Taiwan Historica and the National Taiwan Library


A review of Public Records and Publications of Colonial Taiwan in Taiwan Historica (Nantou, Taiwan) and National Taiwan Library (Taipei, Taiwan)

Taiwan was under the Japanese colonial administration between 1895 and 1945. The Taiwan Governor-General’s Office (臺灣總督府, Taiwan Sotokufu) was the highest authority of Japanese Taiwan during that period. Except the imperial documents and records which are collected in Japan, the holdings of local colonial government in Taiwan are actually tremendous. On the other hand, the Taiwan Historica (TH) is proud of owning mostly complete and fruitful original documents and records relating to the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office (臺灣總督府公文類纂, Taiwan Sotokufu Kōbun-Ruisan) in the world. All meeting minutes, correspondence, enclosures, memorandums and notices in TH are categorized by annual series as well as departmental sub-series. On the other hand, more than three hundred historical newspapers, magazines and journals can be accessed in the National Taiwan Library (NTL). Besides, a variety of the printed government-reports and statistics which were compiled by colonial offices and professional associations are also available there. NTL features well-executed, important materials across the entire range of scholarly pursuits including scientific advance, industrial development, administrative affairs, and literature and so forth.

To gather appropriate and abundant materials for my research, Territorialising Colonial Environments: A Comparison of Colonial Sciences on Land Demarcation in Japanese Taiwan and British Malaya, I visited several institutions of different countries. According to metropolitan-colonial relations, various types of files and documents are held by separate archives or libraries. Since 2002, I have made more than ten visits to TH and NTL. This review article seeks to examine the public records of the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office as well as the official and semi-official publications of Colonial Taiwan.

Taiwan Historica (TH), Nantou, Taiwan 

臺灣南投市中興新村光明一路254號 國史館臺灣文獻館

No. 254 Guangming 1st Rd., Chung Hsing New Village, Nantou City, Nantou County, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Tel: +886-49-2316881; website: http://www.th.gov.tw/eng/

National Taiwan Library (NTL), Taipei, Taiwan

臺灣新北市中和區中安街85號 國立臺灣圖書館

No.85 Zhong-an St., Zhonghe District, New Taipei City, Taiwan (R.O.C) Tel:+886-2-2926-6888; website: http://www.ntl.edu.tw/

The reading rooms

The overall ambience of Taiwan Historica (TH) is formal but comfortable. Though this environment can seem quite cold, it does foster an excellent working space. There are never problems of distracting noises, and the documents are kept in good condition. All desks in the reading room are equipped with computers. Readers can access the digital images of great quality and microfilm files of earlier period on site. Accessing the materials from the start of the document ordering and reader registration times until the TH closes. Unless the images are quite obscure, one will not be able to view original documents. The number of digital copies per order is five copies. The fee for printing digital images and microfilm is currently 2 NT dollars per B4 page and 3 NT dollars per A3 page. Today, most of the archive’s materials are available in digitized form and accessible online. Viewing digital images online costs 1 NT dollar per page. However, the website has no English edition.

Founded in 1914, the National Taiwan Library (NTL) was known as the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office Library (總督府圖書館) during the period of Japanese rule. The holdings of the NTL are of great quantity because it inherited many colonial-era publications on Taiwan from Taiwan Governor-General’s Office. The original publications are shelved on the fifth and sixth floor of NTL, known as the ‘Taiwan Study Research Center’. Requests can be made in the study room of the NTL, after which it will take about 5-10 minutes for the documents to arrive. Also be aware that, although the number of documents one can request is quite high, visitors can only have five pieces at their desk at any given time. Laptop, paper notebooks and camera are allowed. Readers may photograph original publications for reference, but visitors may only photocopy the duplicates. Copy requests at the Taiwan Study Research Center cost 2 NT dollars per B4 sheet and 3 NT dollars per A3 sheet. NTL provides electrical resources online as well, such as a ‘Full-Text Image System for Periodicals of Japanese Ruled Period’ (日治時期期刊全文影像系統), ‘Full-Text Image System for Books of Japanese Ruled Period’ (日治時期圖書全文影像系統) and Map Database (地圖資料庫). Unfortunately these systems can not currently be accessed abroad.

How to get there

Unlike the libraries and archives in capital cities, the TH is located in a lively corner of Nantou, central Taiwan. Directions to the TH can be found here, whether travelling by car, or public transport.

However, it’s wise to plan one’s journey by train or Taiwan High Speed Rail firstly, then by bus. The most convenient railway station is Taichung Station, 2 hours and 15mins time-distance south of Taipei, while the nearest High Speed Rail station is High Speed Rail Taichung Station. By bus, one can take either the 1657 route (Ubas 統聯客運service from High Speed Rail Taichung Station to Nantou), alight on Chung Hsing New Villiage (10-minute walk to TH) or the 6333 route (All.Da.Bus 總達客運service from Taichung Railway Station to Suili via Nantou), alight at Guangming Li (10-minute walk to TH). Both of the journeys take around from 40 minutes to one hour.

NTL is located within Taipei’s vicinity, so people usually travel there by metro. The closest metro station is Yong-an Market Station (永安市場站) on the Zhonghe Line, a 13 minute-ride from Taipei Main Station. From Yong-an Market Station, it will take less than ten minutes to walk to the library.


There is no need to apply for advance research permits both in TH and NTL, instead it is sufficient to show up with a valid passport or ID at the entrance gate. TH is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 16:50 pm. Also notice that the archivists there do not speak English. No restaurant and café could be accessed by foot in its neighborhood. Catering service would be assisted, if request.

On the contrary, the area around the NTL offers many scrumptious choices for lunch. Interested individuals might also take special notice of their somewhat irregular opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 9:00–21:00; every other Saturday and Sunday, 9:00–17:00. On Mondays NTL are closed.

Er-Jian Yeh
Department of Taiwan and Regional Studies
National Dong Hwa University, Hualien, Taiwan

Image: Folklore Artifacts Hall (文物大樓, left) and Records & Archives Hall (文獻大樓, right), the Taiwan Historica. Photo by Shih Chieh CHEN, 2014.

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