Taste One Granule of Sugar Never Forget the Sweet Taste Top


No. 12
A small sugar industry train rushing through the sugar cane fields was a distinctive Taiwanese scene during the Japanese Colonial Period.

Taste One Granule of Sugar Never Forget the Sweet Taste

Reprinted/Taiwan Digital archives



Talking of the sugar refineries that created a Taiwan economic miracle‚ there were actually sugar mills in Taiwan as early as the late Ming Dynasty. Sugar cane‚ an introduced plant suited to the soil of south Taiwan‚ was made into cane sugar and exported to Japan in the period Taiwan was under Dutch rule. In the Ming Koxinga period‚ the saying “there is money up to the ankles in Taiwan” became popular in Fujian and Guangdong provinces and Taiwan had become an “treasure” island that attracted settlers. After the official opening of trade ports upon the signing of the Treat of Tianjin in the 11th year of the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor‚ camphor‚ cane sugar and tea became the three main export products of Taiwan‚ known as the three jewels; in the Japanese Colonial Period‚ Japanese capital was used to establish several dozen sugar companies‚ including Dainippon‚ Taiwan‚ Meiji‚ Yanshui Harbor‚ Xinxing and Imperial; at one time there were 42 sugar refineries and Taiwan’s sugar production was behind only India‚ Cuba and Java‚ leaping to fourth place in the world.

For this reason‚ in the Sugar Industry Hall at Grand Sight of Formosa Exhibition in 1935‚ the sign “The sugar industry is the mother of Taiwanese culture” reflects the importance of the sugar industry.


A distribution map of the Taiwan sugar industry in 1939.

In the industry’s heyday there were sugar refineries all over Taiwan and sugar industry railways that transported the sugar cane raw material reached around 3000 kilometers in length‚ the density of the sugar industry railways leading to Taiwan being called the “sugar railway kingdom.” The crushing‚ boiling and crystallizing processes involved in making cane sugar products produced several by products‚ such as bagasse‚ filter mud‚ and molasses‚ that were used as fuel‚ to make paper‚ as organic fertilizer or to make alcohol; alcohol making became an important military supply industry at the time.

However‚ in WW2‚ the sugar refineries were regarded by the US military as military targets and were heavily bombed‚ many being totally destroyed with many employees killed and injured. After the end of the war‚ with the tireless effort of Taiwan Sugar Corporation‚ some sugar refineries were repaired or rebuilt and began operating again. After the introduction of an improved variety of sugar cane in 1952 at one point the pre-war production level was exceeded and‚ in 1975‚ sugar cane exports earned a record NT$5.1 billion in foreign currency. But the good times didn’t last‚ unfortunately‚ and the continuing fall in the price of sugar internationally led to export losses; Taiwan Sugar Corporation was forced to lay off workers and close down some of its refineries; the industry’s glory days were over.


Huwei Sugar Refinery was badly damaged by US bombing in WW2.
(Image source: http://artcenter.nfu.edu.tw/~huweisugar/)


After the war ended sugar refineries were successively repaired or rebuilt by Taiwan Sugar Corporation.
(Image source: http://artcenter.nfu.edu.tw/~huweisugar/)

Today Taiwan Sugar Corporation’s operations are diversified‚ the company involved in the refined agriculture (butterfly orchid‚) bio-tech‚ distribution‚ land development and tourism businesses‚ gradually transforming into an integrated agriculture‚ industry‚ commercial and service business; the leisure and recreation business has reinterpreted the cultural assets left behind by a century of sugar making; for example‚ the first modern sugar refinery in Taiwan‚ Qiaozaitou Sugar Refinery (Kaohsiung Sugar Refinery)‚ has been transformed into Taiwan Sugar Industry Museum; the museum has displays of refinery and farm equipment‚ a railway track scenic area and Sugar Making Process Hall‚ and rich natural ecology; the buildings combine Japanese and European baroque styles‚ leaving behind precious testimony to the sugar industry economic miracle. Have you walked through this historic site’s time tunnel?

A small sugar industry train rushing through the sugar cane fields was a distinctive Taiwanese scene during the Japanese Colonial Period.
(Image source: http://artcenter.nfu.edu.tw/~huweisugar/)