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Formosa Files: John Ross and Eryk Michael Smith are on a Mission to Share the History of Taiwan Ep 213

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

John Ross and Eryk Michael Smith are the co-hosts of the Formosa Files podcast. Together John and Eryk tell stories from the history of Taiwan (formerly known as Formosa) in a nonchronological order. They spoke with me about where the idea for the podcast came from, their love of history and where they find inspiration for their podcast episodes. They are on a mission to share the history of Taiwan far and wide. Now in their second season, John and Eryk also shared what we can expect from season three.

John Ross is an author and co-founder of publisher Camphor Press, which specializes in books on Taiwan and China in English, while Eryk Michael Smith has worked as a writer and journalist for multiple media outlets in Taiwan, including the island’s only English-language radio station ICRT (FM 100.7). Both Ross and Smith have lived in Taiwan for well over 20 years and call the island home.

This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.



NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:


  1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
  2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
  3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
  4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
  5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.


To learn more about NATWA visit their website: www.natwa.com


Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • What brought John and Eryk to Taiwan
  • Eryk’s work at Next Media
  • How John and Eryk met
  • Where the idea and inspiration for the Formosa Files podcast came from
  • The first episode of Formosa Files, The White Formosan
  • Their approach to creating content for Formosa Files
  • Why John and Eryk decided to focus on the time period from 1600-2000
  • How John and Eryk came up with the name of the podcast
  • Where John and Eryk’s love of history comes from
  • Why John and Eryk think it’s important to know history
  • The sources of research that John and Eryk use for Formosa Files
  • How Eryk discovered the story of the Duck King
  • Han Cheung’s Taiwan in Time column in the Taipei Times newspaper
  • Steven Crook’s Highways and Byways column in the Taipei Times newspaper
  • Why Formosa Files episodes don’t follow chronological order and how John and Eryk decide what topics to cover and when
  • Episode ideas that John and Eryk have had to scrap
  • Topics that their listeners are interested in
  • How Formosa Files has evolved and changed over time
  • Eryk and John’s favorite episodes of Formosa Files
  • What we can expect from Formosa Files in the future
  • What’s being planned for season three of Formosa Files


Related Links:


Formosa Files: https://www.formosafiles.com/


Taiwan in 100 Books by John Grant Ross: https://www.camphorpress.com/books/taiwan-in-100-books


The White Formosan, the first episode of Formosa Files: https://www.formosafiles.com/s1-e-1-the-white-formosan/


Formosa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Formosa


The 228 massacre: https://228massacre.org/






Chen Shui-bian: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chen_Shui-bian


The Japanofiles podcast: https://japanofiles.com/


Encyclopedia Britannica: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica


A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn: https://www.amazon.com/Peoples-History-United-States/dp/0060838655


Culture Shock! Taiwan: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Chris Bates: https://www.amazon.com/Culture-Shock-Taiwan-Survival-Etiquette/dp/1558689400


An article from the Taipei Times about the Duck King, Taiwan in Time: The antirebels of the Qing era: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2019/04/28/2003714178


Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/


Highways and Byways: Stepping off the road by Steven Crook (from the Taipei Times): https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2022/08/19/2003783775


Peng Ming-min: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peng_Ming-min


Democratic Progressive Party (DPP): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Progressive_Party


Lee Teng-hui: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Teng-hui


Taichung, Taiwan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taichung


Kaohsiung: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaohsiung


Lonely Planet book series: https://shop.lonelyplanet.com/pages/guide-books


Camphor Press: https://www.camphorpress.com/


Michael Cannings of Camphor Press: Publisher Rescues Notable Books About Taiwan and East Asia (Episode 169): https://talkingtaiwan.com/michael-cannings-of-camphor-press-publisher-rescues-notable-books-about-taiwan-and-east-asia-ep-169/

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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