Wang Li-ju, Ph.D. Student, Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages, and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
Every era has its distinctive types of advertisements. Some ads convey a feeling of rebellion, and others a promise of purity; still others are presented in a sophisticated stream-of-consciousness style. But no matter their form or content, all ads reflect the social environment and values of their historical contexts. Advertisements from the Japanese colonial period offer a rare glimpse into not just the marketing strategies that vendors of the day used to sell goods, but broader social trends as well.
Chen Ro-jinn’s Historic Modern Advertisements of Taiwan provides just such an overview. The book’s material comes from advertisements that appeared in Taiwan Daily newspaper, then the island’s largest publication. Emphasis was placed on the things consumers lacked in their daily lives, and vendors were particularly effective in promoting the concept of good health, linking it to modernity and progress. For example, chewing gum was sold as a remedy for motion sickness, ice cream was labeled a nutritious frozen treat, and refrigerators were guaranteed to keep food fresh “your children’s sake.”
In addition to discussing the flood of Western products and marketing ideas that came to Taiwan via Japan, the book also offers a unique perspective on Japanese relations with the United States. Chen shows that Taiwan of was not left out of global consumer trends by citing the numerous different channels used to promote coffee, motor vehicles, yogurt, and even circuses and magic shows.
Advertisements more than anything preserve the essence of a bygone era. Picture a well-dressed gentleman in a Panama hat stepping out of his Model T and heading toward the Railway Hotel for a cup of coffee – this is the Taipei of the 1930s, a time of prosperity that can still be glimpsed today in Historic Modern Advertisements of Taiwan.
|Related Literary Themes：||Taiwan Literature under Japanese Colonial Rule|