Knowing Taiwan

History

Taiwan has created a unique history of its own and it is a history that continues to attract the world's attention. Before the 17th century, Taiwan's society had its early beginnings with mixed cultures. It can be said that Taiwan was practicing the concept of multiculturalism. Early settlers were thought to be Austronesians, who arrived on the shores of Taiwan and mixed with Taiwan's indigenous peoples. To date there continues to be much discussion about the possible theories concerning where these early people came from. However, these are still open to debate.

During the 16th century, many traders from Japan would stop at the Taiwan's ports of Keelung, Tamsui or An-p'ing. These ports were especially popular because Taiwan was not under the jurisdiction of any country, which made trading conditions ideal for "free trade". This would soon end with the arrival of the Dutch. Upon landing, along the northern shores of Taiwan, the Dutch encountered Spanish settlers from Manila, who were eventually driven out by the Dutch by 1642.

In 1895, after the Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan was ceded to Japan and became a Japanese colony for fifty years. Taiwan was re-established as a province in 1945, following its retrocession to China. In 1949, the Republic of China's government relocated from China to Taiwan, when the Chinese Communist Party established the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland.

Since the founding of the Republic of China in 1912, it has become Asia's first constitutional republic. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China (ROC). The ROC government has legal authority over the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and numerous other islets.

Taiwan's population is that of 23 million people. Of these 360,000 are indigenous people representing the 12 tribes of the Saisiyat, the Atayal, the Amis, the Bunun, the Puyuma, the Rukai, the Paiwan, the Tao, the Sao, the Taroko, the Kemalan and the Zou.

As Taiwan continues to research its own rich culture, while continuing to preserve its past, it cordially invites visitors to discover for themselves the true beauty of this truly beautiful land.

Climate

Taiwan's climate is subtropical in the north and tropical in the south . The island is surrounded by oceans and the ocean breezes are the reason for Taiwan's humid weather. Average temperature of summer is 29˚C (84˚F) and winter is 16˚C (61˚F). Summer, from May until September, is usually humid and intensely hot. Winter is usually mild and it lasts from December to February. Snow may be visible on the high mountains. The rainy season lasts from April to August. Typhoon season is mainly between May and September.

Population

Taiwan has a population of 23 million. The population is mostly made up of Han Chinese and a small number of indigenous people, Taiwan's original inhabitants. There are currently 11 major indigenous groups in Taiwan : the Atayal, Saisiyat, Bunun, Tsou, Thao, Paiwan, Rukai, Puyuma, Amis, Yami, and Kavalan. Collectively, they comprise less than 2 percent of Taiwan's total population. The population of Taiwan is primarily concentrated in the metropolitan areas.

Holidays and Festivals

Some of Taiwan's most important annual holidays and festivals include the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, Lovers' Day, and the Hungry Ghosts' Festival. But local Taiwanese folk events, such as the Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage, the Goddess Mazu Making Rounds in Beigang, the City God Welcoming in Taipei , the Burning of the Plague God Boat in Donggang, and aboriginal rituals, are also regarded as important celebrations. Next to keeping traditional Chinese opera alive, Taiwan has also developed its own Taiwanese opera and the famous glove puppet theater. Taiwanese opera combines local opera and music into one performing art, while the puppet theater has undergone great modernization in recent years and many special effects are added to performances, making it extremely popular among Taiwan's younger generation. Taiwan's movies and performing groups are also gradually gaining ground on the international stage, once again demonstrating the traditional and creative value of Chinese and Taiwanese culture.

Normal working hours are forty hours a week. Government offices open from Monday to Friday and are closed on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

HolidaysDate
Foundation DayJan 1
Chinese New Yearthe first day of the first lunar month
Peace Memorial DayFeb 28
Lantern Festivalthe 15th day of the first lunar month
Tomb Sweeping FestivalApr 5
Dragon Boat Festivalthe fifth day of the fifth lunar month
Confucius' Birthday Sept 28
Mid-Autumn Festivalthe 15th day of the eighth lunar month
Double Tenth DayOct 10


Culture

The culture of Taiwan is a blend of modern and traditional, national and international, unique and universal. Due to Taiwan’s complex political history, the influences of indigenous culture, Confucianism, Japan, and Western civilization all can be seen at the same time. The Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945 influenced language, culture, and architecture. Visitors can still find a Japanese-style mansion and hear old Japanese songs emanating from nearby taverns.

Taiwan’s aboriginal culture is unique and has started to flourish since the Ami chant "Jubilant Drinking Song" was sampled in a song to promote the 1996 Olympics. However, the dominant culture in Taiwan is still Chinese. Immigrants from mainland China, especially those who arrived in 1949, after civil war, brought Confucianism and Chinese culture to Taiwan. The National Palace Museum has an outstanding collection of 650,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts brought from the Forbidden City, making it a major attraction for visitors. Visitors also will see ornate temples and traditional Chinese characters.

Cuisine

In Taiwan, where it seems the people live to eat, it is said that there is a snack shop every three steps and a restaurant every five. Foods and dishes from around the world are available in Taiwan. However, Taiwan's native cuisine, which has gained worldwide attention, is unforgettable - try it just once and you will remember it forever. Memorable dishes include: Pearl Milk Tea, Danzai Noodles, Shrimp Pork Soup, Oyster Omelet, Meat Rice Tamales, Stinky Tofu, Taiwanese Meatballs, Coffin Sandwich, Veggie and Meat Wrap, Oyster Vermicelli, Steamed Sandwich, and Crushed Ice Dessert.