Commerce and the Transformation of a Taiwanese Stateless Zone at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

Nan-Hsu Chen, PhD candidate, History, Washington University

Hazinan (Gamalan, modern-day Yilan county) was a stateless zone in eastern Taiwan. Since the sixteenth century, Hazinan aborigines had traded with Han Chinese but still maintained their independence. The three-hundred-year status quo abruptly changed after 1796 when tens of thousands of Han Chinese forcibly settled Hazinan. Fourteen years later, Hazinan was unprecedentedly brought under Qing rule, the earliest one of such stateless zones in eastern Taiwan. The sudden transformation of Hazinan should be examined in reference to a still downplayed aspect, the changing conditions of economy and trade in northern Taiwan over the eighteenth century. This presentation will explain how trade played an essential role, along with other factors, in the rapid reconfiguration of the relationship between Hazinan aborigines, Han migrants, and the Qing empire. The effect of trade was particularly profound in times and regions that Han expansion lacked state support while encountering restrictive natural and social environments.