The history of Taiwan is one of endless change, and the continuous arrival of new cultures bringing new traditions, ideas and philosophies.
There has been human habitation on the island for the past 10,000 years. The earliest aboriginal tribes most likely originated from other parts of Asia, such as the Philippines. Taiwan has always historically been on the periphery of the great Chinese Empire and in the 15th Century the first immigrants arrived from Fujian in China.
They were followed by a Northern Chinese people called the Hakka, who had fed persecution in their home counties. These two groups were to spread and create a new Taiwanese society.
In 1517 Portuguese sailors landed and named the island “Formosa” meaning Beautiful- and they were followed by the Dutch, who came in force and invaded in 1624.
They retained a colony on Formosa until 1661 when they were expelled by the armies of Ming general Cheng Chengkung. The island then became a Manchu territory in 1682, and then a province of Fujian called “Taiwan” and in 1887 a Chinese province.
Following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 Taiwan was claimed by the Japanese, who ruled with an iron fist for 50 years, until their eventual defeat in the Second World War in 1945.
Taiwan was returned to Chinese control at the end of the War and was re-occupied by the Kuomintang (KMT) the United Ruling Party of China. In 1949 the coming of communism saw a split between the KMT under the leadership of Chiang Kaishek and the new People’s Republic of China.
Chiang Kaishek and the KMT moved to Taiwan, with their own flag and constitution, creating modern Taiwan in the process.
Taiwan’s natural heritage is protected in 6 National Parks: Kenting Yushan Yangmingshan Taroko Gorge Shei-pa and Kinmen and 12 designated scenic areas.
There are large areas of indigenous sub-tropical forest, particularly on the east Coast. These forests tend to be montane forests, rich in cypress, juniper, fir, bamboo and some rare camphor trees.
Many of Taiwan’s forests were logged during the Japanese occupation, but new programs are now in place to re-afforest large areas of denuded woodland.
This is good news for the island’s 18,400 species of wildlife of which about 20% are considered rare or endangered species. One of the best known of these is the extremely rare Formosan black bear. Also found in the forests are Sambar and Muntjac deer, and the Serow (a species of Mountain Goat) along with many other protected species of primates, mammals and reptiles.
Bird lovers can also admire rare species of birds in Taiwan. Boasting the second-highest concentration of bird species per square kilometer in the world, Taiwan is also home to 15 endemics, as well as a host of near-endemic and rare species. Every year over 70 species of birds migrate to Taiwan, several of which are world-famous endangered species.
Taiwan is located in the western Pacific Ocean 160 km (100 miles) off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland. Positioned midway between Korea and Japan to the north and Hong Kong and the Philippines to the South, this 35, 563 sq. kms. Island is a convenient gateway to Asia.
Taiwan is a mountainous island with a great range of terrain, from tropical beaches up to spectacular 3952 meter peaks- the highest non-Himalayan mountains in North East Asia.
Taiwanese territory also incorporates many small offshore island chains.