Monday, April 6, 2015

Books: On the Road to Freedom

On the Road to Freedom: A Backpacker’s Guide to Taiwan’s Struggle for Democracy is a niche guidebook published at the end of 2013 by Taiwan Interminds Publishing, the company behind the excellent series of guides to Taiwan’s indigenous communities by Cheryl Robbins. It was written Wu I-chen (吳易蓁), a theatre director and filmmaker, and translated into English by Harry Yi-jui Wu (吳易叡). Despite their similar names, they appear not to be related.

Anyone interested in Taiwan's political history will find this bilingual 238-page an interesting read and well worth the price (NT$380), even though there are some annoying spelling and style inconsistencies. The city and county just south of Taichung is spelled Changhua (彰化) at one point, Zhanghua at another. On page 51, the first Taiwanese person to receive a PhD degree is referred to as Mosei Lin (林茂生), which is also the spelling used by Wikipedia. On page 98, however, he's Lin Mao-seng. Both entries mention his disappearance and likely execution in the wake of the 2-28 Incident. The former Yilan county magistrate and justice minister Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) is Chen Ting-nan in the table of contents (a spelling very seldom used in news reports), then Ding-nan Chen on page 131.

Overall, I could find very little wrong with the book. It covers not only museums, memorials and locations where important events happened, but also graveyards and former jails. There's useful information on several places I've never been to and a few I'd not even heard of. The section on Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) and his campaigning during the Japanese colonial era is especially good. However, there's no mention that Cheng Nan-jung's (鄭南榕, aka Nylon Deng) widow, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) went on to enjoy a high-profile political and ministerial career. Also, readers might be interested to know that one of Lin Yi-hsiung's (林義雄) daughters survived the 1980 murders (pages 60 to 63), grew up in the United States, and later returned to Taiwan as a missionary. She's now known as Judy Linton. The only actual error I found is on page 136, and it's far removed from the book's main theme. Tien Sung Pi Train Station in Yilan County isn't “one of the only two remaining wooden train stations in Taiwan.” There are three in Greater Tainan alone.


  1. Where can I find this book? Google doesn't have a website for the publisher and Amazon doesn't carry it.

  2. Hi Anonymous! I just ordered this book from They do ship overseas even. If you don't read Mandarin the site is a little hard to navigate but you can also translate the entire page via Google. The trick is to enter a Taiwan-based landline number when you are trying to check out. Hope this helps!