Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) The National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH) in Tainan has opened its largest-ever exhibition called “Transcending 1624: Taiwan and the World” that brings Taiwan’s 17th-century history to life.
Explaining the theme of the exhibition, which opened Thursday, the NMTH’s Wu Ju-mei (吳如媚) told CNA on Friday that the year of 1624 was significant for Taiwan.
At that time, two major maritime powers — the Dutch and the Spaniards — coexisted in Taiwan, with the Dutch in the south and the Spaniards in the north, she said.
Taiwan was also heavily engaged in the international trade network and expanding its interactions with the outside world, Wu said.
The exhibition is divided into five sections exploring specific themes, from Taiwan’s geographical location and connections to the outside world to Taiwan’s rich and diverse “oceanic characters,” the NMTH said in a statement.
One of the exhibition’s most notable displays features a book dating back to 1646 titled “Origins and Development of the Dutch East India Company,” the museum said.
It contains a chapter detailing Wijbrand van Waerwijk’s endeavors within the company, including his exploring trade opportunities in the Penghu Islands off Taiwan’s western coast as well as in China.
Another highlight was a painting being shown in Taiwan for the first time. Titled “Missionary Robertus Junius Preaching and Baptizing in the Siraya Village of Soulang,” it portrays Dutch missionary Robertus Junius, who preached in Tainan from 1629 to 1643.
The inscription on the borrowed painting, provided by a private Dutch owner, reads, “Display of the clothing, figures, and assembly of the New Christians in Formosa, in the village of Soulang, while the word of God is preached in their own language by Minister Robertus Junius, in the year 1643, Painted there by a Chinese.”
From the 16th century onwards, Europeans referred to Taiwan as Formosa, a term translating to “beautiful island.”
The museum also looks at the role of Dutch missionaries on the island.
It said the Indigenous Siraya were the first to be targeted by the missionaries and their carrot and stick approach to spreading religion, but the evidence indicates that the Siraya did not completely accept what the missionaries preached.
Instead, the Siraya may have integrated the foreign religion with their own beliefs, the museum suggested.
In addition to the history of Taiwan, vivid trade scenes in Japan from that era can also be observed at the exhibition in southern Taiwan.
A total of 20 cultural relics are on loan from the National Museum of Japanese History, and an additional eight come from the Kobe City Museum.
The collection comprises ancient paintings depicting various aspects of overseas trade and foreign interactions, as well as export ceramics and lacquerware, the NMTH said.
Among the works from the Japanese side is the “Arrival of the Southern Barbarians (Nanban-jin)” screen, stretching over 640 centimeters.
It depicts Portuguese and Southeast Asian sailors involved in trade with Japan during the 17th century, showcasing scenes that include the establishment of Catholic churches.
“Transcending 1624: Taiwan and the World” will include expert-led talks featuring Eveline Sint Nicolaas and Maria Holtrop, curators from the National Museum of the Netherlands (the Rijksmuseum) on Saturday, the NMTH said.
The topic will be “the exhibition Slavery at the Rijksmuseum (2021), the making of, the spin off and afterlife.”
On Saturday, Dutch historian Leonard Blussé will deliver a lecture at the museum titled “The Incredible Reverend Robertus Junius: The Contentious Career of a Man with a Mission.”
The exhibition, open until June 30, provides English translations for the description of each item.
(By Chung Yu-chen)