Chat goes into the Dutch-Taiwanese connection

Cheryl Robbins, an expert on Taiwanese indigenous tourism and the Dutch-Taiwanese connection, will speak to an outdoor audience on Granville Street for Vancouver’s 26th annual TAIWANfest. A celebration of arts and culture rooted in the Mandarin-speaking community, TAIWANfest will showcase music, dance, film, food, fine art and fashion along seven festival routes on Granville Street and Robson Square.

As one of several speakers at TAIWANfest, Robbins will discuss two topics important to the Dutch-Taiwanese connection: the Dutch occupation in the 17th century and travel to Taiwan’s indigenous communities. Marking the boundary between Taiwan’s prehistory and modern history, the Dutch occupation is still told in the oral histories of tribes living in Taiwan’s indigenous communities today. These communities, according to Robbins, are areas of vast natural beauty that permit ecotourism alongside cultural tourism.

“It is my hope that attendees will come away with a different perspective of Taiwan and be inspired to visit Taiwan and learn about its rich history and culture, while at the same time enjoying its natural beauty,” says Robbins.

Following the completion of her degree in zoology in California, American-born Robbins originally visited Taiwan with the intention of staying for one year. After quickly coming to enjoy life in the country, she has continued to live there for 26 years, working as a reporter and media editor and now as a licensed tour guide specializing in tours to indigenous communities.

“Having somebody like that to share perspective is quite interesting, not just for anyone who is interested in indigenous cultures but also for the Taiwanese to learn about Taiwan,” adds Charlie Wu, managing director of the Asian Canadian Special Events Association that organizes TAIWANfest.

The Dutch legacy

Cheryl Robbins, speaker and author | Photo courtesy of Asian Canadian Special Events Association

Cheryl Robbins, speaker and author | Photo courtesy of Asian Canadian Special Events Association

At TAIWANfest, Robbins will share some of the history of the Dutch-Taiwanese connection and the little known facts about the bilateral relationship. Her talk will touch on the early interactions between the Dutch and Taiwanese indigenous tribes and the subsequent intermarriages that led to many Taiwanese claiming Dutch ancestry. Robbins will also speak to the impact of the Dutch on current Taiwanese cultural industries, language, historic maritime trade and even the Dutch influence on the naming of Taiwan.

“There was probably not any place on Taiwan that the Dutch did not set foot. Thus, there are traces of Dutch activity and stories all around the island,” Robbins says.

Robbins’ expertise in the Dutch-Taiwanese relationship comes from her co-authorship of a book titled The Real Taiwan and the Dutch: Travelling Notes from the Netherlands Representative.Menno Goedhart, the Netherlands’ representative to Taiwan, connected with Robbins during interviews she conducted as a reporter and editor at Taiwan News in Taipei. The two quickly realized their shared interested in Taiwan’s indigenous culture and proceeded to write a book that reveals lesser known stories about Dutch interactions with Taiwan’s indigenous people during the colonial period. Robbins has also published a series of guidebooks titled A Foreigner’s Travel Guide to Taiwan’s Indigenous Areas.

“Most people know that the Dutch ruled Taiwan for almost four decades during the 17th century. They have visited Anping Fort and Chikanlou in Tainan City, and thus are familiar with the Dutch presence in that part of Taiwan. However, there is so much more to the Dutch-Taiwanese history than that,” says Robbins.

TAIWANfest attendees will have two opportunities to hear Robbins’ lecture. She will speak at the Formosa Chat on Sept. 5 as well as the Hope Chat on Sept. 6, both to be held on Granville Street. For more information about TAIWANfest, visit