From Academic Kids

This article is on the people, history, culture, and geography of Taiwan. For the state commonly known as "Taiwan," see Republic of China.
Missing image
Map of Taiwan
Missing image
Taiwan is mostly mountainous in the east, but gradually transitions to gently sloping plains in the west (satellite photo by NASA).

Taiwan (Template:Zh-tspw; Taiwanese: Ti-on) is an island in East Asia located off the coast of mainland China, south of Japan, and north of the Philippines. "Taiwan" is commonly used to refer to the government of the Republic of China (ROC), which currently governs Taiwan, as well as the smaller outlying island groups of Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu.

The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa (Portuguese sailors called it Ilha Formosa, which means "beautiful island"), is bounded to the east by the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the South China Sea, to the west by the Taiwan Strait, and to the north by the East China Sea. The island is 394 miles long and 144 miles wide and consists of steep mountains covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation.

From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony, a concession by the Chinese empire after it lost the first Sino-Japanese War. After Japan's defeat at the end of World War II in 1945, Taiwan was turned over to the Republic of China and governed under a military administration. In 1949, upon losing the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) retreated from mainland China and moved the ROC government to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, while continuing to claim sovereignty over all of China and Mongolia. On the mainland, the Communists established the People's Republic of China, claiming to be the successor state of both the mainland and Taiwan and portraying the ROC government on Taiwan as an illegitimate entity.

Under the KMT administration, Taiwan was transformed from a largely agrarian society into a major industrialized economy and is often touted as one of the East Asian Tigers. Meanwhile, political reforms beginning in the late 1970s through the 1980s and early 1990s liberalized Taiwan from an authoritarian one-party state into a localized multiparty democracy that in 1991, for all practical purposes ended its claims over mainland China. The consolidation of multiparty democracy culminated in 2000 when the KMT's monopoly on power was removed after the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the ROC presidency. Besides supporters of the current government and the PRC, a Taiwan independence movement has grown prominent, seeking to establish a Taiwanese republic. The competing claims over the future of Taiwan have made and continue to make its political status a contentious issue.



Main article: History of Taiwan

Missing image
The Puyuma's Moon-shape Monolith ca. 1896

Pre-history and Early Settlement

Taiwan has been settled for over 30,000 years, although the first inhabitants of Taiwan may not be genetically related to any groups currently on the island. About 4000 years ago, Taiwan was settled by the ancestors of current Taiwanese aboriginals, who are genetically related to Malay and Polynesians and whose language is classified as Austronesian.

Records from ancient China indicate that the Han might have known of the existence of Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms period (third century CE); however, this hypothesis has not been validated since each dynasty gives different names for the islands discovered off shore and none of these names can be matched to Taiwan. It has been claimed but not verified, that the Ming Dynasty admiral Zheng He visited Taiwan between 1403 and 1424.

Contact with the Europeans also occurred in the 15th century when a Portuguese ship sighted the island and dubbed it "Ilha Formosa", or "Beautiful Island" in Portuguese. The Portuguese made no attempt to colonize Taiwan. In 1624, the Dutch established a base on Taiwan and began to import male workers from Fujian as laborers. It was primarily around that period that Taiwan's indigenous population was first joined and intermarried with male traders and seasonal workers from Mainland China. The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tainan.

Koxinga and Imperial Chinese Rule

The Dutch were ousted from the island in 1662 by Cheng Cheng-Kung (also known as Koxinga), a former pirate turned military leader who styled himself as a Ming loyalist, and who hoped to marshal his troops on the island. Cheng therefore established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662–1683). Creating Tainan as his capital, the Cheng Dynasty launched several raids on the coast of mainland China.

In 1683, the Qing dynasty formally annexed Taiwan. Following the defeat of Cheng's grandson to an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang, Cheng's followers were expatriated to the furthest reaches of the Qing empire, leaving approximately 7000 Han on Taiwan. The Qing government wrestled with its Taiwan policy to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, which led to a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Illegal immigrants continued to enter Taiwan as renters of the large plots of aboriginal lands under contracts that usually involved marriage, while the border between tax paying lands and "savage" lands expanded east.

Japanese Colonial Rule

Missing image
The building currently known as the ROC Presidential Office was originally built as the Office of the Governor-General by the Japanese Colonial Government

Following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) in 1895, China was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity, allowing a grace period for those wishing to remain Han subjects to sell their property and return to the mainland.

On May 25, 1895, the Republic of Taiwan was formed to resist impending Japanese rule with its capital in Tainan. This resistance was quelled on October 21, 1895, when Japanese forces entered the then capital city of Tainan. During the colonial period, the Japanese used the French model of an occupying power, and were instrumental in the industrialization of the island; they built railroads, a sanitation system, and a public school system, amongst other things. Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project in order to more firmly bind the island to the Japanese Empire. By 1945, desperate plans were in place to incorporate popular representation of Taiwan in the Diet in order to end colonial rule of the island.

Following the end of World War II in 1945, under the terms of the Instrument of Surrender of Japan, Japan provisionally accepted the Potsdam Declaration which referenced the never signed Cairo Declaration under which the island was to be transferred to the Republic of China. The ROC troops were authorized to come to Taiwan to accept the surrender of Japanese military forces in General Order No. 1 issued by General Douglas MacArthur on September 2, 1945, and were later transported to Keelung by the U.S. Navy.

Republic of China Era

Missing image
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

The ROC military administration on Taiwan immediately following the end of World War II in 1945 under Chen Yi was extremely corrupt. This, compounded with distrust due to the cultural differences between the natives and the newcomers, quickly led to the loss of popular support for the new administration, culminating in a series of severe clashes between the mainland military administration and native Taiwanese, in turn leading to the bloody 228 incident in which government troops massacred as many as 30,000 protesters and bystanders.

In 1949, the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT), which at the time controlled the government of the ROC, retreated to Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China, bringing with them some 1.3 million refugees from Mainland China. Initially, the United States had abandoned the KMT and expected that Taiwan would fall to the Communists. However, in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, and in the context of the Cold War President Harry S. Truman moved the 7th fleet into the Taiwan straits to defend Taiwan from the Communists.

In the San Francisco Peace Treaty which came into force on April 28, 1952 and the Treaty of Taipei which came into force on August 5, 1952, Japan formally renounced all right, claim, and title to Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores (Peng-hu). The treaty remained silent about who the island would be transferred to, in part to avoid taking sides in the ongoing Chinese Civil War. This has been used by advocates of Taiwan independence to justify self-determination.

During the 1960's and 1970's, Taiwan began to develop a prosperous and dynamic economy, becoming one of the East Asian Tigers while maintaining an authoritarian one party government. Because of the Cold War, most Western nations as well as the United Nations regarded the Republic of China government on Taiwan as the sole legitimate government of China until the 1970's when most nations began switching recognition to the People's Republic of China.

During the presidency of Chiang Ching-kuo between 1975 and 1987, Taiwan's political system began a gradual liberalization. Martial law, which had been in effect since 1948, was lifted in 1987. Upon Chiang's death, Vice-President Lee Teng-hui succeeded him as President of the ROC and Chairman of the KMT, and effective one-party rule was ended in 1991. Lee became the first native Taiwanese to become the president during the KMT rule in Taiwan. KMT rule over Taiwan ended with the election of President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party in 2000 and his reelection in 2004.

See also

Political divisions

Main article: Political divisions of the Republic of China

Taiwan Island contains all but one county of Taiwan Province: 15 counties and all five province-administered cities. Penghu (the Pescadores) is the only county in Taiwan province which is not on Taiwan. Taiwan's two largest cities, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, although on the island of Taiwan, are not part of the Taiwan Province, but centrally administered municipalities, with the same level as provinces.

Since 1998, the provincial tier of government has been largely eliminated, leaving the county the main division under the central government. Currently, in addition to the main island of Taiwan, the Republic of China also controls the Pescadores, Kinmen (Quemoy), and Matsu islands situated in the Taiwan Strait, plus some Pacific Coast islands (notably the Green and Orchid islands). Furthermore, the ROC also claims some islands in the South China Sea. Some of these outer islands, notably the Spratly (Nansha) islands in the South China Sea and the Senkaku (Diaoyutai) islands in the Pacific Coast, are also simultaneously claimed by several other countries in the region.

Missing image
Taroko National Park


Main article: Geography of Taiwan

The island of Taiwan lies some 200 km off the southeastern coast of China across the Taiwan Strait has an area of 35,801 km sq (13,823 sq mi), with the East China Sea to the north, the Philippine Sea to the east, the Luzon Strait directly to the south and the South China Sea to the southwest. The island is characterised by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds that consist mostly of rugged mountains, running in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island, and the flat to gently rolling plains in the west that are also home to most of Taiwan's population. Taiwan's highest point is the Yu Shan at 3,952 m.

Taiwan's climate is marine tropical. The rainy season lasts from June to August during the southwest monsoon, though cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year. Natural hazards include typhoons and earthquakes.


Main article: Demographics of Taiwan

Taiwan's population was estimated in 2005 as being 22.9 million. About 98 percent of the population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. Of these, 84 percent are early Han immigrants referred to as Bensheng ren (本省人), meaning "original-province person". This group is itself broken into two groups. The first subgroup is the Southern Fujianese (70 percent of the total population), who migrated from the coastal Southern Fujian region in the southeast of mainland China. The second subgroup is the Hakka (15% of the total population), whom originally migrated south to Guangdong, its surrounding areas, and Taiwan with extensive intermarriage with Taiwanese aborigines. The remaining 14 percent of Han Chinese are the later immigrants, referred to as Waisheng ren (外省人), meaning "external-province person" (see also Mainlanders). This group fled mainland China in 1949 following the Nationalist defeat in the Chinese Civil War. "Dalu ren" (大陸人) refers to residents of Mainland China. This group excludes almost all Taiwanese, including the "waisheng ren", except recent immigrants from Mainland China, such as those made Republic of China citizens through marriage.

The other two percent of Taiwan's population, numbering about 440,000, is the indigenous people, divided into 11 major groups: Ami, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Rukai, Tsou, Saisiyat, Yami, Thao, and Kavalan.

Almost everyone on Taiwan born after the early 1950s can speak Mandarin, which has been the medium of instruction in the schools for more than four decades. A large fraction of people also speak Min-nan, also known as Taiwanese. The Hakka have a distinct Hakka dialect. Between 1900 and 1945 Japanese was the medium of instruction and can be fluently spoken by many educated during that period. English is also commonly taught in Taiwanese schools, thus resulting in a completely trilangual population, often with people capable of speaking more languages. Chinese romanisation on Taiwan uses both Tongyong pinyin which has been officially adopted by the national government, and Hanyu pinyin which some localities use. Wade-Giles, used traditionally, is also found. Recently, Ma Ying-jeou, the mayor of Taipei, has succeeded in changing all Taipei street names to the Hanyu form, although most romanizations in other cities are still in Tongyong.

About half of the ROC population can be considered religious believers, most of whom identify themselves as Buddhists or Taoists. At the same time there is a strong belief in folk religion. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honored school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, a majority of which are Protestant, with Presbyterians playing a particularly significant role.


Missing image
Taipei City at night

Main article: Economy of Taiwan

Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing state involvement in investment and foreign trade. In keeping with this trend, some large government-owned banks and industrial firms are being privatized. Real growth in GDP has averaged about eight percent during the past three decades. Exports have provided the primary impetus for industrialization. The trade surplus is substantial, and foreign reserves are the world's third largest.

Agriculture constitutes only two percent of the GDP, down from 35 percent in 1952. Traditional labor-intensive industries are steadily being moved offshore and replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries. Taiwan has become a major investor in Mainland China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam; 50,000 Taiwanese businesses are established in Mainland China.

Because of its conservative financial approach and its entrepreneurial strengths, Taiwan suffered little compared with many of its neighbours from the Asian financial crisis in 19981999. The global economic downturn, however, combined with poor policy coordination by the new administration and increasing bad debts in the banking system, pushed Taiwan into recession in 2001, the first whole year of negative growth since 1947. Due to the relocation of many manufacturing and labor intensive industries to mainland China, unemployment also once peaked a level not seen since the 1970s oil crisis. This became one of the major issues in the presidential election of 2004. The unemployment rate eventually declined after a few economy stimulating measures adopted by the government.

Taiwan has entered international governmental trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization and APEC under the name Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (台灣、澎湖、金門及馬祖個別關稅領域) in WTO and under the name Chinese Taipei in APEC. Although the PRC objects to having other countries maintain diplomatic or official relations with the ROC, it made no objection to having the ROC maintain economic relations; however, under PRC's pressure, the ROC joined governmental organizations under different names.

The opening of Taipei 101 on December 31, 2004, brought more world recognition to Taiwan and Taipei. The surrounding financial district is steadily becoming more and more recognized in the world market.


Main article: Culture of Taiwan

Missing image
Dancer in traditional aboriginal dress

Taiwan's culture is a blend of traditional Chinese with significant Asian influences notably Japanese and Western influences including American, Spanish and Dutch. Many see Taiwanese culture especially social, political, and architectural as being heavily influenced by American and Japanese culture. The Taiwanese aboriginals also have a distinct culture. Fine arts, folk traditions, and popular culture embody traditional and modern, Asian, and Western motifs.

About 80 percent of the people in Taiwan belong to the Holo sub-ethnic group and speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese. Mandarin is the major language of instruction in schools, however most spoken media is split between Mandarin and Taiwanese. Speaking Taiwanese under the localization movement has become an emblem of expressing Taiwanese identity and the language has undergone a resurgence since the early 1990's. The Hakka, who make about 10 percent of the population, have a distinct Hakka language. The aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, but most of them can also speak Mandarin and Taiwanese.

Missing image
Longshan Temple, Taipei. Example of architecture with Southern Chinese influences commonly seen in older buildings in Taiwan.

The Taiwanese localization movement continues to be a major driver of Taiwanese culture, both as a reaction against the previous repression of Taiwanese culture by the previously Kuomintang controlled government and against the hostility of the PRC. Thus, identity politics, along with the over 100 years of political separation from mainland China, fifty of which were under Japanese colonial rule, has led to distinct traditions in many areas including, cuisine, motion pictures, photography, opera, and music.

One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain. This collection was moved from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan. The collection, estimated to be a tenth of China's cultural treasures, is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any one time.

A majority of the Taiwanese population are religious believers, most of whom identify themselves as Buddhists or Taoists. At the same time there is a strong belief in folk religion throughout the island including ancestral worship. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honoured school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, a majority of which are Protestant and with Presbyterians playing a particularly significant role, especially amongst the aboriginal population.

Missing image
Japanese mecha anime themed store in Taipei. Japanese culture has had a strong influence in Taiwan including various mannerisms among the elderly who remember Japanese rule, and TV dramas and anime amongst the younger generations.

Depending on one's political views, one may dispute whether or not Taiwan is a nation in its own right. Both some Chinese nationalists and some Taiwanese nationalists see Taiwanese national identity as incompatible with larger Chinese identity, leading one to deny its existence and the other to promote it. Others view Taiwanese national identity as perfectly compatible with Chinese ethnicity.

See also

External links



Taiwan News in English


cs:Tchaj-wan da:Taiwan de:Taiwan (Insel) eo:Tajvano es:Taiwn fi:Taiwan fr:Taiwan hu:Tajvan io:Taiwan is:Tvan it:Taiwan (isola) ja:台湾 ko:중화민국 mi:Taiwana ms:Taiwan nl:Taiwan no:Taiwan pl:Tajwan (wyspa) pt:Taiwan ru:Тайвань simple:Taiwan sv:Taiwan zh:臺灣 zh-min-nan:Ti-on


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools