The Netherlands in Taiwan: 400 Years of Shared History

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2024 Taipei International Book Exhibition’s Guest of Honor Netherlands reviews ‘400-year-long connections’ between the cultures.

A model of the Netherlands’ three-barreled guest of honor stand coming this month to the Taipei International Book Exhibition. The pavilion, created with reusable materials, features a large central cylindrical space with amphitheater seating for presentations as well as a kids’ play area and a spot for workshop events.  Image: TiBE

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Also see: Taipei International Book Exhibition 2024: A Market Profile

‘We Are Proud To Be Friends’
The timing of the Netherlands’ arrival the Taipei International Book Exhibition (February 20 to 25) as its guest of honor is significant.

It was 400 years ago that the Dutch East India Company arrived on the shores of Ilha Formosa or Beautiful Island, as the Portuguese called it. While Amsterdam’s first interest then was building Fort Zeelandia at Anping, the Netherlands will be building a guest of honor stand this month at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (February 20 to 25).

The Guest of Honor Netherlands stand is expected to be a key draw of its own, having been co-curated by the Netherlands Office Taipei and the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV with the intent of representing “the past, present, and future of the Netherlands and Taiwan.

Three concepts brought to bear in putting the presentation together are (a) that 1624 date, (b) diversity and inclusion, and (c) Dutch design and sustainable development. The stand itself features three areas, one “a fun workshop”; another “a discussion forum”; and the third “a play area for kids.”

In a descriptive text about the intent of the design, we read:

“Artifacts, documents, facsimiles, and models allow us to explore the early stages of those 400-year-long connections—a rich history beginning with a meeting between Formosa and the ‘red hair people,’ and evolving into bonds in which trade, economic and cultural exchange, and a wide spectrum of opportunities come to the front. …

Another view of the TiBE 2024 Guest of Honor Netherlands pavilion model. Image: TiBE

“The flowing curtains that encircle you form the backdrop of your journey—the vast oceans, flat lands, and moving dunes of the Netherlands. These curtains surround the stories of the present, the past, and what’s to come, connecting inside and outside, East and West. Behind the scenes, all exhibition materials have been chosen and put together in a way that makes sure that they will enjoy more than just one use, and that in their next life, they create something even better. …

“Underpinning all these activities is the presence throughout TiBE of a diverse group of acclaimed Dutch contemporary and children’s writers and illustrators, who will deliver a host of talks and workshops. With books and materials available covering historical, contemporary, and especially children’s literature … visitors can enjoy the Netherlands’ vibrant literary scene.

“We are proud to be friends.”

Three of the authors participating in the Taiwan International Book Exhibition Guest of Honor Netherlands presentation, from left, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (image: Nina Schollaardt); Alfred Birney (Image: Eddo Hartmann); and Ilja Pfeijffer (image: CC BY-SA 4.0)

Among the authors who are expected to join the Dutch delegation to Taipei are Thomas Olde Heuvelt, a Hugo-winning horror novelist; novelist Alfred Birney, whose work often involves themes of a family estrangement; and literary author Ilja Pfeijffer, one of whose best-known works is Grand Hotel Europa.

Events planned around the Netherlands’ presence at TiBE are to include a Dutch EDM Night with Monica Electronica, the DJ also known as Emma Baas. centered around Dutch culture, literature and picture books, history, and contemporary trends, among them is the exciting “Dutch EDM night”, which features the popular Dutch DJ Monica Electronica (also known as Emma Baas).

Image: Guest of Honor Netherlands

More International Stands

Thailand (Stand A1319) has a pavilion at Taipei this year organized by the department of international trade promotion through the Thai Trade Center (Taipei) and in collaboration with the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT), with a theme called Borderless, as in inviting readers on a literary journey beyond cultural boundaries. Featuring 20 Thai publishing houses with 350 books, the Thai pavilion is  will host an “IP Pitching Forum and Matchmaking Event” promoting Thai stories’ adaptation into film and TV productions. Events focus on works depicting Chinese family life in Thailand. The singer Gail Sophicha, known as the “National Sister” in Thailand, will perform at the opening reception of Thai pavilion.

“The flowing curtains that encircle you form the backdrop of your journey—the vast oceans, flat lands, and moving dunes of the Netherlands.”From descriptive text for the TiBE 2024 Guest of Honor Netherlands stand

Belgium (Stand A1209) has a pavilion organized by the Belgian Taipei Office and Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI).

This installation highlights new titles and recommends the exhibition of key graphic publications from five publishing units, including CotCotCot Éditions, Courgettes éditions, Du Noir Sous les Ongles, Maison Autrique, and Versant Sud Jeunesse. Illustrators Anne Crahay and comic artist Dimitri Piot have been invited to visit Taiwan to engage in exchanges with readers and creators.

France (Stand A1221) is being presented by the Bureau International de l’Edition Française (BIEF)—the familiar international book-trade outreach led by Nicolas Roche—and the French Office in Taipei. The focus is on illustrators and comic publications with a theme of diversity and sustainability, programming emphasizing the vibrant aspects of France’s practical endeavors in gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable development.

Germany (Stand A925) has a presence organized by the Goethe-Institut Taipei in collaboration with Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20),  has invited author Bijan Moini, the children’s book author Charlotte Habersack, and Danny Beuerbach who promotes reading in Germany and around the world under the motto Book a Look. Marking the 100th anniversary of Franz Kafka’s death, his books and Chinese translated versions are anticipated for display. Frankfurt, of course, mounts professional programming for Taiwan’s publishers, and we’ll have more information on that in an upcoming article.

Poland (Stand A1217), having held forth last year as guest of honor, this year will be back to showcase selected books, including fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and graphic novels, under the familiar promotional theme, Books from Poland. Children’s literary author Iwona Chmielewska and nonfiction writer Paweł Pieniążek are invited to Taiwan.

A stand in the 2023 Taipei International Book Exhibition, the soaring National Palace Museum. Image: TiBE

More from us on Taiwan and its market is here, and more on the Taipei International Book Exhibition is here, and more on the Netherlands is here. More from us on international trade shows and book fairs is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.