Formosan Odyssey: Taiwan Past and Present, by John Ross

Until the early twentieth century, Taiwan was one of the wildest places in Asia. Its coastline was known as a mariners' graveyard, the mountainous interior was the domain of headhunting tribes, while the lowlands were a frontier area where banditry, feuding, and revolts were a way of life. Formosan Odyssey captures the rich sweep of history through the eyes of Westerners who visited and lived on the island — from missionaries, adventurers, lighthouse keepers, and Second World War PoWs, to students coming to study martial arts. It finishes with the story of Taiwan's economic miracle, the political transition from police state to vibrant democracy, and its continuing stand-off with China.

The author's travels, made around the island in the wake of the devastating 9-21 earthquake, and his experiences from five years of living in a small town, provide an intimate picture of modern Taiwan.

The island is a storehouse of Chinese and indigenous cultures, a fascinating mix of the new and the traditional, and likewise Formosan Odyssey is a smorgasbord of delights that both the general reader and any "old Asia hand" will find informative and amusing.

Camphor Press, which specializes in quality English-language e-books about Taiwan and China, has published a second edition (2014) of Formosan Odyssey: Taiwan Past and Present. The Kindle edition is also available through Amazon.


book cover of Formosan Odyssey: Taiwan Past and Present
  1. The 9-21 Earthquake
  2. The Tooth-Pulling Preacher
  3. To the Mountains
  4. Taipei
  5. The Shoe Man
  6. The Dutch
  7. Amazons and Trojan Horses
  8. Mariner’s Graveyard
  9. Days of High Adventure
  10. Culture Shock
  11. Gods and Ghosts
  12. Tracking Matsu
  13. Peach Town
  14. Cannibals
  15. Japan’s Showcase Colony
  16. The Hell Camp of Kinkaseki
  17. The White Terror
  18. Island Fortress
  19. Liquid Gold
  20. Snakes and Lagers
  21. Searching for Paradise
  22. Harnessing Qi
  23. The Miracle