Formosa

太平洋西南海邊,美麗島台灣翠青.
Thài-pêng-iûⁿ se-lâm hái-piⁿ, Bí-lē-tó Tâi-ôan chhùi-chhiⁿ.

On the southwest side of the Pacific, viridescent beautiful island: Taiwan.

In 1517, the captain of a Portuguese trading ship en route to Japan wrote in his log that he had sighted “Ilha Formosa,” or the “beautiful island.”

The Dutch, one in a succession of colonial rulers over the island, labeled their map, seen below, “Het Eylant Formosa.”

Map of Formosa, 1640. Cartographer: Johannes Vingboons Source: National Palace Museum

Map of Formosa, 1640. Cartographer: Johannes Vingboons Source: National Palace Museum

The name, however casually it was given by that captain we’ll never know, had clearly stuck.

It comes as little surprise, however. Taiwan is beautiful.

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