionaries, or the printing technology introduced from Japan, new possibilities for the production of a wide range of printing products in Taiwan were opened up.
Since the enactment of Taiwan’s Publication Regulations (“Taiwan shuppan kisoku” 臺灣出版規則)¹¹ in 1900, colonial restrictions on publishing became more stringent. The control of book production was carried out in two aspects: 1) the regulation of publishing procedures and copyright page format; 2) the control of book content by inspection before printing and import.¹² After passing the inspection of the Governor’s Office without any problems, the police would conduct another random inspection on the grounds of public security. In order to maintain the stability of colonial society, printed materials were subject to strict government censorship before being distributed or sold in colonial Taiwan.
Demands for free expression from local Taiwanese gradually rose in the 1920s. The young medical doctor Chiang Wei-shui (Jiang Weishui) 蔣渭水 (1890–1931) facilitated the establishment of the Taiwan Cultural Association (Taiwan wenhua xiehui 臺灣文化協會) in 1921. He described “Taiwan” as a patient and pointed out the symptoms of the Taiwanese people as suffering from “knowledge malnutrition” (zhishi yingyang buliangzheng 智識營養不良症). He strongly suggested that “education” for at least twenty years would be the first essential prescription for its lack in Taiwan. In other words, education would be the main method to cure Taiwan’s problem at that moment in history.
The journal Taiwan Minbao (臺灣民報 Taiwan People’s News), was founded by members of the Taiwan Cultural Association in the spring of 1923. Initially, the Taiwan Minbao was published only in Chinese every two weeks in Tokyo, Japan, but in 1927 the news office was finally able to arrive in Taipei while adding a Japanese edition. From a print language perspective, Chinese and Japanese are both part of the Chinese character sphere. However, for the news media, which is in pursuit of timeliness and accuracy, the costs were higher because for printing Chinese, more printing letterforms were needed in one printing plant. Before the Chinese column was forcibly abolished in 1937, the Taiwan Minbao Syndicate (including journals) was mainly published in Chinese or the Taiwanese “vernacular”. This newspaper became an important platform for transmitting information and for local people to gain new knowledge. Even though the literate population was small at the time, the association organized newspaper reading clubs as a way to promote local publicity.
As Benedict Anderson’s theory shows, the print capitalism shaped by a group of imaginary idealists via the printing press and newspapers had a standardizing effect on nationalism.¹³ The printing and distribution of newspapers in Taiwan reflected the trend of the relevant technology between 1915 and 1930.¹⁴ In the 1920s, the Taiwan Cultural Council promoted a series of cultural activities that also included reading newspapers aloud in the vernacular for to the public. This allowed the illiterate community to understand the news as well as to acquire new knowledge. During this period, cultural activities in Taiwan were gradually initiated by local people.
The Japanese term insatsukōjō 印刷工場 (printing factory) became common in Taiwan instead of the Chinese shufang 書坊 (book workshops).¹⁵ Economists identified the growth and productivity of the sector producing “theoretical” knowledge as one of the key elements in generating a cumulative process of knowledge creation and human capital formation.¹⁶ From the annual industrial statistics of colonial Taiwan, one can see that there was an obvious increase in the printing industry in the 1930s, the so-called period of “extensionism of the homeland” [i.e. Japan] (naichi enchō shugi 內地延長主義).
As for the entire printing industry in colonial Taiwan, there were a total of 125 printing houses on the island, according to official statistics conducted by the Taiwan Colonial Production Bureau (shokusankyoku 殖產局) in 1930. With a surprising growth in 1940, the number of printing presses built was up to 360, nearly tripling in ten years. The total number of printing workers (including males and females) in 1930 was 2,060, more than doubling to 4,167 after ten years (see Figure 3). At the same time, the number of public schools and students in Taiwan had also increased. By 1935, there were 540 public elementary schools on the island, with 230,000 to 240,000 children enrolled, while no more than 130 private schools (sishu 私塾) were established by the Taiwanese. Higher education schools, including girls’ schools, had a total of 10,000 students.¹⁷ There was a growing demand for new textbooks for the larger number of students. Moreover, if we check the distribution of the printing plants in Taiwan in both 1930 and 1940, this presents a dramatic increase in the printing factories in Taihoku (Taibeizhou 臺北州), Shinchiku (Xinzhuzhou 新竹州), Taichū (Taizhongzhou 臺中州), Tainan (Tainanzhou 臺南州) and Takao (Gaoxiongzhou 高雄州) (see Figure 4). On the contrary, there were still less than ten printeries in the east side of Taiwan and Hōko island (Penghuting澎湖廳) in the 1930s (see Figure 5). Taking a closer view of the printing growth in Taipei, there were 55 printing factories in 1930 (developed to 122 in 1940) clustered around the north of Taiwan, specifically set in Sakaechō 榮町, Taiheichō 太平町, Shintomichō 新富町, and Kamikeifuchō 上奎府町 in Taipei city according to the official data.¹⁸ Taking the Kozuka 小塚 Printing Shop as an example, the main store of Kozuka was located in Sakaechō 2-chōme, Taipei City, and the first branch of Kozuka with printing workshops was located in Kyōmachi 1-chōme. The store acted as an agency for licensed security check paper manufactured by Paper Manufacturing Co., Ltd. and Star brand wrapping paper manufactured by the Tokyo Sakurai Store. In the meantime, it was selling stationery, foreign painting materials, and paper (see Figure 6). In terms of printing services, most plants provided typography, and some provided lithography or binding services, except for very few collotype and offset plants. Compared with the mainland, Taiwan’s lithographic factories seem to have been less popular than those in Shanghai, the publishing center of China.
Figure 3: The total number of printing factories and workers in Taiwan between 1930 and 1940 from the 20th Taiwan Commercial and Industrial Statistics, published by the Taiwan Colonial Production Bureau in 1942, Dai 20-kai Taiwan Shōkō tōkei 第20次臺灣商工統計, p. 59.
The private lithographic bookshops in Shanghai closely followed the changes in examination content in the late Qing Dynasty and took advantage of lithography to produce diverse, economical, and lightweight books.¹⁹ According to the same official report, lithographic and special printing shops were not as ubiquitous as those engaging in typography in colonial Taiwan.
It is worth mentioning that most of the printing factories clustered in Taizhong and Zhanghua, the cities in the center of Taiwan, were managed by local Taiwanese and built after 1911. By 1930, 19 of the 25 printing houses in this area were run by Taiwanese. By 1941, the number had grown to 33, according to another official factory directory.²⁰ Although most of the printing houses in central and southern Taiwan were small and had limited manpower, the printing production capacity of local Taiwanese had basically been formed by the 1930s. Likewise, according to Lin Yueh-Hsien’s dissertation, in colonial Taiwan’s publishing market, advertisements and bookstores, the retail businesses closest to the customers were almost exclusively controlled by the Japanese, while local Taiwanese capital was distributed in productive areas such as printing and bookmaking.²¹ Statistics show that the island's print media grew at such an accelerated rate that by 1937, there was practically one newspaper sale or subscription for every 34.41 Taiwanese. In the same year, total annual sales of newspapers imported from mainland Japan reached fifteen million copies, with Taiwanese newspapers accounting for 42.9%.²² In terms of the steadily increasing production volume of publications, a self-sustaining market led by production centers on the island was gradually established in the 1930s.²³ In addition, this industrial phenomenon was also in line with the trend of Taiwan’s overall industry gradually turning into individual small-scale operations in the 1930s.²⁴
After the rapid modernization of printing technology in the early twentieth century, Taiwan became an important producer and relay station for polyglot printed products in East Asia. The censorship system for publishing content under the Japanese occupation was rigorous. The printing industry played a catalytic role as a knowledge engine. On the one hand, the improvement of machines over time brought industrial efficiency. On the other hand, the dissemination of printed products such as newspapers and textbooks promoted the transmission of knowledge and even new visual sensations. Although there were legal restrictions on publishing at the time, the technical aspects kept pace with the industrial progress. Regardless of the content or language of the printed material, the increasing number of operators on the island shows that the energy of printing activities was neither diminished by war nor by colonial oppression.
As an engine of knowledge, the modern printing industry pursued homogenized production, high-speed production to publication, precise content, and systematic processes. In a positive way, this technology was also an engine to build up the educational system. Printing and book culture, or visual media, affected various levels of society. In fact, further research will be necessary to resolve issues related to the operation of the printing industry under Japanese rule, including the composition of the workforce and vocational training.
To summarize, Taiwan gradually integrated into the landscape of modernization with multicultural knowledge and cooperation. During the period of extensionism in the 1930s, Chinese printing was banned in 1937 because of security concerns at the start of the war against China. However, between 1930 and 1940, there was an obvious change in Taiwan’s printing industry. In more than ten years, the number of printing presses increased considerably. Managed by local Taiwanese, most of the printing factories were concentrated in Taizhong and Zhanghua, cities in the center of Taiwan. Rather than relying solely on the Japanese government, local Taiwanese tried to build their own cultural enterprises, such as the Song Yun Xuan Printing House, the modern Lanji Bookstore, and the Taiwan People’s News. The official materials contain only information about the workshops and operators but not yet about the working conditions and training of printing workers. Labor life is also an important part of the operation of the industry, and it will be my next step to explore the relevant information to form a more complete history of printing in Taiwan.
 Xin (2000), 17; Tsai (2002), 76. Basically, their argument was the limitations of Japanese colonization in terms of law, language, and economic conditions.
 The oldest extant Chinese print is the Diamond Sutra Jingang jing 金剛經, which was printed by woodblock in 868 AD and found in the Dunhuang 敦煌 caves.
 On the contrary, O’Donnell (2022) argued that the impact of the printing press had been overstated.
 Abel (2012).
 McDermott (2006), 176.
 Van Zanden (2009), 189.
 Brokaw (2005), 8.
 Lien (1932),198, 4.
 The newspaper changed its title to Taiwan Jiaohui Gongbao 臺灣教會公報 in 1932.
 Hsu (2008).
 It was published in [Taiwan Sotokufu] Fuhō [臺灣總督府]府報 (Taiwan Governor's Official Newspaper) No. 698 (21.02.1900).
 Tsai (2002), 77.
 Anderson (1995), 46.
 Su (2011), 19.
 It is difficult to make a clear division between the concepts of publishing houses, print shops, and bookstores in the Qing dynasty. Moll-Murata (2018), 250.
 Cervelatti / Sunde (2005).
 Tanaka (1935), 36–37.
 The 20th Taiwan Commerce and Industry Statistics published by the Taiwan Colonial Production Bureau in 1942, 59.
 Sim (2013), 273.
 Factory Directory of 1941 published by Taiwan Colonial Production Bureau in 1943, 345–346.
 Lin (2020), 34.
 Liao (2006), 91.
 Lin (2020), 41.
 Kao (2003), 229.
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