NCL Special Collection / Director-general Juang Fang-Rung / 2006 / 《Visual Feast》

In the 16th century Taiwan started to be known in the Western world by the appellation “Formosa,” which meant “beautiful island.” During the subsequent 400 years of historical changes, Taiwan’s beautiful mountains and rivers have seen moving stories of past generations starting on the difficult path of modernization as their blood mixed with their tears. They’ve also silently witnessed the rich abundance of cultural art and the beauty of buildings constructed. This period of history has both written accounts found in books, as well as visual accounts in photographs. Through the record left in these photographs, we see pristine and untouched depictions of beautiful scenery and common customs in Taiwan, which have now become valuable historic materials by which we can remember and cherish Taiwan’s historical past.
As the visual age is upon us, in recent years National Central Library has actively sought images and pictures of Taiwan history through various channels. These include pictures from foreigner who came in the 19th century and postcards issued during the Japanese occupation. The latter has amassed a very sizable collection of over 4,000 postcards. These postcards reflect the life and customs of the people at the time, as well as accurate portraits of various buildings.
In an effort to add to the Library’s collection of images, we held an “Old Pictures from Taiwan Contest” from June 27 to July 28 of this year (2006). This event sought pictures taken from 1920-1960 or earlier, as well as scenic (artistic) postcards from the Japanese occupation. Within the first month thirty-eight people generously donated more than ten photo albums with over one thousand pictures in them. The Library hired experts and scholars to evaluate the historical value and rareness of these pictures. A total of eighty-eight pictures were selected. The Library then published the winning pictures in this book to allow readers to feast their eyes on these historically-rich images. It is hoped that through these faded pictures, a visual feast of ancient flavor will be presented to the reader, showing how Taiwan used to look.
The content of this book is arranged according to seven main categories: Life of the Common People; Cultural Activities; Politics; Industry; Transportation; Street Scenes; Buildings, Mansions, and Gardens. Along with each picture is listed the name of the provider, the year it was taken, its dimensions, as well as its thematic content. To allow readers a deeper glimpse into the background behind each picture, a detailed caption is provided. While these captions are not lengthy, when viewed together with the striking images in the pictures, I am confident that they will bring back many memories in readers’ minds as we gaze together on how life used to be.
Only a very short amount of time has transpired from the concept of this book to its printing. While every effort was made to ensure the accuracy of the explanation for each photo, I fear there might be mistakes or oversights that we have not discovered. If so, I hope that readers can provide corrections and feedback.