Reading into the Past

Reading into the Past is a selection of English-language materials relevant to the China Story originally published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In reprinting these essays we intend to not only preserve them and make them more easily accessible, but also to augment the modern day China Story by providing perspectives from the past on critical issues that continue to be debated. More than mere curios, Reading into the Past illuminates and contextualises the present.

Count Benyowsky’s Arrival on the East Coast of Formosa

The anonymous authors of this article use ‘The Memoirs and Travels of Maurice Augustus, Count de Benyowsky’ (1790), a two-volume work by Maurice Benyowsky (1746-1786) to introduce readers to the eastern coast of Formosa (Taiwan) and the people that Benyowsky encountered when he travelled there in 1771. The first half of the article relates the conflicts that Benyowsky had with the natives while the second half focuses on observations of the island and its people.

Born near Trnava in present-day Slovakia, at the time part of Hungary and the Austrian Empire, Benyowsky served in the Austrian Army and was involved in the Polish nationalist movement against Russia. He subsequently travelled to France and Madagascar, where he was elected emperor by the local kings. He died in 1786, in a conflict with French authorities.