Formosa: Wikis


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Taiwan NASA Terra MODIS 23791.jpg
Taiwan is mostly mountainous in the east, with gently sloping plains in the west. The Penghu Islands are west of Taiwan.
Location Pacific Ocean, 120 km (74.6 mi) off the coast of mainland China
Coordinates 23°46′N 121°0′E / 23.767°N 121°E / 23.767; 121
Area 35,980 km2 (13,892.0 sq mi) (38th)
Highest point Yushan (Jade Mountain) (3,952 m (12,966 ft))
 Republic of China
(commonly known as Taiwan)
Capital city Taipei
Largest city Taipei (pop. 2,619,920)
Demonym Taiwanese
Population 23,046,177 (as of 2009)
Density 668 /km2 (1,730 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups 98% Han[1][2]

 84% Native Taiwanese [3]
  70% Holo
  14% Hakka
 14% Mainlander[4]

2% Taiwanese aborigines[5]
Traditional Chinese 臺灣 or 台灣
Simplified Chinese 台湾
Portuguese: (Ilha) Formosa
Chinese 福爾摩沙
Literal meaning beautiful island

Taiwan,[6] also known as Formosa, is the largest island of the Republic of China (ROC) in East Asia. Taiwan is located east of the Taiwan Strait, off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Since the end of World War II in 1945, the island group has been under the government of the Republic of China.

Separated from the Asian continent by the 180-kilometre-wide Taiwan Strait, the main island of the group is 394 kilometres (245 mi) long and 144 kilometres (89 mi) wide. To the northeast are the main islands of Japan, and the southern end of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan is directly to the east; the Philippines lie to its south. The mountainous island spans across the Tropic of Cancer and is covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation. Other minor islands and islets of the group include the Pescadores, Green Island, and Orchid Island as well as the Diaoyutai Islands which have been controlled by Japan since the 1970s and are known as the Senkaku-shotō.

The island group has been governed by the Republic of China (ROC) since 1945 when the ROC acquired Taiwan from Japan as a result of World War II. Four years later the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China and retreated to Taiwan. Taiwan now composes most of ROC's territory and the ROC itself is commonly known as "Taiwan".[7] The political status of Taiwan is complex because it is claimed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) which was established in 1949 on mainland China and considers itself the successor state to the ROC.[8] Japan had originally acquired Taiwan from the Qing Empire in 1895 per Article 2 of Treaty of Shimonoseki. At the end of World War II, Japan renounced all claims to sovereignty over its former colonial possessions after World War II including Taiwan and Penghu Islands.[9]

Taiwan's rapid economic growth in the decades after World War II has transformed it into an advanced economy as one of the Four Asian Tigers.[10] This economic rise is known as the Taiwan Miracle. It is categorized as an advanced economy by the IMF and high-income economy by the World Bank. Its technology industry plays a key role in the global economy.[11] Taiwanese companies manufacture a large portion of the world's consumer electronics, although most of them are made in their factories in mainland China.[12]



Prehistory and early settlements

Evidence of human settlement in Taiwan dates back 30,000 years, although the first inhabitants of Taiwan may have been genetically distinct from any groups currently on the island. About 4,000 years ago, ancestors of current Taiwanese aborigines settled in Taiwan. These aborigines are genetically related to Malay and maternally to Polynesians, and linguists classify their languages as Austronesian.[13] It is thought likely that Polynesian ancestry may be traceable throughout Taiwan.

Records from ancient China indicate that the Han Chinese might have known of the existence of the main island of Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms period (third century, 230 A.D.), having assigned offshore islands in the vicinity names like Greater Liuqiu and Lesser Liuqiu (etymologically, but perhaps not semantically, identical to Ryūkyū in Japanese), though none of these names has been definitively matched to the main island of Taiwan. The Ming Dynasty admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) visited Taiwan in 1430.[14]

Han Chinese began settling in the Penghu islands in the 1200s, but Taiwan's hostile tribes and its lack of the trade resources valued in that era rendered it unattractive to all but "occasional adventurers or fishermen engaging in barter" until the 16th century. [15]

European settlement

1600 drawing of Dutch ships in Taiwan.

In 1544, a Portuguese ship sighted the main island of Taiwan and named it Ilha Formosa, which means "Beautiful Island."

In 1624, the Dutch established a commercial base on Taiwan and began to import workers from Fujian and Penghu (Pescadores) as laborers, many of whom settled. The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tayoan City (present day Anping, Tainan). Both Tayoan and the island name Taiwan derive from a word in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages.

The Dutch military presence was concentrated at a stronghold called Castle Zeelandia.[16] The Dutch colonists also started to hunt the native Formosan Sika deer (Cervus nippon taioanus) that inhabited Taiwan, contributing to the eventual extinction of the subspecies on the island.[17] Furthermore, this contributed to the subsequent identification of native tribes.

In 1626, the Spanish landed on and occupied northern Taiwan (Keelong and Tanshui) as a base to extend its commercial trading. The colonial period lasted 16 years until 1642.

Koxinga and Qing rule

Chinese naval and troop forces of Southern Fujian defeated the Dutch in 1662, subsequently expelling the Dutch government and military from the island. They were led by Koxinga. Following the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Koxinga retreated to Taiwan as a self-styled Ming loyalist and established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662–83). Koxinga established his capital at Tainan and he and his heirs, Zheng Jing, who ruled from 1662–82, and Zheng Keshuang, who served less than a year, continued to launch raids on the south-east coast of mainland China well into the Qing Dynasty, attempting to recapture mainland China.

In 1683, following the defeat of Koxinga's grandson by an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang of Southern Fujian, the Qing formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province. The Qing government tried to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, issuing a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Immigrants mostly from Southern Fujian continued to enter Taiwan. The border between taxpaying lands and "savage" lands shifted eastward, with some aborigines 'Sinicizing' while others retreated into the mountains. During this time, there were a number of conflicts between Chinese from different regions of Southern Fujian, and between Southern Fujian Chinese and aborigines.

Northern Taiwan and the Penghu Islands were the scene of an important subsidiary campaign in the Sino-French War (August 1884 to April 1885). The French occupied Keelung from 1 October 1884 to 22 June 1885 and the Penghu Islands from 31 March to 22 July 1885. A French attempt to capture Tamsui was defeated at the Battle of Tamsui (8 October 1884). Several battles were fought around Keelung between October 1884 and March 1885 between Liu Ming-ch'uan's Army of Northern Taiwan and Colonel Jacques Duchesne's Formosa Expeditionary Corps. The Keelung Campaign, despite some notable French tactical victories, ended in a stalemate. The Pescadores Campaign was a French victory, but had no long-term consequences. The French evacuated both Keelung and the Penghu archipelago at the end of the war.

In 1885, the Qing upgraded Taiwan's status from prefecture of Fujian to full province, the twentieth in the country, with its capital at Taipei. This was accompanied by a modernization drive that included building Taiwan's first railroad and starting a postal service.[18]

Japanese rule

The building currently known as the ROC Presidential Office was originally built as the Office of the Governor-General by the Japanese government.

Imperial Japan had sought to control Taiwan since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi began extending Japanese influence overseas. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Arima Harunobu on an exploratory mission. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.

In 1871, an Okinawan vessel shipwrecked on the southern tip of Taiwan and the crew of fifty-four was beheaded by the Paiwan aborigines. The Ryūkyū Kingdom kept a tributary relationship with Great Qing, at the same time was subordinate to Satsuma Domain of Japan. When Japan sought compensation from Qing China, it was first rejected because Qing considered the incident an internal affair since Taiwan was a prefecture of Fujian Province of Qing and the Ryūkyū Kingdom was a tributary of Qing. When Japanese foreign minister Soejima Taneomi asked the compensation again claiming four of the victims were Japanese citizens from Okayama prefecture of Japan, Qing officials rejected the demand on the grounds that the "wild" and "unsubjugated" aboriginals (traditional Chinese: 台灣生番simplified Chinese: 台湾生番pinyin: Táiwān shēngfān) were outside its jurisdiction. Such aboriginals were treated extremely harshly; American consul J.W. Davidson described how the Chinese in Taiwan ate and traded in their aboriginal victims' flesh.[19] The open renunciation of sovereignty led to a Japanese invasion of Taiwan. In 1874, an expeditionary force of three thousand troops was sent to the island. There were about thirty Taiwanese and 543 Japanese casualties (twelve in battle and 531 by endemic diseases for the Japanese side).[20] [21] [22][23]

Japanese Soldiers Entering Taipei City in 1895 after the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Great Qing was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and Taiwan and Penghu were ceded in full sovereignty to Japan. Inhabitants wishing to remain Qing subjects were given a two-year grace period to sell their property and move to mainland China. Very few Taiwanese saw this as feasible.[24]

On May 25, 1895, a group of pro-Qing high officials proclaimed the Republic of Formosa to resist impending Japanese rule. Japanese forces entered the capital at Tainan and quelled this resistance on October 21, 1895.[citation needed]

The Japanese were instrumental in the industrialization of the island; they extended the railroads and other transportation networks, built an extensive sanitation system and revised the public school system. During this period, both rice and sugarcane production greatly increased. By 1939, Taiwan was the seventh greatest sugar producer in the world.[25] Still, the Taiwanese and Aborigines were classified as second- and third-class citizens. Large-scale violence continued in the first decade of rule. Japan launched over 160 battles to destroy Taiwan's aboriginal tribes during its 51-year rule of the island ...'[26] Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project to bind the island more firmly to the Japanese Empire and people were taught to see themselves as Japanese. During WWII, tens of thousands of Taiwanese served in the Japanese military.[27] For example, former ROC President Lee Teng-hui's elder brother served in the Japanese navy and died while on duty in February 1945 in the Philippines.

The Imperial Japanese Navy operated heavily out of Taiwan. The "South Strike Group" was based out of the Taihoku Imperial University in Taiwan. Many of the Japanese forces participating in the Aerial Battle of Taiwan-Okinawa were based in Taiwan. Important Japanese military bases and industrial centers throughout Taiwan, like Kaohsiung, were targets of heavy American bombing.[citation needed]

Japan's rule of Taiwan ended after it lost World War II and signed the Instrument of Surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. But the Japanese rule had long lasting effects on Taiwan and Taiwanese culture. Japanese pop culture is popular in Taiwan, influenced by the 50-year Japanese rule. Significant parts of Taiwanese infrastructure were started under the Japanese rule. The current Presidential Building was also built during that time. In 1938 there were 309,000 Japanese settlers in Taiwan.[28] After World War II, most of the Japanese were repatriated to Japan.

Kuomintang martial law period

The Cairo Conference from November 22 to 26, 1943 in Cairo, Egypt was held to address the Allied position against Japan during WWII, and to make decisions about postwar Asia. One of the three main clauses of the Cairo Declaration was that "all the territories Japan has stolen from China, including Manchuria, Taiwan and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China'. This ultimatum was accepted when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender.

On October 25, 1945, ROC troops representing the Allied Command accepted the formal surrender of Japanese military forces in Taipei (then called Taihoku). The ROC Government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, announced that date as "Taiwan Retrocession Day". The ROC under Chen Yi was strained by social and political instabilities, which were compounded by economic woes, such as hyperinflation. Furthermore, cultural and linguistic differences between the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese quickly led to the loss of popular support for the new government.[29] This culminated in a series of severe clashes between the ROC government and the Taiwanese, in turn leading to the 228 incident and the reign of White Terror.[30]

In 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, the Kuomintang (KMT), led by Chiang Kai-shek, retreated from mainland China and the ROC government fled from Nanjing (then romanised as "Nanking") to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, while continuing to claim sovereignty over all China, which the ROC defines to include mainland China, Taiwan, Outer Mongolia and other areas. In mainland China, the victorious Communists established the PRC, claiming to be the sole representative of China (which it claimed included Taiwan) and portraying the ROC government as an illegitimate entity.[31]

Some 2 million people, consisting mainly of soldiers, KMT party members and most importantly the intellectual and business elites also fled mainland China and arrived in Taiwan around that time. In addition, as part of its escape from Communists in mainland China, the ROC government relocated to Taipei with many national treasures including gold reserves and foreign currency reserves.[32] This was often used by the PRC government to explain its economic difficulties and Taiwan's comparative prosperity.[citation needed] From this period through the 1980s, Taiwan was governed by a party-state dictatorship, with the KMT as the ruling party. Military rule continued and little to no distinction was made between the government and the party, with public property, government property, and party property being interchangeable. Government workers and party members were indistinguishable, with government workers, such as teachers, required to become KMT members, and party workers paid salaries and promised retirement benefits along the lines of government employees. In addition all other parties were outlawed, and political opponents were persecuted, incarcerated, and executed.[citation needed]

Taiwan remained a one-party state under martial law under the name of the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion", from 1948 to 1987, when the ROC Presidents Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui gradually liberalized and democratized the system. With the advent of democratization, the issue of the political status of Taiwan has resurfaced as a controversial issue (previously, discussion of anything other than unification under the ROC was taboo).

As the Chinese Civil War continued without truce, the ROC built up military fortifications throughout Taiwan. Within this effort, former KMT soldiers built the now famous Central Cross-Island Highway through the Taroko Gorge in the 1950s. The two sides would continue to engage in sporadic military clashes with seldom publicized details well into the 1960’s on the nearby islands with an unknown number of night raids. During the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in September 1958, Taiwan's landscape saw Nike-Hercules missile batteries added, with the formation of the 1st Missile Battalion Chinese Army that would not be deactivated until 1997. Newer generations of missile batteries have since replaced the Nike Hercules systems throughout the island.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the ROC began to develop into a prosperous, industrialized developed country with a strong and dynamic economy, becoming one of the Four Asian Tigers while maintaining the authoritarian, single-party government. Because of the Cold War, most Western nations and the United Nations regarded the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China until the 1970s, when most nations began switching recognition to the PRC.[33]

Modern democratic era

Chiang Kai-shek's eventual successor, his son Chiang Ching-kuo, began to liberalize Taiwan's political system. In 1984, the younger Chiang selected Lee Teng-hui, an ethnically Taiwanese technocrat, to be his vice president. In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed and inaugurated as the first opposition party in Taiwan to counter the KMT. A year later Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law.

After the 1988 death of Chiang Ching-Kuo, President Lee Teng-hui became the first ethnically Taiwanese president of the ROC. Lee continued to democratize the government and decrease the concentration of government authority in the hands of mainland Chinese. Under Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of localization in which Taiwanese culture and history were promoted over a pan-China viewpoint in contrast to earlier KMT policies which had promoted a Chinese identity. Lee's reforms included printing banknotes from the Central Bank rather than the Provincial Bank of Taiwan, and streamlining the Taiwan Provincial Government with most of its functions transferred to the Executive Yuan. Under Lee, the original members of the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly, elected in 1947 to represent mainland Chinese constituencies and having taken the seats without re-election for more than four decades, were forced to resign in 1991. The previously nominal representation in the Legislative Yuan was brought to an end, to reflect the reality that the ROC government had no jurisdiction over mainland China. Restrictions on the use of Taiwanese Hokkien in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted as well. During later years of Lee's administration, he was involved in corruption controversies relating to government release of land and weapons purchase, although no legal proceedings commenced.

In the 1990s, the ROC continued its democratic reforms, as President Lee Teng-hui was elected by the first popular vote held in Taiwan during the 1996 Presidential election. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, was elected as the first non-KMT President and was re-elected to serve his second and last term since 2004. Polarized politics has emerged in Taiwan with the formation of the Pan-Blue Coalition of parties led by the KMT, favoring eventual Chinese reunification, and the Pan-Green Coalition of parties led by the DPP, favoring an eventual and official declaration of Taiwan independence.

On September 30, 2007, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party approved a resolution asserting separate identity from China and called for the enactment of a new constitution for a "normal country". It also called for general use of "Taiwan" as the island's name, without abolishing its formal name, the Republic of China.[34] The Chen administration also pushed for referendums on national defense and UN entry in the 2004 and 2008 elections, which failed due to voter turnout below the required legal threshold of 50% of all registered voters.[35] The Chen administration was dogged by public concerns over reduced economic growth, legislative gridlock due to a pan-blue, opposition controlled Legislative Yuan, and corruption involving the First Family as well as government officials.[36][37]

The KMT increased its majority in the Legislative Yuan in the January 2008 legislative elections, while its nominee Ma Ying-jeou went on to win the presidency in March of the same year, campaigning on a platform of increased economic growth, and better ties with the PRC under a policy of "mutual nondenial".[35] Ma took office on May 20, 2008. Part of the rationale for campaigning for closer economic ties with the PRC stem from the strong economic growth China attained since joining the World Trade Organization. However, some analysts say that despite the election of Ma Ying-jeou, military tensions with the PRC have not been reduced [38]

On 4 March 2010 at about 01:20 UTC, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan.[39]


Map of Taiwan
Landscape of Taiwan.

The island of Taiwan lies some 180 kilometers off the southeastern coast of China, across the Taiwan Strait, and has an area of 35,801 km2 (13,822.8 sq mi). The East China Sea lies 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 characterized by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds, consisting 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 Yu Shan at 3,952 meters, and there are five other peaks over 3,500 meters. This makes it the world's fourth-highest island[40]. Taroko National Park, located on the mountainous eastern side of the island, has good examples of mountainous terrain, gorges and erosion caused by a swiftly flowing river.

The shape of the main island of Taiwan is similar to a sweet potato seen in a south-to-north direction, and therefore, Taiwanese, especially the Min-nan division, often call themselves "children of the Sweet Potato."[41] There are also other interpretations of the island shape, one of which is a whale in the ocean (the Pacific Ocean) if viewed in a west-to-east direction, which is a common orientation in ancient maps, plotted either by Western explorers or the Great Qing.


The island of Taiwan lies in a complex tectonic area between the Yangtze Plate to the west and north, the Okinawa Plate on the north-east, and the Philippine Mobile Belt on the east and south. The upper part of the crust on the island is primarily made up of a series of terranes, mostly old island arcs which have been forced together by the collision of the forerunners of the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. These have been further uplifted as a result of the detachment of a portion of the Eurasian Plate as it was subducted beneath remnants of the Philippine Sea Plate, a process which left the crust under Taiwan more buoyant.[42]

The east and south of Taiwan are a complex system of belts formed by, and part of the zone of, active collision between the North Luzon Trough portion of the Luzon Arc and South China, where accreted portions of the Luzon Arc and Luzon forearc form the eastern Coastal Range and parallel inland Longitudinal Valley of Taiwan respectively.[43]

The major seismic faults in Taiwan correspond to the various suture zones between the various terranes. These have produced major quakes throughout the history of the island. On September 21, 1999, a 7.3 quake known as the "921 earthquake" occurred. The seismic hazard map for Taiwan by the USGS shows 9/10 of the island as the highest rating (most hazardous).[44]


Taiwan's climate is marine tropical.[45] The northern part of the island has a rainy season that lasts from January through late March during the northeast monsoon, and experiences meiyu in May.[46] The entire island experiences hot, humid weather from June through September. The middle and southern parts of the island do not have an extended monsoon season during the winter months. Natural hazards such as typhoons and earthquakes[47] are common in the region.

Taiwan is a center of bird endemism; see Endemic birds of Taiwan for further information.

Environment and pollution

With its high population density and many factories, some areas in Taiwan suffer from heavy pollution. Most notable are the southern suburbs of Taipei and the western stretch from Tainan to Lin Yuan, south of Kaohsiung. In the past, Taipei suffered from extensive vehicle and factory air pollution, but with mandatory use of unleaded gasoline and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality of Taiwan has improved dramatically.[48] Motor scooters, especially older or cheaper two-stroke versions, which are ubiquitous in Taiwan, also contribute disproportionately to urban air pollution.[49][50]

Natural resources

Because of the intensive exploitation throughout Taiwan's pre-modern and modern history, the island's mineral resources (e.g. coal, gold, marble), as well as wild animal reserves (e.g. deer), have been virtually exhausted. Moreover, much of its forestry resources, especially firs were harvested during Japanese rule for the construction of shrines and have only recovered slightly since then. The remaining forests nowadays do not contribute to significant timber production mainly because of concerns about production costs and environmental regulations.

Camphor extraction and sugarcane refining played an important role in Taiwan's exportation from the late nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth century. The importance of the above industries subsequently declined not because of the exhaustion of related natural resources but mainly of the decline of international market demands.

Nowadays, few natural resources with significant economic value are retained in Taiwan, which are essentially agriculture-associated. Domestic agriculture (rice being the dominant kind of crop) and fisheries retain importance to a certain degree, but they have been greatly challenged by foreign imports since Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001. Consequently, upon the decline of subsistent importance, Taiwan's agriculture now relies heavily on the marketing and exportation of certain kinds of specialty fruits, such as banana, guava, lychee, wax apple, and high-mountain tea.

Energy resources

Taiwan has significant coal deposits and some insignificant petroleum and natural gas deposits. Electrical power generation is nearly 55% coal-based, 18% nuclear power, 17% natural gas, 5% oil, and 5% from renewable energy sources. Nearly all oil and gas for transportation and power needs must be imported, making Taiwan particularly sensitive to fluctuations in energy prices. Because of this, Taiwan's Executive Yuan is pushing for 10% of energy generation to come from renewable energy by 2010, double from the current figure of approximately 5%. In fact, several wind farms built by American and German companies have come online or will in the near future. Taiwan is rich in wind energy resources, with Wind farms both onshore and offshore, though limited land area favors offshore wind resources. Solar energy is also a potential resource to some extent. By promoting renewable energy, Taiwan's government hopes to also aid the nascent renewable energy manufacturing industry, and develop it into an export market.


Ethnic groups

Bunun dancer in traditional aboriginal dress.

Taiwan's population was estimated in 2005 at 22.9 million, most of whom are on the island of Taiwan. About 98% of the population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. Of these, 86% are descendants of early Han Chinese immigrants known as the "home-province people" (Chinese: 本省人pinyin: Běnshěng rén; literally "home-province person").

This group contains two subgroups: the Southern Fujianese or "Hokkien" or "Min-nan" (70% of the total population), who migrated from the coastal Southern Fujian (Min-nan) region in the southeast of mainland China beginning in the 17th century; and the Hakka (15% of the total population), who originally migrated south to Guangdong, its surrounding areas and Taiwan. 12% of population are known as waishengren (Chinese: 外省人pinyin: Wàishěng rén; literally "out-of-province person") or "mainlanders" in English and are composed of and descend from mainland Chinese immigrants who arrived after the Second World War.

This group mostly includes those who fled mainland China in 1949 following the Kuomintang defeat in the Chinese Civil War. For political reasons, the mainlanders are also called xin zhùmín (Chinese: 新住民), or "new residents", although the term is considered offensive by many of the mainlanders themselves.[citation needed] As of April 2009, there were 343,000 foreign workers.[51]

The other 2% of Taiwan's population, numbering about 458,000, are listed as the Taiwanese aborigines, divided into 13 major groups: Ami, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Rukai, Puyuma, Tsou, Saisiyat, Tao (Yami), Thao, Kavalan, Truku and Sakizaya.[52]


About 70% of the people in Taiwan belong to the Hoklo ethnic group and speak both Standard Mandarin (officially recognized by the ROC as the National Language) and Taiwanese Hokkien (commonly known as "Taiwanese"; a variant of Min Nan spoken in Fujian province). Standard Mandarin is the primary language of instruction in schools. The Hakka, about 15% of the population, have a distinct Hakka dialect. Aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, although most also speak Mandarin. English is a common second language, with some large private schools providing English instruction. English is compulsory in students' curriculum once they enter elementary school. English as a school subject is also featured on Taiwan's education exams.

Although Mandarin is still the language of instruction in schools and dominates television and radio, non-Mandarin languages or dialects have undergone a revival in public life in Taiwan. A large proportion of the population can speak Taiwanese, and many others have some degree of understanding. Some also speak Hakka. People educated during the Japanese period of 1900 to 1945 used Japanese as the medium of instruction. Some in the older generations only speak the Japanese they learned at school and the Taiwanese they spoke at home and are unable to communicate with many in the younger generations who only speak Mandarin.[citation needed]

Most aboriginal groups in Taiwan have their own languages which, unlike Taiwanese or Hakka, do not belong to the Chinese language family, but rather to the Austronesian language family.


Tainan Confucius Temple. Four characters on the inscribed board mean "First School in All of Taiwan"

Over 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% are adherents of Christianity, which includes Protestants, Catholics, Latter-day Saints and other, non-denominational, Christian groups; , and 2.5% are adherents of other religions, such as Islam. Taiwanese aborigines comprise a notable subgroup among professing Christians: "...over 64 percent identify as Christian... Church buildings are the most obvious markers of Aboriginal villages, distinguishing them from Taiwanese or Hakka villages."[53]

Confucianism is a philosophy that deals with secular moral ethics, and serves as the foundation of both Chinese and Taiwanese culture. The majority of Taiwanese people usually combine the secular moral teachings of Confucianism with whatever religions they are affiliated with.

One especially important goddess for Taiwanese people is Matsu, who symbolizes the seafaring spirit of Taiwan's ancestors from Fujian and Guangdong.

As of 2009, there are 14,993 temples in Taiwan, approximately one place of worship per 1,500 residents. 9,202 of those temples were dedicated to Taoism. In 2008, Taiwan had 3,262 Churches, an increase of 145.[54]


National Palace Museum, ranked as one of the world's top five museums,[citation needed] in Taipei
Apo Hsu and the NTNU Symphony Orchestra on stage in the National Concert Hall
Taipei 101 set a new height record in 2004

The cultures of Taiwan are a hybrid blend of various sources, incorporating elements of traditional Chinese culture, attributable to the historical and ancestry origin of the majority of its current residents, Japanese culture, traditional Confucianist beliefs, and increasingly globalized values.

After their move to Taiwan, the Kuomintang imposed an official interpretation of traditional Chinese culture over Taiwanese cultures. The government launched a program promoting Chinese calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, folk art, and Chinese opera.

Since the Taiwan localization movement of the 1990s, Taiwan's cultural identity has enjoyed greater expression. Identity politics, along with the over one hundred years of political separation from mainland China has led to distinct traditions in many areas, including cuisine and music.

The status of Taiwanese culture is debated. It is disputed whether Taiwanese culture is a regional form of Chinese culture or a distinct culture. Speaking Taiwanese as a symbol of the localization movement has become an emblem of Taiwanese identity.

One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National Palace Museum, which houses more than 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting and porcelain, and is considered one of the greatest collection of Chinese art and objects in the world.[55] The KMT moved this collection from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1949 when it fled to Taiwan. The collection, estimated to be one-tenth of China's cultural treasures, is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any time. The PRC had said that the collection was stolen and that it legitimately belongs in China, but Taiwan has long defended its collection as a necessary act to protect the pieces from destruction especially during the Cultural Revolution.[56] Relations regarding this treasure have warmed recently as the PRC has agreed to lending relics and that that Beijing Palace Museum Curator Zheng Xinmiao said that artifacts in both Chinese and Taiwanese museums are "China's cultural heritage jointly owned by people across the Taiwan Strait."[57]

Popular sports in Taiwan include basketball and baseball.

International Community Radio Taipei is the most listened to International Radio Media in Taiwan.[citation needed]

Karaoke, drawn from contemporary Japanese culture, is extremely popular in Taiwan, where it is known as KTV.

Taiwan has a high density of 24-hour convenience stores, which in addition to the usual services, provide services on behalf of financial institutions or government agencies such as collection of parking fees, utility bills, traffic violation fines, and credit card payments.[58] They even provide the service of mailing packages.

Taiwanese culture has also influenced other cultures. Bubble tea and milk tea are available in Australia, Europe and North America. Taiwan television variety shows are very popular in Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries. Taiwanese films have won various international awards at film festivals around the world. Ang Lee, a Taiwanese director, has directed critically acclaimed films such as: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Eat Drink Man Woman; Sense and Sensibility; Brokeback Mountain; and Lust, Caution. Other famous Taiwanese directors include Tsai Ming-Liang, Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien.


Baseball is considered Taiwan's national sport and it is a popular spectator sport. One of the most famous Taiwanese baseball pitchers is Chien-Ming Wang, who is a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. Other notable players in the league include Chin-hui Tsao who played for the Colorado Rockies (2003–2005) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2007), Kuo Hong-chih and Hu Chin-lung who are both part of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan was established in 1989,[59] and eventually absorbed the competing Taiwan Major League in 2003. As of 2008, the CPBL has four teams with average attendance of approximately 3,000 per game.

Besides baseball, martial arts such as taekwondo, karate, and kung fu are also widely practiced and competed.

In 2009, Taiwan hosted two international sporting events on the island. The World Games 2009 were held in Kaohsiung City between July 16, 2009 and July 26, 2009. Taipei City hosted the 21st Summer Deaflympics in September of the same year.

Political status


Taipei 101 is a symbol of the success of the Taiwanese economy.

Taiwan's quick industrialization and rapid growth during the latter half of the twentieth century, has been called the "Taiwan Miracle" (台灣奇蹟) or "Taiwan Economic Miracle". As it has developed alongside Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong, Taiwan is one of the industrialized developed countries known as the "Four Asian Tigers".

Japanese rule prior to and during World War II brought forth changes in the public and private sectors of the economy, most notably in the area of public works, which enabled rapid communications and facilitated transport throughout much of the island. The Japanese also improved public education and made the system compulsory for all Taiwanese citizens during this time.

When the KMT government fled to Taiwan it brought the entire gold reserve and the foreign currency reserve of mainland China to the island which stabilized prices and reduced hyperinflation. More importantly, as part of its retreat to Taiwan, KMT brought with them the intellectual and business elites from mainland China.[60] The KMT government instituted many laws and land reforms that it had never effectively enacted on mainland China. The government also implemented a policy of import-substitution, attempting to produce imported goods domestically. Much of this was made possible through US economic aid, subsidizing the higher cost of domestic production.

In 1962, Taiwan had a per capita gross national product (GNP) of $170, placing the island's economy squarely between Zaire and Congo. By 2008 Taiwan's per capita GNP, adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), had soared to $33,000 (2008 est.) contributing to a Human Development Index equivalent to that of other developed countries.[citation needed]

Today Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist, export-driven 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 fifth largest as of 31 December 2007.[61]

Agriculture constitutes only two percent of the GDP, down from 35 percent in 1952. Traditional labor-intensive industries are steadily being moved offshore and with more capital and technology-intensive industries replacing them.[citation needed] Taiwan has become a major foreign investor in mainland China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. It is estimated that some 50,000 Taiwanese businesses and 1,000,000 businesspeople and their dependents are established in the PRC.[62]

Because of its conservative financial approach and its entrepreneurial strengths, Taiwan suffered little compared with many of its neighbors from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.[citation needed] Unlike its neighbors South Korea and Japan, the Taiwanese economy is dominated by small and medium sized businesses, rather than the large business groups. 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 reached a level not seen since the 1973 oil crisis. This became a major issue in the 2004 presidential election. Growth averaged more than 4% in the 2002–2006 period and the unemployment rate fell below 4%. Since the global financial crisis starting with United States in 2007, the unemployment rate has risen to over 5.9% and Economic Growth fallen to -2.9%.[citation needed]

Leading technologies of Taiwan include:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Taiwan entry at The World Factbook
  3. ^ Taiwan entry at The World Factbook "Native Taiwanese" here refers to the people whose ancestors moved to Taiwan from China prior to the end of World War II. Most of the ancestors moved to Taiwan hundreds of years earlier.
  4. ^ Waishengren usually refers to people who moved from mainland China to Taiwan post 1949 when the KMT retreated to Taiwan due to the Chinese Civil War and their descendants born in Taiwan. It usually does not include citizens of the People's Republic of China who recently moved to Taiwan.
  5. ^ In the RoC, the Taiwanese Aborigines are officially categorised into 14 separate ethnic groups. They have all been grouped into one group here for simplicity reasons. For the entire list of groups, see List of ethnic groups in Taiwan
  6. ^ Historically, Taiwan has also been called in Chinese: 大灣 / 台員 / 大員 / 台圓 / 大圓 / 台窩灣
  7. ^ "Country Profile:Taiwan". BBC. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  8. ^ "The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue". Taiwan Affairs Office and the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. 2000-02-21. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  9. ^ "FOCUS: Taiwan-Japan ties back on shaky ground as Taipei snubs Tokyo envoy". Kyodo News. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  10. ^ World Economic Outlook published by the IMF
  11. ^ "Why Taiwan Matters". BusinessWeek. May 16, 2005. 
  12. ^ "Slideshow: Taiwan's Tech Clout". BusinessWeek. May 16, 2005. 
  13. ^ Trejaut, Jean; Toomas Kivisild, Jun Hun Loo, Chien Liang Lee, Chun Lin He, Chia Jung Hsu, Zheng Yuan Li, Marie Lin (August 2005). "Traces of Archaic Mitochondrial Lineages Persist in Austronesian-Speaking Formosan Populations". PLoS Biology 3 (8): e247. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030247. 
  14. ^ Roy, Denny (2002). Taiwan. Cornell University Press. pp. 11. ISBN 978-0-8014-8805-4. 
  15. ^ Shepherd, John R. (1993), Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600–1800, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, p. 7  Reprinted Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1995.
  16. ^ "Finding the Heritage — Reasons for the project". National Anping Harbor Histosrical Park. Retrieved 2006-03-08. 
  17. ^ Hsu; Govindasamy Agoramoorthy (August 1997). "Wildlife conservation in Taiwan". Conservation Biology 11 (4): 834–836. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1997.011004834.x. 
  18. ^ "Build History of Main Routes of Taiwan Railway". Taiwan Railway Administration. 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  19. ^ "Taiwan Review". 
  20. ^ Chiu, Hungdah (1979). China and the Taiwan Issue. London: Praeger Publishers Inc.. ISBN 0030489113. 
  21. ^ Paine, S.C.M (2002). The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81714-5. 
  22. ^ Ravina, Mark (2003). The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori. Wiley. ISBN 0471089702. 
  23. ^ Smits, Gregory (1999). "Visions of Ryūkyū: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics." Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
  24. ^ Ryotaro, Shiba. Taiwan Kikou
  25. ^ "The History of Taiwan". 
  26. ^ "". 
  27. ^ "History". Oversea Office Republic of China (Taiwan). 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-02. 
  28. ^ Formosa (Taiwan) Under Japanese Rule
  29. ^ "This Is the Shame". Time Magazine. 1946-06-10.,10987,792979,00.html. (subscription required)
  30. ^ "Snow Red & Moon Angel". Time Magazine. 1947-04-07.,10987,804090,00.html. (subscription required), full version at Lomaji.
  31. ^ "The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue". PRC Taiwan Affairs Office and the Information Office of the State Council. 2005. "Section 1: Since the KMT ruling clique retreated to Taiwan, although its regime has continued to use the designations ‘Republic of China’ and ‘government of the Republic of China,’ it has long since completely forfeited its right to exercise state sovereignty on behalf of China and, in reality, has always remained only a local authority in Chinese territory." 
  32. ^ Dunbabin, J. P. D. (2008). The Cold War. Pearson Education. p. 187. ISBN 0582423988. "In 1949 Chiang Kai-shek had transferred to Taiwan the government, gold reserve, and some of the army of his Republic of China." 
  33. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758
  34. ^ "AP, Taiwan Party Asserts Separate Identity". 
  35. ^ a b Lam, Willy (2008-03-28). "Ma Ying-jeou and the Future of Cross-Strait Relations" ( – Scholar search). China Brief (Jamestown Foundation) 8 (7). Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  36. ^ "The Nationalists are back in Taiwan", The Economist, 03-23, 
  37. ^ "Straitened times: Taiwan looks to China", The Financial Times, 03-25, 
  38. ^
  39. ^ CNN's Christine Theodorou and Journalist Andrew Lee (March 3, 2010 9:23 p.m. EST (March 4, 2010 02:23 UTC)). "6.4-magnitude quake hits southern Taiwan". CNN. Retrieved 2010-03-04 (UTC). 
  40. ^ Tallest Islands of the World - World Island Info web site
  41. ^ Chao, Kang & Johnson, Marshall (2000). Nationalist Social Sciences and the Fabrication of Subimperial Subjects in Taiwan. Positions 8:1. Page 167.
  42. ^ Geology of Taiwan - University of Arizona
  43. ^ Clift, Schouten and Draut (2003) in Intra-Oceanic Subduction Systems: Tectonic and Magmatic Processes, ISBN 1-86239-147-5 p84–86
  44. ^ USGS:Seismic hazard map of Taiwan
  45. ^ "Field Listing — Climate". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2006-03-08. 
  46. ^ "Monthly Mean Days of Precipitation". Climate Data. ROC Central Weather Bureau. Retrieved 2006-03-08. 
  47. ^ "Rescuers hunt quake survivors". BBC. 1999-09-21. 
  48. ^ "Taiwan: Environmental Issues". Country Analysis Brief — Taiwan. United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2006-03-08. "The government credits the APC system with helping to reduce the number of days when the country's pollution standard index score exceeded 100 from 7% of days in 1994 to 3% of days in 2001." 
  49. ^ Taiwan Country Analysis Brief, US Energy Information Administration, 2005: "Taipei has the most obvious air pollution, primary caused by the motorbikes and scooters used by millions of the city's residents."
  50. ^ "A Viable Niche Market--Fuel Cell Scooters in Taiwan", Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, 2002: "In Taiwan’s cities, the main source of air pollution is the waste gas exhausted by scooters, especially by the great number of two-stroke engine scooters."
  51. ^ China: Recession; Taiwan, Hong Kong. Migration News. July 2009.
  52. ^ "The World Factbook". CIA. 2006-05-03. 
  53. ^ Stainton, Michael (2002). Presbyterians and the Aboriginal Revitalization Movement in Taiwan. Cultural Survival Quarterly 26.2. Accessed 21 March 2007.
  54. ^ 15,000 temples. Accessed 27 July 2009.
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei. "Convenience Stores Aim at Differentiation" ( – Scholar search). Taiwan Business TOPICS 34 (11). 
  59. ^ Intro of CPBL
  60. ^ Roy, Denny (2003). Taiwan: A Political History. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. pp. 76, 77. ISBN 0-8014-8805-2. 
  61. ^ "CIA – World Fact Book – Rank Order — Reserves of foreign exchange and gold". World Fact Book. CIA. 2008-09-04. Archived from the original on 2008-09-26. Retrieved 2008-09-26. "Rank 5 Taiwan $ 274,700,000,000 31 December 2007" 
  62. ^ Morris, Peter (February 4, 2004). "Taiwan business in China supports opposition". Asia Times Online. 

Further reading

  • Bush, R. & O'Hanlon, M. (2007). A War Like No Other: The Truth About China's Challenge to America. Wiley. ISBN 0471986771
  • Bush, R. (2006). Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0815712901
  • Carpenter, T. (2006). America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403968411
  • Cole, B. (2006). Taiwan's Security: History and Prospects. Routledge. ISBN 0415365813
  • Copper, J. (2006). Playing with Fire: The Looming War with China over Taiwan. Praeger Security International General Interest. ISBN 0275988880
  • Copper, J. (2000). Historical Dictionary of Taiwan (Republic of China). The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810836653
  • Federation of American Scientists et al. (2006). Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning
  • Gill, B. (2007). Rising Star: China's New Security Diplomacy. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0815731469
  • Knapp, R. (1980). China's Island Frontier: Studies in the Historical Geography of Taiwan. University of Hawai`i Press. ISBN 0824807057
  • Rubinstein, M. (2006). Taiwan: A New History. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 0765614952
  • Shirk, S. (2007). China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195306090
  • Tsang, S. (2006). If China Attacks Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics. Routledge. ISBN 0415407850
  • Tucker, N.B. (2005). Dangerous Strait: the U.S.-Taiwan-China Crisis. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231135645

External links

Coordinates: 23°46′N 121°0′E / 23.767°N 121°E / 23.767; 121

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Formosa means "beautiful" in Portuguese. It is used as a name for more than one place:

  • Taiwan was called "Formosa" by non-Chinese until the late 20th century. The Chinese name "Taiwan" is in general use now.




  • Formosa (Canada), a town in Ontario.


  • Formosa (Santarém) - a town in Portugal.
  • Formosa (Portalegre) - a town in Portugal.

United States of America

  • Formosa (Virginia) - a town in Virginia.
  • Formosa (Arkansas) - a town in Arkansas.
This article is a disambiguation page. If you arrived here by following a link from another page you can help by correcting it, so that it points to the appropriate disambiguated page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FORMOSA (called Taiwan by the Chinese, and following them by the Japanese, into whose possession it came after their war with China in 1895), an island in the western Pacific Ocean, between the Southern and the Eastern China Sea, separated from the Chinese mainland by the Formosa Strait, which has a width of about 90 m. in its narrowest part. The island is 225 m. long and from 60 to 80 m. broad, has a coast-line measuring 731 m., an area of 13,429 sq. m. - being thus nearly the same size as Kiushiu, the most southern of the four chief islands forming the Japanese empire proper - and extends from 20° 56' to 25° 15' N. and from to 122° E. It forms part of the long line of islands which are interposed as a protective barrier between the Asiatic coast and the outer Pacific, and is the cause of the immunity from typhoons enjoyed by the ports of China from Amoy to the Yellow Sea. Along the western coast is a low plain, not exceeding 20 m. in extreme width; on the east coast there is a rich plain called Giran, and there are also some fertile valleys in the neighbourhood of Karenko and Pinan, extending up the longitudinal valleys of the rivers Karenko and Pinan, between which and the east coast the Taito range intervenes; but the rest of the island is mountainous and covered with virgin forest. In the plains the soil is generally of sand or alluvial clay, covered in the valleys with a rich vegetable mould. The scenery of Formosa is frequently of majestic beauty, and to this it is indebted for its European name, happily bestowed by the early Spanish navigators.

On the addition of Formosa to her dominions, Fuji ceased to be Japan's highest mountain, and took the third place on the list. Mount Morrison (14,270 ft.), which the Japanese re-named Niitaka-yama (New High Mountain), stands first, and Mount Sylvia (12,480 ft.), to which they give the name of Setzu-zan (Snowy Mountain), comes second. Mount Morrison stands nearly under the Tropic of Cancer. It is not volcanic, but consists of argillaceous schist and quartzite. An ascent made by Dr Honda of the imperial university of Japan showed that, up to a height of 6000 ft., the mountain is clothed with primeval forests of palms, banyans, cork trees, camphor trees, tree ferns, interlacing creepers and dense thickets of rattan or stretches of grass higher than a man's stature. The next interval of 1000 ft. has gigantic cryptomerias and chamoecyparis; then follow pines; then, at a height of 9500 ft., a broad plateau, and then alternate stretches of grass and forest up to the top, which consists of several small peaks. There is no snow. Mount Morrison, being surrounded by high ranges, is not a conspicuous object. Mount Sylvia lies in 2 4 ° 3 0' N. lat. There are many other mountains of considerable elevation. In the north is Getsurobi-zan (4101 ft.); and on either side of Setzu-zan, with which they form a range running due east and west across the island, are Jusampunzan (4698 ft.) and Kali-zan (7027 ft.). Twenty-two miles due south of Kali-zan stands Hakumosha-zan (5282 ft.), and just 20 m. due south of Hakumosha-zan begins a chain of three peaks, Suisha-zan (6200 ft.), Hoo-zan (4928), and Niitaka-yama. These five mountains, Hari-zan, Hakumoshazan, Suisha-zan, Hoo-zan and Niitaka-yama, stand almost exactly under 121° E. long., in the very centre of the island. But the backbone of the island lies east of them, extending S. from Setzu-zan through Gokan-zan, and Noko-zan and other peaks and bending S.W. to Niitaka-yama. Yet farther south, and still lying in line down the centre of the island, are Sankyakunan zan (3752 ft.), Shurogi-zan (5729 ft.), Poren-zan (4957 ft.), and Kado-zan (9055 ft.), and, finally, in the south-east Arugan-zan (4985 ft.). These, it will be observed, are all Japanese names, and the heights have been determined by Japanese observers. In addition to these remarkable inland mountains, Formosa's eastern shores show magnificent cliff scenery, the bases of the hills on the seaside taking the form of almost perpendicular walls as high as from 150o to 2 500 ft. Volcanic outbreaks of steam and sulphur-springs are found. Owing to the precipitous character of the east coast few rivers of any size find their way to the sea in that direction. The west coast, on the contrary, has many streams, but the only two of any considerable length are the Kotansui, which rises on Shurogi-zan, and has its mouth at Toko after a course of some 60 m. and the Seirakei, which rises on Hakumosha-zan, and enters the sea at a point 57 m. farther north after a course of 90 m.

The climate is damp, hot and malarious. In the north, the driest and best months are October, November and December; in the south, December, January, February and March. The sea immediately south of Formosa is the birthplace of innumerable typhoons, but the high mountains of the island protect it partially against the extreme violence of the wind.

Table of contents

Flora and Fauna

The vegetation of the island is characterized by tropical luxuriance, - the moutainous regions being clad with dense forest, in which various species of palms, the camphor-tree (Laurus Camplaora), and the aloe are conspicuous. Consul R. Swinhoe obtained no fewer than 65 different kinds of timber from a large yard in Taiwanfu; and his specimens are now to be seen in the museum at Kew. The tree which supplies the materials for the pith paper of the Chinese is not uncommon, and the cassia tree is found in the mountains. Travellers are especially struck with the beauty of some of the wild flowers, more especially with the lilies and convolvuluses; and European greenhouses have been enriched by several Formosan orchids and other ornamental plants. The pine-apple grows in abundance. In the lowlands of the western portion, the Chinese have introduced a large number of cultivated plants and fruit trees. Rice is grown in such quantities as to procure for Formosa, in former days, the title of the " granary of China "; and the sweet potato, taro, millet, barley, wheat and maize are also cultivated. Camphor, sugar, tea, indigo, ground peanuts, jute, hemp, oil and rattans are all articles of export.

The Formosan fauna has been but partially ascertained; but at least three kinds of deer, wild boars, bears, goats, monkeys (probably Macacus speciosus), squirrels, and flying squirrels are fairly common, and panthers and wild cats are not unfrequent. A poisonous but beautiful green snake is often mentioned by travellers. Pheasants, ducks, geese and snipe are abundant, and Dr C. Collingwood in his Naturalist's Rambles in the China Seas mentions .Ardea prasinosceles and other species of herons, several species of fly-catchers, kingfishers, shrikes and larks, the black drongo, the Cotyle sinensis and the Prinia sonitans. Dogs are kept by the savages for hunting. The horse is hardly known, and his place is taken by the ox, which is regularly bridled and saddled and ridden with all dignity. The rivers and neighbouring seas seem to be well stocked with fish, and especial mention must be made of the turtles, flying-fish, and brilliant I coral-fish which swarm in the waters warmed by the Kurosiwo current, the gulf-stream of the Pacific. Shell-fish form an important article of diet to both the Chinese and the aborigines along the coast - a species of Cyrena, a species of Tapes, Cytheraea petechiana and Modiola teres being most abundant.


The population of Formosa, according to a census in 1904, is estimated at 3,022,687, made up as follows: aborigines 104,334, Chinese 2,860,574 and Japanese 51,770. The inhabitants of Formosa may be divided into four classes: the Japanese, who are comparatively few, as there has not been much tendency to immigration; the Chinese, many of whom immigrated from the neighbourhood of Amoy and speak the dialect of that district, while others were Hakkas from the vicinity of Swatow; the subjugated aborigines, who largely intermingled with the Chinese; and the uncivilized aborigines of the eastern region who refuse to recognize authority and carry on raids as opportunity occurs. The semi-civilized aborigines, who adopted the Chinese language, dress and customs, were called Pe-pa-hwan (Anglice Pepo-hoans), while their wilder brethren bear the name of Chin-hwan or" green savages," otherwise Sheng-fan or " wild savages." They appear to belong to the Malay stock, and their language bears out the supposition. They are broken up into almost countless tribes and clans, many of which number only a few hundred individuals, and their language consequently presents a variety of dialects, of which no classification has yet been effected: in the district of Posia alone a member of the Presbyterian mission distinguished eight different mutually unintelligible dialects. The people themselves are described as of " middle height, broadchested and muscular, with remarkably large hands and feet, the eyes large, the forehead round, and not narrow or receding in many instances, the nose broad, the mouth large and disfigured with betel." The custom of tattooing is universal. In the north of the island at least, the dead are buried in a sitting posture under the bed on which they have expired. Petty wars are extremely common, not only along the Chinese frontiers, but between the neighbouring clans; and the heads of the slain are carefully preserved as trophies. In some districts the young men and boys sleep in the skull-chambers, in order that they may be inspired with courage. Many of the tribes that had least intercourse with the Chinese show a considerable amount of skill in the arts of civilization. The use of Manchester prints and other European goods is fairly general; and the women, who make a fine native cloth from hemp, introduce coloured threads from the foreign stuffs, so as to produce ornamental devices. The office of chieftain is sometimes held by women.

The chief town is Taipe (called by the Japanese Taihoku), which is on the Tamsui-yei river, and has a population of about 118,00o, including 5850 Japanese. Taipe may be said to have two ports; one, Tamsui, at the mouth of the river Tamsui-yei, 10 m. distant on the north-west coast, the other Kelung (called by the Japanese Kiirun), on the north-east shore, with which it is connected by rail, a run of some 18 m. The foreign settlement at Taipe lies outside the walls of the city, and is called Twatutia (Taitotei by the Japanese). Kelung (the ancient Pekiang) is an excellent harbour, and the scenery is very beautiful. There are coal-mines in the neighbourhood. Tamsui (called Tansui by the Japanese) is usually termed Hobe by foreigners. It is the site of the first foreign settlement, has a population of about 7000, but cannot be made a good harbour without considerable expenditure. On the west coast there is no place of any importance until reaching Anping (23° N. lat.), a port where a few foreign merchants reside for the sake of the sugar trade. It is an unlovely place, surrounded by mud flats, and a hotbed of malaria. It has a population of 4000 Chinese and 200 Japanese. At a distance of some 21 m. inland is the former capital of Formosa, the walled city of Tainan, which has a population of ioo,000 Chinese, 2300 Japanese, and a few British merchants and missionaries. Connected with Anping by rail (26 m.) and laying south of it is Takau, a treaty port. It has a population of 6800, and is prettily situated on two sides of a large lagoon. Six miles inland from Takau is a prosperous Chinese town called Fengshan (Japanese, Hozan). The anchorages on the east coast are Soo, Karenko and Pinan, which do not call for special notice. Forty-seven m. east of the extreme south coast there is a little island called Botel-tobago (Japanese, Koto-sho), which rises to a height of 1914 ft. and is inhabited by a tribe whose customs differ essentially from those of the natives on the main island.

Administration and Commerce

The island is treated as an outlying territory; it has not been brought within the full purview of the Japanese constitution. Its affairs are administered by a governor-general, who is also commander-in-chief of the forces, by a bureau of civil government, and by three prefectural governors, below whom are the heads of twenty territorial divisions called cho; its finances are not included in the general budget of the Japanese empire; it is garrisoned by a mixed brigade taken from the home divisions; and its currency is on a silver basis. One of the first abuses with which the Japanese had to deal was the excessive use of opium by the Chinese settlers. To interdict the importation of the drug altogether, as is done in Japan, was the step advocated by Japanese public opinion. But, influenced by medical views and by the almost insuperable difficulty of enforcing any drastic import veto in the face of Formosa's large communications by junk with China, the Japanese finally adopted the middle course of licensing the preparation and sale of the drug, and limiting its use to persons in receipt of medical sanction. Under the administration of the Japanese the island has been largely developed. Among other industries gold-mining is advancing rapidly. In 1902 48,400 oz. of gold representing a value of 168,626 were obtained from the mines and alluvial washings. Coal is also found in large quantities near Kelung and sulphur springs exist in the north of the island.

An extensive scheme of railway construction has been planned, the four main lines projected being (1) from Takau to Tainan; (2) from Tainan to Kagi; (3) from Kagi to Shoka; and (4) from Shoka to Kelung; these four forming, in effect, a main trunk road running from the south-west to the north-east, its course being along the foot of the mountains that border the western coast-plains. The Takau-Tainan section (26 m.) was opened to traffic on the 3rd of November 1 9 00, and by 1 9 05 the whole line of 259 in. was practically complete. Harbour improvements also are projected, but in Formosa, as in Japan proper, paucity of capital constitutes a fatal obstacle to rapid development.

There are thirteen ports of export and import, but 75% of the total business is done at Tamsui. Tea and camphor are the staple exports. The greater part of the former goes to Amoy for re-shipment to the west, but it is believed that if harbour improvements were effected at Tamsui so as to render it accessible for ocean-going steamers, shipments would be made thence direct to New York. The camphor trade being a government monopoly, the quantity exported is under strict control.


The island of Formosa must have been known from a very early date to the Chinese who were established in the Pescadores. The inhabitants are mentioned in the official works of the Yuan dynasty as Tung fan or eastern barbarians; and under the Ming dynasty the island begins to appear as Kilung. In the beginning of the 16th century it began to be known to the Portuguese and Spanish navigators, and the latter at least made some attempts at establishing settlements or missions. The Dutch were the first, however, to take footing in the island; in 1624 they built a fort, Zelandia, on the east coast, where subsequently rose the town of Taiwan, and the settlement was maintained for thrity-seven years. On the expulsion of the Ming dynasty in China, a number of their defeated adherents came over to Formosa, and under a leader called in European accounts Coxinga, succeeded in expelling the Dutch and taking possession of a good part of the island. In 1682 the Chinese of Formosa recognized the emperor K'ang-hi, and the island then began to form part of the Chinese empire. From the close of the 17th century a long era of conflict ensued between the Chinese and the aborigines. A more debased population than the peoples thus struggling for supremacy could scarcely be conceived. The aborigines, Sheng fan, or " wild savages," deserved the appellation in some respects, for they lived by the chase and had little knowledge even of husbandry; while the Chinese themselves, uneducated labourers, acknowledged no right except that of might. The former were not implacably cruel or vindictive. They merely clung to their homesteads, and harboured a natural resentment against the raiders who had dispossessed them. Their disposition was to leave the Chinese in unmolested possession of the plain. But some of the most valuable products of the island, as camphor and rattan, are to be found in the upland forests, and the Chinese, whenever they ventured too far in search of these products, fell into ambushes of hill-men who neither gave nor sought quarter, and who regarded a Chinese skull as a specially attractive article of household furniture. A violent rebellion is mentioned in 1788, put down only after the loss, it is said, of ioo,000 men by disease and sword, and the expenditure of 2,000,000 taels of silver. Reconciliation never took place on any large scale, though it is true that, in the course of time, some fitful displays of administrative ability on the part of the Chinese, and the opening of partial means of communication, led to the pacification of a section of the Sheng fan, who thenceforth became known as Pe-pa-hwan (Pepohoan). In the early part of the 19th century the island was chiefly known to Europeans on account of the wrecks which took place on its coasts, and the dangers that the crews had to run from the cannibal propensities of the aborigines, and the almost equally cruel tendencies of the Chinese. Among the most notable was the loss in 1842 of the British brig " Ann," with fifty-seven persons on board, of whom forty-three were executed at Taichu. By the treaty of Tientsin (1860) Taichu was opened to European commerce, but the place was found quite unsuitable for a port of trade, and the harbour of Tam-sui was selected instead. From 1859 both Protestant and Presbyterian missions were established in the island. An attack made on those at Feng-shan (Hozan) in 1868 led to the occupation of Fort Zelandia and Anping by British forces; but this action was disapproved by the home government, and the indemnity demanded from the Chinese restored. In 1874 the island was invaded by the Japanese for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction for the murder of a shipwrecked crew who had been put to death by one of the semi-savage tribes on the southern coast, the Chinese government being either unable or unwilling to punish the culprits. A war was averted through the good offices of the British minister, Sir T. F. Wade, and the Japanese retired on payment of an indemnity of 500,000 taels. The political state of the island during these years was very bad; in a report of 1872 there is recorded a proverb among the official classes, " every three years an outbreak, every five a rebellion "; but subsequent to 1877 some improvement was manifested, and public works were pushed forward by the Chinese authorities. In 1884, in the course of belligerent proceedings arising out of the Tongking dispute, the forts at Kelung on the north were bombarded by the French fleet, and the place was captured and held for some months by French troops. An attack on the neighbouring town of Tamsui failed, but a semi-blockade of the island was maintained by the French fleet during the winter and spring of 1884-1885. The troops were withdrawn on the conclusion of peace in June 1885.

In 1895 the island was ceded to Japan by the treaty of Shimonoseki at the close of the Japanese war. The resident Chinese officials, however, refused to recognize the cession, declared a republic, and prepared to offer resistance. It is even said they offered to transfer the sovereignty to Great Britain if that power would accept it. A formal transfer to Japan was made in June of the same year in pursuance of the treaty, the ceremony taking place on board ship outside Kelung, as the Chinese commissioners did not venture to land. The Japanese were thus left to take possession as best they could, and some four months elapsed before they effected a landing on the south of the island. Takau was bombarded and captured on the 15th of October, and the resistance collapsed. Liu Yung-fu, the notorious Black Flag general, and the back-bone of the resistance, sought refuge in flight. The general state of the island when the Japanese assumed possession was that the plain of Giran on the eastern coast and the hill-districts were inhabited by semibarbarous folk, the western plains by Chinese of a degraded type, and that between the two there existed a traditional and continuous feud, leading to mutual displays of merciless and murderous violence. By many of these Chinese settlers the Japanese conquerors, when they came to occupy the island, were regarded in precisely the same light as the Chinese themselves had been regarded from time immemorial by the aborigines. Insurrections occurred frequently, the insurgents receiving secret aid from sympathizers in China, and the difficulties of the Japanese being increased not only by their ignorance of the country, which abounds in fastnesses where bandits can find almost inaccessible refuge, but also by the unwillingness of experienced officials to abandon their home posts for the purpose of taking service in the new territory.

Bibliography.-C. Imbault-Huart, L' p le Formose, histoire et description (Paris, 1893), 40; J. D. Clark, Formosa (Shanghai, 1896); W. A. Pickering, Pioneering in Formosa (London, 1898); George Candidius, A Short Account of the Island of Formosa in the Indies ., vol. i.; Churchill's Collection of Voyages (1744) Robert Swinhoe, Notes on the Island of Formosa, read before the British Association (1863); W. Campbell, " Aboriginal Savages of Formosa," Ocean Highways (April 1873); H. J. Klaproth, Description de file de Formose, mem. rel. a l'Asie (1826); Mrs T. F. Hughes, Notes of a Six Years' Residence in Formosa (London, 1881); Y. Takekoshi, Japanese Rule in Formosa (transl. by G. Braithwaite) (London, 1907).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also formosa



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Portuguese Formosa ("beautiful") < Latin formosus (beautifully formed), from forma (form, shape) + the adjective suffix -osus (full of) (compare English shapely).

Proper noun


  1. The name given to Taiwan island (Ilha Formosa, "Beautiful Isle") by passing Portuguese mariners in 1544.



Portuguese Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia pt


Proper noun

Formosa f.

  1. Taiwan (East Asian island)

This Portuguese entry was created from the translations listed at Taiwan. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Formosa in the Portuguese Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) November 2008


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