Archive for the ‘The history of Taiwan’ Category

Aborigines and Hakkas

Two distinct groups of aborigines occupied Taiwan at the time of the Chinese arrival. One group lived sedentary agricultural lives on the rich alluvial plains of the center and southwest. The others were savages who roamed the mountains, fought incessantly among themselves, and continues to practice such primitive customs as ritual tatooing and head-hunting right down to the twentieth century.

Although it is not known exactly when the Chinese first began to settle on the “Beautiful Island,” the first mainland immigrants came from an ethnic group called the Hakkas (客家人)—literally “guests” or “strangers.” The Hakkas, a minority group relentlessly persecuted in China since ancient times, were driven from their native home in Honan province about 1,500 years ago and forced to flee south to the Fukien and Kwangtung coasts. There, they successfully engaged in fishing and trading. That brought them to the Pescadores Islands, now know locally as the Peng-Hu and later to Taiwan. By 1,000 A.D., the Hakkas had probably established themselves in the southern part of Taiwan, driving the native aboriginal tribes off the fertile plains and up into the mountains. The Hakkas grew sugar cane, rice and tea and engaged in active trade with the mainland. Today, the Hakkas rank among Taiwan’s most enterprising people.

Other Chinese also set their sights on Taiwan. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), immigrants from Fukien province began to cross the Taiwan Strait in ever-increasing numbers. They pushed the Hakkas further inland and usurped the rich western plains for themselves. Chinese settlers adopted the term ben-di-ren (本地人), which literally means “this-place-person” or “native,” in order to differentiate themselves from both the Hakkas and the aborigines whom they called “strangers.” Even today, the descendants of these early immigrants from Fukien refer to themselves as ben-di-ren, thereby distinguishing themselves from the 1949 influx of mainland refugees whom they call wai-sheng-ren (外省人) or “outer-province-people.”

Still, the only true natives of Taiwan are the aboriginal tribes. Like the native Indians of America, and aborigines of Australia, they have been shunted off to special reservations. Their delegated homes are in the mountains of central and southern Taiwan. The rest of taiwan’s populace has been descended from various groups of mainland Chinese immigrants. Even the Taiwanese dialect is a direct offshoot of Fukienese.


Learn more about Hakkas:

Who are the Hakka Chinese?

Hakka people–Wiki Article

Learn more about aborigines in Taiwan:

An awarded commercial

The traditional clothing of Taiwan’s aborigines

Different  types of aboriginal music in Taiwan


With a purpose of increasing mutual understanding and respect between the East and the West, this section is dedicated to sinology, a study of Chinese/Taiwanese history, language, customs and politics. Most materials in this series of articles come from Prof. Hung-mou Li of National Kaohsiung Normal University in Taiwan. Much to his credit, tons of priceless sinology materials are kept well and taught systematically.

The history of Taiwan will be presented in 10 consecutive posts:

  1. Introduction

  2. Aborigines and Hakkas

  3. Pirates, traders, and foreign invaders

  4. Koxinga

  5. War with the West

  6. Tokyo’s triumph

  7. The generalissimo

  8. Exodus to Taiwan

  9. The generaliissimo’s passing

  10. Growth despite setbacks



“Isla formosa. Isla formosa!” Portuguese sailors used to shout with admiration from the decks of their ships as they sailed past Taiwan, en route to Japan, during the 16th century. The island thus became known to the West by the Portuguese word formosa, “beautiful.” And like many a beautiful woman, Taiwan history has been both tranquil and tempestuous, peaceful and passionate, scandalous and dramatic.

 This enchantress of the East China Sea has lured successive  waves of Chinese immigrants from the mainland, explorers and exploiters from the West, and aggressive imperialists from Japan. All desired to possess her, and her diary of intrigue reveals that each in turn did. But of all her suitors, China proved to be the best match for the feisty, fecund island. The marriage of China’s highly sophisticated, aesthetically oriented culture with Taiwan’s bountiful beauty and rich natural endowments has produced one of the most dynamic lands in the Far East. China’s ancient heritage and the island’s native charms, like yin and yang, are the inseparable elements that define Taiwan.

Very little is known about Taiwan’s earliest history. Radiocarbon dating of primitive utensils found in caves ahs indicated prehistoric man first appeared on the island at least 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists believe Taiwan’s links with mainland China may be just as old. They have identified four stages of prehistoric tool development that match those of the mainland, plus two later stages indicating that prehistoric Southeast Asian culture somehow spread to the southern and eastern coasts of the island. The early aborigines, whose descendants now form a colorful part fo Taiwan’s cultural spectrum, are believed to have come from malaysian and ancient southern Chinese Miao stock.

Isla Formosa! Taiwan will touch your heart!

China’s Early Courtship

The most ancient Chinese historical record refering to Taiwan indicates that the island was called the “land of Yangchow”(瀛洲) before the rise of the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. There even may have been an attempt at that time to explore the island, according to the record, the Shih Chi (史記) complied by Ssu-ma Ch’ien (司馬遷), it called Taiwan “Yichow” (夷洲). The earliest attempt to establish a Chinese claim to Taiwan apparently occured in 239 A.D. when the Kingdom of Wu sent a 10,000-man expeditionary force, according to the San Kuo Chi(三國志), the History of the Three Kingdoms.

About 1430, the famous eunuch magistrate and navigator from the Ming Court, Cheng Ho(鄭和), reported his “discovery” of the island to the emperor of China. The name went down in the record books as Taiwan(臺灣), which means “terraced bay.” But an imeprial prohibition on emigration prevented the Ming empire’s populate from emigrating to Taiwan or anyplace else.


History is a little bit heavy here. Actually, modern Taiwan can be seen as a melting pot of eastern and western cultures because it underwent rules of China, Portuguese, Spain, the Netherlands, and Japan. Despite the fact that Taiwan relies heavily on the U.S.A. and China economically and politically. It is an independent democratic country for sure because of its own land, people, government, and sovereignty.

You may learn more about Taiwan from the following interesting videos.

Ten facts about Taiwan

Taiwan–the top ten most interesting things