Taiwan Politics Database

Introduction Taiwan / ROC

  1. Disambiguation: Taiwan, ROC, China
  2. Basic facts about the Republic of China (ROC)
  3. Essential information on Taiwan I—population and languages
  4. Essential information on Taiwan II—history
  5. The indigenous peoples and their marginalization

Additional background information like data on geography and climate, selected statistics and more is available on the page Tools.

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◆ Disambiguation: Taiwan, ROC, China

For decades, there has been some confusion and controversy about the proper denomination of Taiwan that has been caused by political factors. In common usage, Taiwan is referred to as Taiwan or the ROC, and since 1949 it gradually has become a prevalent habit to use the two terms as substitutes for each other. However, it should not be forgotten that the ROC between its foundation in 1912 and the end of WWII in 1945 did not include Taiwan, and Taiwan had its own rich, colourful history before 1945. The following explanations are helpful to reduce possible misconceptions.

  • Taiwan 台灣 is basically a geographical term for the island in the Western Pacific. It is not the official name of the state which administers it.
  • ROC stands for the Republic of China (Zhonghua minguo 中華民國) which was formally established in 1912 on the Chinese mainland. At that time, Taiwan was a colony of Japan. Taiwan was incorporated into the ROC following the defeat of Japan at the end of WWII, and ROC has been used as the official state name there since.
  • China (Zhongguo 中國) is the name of the country in East Asia. Politically, it usually refers to the People's Republic of China (Zhonghua renmin gongheguo 中華人民共和國, abbrev. PRC) that was set up in Beijing in 1949, but Taiwan has never been under the control of the PRC. As states, the ROC and the PRC are two separate sovereign, independent entities. In the ROC/Taiwan, the PRC is often referred to as "mainland" (dalu 大陸) or "mainland China" (Zhongguo dalu 中國大陸). In a historical context, China may also refer to the ROC (1912-1949), the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and so on.

Please note that terms like "Taiwan, China" or "Taiwan, province of China" are regarded in Taiwan as being part of a scheme pursued by the PRC to downgrade Taiwan's status in the international arena, and they are not sanctioned or approved by the ROC government.

In modern Taiwan, it has become fashionable using the name "Formosa" when referring to Taiwan, especially among young supporters of Taiwan independence. In Chinese, both the phonetic equivalent Fuermosha 福爾摩沙 as well as meilidao 美麗島 (i. e. the Chinese translation of the whole original Portuguese term "Ilha Formosa", meaning "beautiful island" in English) are popular. On the negative side of the spectrum, some pro-independence hardliners refer to China using the old Japanese term "Shina" (Chinese pronunciation zhina 支那, in Japanese hiragana: shina しな) which is perceived as highly derogatory and offensive as well as an unmistakable marker of anti-China sentiment, therefore that term is generally considered inadmissible in civilized, academic discourse.

The relations between Taiwan and China are one of the most important aspects of ROC politics, therefore Cross-Strait issues are covered extensively on this website. A selection of links is shown directly below.

Why mention "native province"?

Due to the nature of Taiwan's political landscape which is characterized by the persistent rivalry between "mainlanders" (waishengren 外省人) on the one side and "Taiwanese" (Taiwanren 台灣人)/"locals" (benshengren 本省人) on the other side as well as the deep rift between the "blue" and "green" political camps, the origin and background of a politician in the ROC is still regarded a significant factor. For this reason, lists showing the heads of government agencies and other organizations in this file feature a column labelled "Native Province" on the right side of the respective table.


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◆ Basic facts about the Republic of China (ROC)

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The political system of the ROC today—a brief description

The ROC today is a sovereign, independent and self-ruled democratic state. Modern democracies in general uphold the principle of separation of powers, and most democratic states have a system with three branches (legislature/parliament, executive/government, and judiciary/court system) according to the trias politica principle. By definition, a state consists of all administrative agencies belonging to those three branches, but in Taiwan’s case the political system of the ROC features five branches (Yuan 院) on the central level:
 ✿ Executive Yuan (xingzhengyuan 行政院) [est. 1928]—i. e. central government,
 ✿ Legislative Yuan (lifayuan 立法院) [est. 1928]—i. e. parliament,
 ✿ Judicial Yuan (sifayuan 司法院) [est. 1928],
 ✿ Control Yuan (jianchayuan 監察院) [est. 1928/1931], and
 ✿ Examination Yuan (kaoshiyuan 考試院) [est. 1930].
As head of state the president (zongtong 總統) of the ROC is not part of one particular branch but represents all of them as their combination constitutes the state as a whole. Furthermore, there is a distinction between the central level and the local levels of ROC administrative agencies, the five Yuan and the presidency being part of the central level.

The most important elements of the ROC’s political system are as follows.

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Central level

Presidential Office
🌏 – Web link
The ROC's head of state and commander-in-chief is the popularly elected President (see page "ROC Presidency"). The ROC president appoints the Premier, i. e. the head of the Executive Yuan, as well as the heads of the Judicial Yuan, the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan—but not of the Legislative Yuan.
Executive Yuan
🌏 – Web link
The Executive Yuan is the cabinet of the ROC, i. e. the central government. Its agencies implement the policies devised by the ROC president and the laws approved by the legislature. (See page "Executive Yuan [Cabinet]")
Legislative Yuan
🌏 – Web link
The popularly elected parliament of the ROC is called the Legislative Yuan. (See page "Legislative Yuan [Parliament]") The ROC Constitution that went into force on Dec. 25, 1947 stipulated a bicameral system with the Legislative Yuan and a National Assembly (NA). Since the abolition of the NA in 2005 the ROC's representation of the people has been unicameral.
Judicial Yuan
🌏 – Web link
The Judicial Yuan directs the ROC's court system. Its head is appointed by the ROC president. (See page "Judicial Yuan")
Control Yuan
🌏 – Web link
The Control Yuan executes impeachment and audit functions (see page "Control Yuan"). The head of the Control Yuan is appointed by the ROC president.
Examination Yuan
🌏 – Web link
The Examination Yuan manages the civil service system of the ROC (see page "Examination Yuan"). The head of the Examination Yuan is appointed by the ROC president.

As for the central government, its superordinate organization—the Executive Yuan—is headed by the ROC Premier (xingzheng yuanzhang 行政院長) who is appointed by the ROC president. The Executive Yuan directs the cabinet agencies, i. e. ministries (bu 部), councils/commissions (weiyuanhui 委員會), directorate-generals (zongchu 總處) and two others: the Central Bank (zhongyang yinhang 中央銀行) and the National Palace Museum (gugong bowuyuan 故宮博物院).

Please note that in contrast to most states, not all ministries in the political system of the ROC are cabinet agencies. While most ministries of the ROC are under the Executive Yuan (cabinet), two other Yuan have ministries as well—the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan (see the following list).

Executive YuanControl Yuan
Ministry of Interior (MOI)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)
Ministry of National Defense (MND)
Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA)
Ministry of Finance (MOF)
Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) 
Ministry of Education (MOE)
Ministry of Culture (MOC)
Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW)
Ministry of Labor (MOL)
Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA)
Ministry of Agriculture (MOA)
Ministry of Environment (MOENV)
Ministry of Audit (NAO)

Examination Yuan
Ministry of Examination (MOEX) 
Ministry of Civil Service (MOCS)

TO BE OR NOT TO BE—Since the early 2000s there has been an ongoing debate whether the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan should be abolished. Critics argue that both Yuan are relics of imperial China, neither appropriate nor necessary in a modern democratic system. While the functions of the Examination Yuan could indeed be performed by agencies like the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration (DGPA), the Control Yuan could play a truly valuable role as independent watchdog institution if its head was not appointed by the ROC president but elected by the ROC citizens.

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Local level, democratic elections, political parties

On the local level, the ROC today formally consists of two provinces, Taiwan and Fujian, plus 6 special municipalities directly under the jurisdiction of the central government. In practical administrative reality, the two provincial governments were streamlined since 1998, and by the end of 2018 the positions of provincial governors were abolished. Counties and county-level cities are nominally still listed under the provinces—Taiwan Province has 14 county-level local governments, Fujian Province has 2. The heads of county-level governments and the mayors of special municipalities are elected by direct popular vote. (See page "Local administration")

Following the lifting of martial law in 1987 the ROC underwent a period of democratization, and the Taiwanese people have now been directly electing their own president and parliament in free and fair elections since more than a quarter of a century. City mayors and county magistrates are also popularly elected. (See page "Democratic elections")

Since 1987 the ROC evolved from a one-party dictatorship to a multi-party democracy. In today’s Taiwan, political parties play important roles as stakeholders, they contribute to the formation of political opinions, and leading administrative positions are usually (but not necessarily) occupied by members of the party currently in power. As the ROC president has been directly elected by the people from the year 1996 on, the presidency has been in the hands of either the KMT or the DPP. (See page "Political parties")

For more detailed descriptions and explanations please refer to the respective pages of this website.

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Taiwan Who's Who—an overview of current top politicians in the ROC

 ● Presidential office
 ● Executive Yuan (Cabinet)
 ● The four other Yuan of the ROC
 ● Provincial governors, city mayors, county magistrates
 ● Leaders of major political parties

Presidential office

Office / agency Name of incumbent Born In office since
ROC President William Lai Ching-te 賴清德 1959 May 20, 2024
ROC Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim 蕭美琴 1971 May 20, 2024
Secretary-general, ROC Presidential Office Pan Men-an 潘孟安 1963 5/2024
Secretary-general, National Security Council Joseph Wu 吳釗燮 1956 5/2024
Chief Aide-de-Camp to the President Lee Ching-jan 李慶然 N/A 3/2023
President of Academia Sinica James Liao 廖俊智 1958 6/2016
President of Academia Historica Chen Yi-shen 陳儀深 1954 7/2019

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Executive Yuan (Cabinet)

Office / agency Name of incumbent Born In office since
ROC Premier (= President of the Executive Yuan) Cho Jung-tai 卓榮泰 1959 5/2024
ROC Vice Premier Cheng Li-chun 鄭麗君 1969 5/2024
Secretary-general of the Executive Yuan Kung Ming-hsin 龔明鑫 1964 4/2024
Cabinet Spokesperson Chen Shih-kai 陳世凱 1977 5/2024
Minister without Portfolio Paul Liu 劉鏡清 1963 5/2024
 " Wu Cheng-wen 吳誠文 1958 5/2024
 " Chen Chin-te 陳金德 1961 5/2024
 " Chen Shih-chung 陳時中 1952 5/2024
 " Yang Jen-ni 楊珍妮 1954 5/2024
 " Shih Che 史哲 1969 5/2024
 " Lin Ming-hsin 林明昕 1965 5/2024
Ministry of Interior (MOI) Liu Shyh-fang 劉世芳 1959 5/2024
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Lin Chia-lung 林佳龍 1964 5/2024
Ministry of National Defense (MND) Wellington Koo 顧立雄 1958 5/2024
Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Cheng Ming-chien 鄭銘謙 1958 5/2024
Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) J. W. Kuo 郭智輝 1953 5/2024
Ministry of Finance (MOF) Chuang Tsui-yun 莊翠雲 1957 1/2023
Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) Lee Meng-yen 李孟諺 1966 5/2024
Ministry of Education (MOE) Cheng Ying-yao 鄭英耀 1955 5/2024
Ministry of Culture (MOC) Li Yuan 李遠 1951 5/2024
Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) Chiu Tai-yuan 邱泰源 1956 5/2024
Ministry of Labor (MOL) Ho Pei-shan 何佩珊 1967 5/2024
Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA) Huang Yen-nun 黃彥男 1960 5/2024
Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) Chen Junne-jih 陳駿季 1958 9/2023
Ministry of Environment (MOENV) Peng Chi-ming 彭啟明 1970 5/2024
National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Wu Cheng-wen 吳誠文 1958 5/2024
Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chiu Chui-cheng 邱垂正 1965 5/2024
National Development Council (NDC) Paul Liu 劉鏡清 1963 5/2024
Ocean Affairs Council (OAC) Kuan Bi-ling 管碧玲 1956 1/2023
Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Lee May 李鎂 N/A 2/2021
Public Construction Commission (PCC) Chen Chin-te 陳金德 1961 5/2024
National Communications Commission (NCC) Wong Po-tsung 翁柏宗 1963 5/2024
Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Peng Jin-lung 彭金隆 1965 5/2024
Governor, ROC Central Bank Yang Chin-long 楊金龍 1953 2/2018
Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) Chen Shu-tzu 陳淑姿 1956 5/2024
Directorate-General of Personnel Administration (DGPA) Su Chun-jung 蘇俊榮 1960 2/2022
Central Election Commission (CEC) John C. Y. Lee 李進勇 1951 6/2019
Veterans Affairs Council (VAC) Yen Teh-fa 嚴德發 1952 5/2024
Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) Hsu Chia-ching 徐佳青 1967 1/2023
Hakka Affairs Council (HAC) Ku Hsiu-fei 古秀妃 1972 5/2024
Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) Tseng Chih-yung 曾智勇 1962 5/2024
National Palace Museum (NPM) Hsiao Tsung-huang 蕭宗煌 1958 1/2023

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The four other Yuan of the ROC

Office / agency Name of incumbent Born In office since
Legislative Yuan, President Han Kuo-yu 韓國瑜 1957 2/2024
Legislative Yuan, Vice President Chiang Chi-chen 江啟臣 1972 2/2024
Legislative Yuan, Secretary-general Chester W. L. Chou 周萬來 1951 2/2024
Judicial Yuan, President Hsu Tzong-li 許宗力 1956 11/2016
Judicial Yuan, Vice President Tsai Chiung-tun 蔡烱燉 1953 11/2016
Judicial Yuan, Secretary-general Lin Huei-huang 林輝煌 N/A 10/2019
ROC Supreme Court, President Wu Tsan 吳燦 1953 3/2020
Control Yuan, President Chen Chu 陳菊 1950 8/2020
Control Yuan, Vice President Lee Hung-chun 李鴻鈞 1959 5/2022
Control Yuan, Secretary-general Liu Wen-shih 劉文仕 N/A 8/2020
Ministry of Audit, Control Yuan Chen Jui-min 陳瑞敏 1955 10/2019
Examination Yuan, President Huang Jong-tsun 黃榮村 1947 8/2020
Examination Yuan, Vice President Chou Hung-hsien 周弘憲 1953 9/2020
Examination Yuan, Secretary-general Jason Liu 劉建忻 1968 9/2020
Ministry of Examination, Examination Yuan (MOEX) Lio Mon-chi 劉孟奇 1967 5/2024
Ministry of Civil Service, Examination Yuan (MOCS) Jay N. Shih 施能傑 1960 5/2024
Civil Service Protection and Training Commission, Examination Yuan (CSPTC) Hao Pei-chih 郝培芝 1969 9/2020
National Academy of Civil Service, Examination Yuan (NACS) Hao Pei-chih 郝培芝 1969 9/2020
Public Service Pension Fund Supervisory Board, Examination Yuan (PSPFSB) Chou Hung-hsien 周弘憲 1953 9/2020

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Provincial governors, city mayors, county magistrates

Office / agency Name of incumbent Born (In office) since
Taiwan Provincial Government, Chairman Position abolished! 6/2018
Fujian Provincial Government, Chairman Position abolished! 12/2018
Taipei City Mayor Chiang Wan-an 蔣萬安 1978 12/2022
Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chi-mai 陳其邁 1964 8/2020
New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-yi 侯友宜 1957 12/2018
Taoyuan City Mayor Simon Chang San-cheng 張善政 1954 12/2022
Taichung City Mayor Lu Shiow-yen 盧秀燕 1961 12/2018
Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che 黃偉哲 1963 12/2018
Hsinchu County Magistrate Yang Wen-ko 楊文科 1951 12/2018
Miaoli County Magistrate Chung Tung-chin 鍾東錦 1963 12/2022
Changhua County Magistrate Wang Hui-mei 王惠美 1968 12/2018
Nantou County Magistrate Hsu Shu-hua 許淑華 1975 12/2022
Yunlin County Magistrate Chang Li-shan 張麗善 1964 12/2018
Chiayi County Magistrate Weng Chang-liang 翁章梁 1965 12/2018
Pingtung County Magistrate Chou Chun-mi 周春米 1966 12/2022
Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tzu-miao 林姿妙 1952 12/2018
Hualien County Magistrate Hsu Chen-wei 徐榛蔚 1968 12/2018
Taitung County Magistrate Yao Ching-ling 饒慶鈴 1969 12/2018
Penghu County Magistrate Chen Kuang-fu 陳光復 1955 12/2022
Keelung City Mayor Hsieh Kuo-liang 謝國樑 1975 12/2022
Hsinchu City Mayor Ann Kao 高虹安 1984 12/2022
Chiayi City Mayor Huang Min-hui 黃敏惠 1959 12/2018
Kinmen County Magistrate Chen Fu-hai 陳福海 1963 12/2022
Lienchiang County Magistrate Wang Chung-ming 王忠銘 1958 12/2022

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Leaders of major political parties

Office / agency Name of incumbent Born In office since
KMT Chairperson Eric Chu 朱立倫 1961 10/2021
KMT Secretary-general Justin Huang 黃健庭 1959 10/2021
DPP Chairperson Lai Ching-te 賴清德 1959 1/2023
DPP Secretary-general Yang Yi-shan 楊懿珊 @ 1979 1/2024
NP Chairman Wu Cheng-tien 吳成典 1957 2/2020
PFP Chairman James Soong 宋楚瑜 1942 3/2000
TSU Chairman Law I-tieg 劉一德 1960 4/2016
NPSU Chairman Lin Pin-kuan 林炳坤 1948 6/2007
NPP Chairperson Claire Wang 王婉諭 1979 3/2023
TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je 柯文哲 1959 8/2019

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Territory and jurisdiction

 ● ROC today = the Taiwan area
 ● Taiwan area: Geographic margin points (dry land) and their coordinates
 ● Mongolia
 ● The South China Sea
 ● Just a "small country"?

ROC today = the Taiwan area

The territory under the jurisdiction and control of the ROC today comprises the following.

Another (politically less sensitive) term used for the territories as described above is "Taiwan area" (Taiwan diqu 台灣地區 or Taiwan quyu 台灣區域), but in common understanding that term does not include the disputed islands in the South China Sea. As Taiwan proper, Penghu, Kinmen und Matsu constitute the bulk of the ROC’s territory, it is also referred to in Chinese as Tai Peng Jin Ma 台澎金馬.

Map A shows Taiwan's position in East Asia with continental China in the west/northwest, Japan in the northeast, the Korean peninsula in the north, and the Philippines in the south. Map B provides more details and presents Taiwan proper in grey, the outlying islands of Taiwan/the ROC in black and the territory controlled by the PRC in red; the outlying islands are specially highlighted in Map C.  [Additional maps can be found under the page "Local administration" as well as under Smaller islands in the Taiwan area on the page "Tools" and the page "Maps" in the toolbar.]

— — — Map A — — —
— — — Map B — — —
— — — Map C — — —

According to official ROC statistics, the territory under ROC jurisdiction today (Taiwan and its outlying islands) has an area of 36,197 km². The table below shows figures provided by the MOI listing the size of the territory actually controlled by the ROC government in the Taiwan area since WWII.

Period Area (km²) +/– Period Area (km²) +/–
1946–1961  35,961.2125  N/A 1989–1996 36,181.8718 0.0451
1962–1970 36,140.2675 + 179.055  1997–2006 36,188.0354 + 6.1636 
1971–1973 36,160.4965 + 20.229 2007–2008 36,189.5050 + 1.4696
1974 36,160.5147 + 0.0182 2009–2010 36,191.4667 + 1.9617
1975–1976 36,160.8363 + 0.3216 2011–2014 36,192.8155 + 1.3488
1977–1978 36,168.8123 + 7.976 2015–2023 36,197.0669 + 4.2514
1979–1985 36,179.1159 + 10.3036 12/2023— 36,197.3371 + 0.2702
1986–1988  36,181.9169  + 2.801

PAST GAINS AND LOSSES—Since the end of WWII few countries in the world experienced greater changes in the area and size of the territory under their jurisdiction than the ROC did due to civil war and foreign invasion. From its establishment in 1912 up to the recurring civil war between Nationalist government forces and Communist rebels which began shortly after the surrender of Japanese invaders, Mainland China constituted the area under ROC jurisdiction. On Oct. 25, 1945 the ROC formally took control of Taiwan and Penghu which until then had been under Japanese colonial rule for five decades. Between early 1946 and late 1949 the ROC suffered the most dramatic losses when its forces were driven from the Chinese mainland by the Chinese Communists. Since the retreat from the Dachen Islands off Zhejiang province in February 1955, the territory under ROC control has been limited to the Taiwan area. (The only two areas which have been continuously under ROC control since 1912 to this day are the counties Kinmen and Lienchiang belonging to the ROC’s Fujian province.)

However, decades went by until the loss of the mainland was appropriately reflected in official ROC publications. For example, up until the early 1990s maps in the ROC Yearbooks showed that the ROC territory comprised not only Taiwan but also the Chinese mainland and even included Outer Mongolia. According to those sources China (= the ROC) had an area of 11,418,174 km² (ROC Yearbook 1995, p. 15). That stance was mitigated to a certain extent later in the 1990s, and although the ROC has never formally given up its claim to be the legitimate ruler of China as a whole, it has finally acknowledged the reality that the ROC government exercises de facto control over the Taiwan area only and has no jurisdiction over Mainland China.

MISLEADING TERM—Taiwan’s official state name (“Republic of China”) has been causing considerable confusion for decades and is profoundly misleading because it suggests that the ROC’s jurisdiction includes Mainland China which is no longer the case. While the authorities in Taipei are very aware of this predicament, they also know that they cannot unilaterally change their official state name, their national flag or national anthem. That is because the PRC, upholding its “one China principle” and thus insisting that Taiwan has eventually to become a part of the PRC, has repeatedly stressed that a move like giving up “ROC” as a state name by Taipei would be regarded a declaration of independence, providing Beijing with an excuse to launch an attack and annex Taiwan by military force, a threat that was reiterated in the PRC’s so-called “Anti-Secession Law”. Democratic Taiwan not being able to adopt a different national flag due to pressure by the authoritarian PRC is especially ironic because the PRC authorities wouldn’t even allow the display of the ROC national flag in their jurisdiction (or anywhere else in the world).

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Taiwan area: Geographic margin points (dry land) and their coordinates

Margin Location Latitude Longitude
Northernmost point 
Hsiyin 西引島
26° 23′ 01″ N  120° 28′ 47″ E 
Southernmost point
Taiping 太平島
(Spratly Islands)
10° 22′ 29″ N 114° 21′ 52″ E
Southernmost point
Eluanbi 鵝鑾鼻
(Pingtung County)
21° 53′ 49″ N 120° 51′ 35″ E
Westernmost point
Taiping 太平島
(Spratly Islands)
10° 22′ 29″ N 114° 21′ 36″ E
Westernmost point
Ertan 二膽島
24° 22′ 54″ N 118° 09′ 11″ E
Easternmost point
Chiwei 赤尾嶼
(Diaoyutai Islands)
25° 55′ 10″ N 124° 34′ 14″ E
Easternmost point
Mianhua 棉花嶼
(Three Northern Islets)
25° 29′ 02″ N 122° 06′ 24″ E

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Older maps published in Taiwan up to the 1990s show the ROC in boundaries which included Outer Mongolia. In fact, Outer Mongolia, incorporated into the Qing empire in 1691, had declared independence in 1911, aligned itself with the USSR in 1924 as Mongolian People's Republic and was renamed Mongolia in 1992.

It was not before Feb. 26, 2002 that the ROC indicated it had dropped its claim of Mongolia being Chinese territory by excluding that country's citizens from the coverage of the "Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area" (Taiwan diqu yu dalu diqu renmin guanxi tiaoli 台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), and on May 21, 2012 Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) confirmed that Mongolia was not included in the ROC territory. (A timeline about the relations of the ROC with Mongolia can be found here.)

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The South China Sea

Formally, the ROC continues to uphold its claim over the largest part of the South China Sea (nanhai 南海) demarcated by the so-called "nine-dash line" (jiuduanxian 九段線) which is identical with the PRC's claim over that area. Other countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam) reject those claims.

In comparison, the PRC follows a much more aggressive approach in its attempts to enforce its claim than Taiwan. For years, the PRC has taken to expanding existing islands or even building artificial islands in disputed areas there, and the PRC has also increased its military presence in the waters of the South China Sea—measures which are strongly criticized by the US seeking to uphold freedom of navigation (FON) in international waters.

Islands in the South China Sea which are currently controlled by the ROC include the Pratas Islands (dongsha qundao 東沙群島) and Taiping Island (taiping dao 太平島).

— — — Map of disputed areas in the South China Sea — — —

Source: Wikimedia © Creative Commons, author: Goran tek-en (Jan. 23, 2014)

For another map of unclear origin circulating on social media of the internet which illustrates the PRC's claims in the South China Sea (and highlights their absurdity) please click here.

Please note that this website's page "Other texts and documents" contains three documents pertaining to the South China Sea controversy:
 • Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982),
 • Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (2002), and
 • South China Sea Arbitration—PCA Press Release (2016).

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Just a "small country"?

Because Taiwan/the ROC has large and powerful regional neighbours like China and Japan, it is in general often perceived by the international community as a small country. However, it should be taken into consideration that not only is the ROC the most populous country not represented in the United Nations (UN), but also that today more than half of the countries and territories in the world each have a population which is significantly smaller than that of the ROC, e. g. Chile, the Netherlands, Belgium, Cuba, Greece, Sweden, Israel, Austria, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and many others. Regarding Taiwan's economic strength (especially in the areas of semiconductors and ICT products), its GDP and per-capita-income, calling Taiwan a small country seems inadequate as well.

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A glance at the ROC's historical background

(Jump to Taiwan's history—much more than just the ROC)

Major periods of ROC history

 Early ROC—the era Yuan Shikai (1912–1916)
 Warlord period (1916–1928): China fragmented
 Unified ROC before the end of WWII
  • Setting up the five-branch state system (1928–1931)
  • Fighting Japanese invasion (1931/1937–1945)
 The Chinese Civil War (1945–1949)
 The ROC on Taiwan
  • Consolidation and White Terror under CKS
  • The CCK presidency (1978–1988)
  • Transition to democracy under Lee Teng-hui
  • Modern democratic Taiwan since 1996

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The ROC before 1945—the Chinese mainland without Taiwan

The ROC, established on Jan. 1, 1912 after the Hsinhai Revolution (xinhai geming 辛亥革命) which led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was Asia’s first republic and has been a sovereign, independent state to this day. In its early period the ROC was plagued by internal strife, civil war-like conditions and division, and between the death of president Yuan Shikai in 1916 and 1928 there was no uncontested central government with real authority when much of the mainland was controlled by local warlords (junfa 軍閥). After the 1926–1928 Northern Expedition (beifa zhanzheng 北伐戰爭) against the warlords was successfully concluded under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek (“CKS”), most of today’s ROC government agencies and institutions were established in the capital Nanjing. The ROC Political Tutelage Period Act (Zhonghua minguo xunzheng shiqi yuefa 中華民國訓政時期約法), promulgated on June 1, 1931, stipulated that the central government was to be led by the Chinese Nationalist Party/Kuomintang (KMT).

Later in 1931 Japanese forces began invading the ROC, first advancing into the Manchurian provinces where a Japanese puppet regime called “Manchukuo” led by former Qing emperor Pu Yi was installed in 1932. An incident at the Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao 蘆溝橋) in Beiping (as Beijing was called between 1928 and 1949) in 1937 was followed by a massive Japanese offensive into the Chinese heartland, and another Japanese puppet regime was installed in Nanjing under Wang Ching-wei in 1940 while the ROC government retreated to Chongqing. After Japan’s eventual defeat at the end of WWII, Taiwan—ceded to Japan by the Qing in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki (maguan tiaoyue 馬關條約) marking the end of the First Chinese-Japanese War (jiawu zhanzheng 甲午戰爭, 1894–1895)—was returned to China’s territory in 1945 according to the agreements by the Allies.

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Interlude with fundamental changes (plus Taiwan, minus mainland)

The same year civil war broke out on the mainland between forces led by the Chinese Communist Party (Zhongguo gongchandang 中國共產黨, abbrev. Zhonggong 中共 in Chinese and CCP in English) and troops loyal to the KMT. (An instructive animated sequence of historical maps—researched and produced by Yan Xishan 閻錫山—showing the progression of the Chinese Civil War since 1945 can be viewed on YouTube, please click on the image on the right.) The victorious Chinese Communists founded the People’s Republic of China (Zhonghua renmin gongheguo 中華人民共和國, abbrev. PRC) on the mainland on Oct. 1, 1949 while the KMT-led ROC government retreated to Taiwan, along with more than a million refugees. Since 1955, the ROC has been in control only of the Taiwan area. (More information about Taiwan's specific history can be found here.)

Directly after the termination of Japan's colonial period (Riju shidai 日據時代, also called Rizhi shiqi 日治時期) in Taiwan the ROC's new provincial administration arrived on the island, but soon tensions mounted with the local population, which was regarded as "hostile overseas Chinese" (diqiao 敵僑) by the government. Clashes triggered by the bloody 1947 "Incident of the 28th February" (ererba shijian 二二八事件/"2-28") in Taipei resulted in an islandwide violent uprising and a brutal crackdown carried out by hastily deployed government troops from the mainland. In response to the insurgency in Taiwan and civil war raging on the mainland, CKS imposed martial law over the ROC on May 20, 1947. The following period is often referred to as the "White Terror" (baise kongbu 白色恐怖) in Taiwan, during which any opposition activity was mercilessly suppressed by the regime, thousands of people were executed and even more were incarcerated as political prisoners. Members of the Japanese-educated elite were especially targeted, and mentioning 2-28 or advocating Taiwan independence could be enough to earn a death warrant from the authorities.

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The ROC since 1949—Taiwan without the Chinese mainland

In the decades of Cold War between the ROC and the PRC, the Taiwan area was ruled with an iron fist by CKS's military dictatorship. After CKS's death in 1975 things started to change. His son and successor Chiang Ching-kuo ("CCK") gradually initiated political reforms, and martial law was lifted in 1987 (in Taiwan and Penghu; 1992 in Kinmen and Matsu). While in many countries the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy is marred by chaos and bloodshed, CCK accomplished this feat with comparatively minimal disruption. Another important trend that took shape under CCK's presidency was localization (bentuhua 本土化), increasingly more Taiwan-born politicians were appointed as top cabinet officials or obtained other major positions of political leadership in the ROC. These had almost exclusively been reserved for mainlanders when CKS was in command.

Under CCK's successor Lee Teng-hui the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" (dongyuan kanluan shiqi linshi tiaokuan 動員戡亂時期臨時條款)—imposed in 1948—were abolished in 1991, and reforms were continued and extended significantly. Over time, the ROC evolved into the vibrant, fully-fledged multi-party democracy it is today. The first opposition political party—the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—was founded in 1986, elections for all seats of the National Assembly and the Legislative Yuan took place in 1991 and 1992, respectively, the first direct presidential election was held in 1996, and 2000 saw the first peaceful transition of political power to an opposition party when DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian was elected ROC president.

The consolidation of the ROC's democratic development has been confirmed with the subsequent peaceful transitions of political power—the victories of KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou in the 2008 presidential election and of DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen in the 2016 presidential election as well as the DPP winning an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan in 2016. Those events clearly indicate that change of political power decided by ballot and a subsequent smooth handover of administration has become a normal, established feature in Taiwan politics.

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Selected timelines and chronologies

Please note that for additional historical information this website offers several different detailed chronologies, see list directly below.

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Capitals in the history of the ROC

The ROC capital (Zhonghua minguo shoudu 中華民國首都) was moved several times due to internal strife, civil war or attack by foreign forces.

1912 (Jan. 1—April) Nanjing 南京 (aka Nanking)
1912 (April)—1928 (July) Beijing 北京 (aka Peking)
1928 (July)—1932 (January) Nanjing
1932 (January—December) Luoyang 洛陽
1932 (December)—1937 (Nov. 12)  Nanjing
1937 (Nov. 12)—1946 (May 5) Chongqing 重慶 (aka Chungking)
1946 (May 5)—1949 (Jan. 16) Nanjing
1949 (Jan. 16—Oct. 13) Guangzhou 廣州 (aka Canton or Kwangchow/Kuang-chou) 
1949 (Oct. 13—Nov. 29) Chongqing
1949 (Nov. 29—Dec. 10) Chengdu 成都 (aka Chengtu)
1949 (Dec. 10)— Taipei 臺北

Please note that Luoyang was referred to as "administrative capital" (xingdu 行都), Chongqing was called "provisional capital" (peidu 陪都), and Taipei's official status is "seat of the central government" (zhongyang zhengfu suozaidi 中央政府所在地). Between June 29, 1928 and Sept. 27, 1949 Beijing was called Beiping 北平.

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The ROC Constitution and its amendments

The current Constitution of the ROC (Zhonghua minguo xianfa 中華民國憲法) was devised when the territory controlled by the ROC government still comprised mainland China and Taiwan. While the constitution nominally went into effect on Dec. 25, 1947, it could factually not be implemented as martial law (jieyanfa 戒嚴法) was imposed over the ROC on May 25, 1947. Until martial law was finally lifted on July 15, 1987, the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (dongyuan kanluan shiqi linshi tiaokuan 動員戡亂時期臨時條款)—short "Temporary Provisions"—were the real legal foundation of the regime. Between 1991 and 2005 the ROC Constitution was amended seven times in order to make it more relevant to the country's current condition, but a debate on whether the old constitution should be scrapped altogether and replaced with a new one has been going on for years.

Chronology of the ROC Constitution

1912  March 11: The ROC Provisional Constitution (Zhonghua minguo linshi yuefa 中華民國臨時約法) is promulgated
1914 May 1: ROC President Yuan Shikai annuls the ROC Provisional Constitution and dissolves the parliament
1931 June 1: The Provisional Constitution for the Period of Political Tutelage (Zhonghua minguo xunzheng shiqi linshi yuefa 中華民國訓政時期臨時約法) is promulgated
1946 Dec. 25: The National Assembly (NA) of the ROC approves a new constitution [promulgated on Jan. 1, 1947, went into effect on Dec. 25, 1947]
1948 April 18: The NA approves the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" [promulgated on May 10, 1948]
1960 March 11: The NA adopts an amendment (zengxiu tiaowen 增修條文) to the constitution's Temporary Provisions, stipulating that during the period of communist rebellion the president and VP may be re-elected without being subject to the two-term restriction prescribed in the ROC Constitution
1966 Feb. 7: The Temporary Provisions are amended in an extraordinary session of the First NA
March 19: The Temporary Provisions are amended again by the First NA
1972 March 17: The Temporary Provisions are amended by the First NA at its ninth plenary meeting
1987 June 23: The ROC Legislative Yuan passes the National Security Law During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion (dongyuan kanluan shiqi guojia anquanfa 動員戡亂時期國家安全法) which includes tight restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech and the press, promulgated on July 1 by ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo
1991 April 22: The First NA approves the abolishment of the Temporary Provisions and passes the first amendment to the ROC Constitution [both effective on May 1, 1991]
1992 May 27: The Second NA passes the second amendment to the constitution, which deals with the functions of the NA as well as the term of and holding popular vote for the ROC president [revisions go into effect on May 30, 1992]
1994 July 28: The Second NA passes the third amendment to the constitution which concerns the NA and the popular vote of the ROC president and parliament [amendment goes into effect on Aug. 1, 1994]
1997 July 18: The Third NA approves the fourth amendment to the constitution concerning the premier and parliament [amendment goes into effect on July 21, 1997]
1999 Sept. 3: The Third NA decides on the fifth amendment to the constitution [goes into effect on Sept. 15, 1999 but declared invalid by the ROC Council of Grand Justices in Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 499 (shizi sijiujiu hao 釋字 499 號) on March 24, 2000]
2000 April 24: The Third NA passes the sixth amendment to the constitution, transferring a major part of its functions to the Legislative Yuan [amendment goes into effect the following day]
2004 Aug. 23: The Legislative Yuan passes the seventh amendment to the constitution that abolishes the NA, reduces the number of legislators from 225 to 113, and changes the voting system for legislative elections
2005 June 7: During its final meeting, the Ad Hoc-NA votes in favour of constitutional amendments passed by the Legislative Yuan on Aug. 23, 2004 [revision is ratified by he ROC president on June 10, 2005]

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Chapters and sections of the ROC Constitution

  • Chapter I [Article 1-6]: General Provisions (第一章:總綱)
  • Chapter II [Article 7-24]: Rights and Duties of the People (第二章:人民之權利與義務)
  • Chapter III [Article 25-34]: The National Assembly (第三章:國民大會)
  • Chapter IV [Article 35-52]: The President (第四章:總統)
  • Chapter V [Article 53-61]: Administration (第五章:行政)
  • Chapter VI [Article 62-76]: Legislation (第六章:立法)
  • Chapter VII [Article 77-82]: Judiciary (第七章:司法)
  • Chapter VIII [Article 83-89]: Examination (第八章:考試)
  • Chapter IX [Article 90-106]: Control (第九章:監察)
  • Chapter X [Article 107-111]: Powers of the Central and Local Governments (第十章:中央與地方之權限)
  • Chapter XI [Article 112-128]: System of Local Government (第十一章:地方制度)
    • Section 1 [Article 112-120]. The Province (第一節:省)
    • Section 2 [Article 121-128]. The Hsien (第二節:縣)
  • Chapter XII [Article 129-136]: Election, Recall, Initiative, and Referendum (第十二章:選舉 罷免 創制 複決)
  • Chapter XIII [Article 137-169]: Fundamental National Policies (第十三章:基本國策)
    • Section 1 [Article 137-140]. National Defense (第一節:國防)
    • Section 2 [Article 141]. Foreign Policy (第二節:外交)
    • Section 3 [Article 142-151]. National Economy (第三節:國民經濟)
    • Section 4 [Article 152-157]. Social Security (第四節:社會安全)
    • Section 5 [Article 158-167]. Education and Culture (第五節:教育文化)
    • Section 6 [Article 168-169]. Frontier Regions (第六節:邊疆地區)
  • Chapter XIV (Article 170-175): Enforcement and Amendment of the Constitution (第十四章:憲法之施行及修改)

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National day, national symbols and national anthem

 ● ROC national flag
 ● ROC national emblem
 ● ROC national flower
 ● Controversial symbols
 ● ROC national anthem

The ROC's national day (guoqingri 國慶日) is celebrated annually on Oct. 10 and therefore also called "Double Tenth" (shuangshijie 雙十節). It commemorates the 1911 Wuchang Uprising (Wuchang qiyi 武昌起義) that heralded the Hsinhai Revolution which in turn eventually led to the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the founding of the ROC.

The three most important national symbols in the ROC today are the ROC national flag (Zhonghua minguo guoqi 中華民國國旗), the ROC national emblem (Zhonghua minguo guohui 中華民國國徽), and the ROC national flower (Zhonghua minguo guohua 中華民國國花).

ROC national flag

The design of today's national flag as shown on the right is called "Blue Sky, White Sun and a Wholly Red Earth" (qingtian bairi mandihong 青天白日滿地紅). The flag's three colours of blue, white and crimson collectively signify the Three Principles of the People (sanmin zhuyi 三民主義): blue—liberty, justice and democracy (minquan 民權); white—equality, brightness and social well-being (minsheng 民生); and crimson—fraternity, sacrifice and nationalism (minzu 民族). The Three Principles of the People are the political philosophy of Dr. Sun Yat-sen 孫逸仙, and they are mentioned in Article 1 of the ROC Constitution: 'The Republic of China, founded on the Three Principles of the People, shall be a democratic republic of the people, to be governed by the people and for the people.' (中華民國基於三民主義,為民有民治民享之民主共和國。)

The canton of the flag consists of the "Blue Sky with a White Sun flag" (qingtian bairiqi 青天白日旗) which was first used for the "Revive China Society" (xing Zhong hui 興中會) in February 1895, designed by Lu Haodong 陸皓東 (1868-1895) around 1893 and still used as KMT party flag to this day. The red portion of today's national flag was added by Sun Yat-sen in 1906, but Sun's design didn't become the ROC national flag until after his death when it officially replaced the five-coloured flag (wuseqi 五色旗) in December 1928.

The five-coloured flag, adopted as ROC national flag in January 1912, had represented the principle of five races under one union (wuzu gonghe 五族共和) with five horizontal stripes—(from top to bottom) red for the Han, yellow for the Manchus, blue for the Mongols, white for the Hui/Chinese Muslims, and black for the Tibetans.

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ROC national emblem

The current national flag also contains the national emblem: the circular Blue Sky with a White Sun (qingtian bairi 青天白日). It was designed by Ho Ying-chin 何應欽 in 1924 and adopted as national emblem on Dec. 17, 1928. The twelve points of the white sun represent the traditional twelve two-hour periods of the day (shichen 時辰), and together they stand for the spirit of unceasing progress.

On Jan. 29, 2021 the ROC Legislative Yuan passed a resolution (63-37) instructing the Ministry of the Interior to evaluate the possibility of changing the ROC national emblem, pointing out that the national emblem is ‘easily confused’ with the KMT’s party emblem.

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ROC national flower

The plum blossom (Prunus mei), called meihua 梅花 in Chinese, was officially designated as national flower by the ROC Executive Yuan on July 21, 1964. The triple grouping of stamens (one long and two short) represents the Three Principles of the People. The five petals symbolize the five branches of government (Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Control Yuan, and Examination Yuan).

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Controversial symbols

The ROC national flag has become a rare sight outside the ROC. As a result of pressure applied by the PRC globally, most states in the world have adopted a ‘One-China’ policy, and therefore showing the ROC national flag in the public sphere and at international sporting events has been banned in most countries except those maintaining formal diplomatic relations with the ROC. And of course showing the ROC national flag is prohibited in the PRC.

In the ROC itself, attitudes concerning the display of the flag are considerably different among the supporters of the respective political camps. Quite often, supporters of the blue camp are happy to show the flag on ROC soil but hesitate to do so abroad in order not to unnecessarily anger the PRC. In contrast, supporters of the green camp often do the opposite—reluctant to show the flag at home because it is regarded as a symbol of the old KMT one-party state and oppression, they eagerly display the flag in other countries as an act of defiance, to set themselves apart from the PRC.

Many supporters of Taiwan independence reject the design of flag, national emblem and national flower as not appropriate for Taiwan since these symbols came from China and don't reflect the Taiwanese. Especially the design of the national flag and the emblem are controversial as they contain the symbol of the KMT party flag, while in a modern democracy national symbols are supposed to be non-partisan.

In this context the Taiwanese Popular Party (Taiwan minzhongdang 臺灣民眾黨) should be mentioned. The Taichung-based political organization was established on July 10, 1927 by Chiang Wei-shui 蔣渭水 (1891-1931) et. al. and banned by the Japanese colonial authorities on Feb. 18, 1931. The original flag of the party, used between Jan. 2 and Oct. 6, 1929, contained the white sun in the same shape, size and position like in the KMT party flag, while the background colour in the flag's upper half was blue and in the lower half red, using the same hues as the ROC national flag. The design of the Taiwanese Popular Party flag, called shang qing xia hong zhongyang bairi 上青下紅中央白日 in Chinese, clearly indicates that the white sun symbol was not considered as being foreign in Taiwan before the island came under ROC control. Please note that the Taiwanese Popular Party is not identical with the Taiwan People's Party (Taiwan minzhongdang 台灣民眾黨, abbrev. TPP) which was established on Aug. 6, 2019.

Displayed below are the logos of the ROC presidential office and the five Yuan. Please note that following the return of the DPP to power in 2016, the original logos of the ROC Presidential Office, the ROC Legislative Yuan and the ROC Examination Yuan which were based on the national flower have been replaced with new designs.

Presidential Office 總統府
(old logo on the left,
current logo on the right)
Executive Yuan 行政院
Legislative Yuan 立法院
(old logo on the left,
current logo on the right)
Judicial Yuan 司法院
Control Yuan 監察院
(old logo on the left,
current logo on the right)
Examination Yuan 考試院
(old logo on the left,
current logo on the right)

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ROC national anthem

The text of the ROC national anthem (Zhonghua minguo guoge 中華民國國歌), written by Sun Yat-sen, was first introduced on June 16, 1924. Its music was composed in 1928 by Cheng Mao-yun 程懋筠 (1900-1957), the song was then adopted as the KMT anthem. On June 16, 1937 the KMT Central Standing Committee suggested to make the song the ROC national anthem, and on April 16, 1947 the approval of the proposal was announced.

The text of the ROC national anthem was translated by Tu Ting-hsiu 杜庭修 (b., d. N/A), and the musical accompaniment is attributed to Huang Tzu 黃自 (1904-1938).

The ROC national anthem is yet another bone of contention in Taiwan. It is regarded as unsuitable by many supporters of the green camp, not only for its origin as party anthem of the KMT but also because the beginning of the second phrase in the first line "wu dang" (吾黨, meaning "our party" in English) is interpreted by them as standing for the KMT and therefore rejected. Strictly speaking, the term could be also interpreted as standing for any political party/parties. The full text—comprising 48 Chinese characters—is as follows:

Line Hanyu Pinyin Chinese characters English translation
1 Sān mín zhǔ yì,
wú dǎng sǔo zōng,
yǐ jiàn mín gúo,
yǐ jìn dà tóng.
Sanmin zhuyi,
our aim shall be,
to found a free land,
world peace be our stand. 
2 Zī ěr dūo shì,
wéi mín qián fēng,
sù yè fěi xiè,
zhǔ yì shì cóng.
Lead on, comrades,
vanguards ye are,
hold fast your aim,
by sun and star.
3 Shǐ qín shǐ yǒng,
bì xìn bì zhōng,
yī xīn yī dé,
guàn chè shǐ zhōng. 
Be earnest and brave,
your country to save,
one heart, one soul,
one mind, one goal!

Click here to listen to the ROC National Anthem in MP3 format.

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Major orders and decorations in the ROC

The ROC currently has a number of orders and medals that can be bestowed on merited persons from home or abroad. (Images courtesy ROC presidential office—civilian orders, military orders)

Selected civil decorations

 Grand Cordon of the Order of Brillant Jade (caiyu da xunzhang 采玉大勳章), created on Dec. 2, 1933
 Order of the Brillant Star (jingxing xunzhang 景星勳章), created on Feb. 12, 1941
 Order of Propitious Clouds (qingyun xunzhang 卿雲勳章), created on Feb. 12, 1941
 Grand Cordon of the Order of Sun Yat-sen (Zhongshan xunzhang 中山勳章), created on Feb. 12, 1941
 Grand Cordon of the Order of Chiang Kai-shek (Zhongzheng xunzhang 中正勳章), created on Jan. 11, 1980

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Selected military decorations

 Order of the Blue Sky and White Sun (qingtian bairi xunzhang 青天白日勳章), created on May 15, 1929
 Order of the Precious Tripod (baoding xunzhang 寶鼎勳章), created on May 15, 1929
 Order of the Resplendent Banner (yunhui xunzhang 雲麾勳章), created on June 15, 1935
 Order of National Glory (guoguang xunzhang 國光勳章), created on Oct. 10, 1943
 Order of Loyalty and Valour (zhongyong xunzhang 忠勇勳章), created on Sept. 23, 1944
 Order of Loyalty and Diligence (zhongqin xunzhang 忠勤勳章), created on Sept. 23, 1944

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◆ Essential information on Taiwan I—population and languages

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Ethnic makeup of Taiwan's population

Taiwan's population today consists of several distinct groups, including Taiwanese, Mainlanders, Hakka, indigenous peoples (aka Aborigines) as well as new immigrants from Southeast Asian countries.

Taiwan's indigenous peoples (yuanzhu minzu 原住民族) were the earliest human inhabitants of the island and can be categorized as ethnic Austronesians. A majority of historians, anthropologists and ethnologists believes today that the ancestors of the Austronesian peoples in Taiwan have lived there for at least 6,000 years.

Those who today insist on that they are Taiwanese (Taiwanren 台灣人) actually are in most cases descendants of Han Chinese immigrants from the mainland who had arrived on the island in the 17th to 19th centuries. They are also called "Holo" (heluo 河洛/helao 河老) or "Hoklo" (fulao 福佬)—a term which is used to describe both the people and their language—and hailed from the area of Fujian province. Today, they account for approximately 70 percent of Taiwan's population.

The Hakka (kejiaren 客家人) are considered ethnic Han Chinese and arrived in Taiwan about the same time as the Holos. They had set off from Guangdong province on the mainland and now account for about one fifth of Taiwan's population.

While the majority of Hakka arrived in Taiwan as families, the early Holo immigrants, typically male and single, often married women of the indigenous Austronesian population, so now many local Taiwanese indeed also have aboriginal DNA. However, offspring of those interethnic unions was usually brought up with an education and cultural identification which was clearly Chinese and had no attributes of aboriginal socialization, especially the later generations. Those who can be identified as aborigines today make up less than 3 percent of Taiwan's total population (according to MOI statistics 589,038 individuals at the end of 2023).

"Mainlanders" (waishengren 外省人) usually refers to the group of Han Chinese immigrants who moved to Taiwan from all parts of China after WWII. Most of them were soldiers and ROC government officials who came as refugees when the mainland was overrun by Communist troops—as many as 1.2 million fled to Taiwan then. Their offspring, including the second and third generation, are commonly regarded as mainlanders as well.

The term "new immigrants" (xin zhumin 新住民) refers to a group of people who have emigrated from a foreign country into Taiwan and settled down. Most of the new immigrants in the ROC came from the PRC, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and other countries, in many cases as spouse of an ROC citizen. Others have taken up residence in Taiwan in pursuit of advanced education or job opportunities. The ROC government encourages offspring of mixed marriages to take cultural exchange and language trips to their parents' native countries during school breaks, promoting related activities with subsidies and scholarships. Since the 1990s, the population of the new immigrants continues to rise considerably. According to statistics from the National Immigration Agency (NIA) under the ROC MOI, there were more than 533,000 new immigrants (including more than 338,000 spouses hailing from the PRC) living in the ROC at the end of March 2018.

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Languages in modern Taiwan

There are a number of different languages in the Taiwan area which are spoken by local inhabitants as first language, including the following:

  • Holo (heluoyu 河洛語) aka Hoklo (fulaoyu 福佬語) or Taiwanese Hokkien (Taiwan minnanyu 台灣閩南語)
  • Hakka (kejiahua 客家話)
  • Mandarin Chinese (guoyu 國語) = the Peking dialect (Beijinghua 北京話), the official language of the ROC
  • Several indigenous Austronesian languages

While Mandarin Chinese, Holo and Hakka belong to the family of Sinitic languages and dialects, the Austronesian languages do not. However, this seemingly simple categorization of languages in modern Taiwan has been complicated for political reasons in connection with cross-strait relations and an evolving national identity.

Today, about 70 percent of Taiwan's population speak Holo, and it has become common to refer to Holo as 'Taiwanese' (taiyu 台語 or Taiwanhua 台灣話), with the both terms being interchangeable. An intense ideological debate has been going on in Taiwan about the proper categorization of Holo, in particular whether that language should be considered being a variety of the Southern Min dialect (minnanhua 閩南話)—prevalent in the southern part of Fujian province—or not.

Most linguists accept that Holo is indeed a variety of the Southern Min dialect as both languages are mutually intelligible. (Southern Min itself belongs to seven to ten dialect groups—depending on classification—of spoken Chinese, which also include Mandarin, but it should be noted that Chinese features an extraordinarily high degree of internal diversity, and in most cases these dialect groups are mutually unintelligible.) Other varieties of Southern Min include Hokkien (Fujianhua 福建話), Amoy (Xiamenhua 廈門話) and Teochew (Chaozhouhua 潮州話).

Migrants from Fujian (most of them hailing from Quanzhou 泉州 and Zhangzhou 漳州) started to settle in Taiwan since the 17th century, and over time the Hokkien of their descendants began to deviate from their original dialect spoken in mainland China due to influences from and interaction with Taiwan's indigenous peoples, the Dutch and later the Japanese. Over the centuries, several local variants of Holo developed. Holo as spoken in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Taitung is regarded the prestige accent. Distinct Holo variations include the accents spoken in Yilan, in Lukang, in Taipei/Hsinchu, in Taichung/Changhua/Chiayi as well as on Penghu. In general, the term 'Taiwanese' is now applied to all of these Holo variations.

Hardliners in the camp of pro-independence advocates deny any connection between Taiwan and China. As they regard Mandarin a 'colonizer's language', the name Southern Min dialect is loathed and rejected because the term views Holo as a variant of the Chinese variety spoken in Fujian province on the mainland.

On the other hand, it is an undeniable fact that the Holo variations common in today's Taiwan and the Southern Min dialect are mutually intelligible, while Holo and other languages which influenced its development to some degree like Japanese, Dutch or indigenous tongues are mutually unintelligible. When a native Holo speaker from Taiwan with no foreign language skills travels to Kinmen or Xiamen 廈門, he or she would have little trouble communicating with residents there in their local dialect. Furthermore, the same person would not be able to have a conversation with any Taiwanese aborigines who only speak their indigenous tribal language, or with Dutch or Japanese people without foreign language proficiency.

It could be argued that using the term 'Taiwanese' exclusively for Holo can be misleading for at least two reasons. First, there is not one single language predominantly spoken in Taiwan today but several. Second, just 500 years ago Holo wasn't even a native language in Taiwan's population—at that time only Austronesian languages were spoken by the island's inhabitants, and the indigenous peoples have resided on Taiwan much longer than any other ethnic group. (This page offers more information about Taiwan's indigenous peoples and their marginalization.) All said, it would be more appropriate and fair to use the term 'Taiwanese' for a group of languages, including Holo, Hakka and the Austronesian languages.

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Endangered languages

After the 1987 lifting of martial law, restrictions which had been imposed against the use of all Chinese dialects except Mandarin as well as the Austronesian languages of Taiwan's indigenous peoples were completely removed in the 1990s, and today Holo is omnipresent in Taiwan as spoken language and in the media. Meanwhile, most of the languages of the indigenous peoples and also Hakka are considered endangered as the numbers of their speakers in younger generations are declining dramatically. The phenomenon of young Taiwanese not learning the local dialect of their ancestors and speaking mostly Mandarin Chinese instead can even be observed in the Holo segment, so efforts for preserving native languages in Taiwan have been extended to Holo as well.

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◆ Essential information on Taiwan II—history

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Taiwan's history—much more than just the ROC

(Jump to History of the ROC)

Preliminary remarks

Taiwan has been inhabited for millennia by non-Chinese indigenous peoples which are categorized as Austronesian. In general, Taiwan's indigenous peoples did not set up states in the Western sense but lived in tribal societies which had no written history or recorded interaction with other countries or peoples overseas.

Taiwan was first sighted by Western explorers in the 16th century. After the onset of Taiwan's colonization, the indigenous population was decimated and marginalized, and a succession of various political entities controlled either parts of the island or all of Taiwan.

  • Dutch Formosa (1624–1662: 38 years) controlled parts of Taiwan in the south and later also in the north with the United East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, abbrev. VOC).
  • Spanish Formosa (1626–1642: 16 years), maintained a presence in northern Taiwan that was terminated by the Dutch through military intervention.
  • Kingdom of Tungning (1661–1683: 22 years), set up in southern Taiwan by Ming dynasty loyalist Koxinga and his followers who defeated and expelled the Dutch.
  • Qing dynasty Taiwan (1683–1895: 212 years), defeated the Kingdom of Tungning and expanded control over most of Taiwan's plains.
  • Republic of Formosa (1895: ca. 5 months), a short-lived enterprise by Qing dynasty loyalists to fend off Japanese rule.
  • Japanese colonial period (1895–1945: 50 years), the first political entity to gain control over Taiwan in its entirety.
  • Taiwan/ROC (since October 1945: more than 78 years and counting).

Displayed below are the flags which were officially flown in Taiwan during the various historical periods since 1624.

VOC Republic of Formosa
Spain (Cross of Burgundy) Japan
Kingdom of Tungning War flag of Japan's army
Qing dynasty ROC

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Complementary timeline Taiwan/ROC

The following chronology lists events that the chief researcher deems helpful for a better understanding of the history of the ROC and/or Taiwan, especially in terms of political status and changes thereof. Please note that the timeline shows no events prior to the 16th century because before that no affairs with international relevance took place in the Taiwan area.

Year Date, event
1544  Portuguese navigators sailing through the Taiwan Strait on their way to Japan sight Taiwan and call it "Ilha Formosa", meaning "beautiful island". [Note—Some online sources provide conflicting information about when this event took place. Other years mentioned in this context are 1516, 1517, 1542 and 1590]
1582 A Portuguese junk under the command of Captain André Feio on its way to Japan accidentally runs aground near Taiwan’s south-western tip; the ca. 300 shipwrecked survivors spent 45 days on the island, battling malaria and frequent raids from indigenous people; eventually succeed in building a raft and returning to Macau
1622 Dutch colonists—including merchants of the United East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, abbrev. VOC)—set up a base at Magong on Penghu and build a fort
1624 Chinese forces expel the Dutch from Penghu but allow them to withdraw to Taiwan and establish a fortress near today's Tainan
1626 Spanish colonists construct a port at today's Keelung
1629 Spanish colonists occupy the area of today's Tamsui
1642 August: The Protestant Dutch lay siege on the Spanish fort at Keelung ("Battle of San Salvador" / jilong zhi zhan 雞籠之戰), the Catholic Spaniards are defeated and forced to leave Taiwan
1644 June: Troops led by a clan of Manchu invaders topple the Ming dynasty in China, the Qing dynasty is established
1661 March 24: Ming loyalist Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功 aka "Koxinga" (guoxingye 國姓爺) establishes a garrison on Penghu
April 2: Koxinga's fleet arrives near "Tayouan" (in Chinese: 大員 or 台員; present-day Anping 安平 area of Tainan) at southern Taiwan and subsequently attacks the Dutch
June 14: Koxinga proclaims the "Kingdom of Tungning" (dongning wangguo 東寧王國) on Taiwan
1662 Feb. 1: The last Dutch defenders surrender to Koxinga's troops
June 23: Koxinga succumbs to an illness
1683 July 10–16: Battle of Penghu (Penghu haizhan 澎湖海戰), the fleet and troops of the Kingdom of Tungning are eventually defeated by the Qing under the leadership of Admiral Shi Lang 施琅
Sept. 5: Koxinga's grandson Zheng Keshuang 鄭克塽 surrenders to the Qing, Taiwan is incorporated into the Qing empire as a prefecture of Fujian province
1867 March 12: Rover Incident (luomeihao shijian 羅妹號事件)—The US merchant ship Rover crashes at a coral reef near the southern tip of Taiwan, 14 sailors are killed by Paiwan Aborigines; the US send punitive expeditions in June and July with poor results as their troops are unable to cope with the scorching heat
1871 Dec. 12: Mudan Incident (bayaowan shijian 八瑤灣事件)—Ryukyuan sailors are hit by a typhoon near Taiwan and shipwrecked, in the following days 54 of them are massacred by Paiwan people; Japan sends a punitive expedition in 1874
1885 Oct. 12: After French troops captured Keelung in October 1884 during the 1883–1885 Sino-French War (Zhong Fa zhanzheng 中法戰爭), the Qing court decides that Taiwan's administrative status is to be upgraded to province, the measure was officially implemented in 1887 with Liu Mingchuan 劉銘傳 as first provincial governor (xunfu 巡撫)
1894 Aug. 1: The First Chinese-Japanese War (Jiawu zhanzheng 甲午戰爭) begins
Nov. 24: The "Revive China Society" (xing Zhong hui 興中會) is established
1895 April 17: The defeated Qing cede Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki
May 25: The establishment of an independent "Republic of Formosa" (Taiwan minzhuguo 台灣民主國) is proclaimed in Taipei
May 29: The first contingent of Japanese troops lands at Aodi 澳底 east of Keelung
June 6: After Japanese units capture Keelung, top leaders of the Republic of Formosa flee to Xiamen 廈門 (Fujian province)
Oct. 21: The Republic of Formosa collapses after the advance of Japanese troops from northern Taiwan to Tainan
1905 Aug. 20: The "Revive China Society" is reorganized in Tokyo and renamed "United League" (tongmenghui 同盟會)
1911 Oct. 10: An uprising in Wuchang (today's Wuhan, Hubei Province) leads to the eventual collapse of the Qing dynasty, a chain of events also known as "Hsinhai Revolution"
Nov. 1: Yuan Shikai—since 1901 in charge of the powerful Beiyang Army (beiyangjun 北洋軍)—is appointed prime minister (zongli dachen 總理大臣) of the Qing
1912 Jan. 1: The ROC is established in Nanjing with Sun Yat-sen as president
Feb. 12: The Qing renounce the throne after Yuan Shikai had assured them that the monarchy could not be saved, the history of Imperial China comes to an end after more than two millennia
Feb. 14: Sun Yat-sen resigns, the following day Yuan Shikai is appointed ROC president
Aug. 25: The "United League" is renamed "Kuomintang" (KMT)
1916 June 6: Yuan Shikai dies, national unity disintegrates in the warlord period
1921 July: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is founded in Shanghai
1924 Jan. 27—Aug. 24: Sun Yat-sen holds sixteen lectures about the Three Principles of the People (sanmin zhuyi 三民主義) in Guangzhou
1925 March 12: Sun Yat-sen dies of cancer in Beijing
1928 April 27: The Auditing Yuan (shenjiyuan 審計院) is formally established
July: The national unity of the ROC is restored with the successful end of the Northern Expedition and defeat of the last remaining warlords
Oct. 8: The Organic Act of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China (Zhonghua minguo guomin zhengfu zuzhifa 中華民國國民政府組織法) is promulgated
Oct. 10: A preparatory office for the Examination Yuan (kaoshiyuan choubeichu 考試院籌備處) is established
Oct. 20: The Organic Act of the Legislative Yuan (lifayuan zuzhifa 立法院組織法) is promulgated
Oct. 25: The Executive Yuan is set up
Nov. 16: The Judicial Yuan is established
1930 Jan. 6: The Examination Yuan is formally established
1931 Feb. 2: The Control Yuan is formed based on its forerunner, the Auditing Yuan
Sept. 18: Japanese troops invade Manchuria
1937 July 7: The Marco Polo Bridge Incident marks the beginning of the Second Chinese-Japanese War aka Eight-Year War of Resistance (banian kangzhan 八年抗戰), invasion of the Chinese heartland
1943 Nov. 22–26: Cairo Conference with US President Roosevelt, British PM Churchill and ROC President Chiang Kai-shek
Dec. 1: The Cairo Declaration is broadcast on radio
1945 July 17—Aug. 2: Potsdam Conference
July 26: The Potsdam Declaration is issued by US President Truman, British PM Churchill and ROC President Chiang Kai-shek
Aug. 1: The Potsdam Agreement is signed
Aug. 15: Japan surrenders unconditionally to the Allies
Sept. 2: The Japanese First Instrument of Surrender is signed on the battleship "USS Missouri" in the Bay of Tokyo, end of WWII
Sept. 9: Japan formally surrenders to the ROC in Nanjing
Oct. 25: Administrative handover of Taiwan to China in Taipei, ROC government officials and troops arrive in Keelung and Kaohsiung
1947 Jan. 10: Taiwan provincial governor Chen Yi announces that the new ROC Constitution would not apply to Taiwan after it went into effect in mainland China on Dec. 25, 1947
Feb. 28: Violent protests by locals against the ROC government in Taiwan, followed by a lengthy, bloody crackdown carried out by ROC government troops, beginning of the era of White Terror
May 25: Chiang Kai-shek imposes martial law over the ROC
Nov. 21–23: General elections for the National Assembly (NA) are held in the ROC
1948 Jan. 21–23: General elections for the Legislative Yuan are held in the ROC
April 18: The "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" (dongyuan kanluan shiqi linshi tiaokuan 動員戡亂時期臨時條款) are enacted
1949 April 23: ROC government troops evacuate Nanjing
Oct. 1: The PRC is established with Beijing as its capital
Dec. 10: The seat of the ROC central government is set up in Taipei
1950 Jan. 6: The UK recognizes the PRC, the ROC severs diplomatic ties with the UK
June 25: The Korean War breaks out (cease-fire on July 27, 1953)
1951 Sept. 8: The San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) is signed, Japan gives up its claim over Taiwan
1952 April 28: The Treaty of Peace between the ROC and Japan is signed in Taipei, the same day the SFPT goes into effect
1958 Aug. 23: The PLA launches a 44-day attack on the islands of Kinmen with 41,000 artillery shells fired in two hours, the ROC forces there dig in and return fire
1964 Oct. 16: Successful test explosion of the PRC's first nuclear bomb at the Malan Base 馬蘭基地 near Lop Nor 羅布泊 (Xinjiang)
1967 June 17: The PRC successfully tests a hydrogen bomb at Malan/Lop Nor
1969 Dec. 20: Supplementary elections for Taiwanese members of the NA and the Legislative Yuan are held for the first time
1971 Oct. 25: China's seat in the United Nations is transferred from the ROC to the PRC according to UN Resolution 2758
1975 April 5: ROC President Chiang Kai-shek passes away, succeeded by VP Yen Chia-kan
1978 May 20: Chiang Ching-kuo is sworn in as ROC president
Aug. 12: The PRC and Japan sign a peace treaty in Beijing
1979 Jan. 1: Diplomatic ties between the ROC and the US are severed
April 10: US President Jimmy Carter signs the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) into law
Nov. 26: The IOC Executive Board holds a meeting in Nagoya and passes a resolution recognizing the Olympic committee in Beijing as "Chinese Olympic Committee" (Zhongguo aoweihui 中國奧委會), deciding that Taiwan would henceforth have to compete under the name "Chinese Taipei" without being allowed to use the ROC national flag and national anthem
Dec. 10: Opposition activists and journalists organize a rally in Kaohsiung leading to violence; the events are later referred to as the "Kaohsiung Incident" (Gaoxiong shijian 高雄事件)
1986 Sept. 28: The DPP is founded in Taipei
1987 July 1: The "National Security Law During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion" (dongyuan kanluan shiqi guojia anquanfa 動員戡亂時期國家安全法) is promulgated
July 15: Martial law is lifted in Taiwan and on Penghu
1988 Jan. 13: ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo passes away, succeeded by Taiwan-born ROC VP Lee Teng-hui
Jan. 20: The Assembly and Parade Act (jihui youxingfa 集會遊行法) is promulgated
1990 June 21: The ROC Council of Grand Justices announces that senior parliamentarians should terminate their responsibilities by Dec. 31, 1991
June 28—July 4: The first National Affairs Conference (guoshi huiyi 國是會議) is staged in Taipei's Grand Hotel
1991 May 1: The "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" (enacted in 1948) are abolished
May 22: The "Punishment of Rebellion Act" (chengzhi panluan tiaoli 懲治叛亂條例) is abolished
June 3: The "Suppression of the Communist Rebellion Act" (kanluan shiqi jiansu feidie tiaoli 戡亂時期檢肅匪諜條例) is abolished
Dec. 21: Elections for the Second NA are held in the ROC, the KMT secures a two-thirds majority
1992 May 15: The ROC Executive Yuan approves a revision of Article 100 of the ROC Criminal Code (Zhonghua minguo xingfa 中華民國刑法) which decriminalizes the peaceful advocacy of Taiwan independence; promulgated the following day by ROC President Lee Teng-hui
Nov. 7: Martial law is lifted on Kinmen and Matsu
Dec. 19: Elections for the Second Legislative Yuan are held in the ROC
1996 March 23: First direct presidential election in the ROC, Lee Teng-hui of the KMT wins with a clear majority (54.9 percent of valid votes)
2000 March 18: Chen Shui-bian of the DPP is elected ROC president with a simple majority (39.3 percent of valid votes), marking the first peaceful and constitutional transfer of power to an opposition party in the history of the ROC
2002 Jan. 1: Taiwan and China officially become members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
2004 March 20: Chen Shui-bian is re-elected ROC president
2008 March 22: Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT is elected ROC president
2009 May 18–27: Taiwan participates at the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) with observer status under the name "Chinese Taipei"
2012 Jan. 12: Ma Ying-jeou is re-elected ROC president
2016 Jan. 16: Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP is elected ROC president, her party also wins an absolute majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan
2020 Jan. 11: Tsai Ing-wen is re-elected ROC president, the DPP keeps its absolute majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan
2024 Jan. 13: Lai Ching-te of the DPP is elected ROC president, both the DPP and the KMT fail to gain a majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan

Note: The origin of the terms Jiawu zhanzheng and Hsinhai Revolution is explained in the page "Tools" under the headline "The ROC calendar" (see The Ganzhi cycle and its terminology).

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Colonization acknowledged as historical fact

 ● Go Dutch
 ● The Koxinga interlude
 ● Taiwan's plains occupied by the Qing
 ● Japan takes charge
 ● Returned to the Han

The dominance of Han Chinese in Taiwan's population and mainstream culture is conspicuous and yet a relatively recent phenomenon. Modern historians and anthropologists agree that before the 16th century—less than 500 years ago—there was no noteworthy Chinese population on the island, while indigenous Austronesian peoples are known to have populated Taiwan for at least 6,000 years; according to the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), archeological evidence confirms the presence of Malayo-Polynesian peoples on the island dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years.

The Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) which preceded the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) did not show any interest in Taiwan. Between 1405 and 1433 Admiral Zheng He 鄭和 (1371-1433), the most famous explorer of the Ming, undertook seven large-scale expeditionary voyages and reached the shores of Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Arab peninsula and even the east coast of Africa. None of these seven expeditions had Taiwan listed on their itineraries. Zheng He did make a brief, unplanned visit to Taiwan in 1430 when he was shipwrecked while returning to China from Southeast Asia, and while he found it inhabited by aborigines, he evidently did not encounter any Chinese settlements there. The Ming's indifference towards Taiwan is also clearly indicated by their dealings with the Dutch—when the Dutch in 1622 tried to establish a base on Penghu, Ming China immediately intervened and warned them that Penghu was Chinese territory. The Dutch were eventually expelled from there in 1624 but were allowed to withdraw to Taiwan where the presence of the Dutch drew no objections from the Ming.

Whereas Taiwan was ignored by the Ming government, a certain amount of trade took place between Chinese merchants and aborigines on Taiwan in the 16th century. The Chinese bought products such as coal, sulfur and gold, and they sold iron and textiles to the aborigines. Similarly sought after by the Chinese were mullet fish as well as deer products—venison, skins, and antlers. In the early 17th century there was a small network of Chinese traders living on the island, according to estimates less than 2,000 persons. Also, Chinese pirates appear to have found Taiwan an amenable base in the first half of the 17th century.

DISAMBIGUATION—In the context of Taiwan's history, the term 'colonization' has more than one connotation. For information about an alternative use of that term please click here.

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Go Dutch

The period of Taiwan's history which began in the 17th century was unquestionably a history of colonization. The first foreign power to gain a colonial foothold on Taiwan was the Netherlands which established a base called Fort Zeelandia (relanzhe cheng 熱蘭遮城) in present-day Anping District of Tainan (southern Taiwan) in 1624. Parts of northern Taiwan came under Spanish sway in 1626, with two settlements—one around Fort Antonio (hongmao cheng 紅毛城) aka Fort San Domingo (sheng duomingge cheng 聖多明哥城) at Tamsui and one around Fort San Salvador (sheng saerwaduo cheng 聖薩爾瓦多城) on Heping Island off Keelung. The Dutch drove the Spanish out of Taiwan in 1642, and while the presence of the Spanish remained a small footnote in history, the activities of the Dutch in Taiwan set in motion a development that would thoroughly change the island. (A detailed account on the era of the Dutch in Taiwan can be found in Tonio Andrade's "How Taiwan Became Chinese", published in 2005; click here.) Map 1 shows the areas where the two European colonist powers were active on Taiwan, marked in grey—the Dutch in the south (1624-1662) and the Spanish in the north (1626-1642).

Dutch governors on Taiwan 1624–1662

Tenure Name of governor Tenure Name of governor
1624–1625 Martinus Sonck 1644–1646 François Caron
1625–1627 Gerard F. de With 1646–1649 Pieter A. Overtwater
1627–1629 Pieter Nuyts 1649–1653 Nicolaas Verburgh
1629–1636 Hans Putmans 1653–1656 Cornelis Caesar
1636–1640 Johan van der Burgh 1656–1661 Frederik Coyett
1640–1643 Paulus Traudenius 1661 Hermanus Clenk
1643–1644 Maximiliaan Le Maire 1661–1662 F. Coyett (second time)

Spanish governors on Taiwan 1626–1642

Tenure Name of governor Tenure Name of governor
1626–1629 Antonio Carreño Valdés 1635–1637 Francisco Hernández
1629–1632 Juan de Alcarazo 1637–1639 Pedro Palomino
1632–1634 Bartolomé Díaz Barrera 1639–1640 Cristóbal Márquez
1634–1635 Alonso García Romero 1640–1642 Gonzalo Portillo

In order to turn their Taiwanese possession into a profitable enterprise, the Dutch and their United East India Company (VOC) sought to encourage agricultural production of rice and sugar cane. Unfortunately for the Dutch, the indigenous residents were mostly content to plant just enough for themselves and their families and had no interest in raising crops for sale. For this reason, Chinese immigration was encouraged. Rules, laws and regulations imposed and implemented by the Dutch created a calculable economic and social environment, making Taiwan a safe place for Chinese to move to and invest in. Under the influx of the Chinese since the early 1630s the Dutch colony prospered—as Dutch governor Nicolaas Verburgh (in office 1649-1653) then put it: 'The Chinese are the only bees on Formosa that give honey.' Towards the end of the Dutch era in Taiwan, estimates put the number of Chinese living in Taiwan in a range between 10,000 and 60,000.

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The Koxinga interlude

The presence of the Dutch in Taiwan ended when they were expelled by forces led by Ming loyalist Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功 (1624-1662, also known as "Koxinga" [guoxingye 國姓爺]). After the Dutch surrendered at their main base in southern Taiwan in 1662, they retreated to the former Spanish base in northern Taiwan but were attacked there by Koxinga's troops as well and eventually withdrew from Keelung in the second half of 1668.

Koxinga's "Kingdom of Tungning" (dongning wangguo 東寧王國) covered only a territory of modest size (see grey area in Map 2), and it also did not last long—just a little over two decades. In 1683 the Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty turned to Taiwan because the island and Penghu were the hideout of rebels under Koxinga's leadership, the last stronghold of anti-Qing resistance they sought to eliminate. Qing forces led by Admiral Shi Lang 施琅 (1621-1696) first took the Penghu archipelago in July 1683, the Tungning Kingdom of Koxinga's descendants finally surrendered on Sept. 5 that year.

Rulers of the Tungning Kingdom (1662–1683)

Tenure Name of ruler Born/Died Native province
2/1662—6/1662 Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功 1624-1662 <Japan>
6/1662—1662 Zheng Xi 鄭襲 b. N/A, d. 1663 Fujian
1662—2/1681 Zheng Jing 鄭經 1642-1681 Fujian
1681 Zheng Kezang 鄭克臧 1662-1681 Fujian
1681—9/1683 Zheng Keshuang 鄭克塽 1670-1707 Taiwan
1682–1683 Feng Xifan 馮錫範 (regent) b. N/A, d. 1683 Fujian

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Taiwan's plains occupied by the Qing

The Qing made Taiwan a prefecture (fu 府) under Fujian province, the administrative seat was established at Tainan. The first Qing official in charge of the local administration based in Tainan was prefectural magistrate ("prefect", zhifu 知府) Jiang Yuying 蔣毓英. In the first decades of Qing rule over Taiwan, the authorities tried to limit immigration to the island and barred families from traveling there to ensure the immigrants would return to their families and ancestral graves in China. Illegal migration to Taiwan continued in spite of that, and the restrictions were relaxed following the 1760s. By 1811 there were more than 1.9 million Chinese immigrants on Taiwan.

Although the Qing never controlled Taiwan in its entirety, they nonetheless regarded Taiwan as a whole as their possession. The development of administrative subdivisions as shown below reflects how control of Qing forces over the island gradually advanced (the red asterisk [*] indicating newly established subdivisions).

• 1684–1875: Taiwan Prefecture 臺灣府 under Fujian Province

Period Subdivisions Counties/subprefectures
1684–1721  3 Fengshan County 鳳山縣, Taiwan County 臺灣縣, and Zhuluo County 諸羅縣
1721–1727  4 Fengshan County, Taiwan County, Zhuluo County plus new Changhua County 彰化縣 *
1727–1730  5 Changhua County, Fengshan County, Taiwan County, Zhuluo County plus new Penghu Subprefecture 澎湖廳*
1730–1787  6 Changhua County, Fengshan County, Taiwan County, Zhuluo County, Penghu Subprefecture plus new Tamsui Subprefecture 淡水廳*
1787–1811  6 Changhua County, Chiayi County 嘉義縣 * (= former Zhuluo County), Fengshan County, Taiwan County, Penghu Subprefecture, Tamsui Subprefecture
1812–1875  7 Changhua County, Chiayi County, Fengshan County, Taiwan County, Penghu Subprefecture, Tamsui Subprefecture, plus new Kavalan Subprefecture 噶瑪蘭廳 *

It should be noted that the additions of new counties on Taiwan proper represented the encroachment of ethnic Han settlers and Qing administration on previously indigenous territory. On the other hand, when Penghu became a subprefecture under Fujian’s Taiwan Prefecture in 1727, it was merely an administrative transfer as Penghu had been considered part of the Chinese empire since the Southern Song dynasty (1126-1279), and it had been listed under Fujian’s Quanzhou Prefecture (Quanzhou fu 泉州府) in the dynasties of Yuan (1279-1368) and Ming (1368-1644).

• 1875–1887: Two prefectures on Taiwan under Fujian Province

Prefectures under Fujian Province 12 subdivisions
Taipei prefecture 臺北府 * Hsinchu County 新竹縣 *
Tamsui County 淡水縣
Yilan County 宜蘭縣 *
Keelung Subprefecture 基隆廳 *
Taiwan prefecture 臺灣府 Changhua County
Chiayi County
Fengshan County
Hengchun County 恆春縣 *
Taiwan County
Penghu Subprefecture
Pulishe Subprefecture 埔里社廳 *
Puyuma Subprefecture 卑南廳 *

Following the 1871 Mudan Incident (Bayaowan shijian 八瑤灣事件) and the punitive military action Japan subsequently took against Taiwan in 1874, as well as the 1884-1885 French blockade of northern Taiwan, the Qing became aware of the growing strategic importance of Taiwan and in 1885 decided to upgrade it to a province in its own right, a measure that was implemented in 1887.

• 1887–1895: Taiwan Province, with four prefectures

Prefectures 14 subdivisions
[Map of Taiwan's subdivisions
under Qing rule, ca. 1894]
Taipei Prefecture 臺北府 Hsinchu County
Tamsui County
Yilan County
Keelung Subprefecture
Taiwan Prefecture 臺灣府 Changhua County
Miaoli County 苗栗縣 *
Taiwan County 臺灣縣 *
Yunlin County 雲林縣 *
Pulishe Subprefecture
Tainan Prefecture 臺南府 * Anping County 安平縣 *
Chiayi County
Fengshan County
Hengchun County
Penghu Subprefecture
Taitung Prefecture 臺東直隸州 * [no further subdivisions!]

Notes: While many of the Qing's administrative subdivisions (Changhua County, Chiayi County, Hsinchu County, Keelung Subprefecture, Miaoli County, Penghu Subprefecture, Yilan County, and Yunlin County) are roughly corresponding to the respective ROC's cities and counties at the beginning of the 21st century, others no longer exist in their original form.

 Anping County (Anping xian 安平縣)—set up in 1887 based on former Taiwan County; centered around the area of today's Tainan City.
 Fengshan County (Fengshan xian 鳳山縣)—set up in 1685, covering parts of today's Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County.
 Hengchun County (Hengchun xian 恆春縣)—set up in 1875 at the southern tip of the island in today's Pingtung County.
 Kavalan Subprefecture (Gamalan ting 噶瑪蘭廳)—set up in 1812, covered roughly the area of today's Yilan County and renamed in 1875.
 Pulishe Subprefecture (Pulishe ting 埔里社廳)—set up in 1875, covered roughly the area of today's Puli Town in Nantou County.
 Puyuma Subprefecture (Beinan ting 卑南廳)—set up in 1875, upgraded to Taitung Prefecture in 1887.
 Taiwan County (Taiwan xian 臺灣縣)—first set up in 1684 on the territory of the former Kingdom of Tungning, roughly covering the area of today's Tainan City; renamed "Anping County" in 1887. That year the Qing established a new Taiwan County which covered parts of today's Taichung City and Nantou County.
 Tamsui Subprefecture (Danshui ting 淡水廳)/Tamsui County (Danshui xian 淡水縣)—set up in 1730, covered large parts of today's Taipei City and New Taipei City. The subprefecture was reorganized as county in 1875.
 Zhuluo County (Zhuluo xian 諸羅縣)—set up in 1685 as northernmost area controlled by the Qing. When the Qing subsequently advanced further north, Zhuluo County was expanded correspondingly until Changhua County was established as a separate administrative unit in 1721. The remaining Zhuluo County was renamed Chiayi County in 1787.

Qing governors of Taiwan Province (1885-1895)

Tenure Taiwan Provincial Governor Born/Died Native province
12/1885—6/1891 Liu Mingchuan 劉銘傳 1836-1896 Anhui
6/1891—11/1891 @ Shen Yingkui 沈應奎 1821-1895 Zhejiang
1891—10/1894 Shao Youlian 邵友濂 1840-1901 Zhejiang
10/1894—5/1895 @ Tang Jingsong 唐景崧 1841-1903 Guangxi

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Japan takes charge

By the time the Qing ceded Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in 1895 after the lost First Sino-Japanese War, Han Chinese settlers and their descendants were already dominating Taiwan's plains and had driven the majority of surviving Austronesian aborigines into the sparsely populated mountainous regions of the island, areas where the Qing authorities had no real control. (The grey areas in Map 3 represent parts of the island which were fully controlled by the Qing authorities around 1894.) The most fierce resistance which advancing Japanese forces encountered was from the indigenous peoples in the mountains, and it was broken with brutal force. When rule over Taiwan was handed to the ROC in 1945 after Japan was defeated in WWII, effective local administration had already been established in all parts of the Island.

In addition to military suppression against armed resistance, approaches of the Japanese towards the aborigines also included anthropological study and assimilation. Initially the Japanese had only two categories for Taiwan's indigenous peoples: "domesticated" aborigines (shoufan 熟蕃 / jukuban, literally: 'cooked savages') and "wild" aborigines (shengfan 生蕃 / seiban, literally: 'raw savages'). Japanese anthropologist Ino Kanori 伊能 嘉矩 (1867-1925) was the first scientist who undertook systematic research about Taiwan's indigenous peoples, and in 1899 his book "Notes on Taiwan Barbarians" (Taiwan fanren shiqing 台灣蕃人事情 / Taiwan Banjin Jijō 台湾蕃人事情) was published where eight groups were identified—Amis, Atayal, Paiwan, Puyuma, Tsalisen (zelixian zu 澤利先族, i.e. Rukai), Tsao 曹族 (= Tsou), Vonum (= Bunun), and Pepo (= Pingpu). Assimilation saw some members of the indigenous peoples recruited as soldiers for Japan's imperial army during WWII in a unit called Takasago Volunteers (gaosha yiyongdui 高砂義勇隊 / Takasago Gyūtai).

A concise general description of Japan's colonial rule over Taiwan can be found here.

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Returned to the Han

After the handover of Taiwan's administration from Japan to the ROC, the new government enacted the "Regulations on Restoration of Original Names of Citizens of Taiwan" (Taiwan shengmin xingming huifu banfa 台灣省民姓名回復辦法) on Dec. 9, 1945, and although the law's main purpose was to reverse measures imposed by Japan's colonial government encouraging the Taiwanese to adopt Japanese names (for example, Lee Teng-hui called himself "Iwasato Masao" [岩里政男] in the colonial era), it resulted in many aborigines being forced by uncooperative civil servants in household registration offices to adopt Chinese names, disrupting their culture and societies.

Further explanations about the situation of the indigenous peoples in today's Taiwan can be found here.

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The Republic of Formosa (May to October 1895)

 ● Abstract of events
 ● Still relevant
 ● Major figures of the Republic of Formosa (1895)
 ● Republic of Formosa chronology
 ● Full text of the Declaration of Independence

Contemporary advocates of Taiwan independence sometimes cite the Republic of Formosa (Taiwan minzhuguo 台灣民主國) aka "Democratic Republic of Taiwan" as a precedent underscoring the legitimacy of an independent Taiwan, an early manifestation of a Taiwanese national identity. The events in connection with the advent of Taiwan being a Japanese colony for half a century do indeed deserve a closer look.

Abstract of events

After the Qing dynasty (1644-1911)—the Manchu rulers of China—was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Qing court agreed in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (maguan tiaoyue 馬關條約) to cede Taiwan, Penghu and the Liaodong peninsula to Japan 'in perpetuity'. The Qing notified the authorities on the other side of the Taiwan Strait that the islands were no longer Chinese territory, and they ordered the officials and troops stationed there to return to the mainland.

When the news spread in Taiwan, an outpouring of public indignation there decried the abandonment by Beijing. The general perception of Taiwan's Chinese residents was that China had sold them out, and local intellectuals feared Chinese culture and civilization were in jeopardy. Qiu Fengjia, a Hakka and leading member of the landed gentry from Changhua, urged Tang Jingsong (Taiwan provincial governor [xunfu 巡撫] since September 1894) to fend off a Japanese takeover by declaring Taiwan an independent republic. The political calculation was that one or more of the European powers like the UK or France would come to Taiwan's aid against Japan. Tang reluctantly agreed. Chen Jitong was picked for the position of FM to promote the republic abroad.

On May 25, 1895 the Republic of Formosa's Declaration of Independence (Taiwan minzhuguo duli xuanyan 台灣民主國獨立宣言) was proclaimed, and "Forever Qing" (yong Qing 永清) was chosen as the newly established republic's era name (nianhao 年號). Tang Jingsong made it clear that his government recognized Chinese suzerainty, with the republic having the status of a vassal state. A parliament comprising members of the gentry, merchant class, and literati was appointed. Although the Republic of Formosa was in name a democracy, its leadership was not recruited by application of regular democratic mechanisms.

For the Western powers, however, Taiwan was of much less strategic interest than the Liaodong peninsula (Liaodong bandao 遼東半島) in northeast China, and they did not intervene on behalf of Taiwan or Qing China. Taiwan's transfer to Japanese rule under the Treaty of Shimonoseki was regarded as legitimate, and the Western powers therefore did not recognize the Republic of Formosa. Furthermore, the Qing government in Beijing was anxious not to offend Japan, fearing the Japanese might change their minds about giving the Liaodong peninsula back to China.

Consequently, when the Japanese arrived to take possession of their new colony, the republicans were on their own. Available resistance forces included remnant regular Qing troops as well as local militias and volunteer fighters. The fighting motivation of the Qing troops was limited, and following the fall of Keelung less than a week after the Japanese landed, most of the Chinese soldiers left Taiwan and returned to China, among them Tang Jingsong, Qiu Fengjia and many others. After that, local militias under the command of Liu Yongfu (who never formally assumed the title of president) kept up the resistance, but they were no match for the Japanese units who were not only well-trained, disciplined and equipped with modern weapons but also received necessary reinforcements. Guerrilla attacks by local groups of insurgents and partisan bands did little to slow down the Japanese advance but provoked brutal reprisals. Given the conditions, the collapse of the republic could not be averted. Today, the military campaign which lasted from May 29 to Nov. 18 is known as "Yiwei War" (yiwei zhanzheng 乙未戰爭); yiwei 乙未 was the denomination of the year 1895.

Article 5 of the Treaty of Shimonoseki granted registered inhabitants of ceded territories a grace period until May 8, 1897 to sell their property and leave, after that date they would be regarded Japanese subjects. Some 6,400 persons, including many members of the upper gentry, moved from Taiwan to China in those two years. (Taiwan's population in 1895 stood at ca. 3 million.)

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Still relevant

Due to the enormous significance of the topic "independence" in today's Taiwan, interest in the circumstances and motivations for the establishment of the Republic of Formosa in 1895 is justified. Obviously, the aspirations and reasons for the founding of the republic back then are not identical with those of contemporary activists for Taiwan independence. The biggest difference is that today's advocates strive for true independence from China, whereas the republicans in 1895 wanted independence only from Japan but not from China—the recognition of China's suzerainty and the era name are all strong indications that the independence move was not a sign of a national identity separate from China but a desperate measure by local politicians to ward off foreign rule. Essentially, the republic's leaders had remained loyal Chinese subjects. They had no intention to sever ties to China completely but wished to keep a connection of some kind. Naturally, most of them returned to the motherland after their enterprise failed.

On the other hand, the manner how quickly the Qing court was willing to abandon Taiwan and hand it over to a hostile power could very well have sown the seeds of bitterness and alienation in Taiwan's ethnic Han population and over time given rise to a distinctive Taiwanese identity on the island. In consequence of the 1895 cession, Taiwan and its inhabitants grew inevitably more and more detached from China during 50 years of Japanese rule.

The Republic of Formosa's national flag has been cherished by activists as a potent symbol for Taiwan independence to this day, its design showing a yellow tiger on a blue background. It should be noted that tigers, like giant pandas, are an endemic species on the Chinese mainland but not in Taiwan's wildlife—Taiwan’s most iconic endemic species include the Formosan Black Bear (Taiwan heixiong 台灣黑熊, Ursus thibetanus formosanus), the Formosan Landlocked Salmon (Taiwan yinghua gouwengui 台灣櫻花鉤吻鮭, Oncorhynchus masou formosanus), the Formosan Blue Magpie (Taiwan lanque 台灣藍鵲, Urocissa caerulea), the Taiwan Blue Pheasant aka Swinhoe’s Pheasant (lanxian 藍鷳, Lophura swinhoii), and the Formosan Sambar Deer (Taiwan shuilu 台灣水鹿, Cervus unicolor swinhoei).

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Major figures of the Republic of Formosa (1895)

  • Tang Jingsong 唐景崧 (1841-1903, Guangxi): president, May 25—June 6
  • Qiu Fengjia 丘逢甲 (1864-1912, Taiwan): military commander-in-chief
  • Liu Yongfu 劉永福 (1837-1917, Guangxi): leader of the republic, June 26—Oct. 20
  • Chen Jitong 陳季同 (1851-1907, Fujian): foreign minister

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Republic of Formosa chronology

Please note that all dates in the timeline below refer to the year 1895.

March 23 Units of the Japanese army begin to land on Penghu and head for Magong Castle 媽宮城 (in the area of today's Magong 馬公)
March 24 The Chinese defenders on Penghu surrender after fierce fighting
April 17 A peace treaty between Qing China and Japan is signed at Shimonoseki 下關 (Honshu 本州, Japan); Taiwan, Penghu and the Liaodong peninsula in northeast China are ceded to Japan 'in perpetuity'
April 23 Triple Intervention (sanguo ganshe 三國干涉) of Russia, Germany and France against the cession of the Liaodong peninsula to Japan
May 5 Japan agrees to retrocede the Liaodong peninsula to China in return for an increased indemnity of 30 million Kuping taels (kuping yin 庫平銀)
May 8 China and Japan exchange letters of ratification of the Treaty of Shimonoseki
May 10 Admiral Kabayama Sukenori 樺山 資紀 is appointed Japan's first Governor-general of Taiwan
May 20 A Qing imperial edict orders all Qing officials (including provincial governor Tang Jingsong), officers and soldiers to leave Taiwan
May 25 A declaration of independence is issued in Taipei, the Republic of Formosa is proclaimed with Tang Jingsong as president (zongtong 總統)
May 29 The first contingent of Japanese troops heads for Tamsui 淡水 but changes course after receiving reports about large Chinese forces being assembled there, lands at Aodi 澳底 east of Keelung instead
June 2 The first major military engagement takes place at Ruifang 瑞芳
June 3 Formal ceremony for the transfer of sovereignty over Taiwan from China to Japan in the morning aboard the Japanese ship "Yokohama Maru" (橫濱丸) in Keelung harbour, Qing China is represented by Li Jingfang 李經方 (1855-1934, Anhui); the garrison at Keelung is overpowered after fighting and gives up
June 4 News of the military defeat at Keelung reaches Taipei, that night Tang and Qiu Fengjia flee to Tamsui
June 6 Tang Jingsong and his family, Qiu Fengjia and most of the senior officers of the republic sail to Xiamen 廈門 (in China's Fujian province) aboard the German steamship "Arthur"; leaderless troops of Taipei garrison start looting the city
June 7 Japanese troops enter Taipei after local businessmen invited them in to restore order
June 14 Japanese Governor-general Kabayama arrives in Taipei and starts establishing the Japanese administration, subsequently thousands of Chinese POWs captured at Keelung, Taipei and Tamsui are repatriated to Xiamen
June 17 The office of the Governor-general carries out an official inauguration ceremony in Taipei and proclaims Taiwan to be Japanese territory
June 22 Hsinchu falls
June 26 Liu Yongfu takes over as leader of the republic at Tainan
Aug. 14 Japanese troops enter Miaoli
Aug. 27 Battle of Baguashan 八卦山 near Changhua
Sept. 6 Japanese troops occupy Talibu 他裡霧 (today's Dounan City 鬥南鎮, Yunlin County)
Oct. 9 The Japanese capture Chiayi
Oct. 10 Liu Yongfu offers the Japanese a conditional surrender, the Japanese reject the offer on Oct. 12
Oct. 13 The Cihou Fort 旗後砲台 near Kaohsiung is bombarded and seized by the Japanese navy
Oct. 19 Liu Yongfu escapes disguised as a coolie
Oct. 20 Liu Yongfu crosses the Taiwan Strait to Xiamen aboard the British merchant ship "SS Thales"
Oct. 21 Tainan capitulates, end of the Republic of Formosa
Nov. 8 The "Liaotung Convention" (liaonan tiaoyue 遼南條約) between Qing China and Japan is signed in Beijing, formalizing the retrocession of the Liaodong peninsula
Nov. 18 Japanese Governor-general Kabayama declares the island 'pacified'

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Full text of the Declaration of Independence

The text of the official declaration of independence as issued on May 25, 1895 is shown directly below.

Republic of Formosa—Declaration of Independence台灣民主國獨立宣言
The Japanese have affronted China by annexing our territory of Formosa, and the supplications of us, the People of Formosa, at the portals of the Throne have been made in vain. We now learn that the Japanese slaves are about to arrive. 照得日本欺淩中國,索臺灣一島,台民兩次電奏,勢難挽回。知倭奴不日即將攻入。
If we suffer this, the land of our hearths and homes will become the land of savages and barbarians, but if we do not suffer it, our condition of comparative weakness will certainly not endure long. Frequent conferences have been held with the Foreign Powers, who all aver that the People of Formosa must establish their independence before the Powers will assist them. 吾等如甘受,則吾土吾鄉歸夷狄所有。如不甘受,防備不足故,斷難長期持續。屢與列強折衝,無人肯援,台民惟有自主。
Now, therefore, we, the People of Formosa, are irrevocably resolved to die before we will serve the enemy. And we have in Council determined to convert the whole island of Formosa into a Republican state, and that the administration of all our State affairs shall be organized and carried on by the deliberations and decisions of Officers publicly elected by us the People. 台民願人人戰死而失台,決不願拱手而讓台。台民公議自立為民主之國。決定國務由公民公選官吏營運。
But as in this new enterprise there is needed, as well for the resistance of Japanese aggression as for the organization of the new administration, a man to have chief control, in whom authority shall centre, and by whom the peace of our homesteads shall be assured—therefore, in view of the respect and admiration in which we have long held the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Tang Ching Sung, we have in Council determined to raise him to the position of President of the Republic. 為達計畫且抵抗倭奴侵略。新政府機構中樞必須有人主持,確保鄉里和平。素敬仰巡撫承宣布政使唐景崧,會議決定推舉為臺灣民主國大總統。
An official seal has been cut, and on the second day of fifth moon, at the ssu hour [9 a.m. 25 May], it will be publicly presented with all respect by the notables and people of the whole of Formosa. At early dawn on that day, all of us, notables and people, farmers and merchants, artizans and tradesmen, must assemble at the Tuan Fang Meeting House, that we may in grave and solemn manner inaugurate this undertaking. 初二日公同刊刻印信,全臺灣紳民上呈。當日拂曉,士農工商公集籌防局,開始嚴肅此壯舉。
Let there be neither delay nor mistake.
A Declaration of the whole of Formosa.
[Seal in red as follows] An announcement by the whole of Formosa

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Facts about Japan's colonial rule over Taiwan

 ● Historical prelude
 ● Governor-generals
 ● Government structure
 ● Administrative division
 ● Demographic development
 ● Timeline of important events
 ● Major earthquakes between 1895 and 1945
 ● POW camps

Between 1895 and 1945 Taiwan was under Japanese control as a colony, a period known as Japanese colonial period (Riju shidai 日據時代 / Rizhi shiqi 日治時期). The image on the right shows the emblem of Japan's colonial government in Taiwan.

Historical prelude

The process which led to the Qing losing Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan began in 1885 when Japan declared that Korea was henceforth to be considered as falling under the joint sphere of influence of Japan and China. That was not a small issue as China’s suzerainty over Korea had been unchallenged until then. When the Qing in May 1894 sent troops to Korea at the request of the Korean emperor to help suppress a massive peasant uprising, Japan regarded that as a challenge and sent troops to Korea as well. Japan installed a new government in Korea in June 1894, the legitimacy of which the Qing rejected, and by August 1894 the two countries were officially at war. In that conflict, dubbed Sino-Japanese War (jiawu zhanzheng 甲午戰爭), Japan’s armed forces proved to be superior to the Qing’s army, and in April 1895 the Qing were forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki (maguan tiaoyue 馬關條約). According to the conditions of the treaty, Qing China had to cede Taiwan, the Pescadores (Penghu) and the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan, recognize Korea’s independence, among other painful concessions. A "Republic of Formosa" established in Taiwan by pro-Qing loyalists to fend off the Japanese takeover collapsed within five months.

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The following list shows Japan's Governor-generals of Taiwan (Taiwan zongdu 台灣總督 / Taiwan sōtoku 台湾総督) for the five decades of colonial rule.

Tenure Name [Hanyu pinyin of Chinese pronunciation] Born/Died
5/1895—6/1896 Kabayama Sukenori 樺山 資紀 [Huashan Ziji] 1837-1933
6/1896—10/1896 Katsura Taro 桂 太郎 [Gui Tailang] 1848-1913
10/1896—2/1898 Nogi Maresuke 乃木 希典 [Naimu Xidian] 1849-1912
2/1898—4/1906 Kodama Gentaro 兒玉 源太郎 [Eryu Yuantailang] 1852-1906
4/1906—4/1915 Sakuma Samata 佐久間 左馬太 [Zuojiujian Zuomatai] 1844-1915
5/1915—6/1918 Ando Sadayoshi 安東 貞美 [Andong Zhenmei] 1853-1932
6/1918—10/1919 Akaishi Motojiro 明石 元二郎 [Mingshi Yuanerlang] 1864-1919
10/1919—9/1923 Den Kenjiro 田 健治郎 [Tian Jianzhilang]© 1855-1930
9/1923—9/1924 Uchida Kakichi 內田 嘉吉 [Neitian Jiaji]© 1866-1933
9/1924—7/1926 Izawa Takio 伊沢 多喜男 [Yize Duoxinan]© 1869-1949
7/1926—6/1928 Kamiyama Mitsunoshin 上山 滿之進 [Shangshan Manzhijin]© 1869-1938
6/1928—7/1929 Kawamura Takeji 川村 竹治 [Chuancun Zhuzhi]© 1871-1955
7/1929—1/1931 Ishizuka Eizo 石塚 英藏 [Shizhong Yingcang]© 1866-1942
1/1931—3/1932 Ota Masahiro 太田 政弘 [Taitian Zhenghong]© 1871-1951
3/1932—5/1932 Minami Hiroshi 南 弘 [Nan Hong]© 1869-1946
5/1932—9/1936 Nakagawa Kenzo 中川 健藏 [Zhongchuan Jiancang]© 1875-1944
9/1936—11/1940 Seizo Kobayashi 小林 躋造 [Xiaolin Jizao] 1877-1962
11/1940—12/1944 Hasegawa Kiyoshi 長谷川 清 [Changguchuan Qing] 1883-1970
12/1944—10/1945 Ando Rikichi 安藤 利吉 [Anteng Liji] 1884-1946

Please note that the first seven and the last three of Japan's Governor-generals in Taiwan were high-ranking military officers (army generals or navy admirals), the Governor-generals between 1919 and 1936 were civilians.

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Government structure

After its establishment the agency of the Governor-general had three departments—Department of Civil Affairs (minzhengju 民政局 / Minsei Kyoku), Department of Army (lujunju 陸軍局 / Rikugun Kyoku), and Department of Navy (haijunju 海軍局 / Kaigun Kyoku); the army and navy departments were merged to the Department of Military Affairs (junwuju 軍務局 / Gunmu Kyoku) in April 1896. The Department of Civil Affairs was renamed minzhengbu 民政部 / Minseibu in June 1898, and by November 1901 its authority was expanded with six subordinate agencies:

 Department of Communications (tongxinju 通信局 / Tsūshin Kyoku), was renamed Department of Postal Affairs (dixinju 遞信局 / Teishin Kyoku) in June 1919,
 Department of Engineering (tumuju 土木局 / Doboku Kyoku),
 Department of Finance (caiwuju 財務局 / Zaimu Kyoku),
 Department of General Affairs (zongwuju 總務局 / Sōmu Kyoku), was renamed Department of Internal Affairs (neiwuju 内務局 / Naimu Kyoku) in October 1909,
 Department of Production (zhichanju 殖産局 / Shokusan Kyoku); and
 Police Headquarters (jingcha benshu 警察本署 / Keisatsu Honsho), abolished in October 1909 and reorganized as Aboriginal Affairs Headquarters (fanwu benshu 蕃務本署 / Banmu Honsho). In 1945 subordinate agencies of the Governor-general included the following:
 Department of Agriculture and Commerce (nongshanju 農商局 / Nōshō Kyoku),
 Department of Education (wenjiaoju 文教局 / Bunkyō Kyoku),
 Department of Finance (caiwuju 財務局 / Zaimu Kyoku),
 Department of Mines and Industry (kuanggongju 礦工局 / Kōkō Kyoku),
 Department of Police (jingwuju 警務局 / Keimu Kyoku);
 Bureau of Foreign Affairs (waishibu 外事部 / Gaiji Bu),
 Bureau of Judicial Affairs (fawubu 法務部 / Hōmu Bu); and
 Secretariat to the Governor-general (zongdu guanfang 總督官房 / Sōtoku Kanbō).

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Administrative division

In the first years when the Japanese colonial authorities were in the process of establishing and consolidating their administration, the administrative divisions frequently changed. Regions in the mountain ranges of central Taiwan were not covered by Japan's administrative units before 1920 (see grey areas in maps below). In November 1901 twenty local administrative offices (ting 廳 / chō 庁) were established.

Taihoku (Taibei ting 台北廳 / Taihoku chō 台北庁);
Kirun (Jilong ting 基隆廳 / Kīrun chō 基隆庁);
Shinko (Shenkeng ting 深坑廳 / Shinkō chō 深坑庁);
Giran (Yilan ting 宜蘭廳 / Giran chō 宜蘭庁);
Toshien (Taoziyuan ting 桃仔園廳 / Tōshien chō 桃仔園庁);
Shinchiku (Xinzhu ting 新竹廳 / Shinchiku chō 新竹庁);
Byoritsu (Miaoli ting 苗栗廳 / Byōritsu chō 苗栗庁);
Taichu (Taizhong ting 台中廳 / Taichū chō 台中庁);
Shoka (Zhanghua ting 彰化廳 / Shōka chō 彰化庁);
Nanto (Nantou ting 南投廳 / Nantō chō 南投庁);
Toroku (Douliu ting 斗六廳 / Toroku chō 斗六庁);
Kagi (Jiayi ting 嘉義廳 / Kagi chō 嘉義庁);
Ensuiko (Yanshuigang ting 鹽水港廳 / Ensuikō chō 鹽水港庁);
Tainan (Tainan ting 台南廳 / Tainan chō 台南庁);
Hozan (Fengshan ting 鳳山廳 / Hōzan chō 鳳山庁);
Banshoryo (Fanshuliao ting 蕃薯寮廳 / Ban­sho­ryō chō 蕃薯寮庁);
Ako (Ahou ting 阿猴廳 / Akō chō 阿猴庁);
Koshun (Hengchun ting 恆春廳 / Kōshun chō 恆春庁);
Taito (Taidong ting 台東廳 / Taitō chō 台東庁); and
Hoko (Penghu ting 澎湖廳 / Hōko chō 澎湖庁).

In October 1909 the administrative subdivisions in Taiwan were redesigned into twelve local administrative offices.

Taihoku (Taibei ting 台北廳 / Taihoku chō 台北庁);
Giran (Yilan ting 宜蘭廳 / Giran chō 宜蘭庁);
To'en (Taoyuan ting 桃園廳 / Tōen chō 桃園庁);
Shinchiku (Xinzhu ting 新竹廳 / Shinchiku chō 新竹庁);
Taichu (Taizhong ting 台中廳 / Taichū chō 台中庁);
Nanto (Nantou ting 南投廳 / Nantō chō 南投庁);
Kagi (Jiayi ting 嘉義廳 / Kagi chō 嘉義庁);
Tainan (Tainan ting 台南廳 / Tainan chō 台南庁);
Ako (Ahou ting 阿猴廳 / Akō chō 阿猴庁);
Taito (Taidong ting 台東廳 / Taitō chō 台東庁);
Karenko (Hualiengang ting 花蓮港廳 / Karenkō chō 花蓮港庁); and
Hoko (Penghu ting 澎湖廳 / Hōko chō 澎湖庁).

In August 1920 the administrative subdivisions were rearranged according to the system used in Japan, and by 1926 the Japanese had subdivided their colony into eight prefectures:

Taihoku Prefecture (Taibei zhou 台北州 / Taihoku shū) = Taipei—included today's Keelung City, New Taipei City, Taipei City, Yilan County;
Shinchiku Prefecture (Xinzhu zhou 新竹州 / Shinchiku shū) = Hsinchu—included today's Hsinchu City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, Taoyuan City;
Taichu Prefecture (Taizhong zhou 台中州 / Taichū shū) = Taichung—included today's Changhua County, Nantou County, Taichung City;
Tainan Prefecture (Tainan zhou 台南州 / Tainan shū) = Tainan—included today's Chiayi City, Chiayi County, Tainan City, Yunlin County;
Takao Prefecture (Gaoxiong zhou 高雄州 / Takao shū) = Kaohsiung—included today's Kaohsiung City, Pingtung County;
Karenko Prefecture (Hualiangang ting 花蓮港廳 / Karenkō chō 花蓮港庁) = Hualien—included today's Hualien County;
Taito Prefecture (Taidong ting 台東廳 / Taitō chō 台東庁) = Taitung—included today's Taitung County; and
Hoko Prefecture (Penghu ting 澎湖廳 / Hōko chō 澎湖 庁) = Penghu—included today's Penghu County.

Please note that between September 1920 and July 1926 Hoko was not a prefecture in its own right but a district (jun 郡 / gun) under Takao prefecture.

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Demographic development

Shortly after the Japanese took over Taiwan, the island had an estimated population of 2.7 million in 1897. During the Japanese colonial period the authorities conducted censuses seven times which yielded the following population figures for Taiwan (source: Japanese Wikipedia).
  • 1905—3,039,751;
  • 1915—3,479,922;
  • 1920—3,655,308;
  • 1925—3,993,408;
  • 1930—4,592,537;
  • 1935—5,212,426; and
  • 1940—5,872,084.
In 1905, Taiwan's population included 57,335 Japanese and 82,795 Aborigines, the respective numbers for 1935 were 270,674 Japanese and 207,900 Aborigines (source: George Watson Barclay, Colonial Development and Population in Taiwan, p. 16).

The table below shows official population figures of 1941. Accordingly, the total population in Taiwan's eight prefectures then stood at 6,249,468. (Source: World War II Database)

Prefecture Population Prefecture Population
Taihoku 台北州 1,233,882 Takao 高雄州 930,383
Shinchiku 新竹州  838,011 Karenko 花蓮港庁  153,785
Taichu 台中州 1,380,187 Taito 台東庁 93,138
Tainan 台南州 1,550,695 Hoko 澎湖庁 69,387

After the end of WWII more than 300,000 Japanese left the island which—according to statistics available on the website of the MOI—had 6,090,860 inhabitants in 1946 and 7,554,399 inhabitants in 1950. (For Taiwan's population statistics since 1946 please click here.)

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Timeline of important events

1895  April 17: Japan and China sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki—Taiwan, Penghu and the Liaodong peninsula in northeast China are ceded to Japan 'in perpetuity'
May 8: Japan and China exchange letters of ratification of the Treaty of Shimonoseki
May 10: Admiral Kabayama Sukenori is appointed Japan's first Governor-general of Taiwan
May 25: Pro-Qing loyalists declare 'independence' and proclaim the "Republic of Formosa" to fend off the Japanese takeover
May 29: The first contingent of Japanese troops lands at Aodi 澳底 east of Keelung
June 3: Formal ceremony for the transfer of sovereignty over Taiwan from China to Japan in the morning aboard the Japanese ship "Yokohama Maru" (橫濱丸) in Keelung harbour
June 14: Japanese Governor-general Kabayama arrives in Taipei and starts establishing the Japanese administration
June 17: The office of the Governor-general carries out an official inauguration ceremony in Taipei and proclaims Taiwan to be Japanese territory
Oct. 21: Forces of the Republic of Formosa capitulate in Tainan
Nov. 8: The Liaotung Convention between Qing China and Japan is signed in Beijing, formalizing the retrocession of the Liaodong peninsula
Nov. 18: Japanese Governor-general Kabayama declares the island 'pacified'
1896 March 31: Japan's Imperial Diet (diguo yihui 帝國議會 / Teikoku Gikai 帝国議会)—i. e. parliament—enacts the Law Relating to Laws and Ordinances to Be Enforced in Taiwan (yingyu Taiwan shixing faling xiangguan zhi falü 應於臺灣施行法令相關之法律 / Taiwan ni shikō subeki hōrei nikan suru hōritsu 台湾ニ施行スヘキ法令ニ関スル法律) aka "Law 63"
1898 March: The Taiwan Medical School (Taiwan zongdufu yixuexiao 台灣總督府醫學校) is founded based on the Great Japan Taiwan Hospital (da Riben Taiwan bingyuan 大日本台灣病院) which was established in 1895 in Taipei
June 20: Goto Shinpei 後藤 新平 (1857-1929) takes office as chief of the civil administration (minzheng zhangguan 民政長官) in Taiwan, remains on that position until Nov. 13, 1906
1899 June 5: The Bank of Taiwan (Taiwan yinhang 台灣銀行) is formally established, starts operation on Sept. 26 that year as Taiwan's central bank
Nov. 8: The Railway Ministry (Taiwan zongdufu jiaotongju tiedaobu 台灣總督府交通局鐵道部) is established
1900 Sept. 28—Nov. 10: Sun Yat-sen visits Taiwan, stays in Keelung and Taipei (further visits by Sun in Taiwan in August 1913 and June 1918)
1906 March: Law 63 is revised under Law 31, which restricts the powers of the Governor-general
1907 Nov. 15: Hakka insurgents kill 57 Japanese police officers in Beipu 北埔 (in today's Hsinchu county) in an incident called Beipu Uprising (Beipu shijian 北埔事件), followed by a brutal crackdown, overall death toll more than 150
1910 April: Implementation of the Five-year Plan for Governing Aborigines aka Five Year Plan to Subdue the Savages (wunian lifan jihua 五年理蕃計畫) begins
1911 March 28: Chinese reformer Liang Qichao 梁啟超 arrives in Taiwan for a 2-week visit
1914 March 3: Execution of KMT activist Lo Fu-hsing 羅福星 in Taipei by the Japanese colonial authority for his involvement in the 1913 Miaoli Incident (Miaoli shijian 苗栗事件)
May-August: Truku War (tailuge zhanzheng 太魯閣戰爭) in today's Hualien county
Dec. 20: The Taiwan Assimilation Society (Taiwan tonghuahui 台灣同化會) is founded in Taipei by Itagaki Taisuke 板垣 退助, Lin Hsien-tang 林獻堂 and others (dissolved by the authorities on Jan. 26, 1915)
1915 April: The Aboriginal Affairs Headquarters (fanwu benshu 蕃務本署) is abolished, the aborigines' administration is returned to the police bureau of mountainous areas
May 27: Dafen Incident (dafen shijian 大分事件)—Bunun warriors led by their chief Raho Ari 拉荷 • 阿雷 attack a Japanese police station in the Hualien area, killing 12 Japanese police officers
July-August: Tapani Incident (jiaobanian shijian噍 吧哖事件) / Hsilai Temple Incident (xilaian shijian 西來庵事件) in Tainan City under the leadership of Yu Ching-fang 余清芳, Lo Chun 羅俊, Chiang Ting 江定 and others, several hundred people die in fighting, 132 are subsequently executed
1919 March: The palace-like office building for the Japanese Governor-general in Taipei is completed after almost seven years of construction
1920 Jan. 11: The New People Society aka New People Association (xin minhui 新民會) is established in Tokyo by Taiwanese students
1921 Jan. 30: Lin Hsien-tang and other Taiwanese activists submit a petition (one of a total of 15 issued between 1921 and 1934) in Tokyo, start of the Petition Movement (qingyuan yundong 請願運動)
April 1: In reaction to the Taiwanese petition, the Imperial Diet declares Japanese law to be effective in Taiwan (Law No. 3)
Oct. 17: The Taiwanese Cultural Association (Taiwan wenhua xiehui 台灣文化協會) is established in Taipei by Chiang Wei-shui 蔣渭水
1923 Feb. 21: After gaining approval from authorities in Tokyo, the League for the Establishment of a Formosan Parliament (Taiwan yihui qicheng tongmenghui 台灣議會期成同盟會) is established there
April 15: The Taiwanese Cultural Association issues the first edition of the Taiwan Minpao / Taiwan People News (Taiwan minbao 台灣民報)
April 16–26: Japan's crown prince Hirohito 裕仁 visits Taiwan, including stays in Keelung, Kaohsiung, Penghu, Taipei/Beitou
Dec. 16: Governor-general Uchida orders the arrests of Taiwanese civil rights activists involved in a campaign for the creation of an elected representative body ("POPA Incident", zhijing shijian 治警事件)
1925 October: Sugarcane farmers in the area of today's Changhua riot against their working conditions, the events are referred to as Erlin Incident (Erlin shijian 二林事件)
1927 May 29: Establishment of the "Taiwan People's Party" (Taiwan mindang 台灣民黨) in Taichung, outlawed after five days by the Japanese authorities
July 10: The Taiwanese Popular Party (Taiwan minzhongdang 台灣民眾黨) is established in Taichung by Chiang Wei-shui, Lin Hsien-tang and others
1928 March 17: The Taihoku Imperial University (Taibei diguo daxue 台北帝國大學) is founded in Taipei
April 15: Establishment of the Taiwanese Communist Party (Taiwan gongchandang 台灣共產黨) in Shanghai, the party advocates Taiwan independence
1930 May: The Wushantou Reservoir (Wushantou shuiku 烏山頭水庫) in Tainan is completed, the largest in Asia at the time
Aug. 17: Lin Hsien-tang, Tsai Pei-hu 蔡培火 and others establish the Taiwanese Alliance for Home Rule (Taiwan difang zizhi lianmeng 台灣地方自治聯盟)
October-December: In the Musha Incident aka Wushe Rebellion (Wushe shijian 霧社事件) indigenous warriors of the Sediq tribe attack the village of Wushe 霧社 (in today's Nantou county), killing more than 130 Japanese; the Japanese slaughter more than 600 Sediq in retaliation, using modern weaponry including mustard gas
1931 February: The Taiwanese Popular Party is outlawed after its fourth party congress (Feb. 18, 1931)
April 25: Second Musha Incident (dierci Wushe shijian 第二次霧社事件)—Sediq collaborators kill 216 participants in the first Musha Incident
1934 June 30: 49 persons tied to the Taiwanese Communist Party—including Hsieh Hsueh-hung 謝雪紅 (arrested on June 26, 1931), Weng Tze-sheng 翁澤生, Lin Mu-shun 林木順, Chao Kang 趙港 and others—are convicted by a panel of the Taihoku Regional Court (Taibei difang fayuan 台北地方法院 Taihoku Chihō Hōin) and sentenced to between two and 13 years in prison
Sept. 2: The submitting of petitions by Taiwanese in Tokyo is outlawed
1935 April 21: An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 jolts Hsinchu; 3,276 dead
Nov. 22: Local elections are held in Taiwan for the first time, half of the city and township councillors are elected, the other half are appointed by the prefectural governors
1936 March 30: Songshan Airport (songshan jichang 松山機場) in Taipei is completed
1937 April: The Japanese ban Chinese-languages articles in Taiwanese newspapers
1938 Feb. 23: The Soviet Volunteer Group (Sulian hangkong zhiyuandui 蘇聯航空志願隊) bombs the Songshan Air Base (Songshan feihang jidi 松山飛行基地) in Taipei
1939 Nov. 22: Local elections are held in Taiwan for the second time
1940 November: Governor-general Hasegawa establishes the "Tribute to the Emperor Society" (huangmin fenggonghui 皇民奉公會) to encourage Japanization of the Taiwanese population
1941 Dec. 8: The US declare war against Japan, the US consulate in Taipei (opened in 1913) is subsequently closed
1943 April 1: Compulsory education is introduced in Taiwan
Nov. 25: Aerial attacks of the US on Taiwan begin with the bombardment of a flight strip in Hsinchu
1944 September: Conscription in Taiwan is extended to all Taiwanese males
Oct. 12–16: Formosa Air Battle (Taiwan kongzhan 台灣空戰), a series of large-scale aerial engagements between carrier air groups of the US Navy Fast Carrier Task Force and Japanese land-based air forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army
1945 Jan. 15: US air raid on Kaohsiung and Zuoying Harbour
May 31: Taihoku Air Raid (Taibei da kongxi 台北大空襲) of the US Fifth Air Force, consisting 117 Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, approximately 3,800 bombs are dropped mainly on military units and government facilities; more than 3,000 dead
June 16–19: US air raids on Keelung
Aug. 15: Japan's Emperor Hirohito accepts the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, Japan surrenders and agrees to return Taiwan, Penghu to China
Sept. 2: Representatives of Japan and the Allied powers sign Japan's First Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, marking the end of hostilities in WWII
Sept. 9: Japan signs the Act of Surrender to the ROC in Taipei
Oct. 15: The first ROC troops arrive in Keelung and Kaohsiung
Oct. 24: Chen Yi 陳儀, newly appointed ROC governor of Taiwan, arrives on the island and takes over administrative powers of outgoing Japanese Governor-general Ando
Oct. 25: Official retrocession of Taiwan and Penghu to China with a formal transfer ceremony in Taipei; the Japanese colonial period comes to an end
1946 April 1: The repatriation of Japanese soldiers from Taiwan back home is completed

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Major earthquakes between 1895 and 1945

Several earthquakes were recorded in Taiwan during Japan’s colonial rule as shown in the table directly below (locations are referred to with their current names in today’s ROC cities/counties).

Year Date Magnitude Fatalities Location of epicenter
1904  Nov. 16 ~ 6.1 145 Area between Chiayi and Yunlin; dubbed “Touliu Earthquake” (douliu dizhen 斗六地震)
1906 March 17 ~ 7.1 1,258 Minhsiung 民雄 / Meishan 梅山 (Chiayi County)
1908 Jan. 11 ~ 7.3 1 Wanjung 萬榮 (Hualien County)
1909 April 15 ~ 7.3 9 Near Taipei
Nov. 21 ~ 7.3 Near Ta’nan’ao 大南澳 (Yilan County)
1916 Aug. 28 ~ 6.8 16 Upper reaches of Choshui Creek 濁水溪
1917 Jan. 5 ~ 6.2 54 Puli 埔里 (Nantou County)
1920 June 5 ~ 8.3 5 Off Taiwan’s east coast near Hualien 
1922 Sept. 2 ~ 7.6 5 Off Taiwan’s east coast near Su’ao
1927 Aug. 25 ~ 6.5 11 Hsinying 新營 (Tainan County)
1930 Dec. 8 ~ 6.1 4 Hsinying
1935 April 21 ~ 7.1 3,276 Sanyi 三義 (Miaoli County) 
July 17 ~ 6.0 44 ... off Wuchi 梧棲 (Taichung County) 
1941 Dec. 17 7.1 358 Chungpu 中埔 (Chiayi County) 
1943 Oct. 23 6.0 1 Hualien 
Dec. 2 5.9 3 ... near Green Island (off Taitung County) 

Please note that before the beginning of the Japanese colonial period, there was no monitoring of seismic activity based on modern scientific methods on the island. More precise details concerning earthquakes in the Taiwan area have been recorded since 1935, and the website of the ROC Central Weather Administration contains exact data or maps of events from that year on.

The 1920 temblor was presumably the strongest earthquake ever to hit the Taiwan area, but equipment necessary for accurately assessing the power and depth of the jolts was not yet available at the time. The magnitude of the 1920 quake has been estimated to be between 7.7 and 8.3. A brief chronology outlining the history of earthquake observation in Taiwan can be found here.

More information about early earthquake observation in Taiwan can be found in the following two research papers:

  • Sin Mei Ng, Jacques Angelier, Chung-Pai Chang—"Earthquake cycle in Western Taiwan: Insights from historical seismicity". Published on Aug. 1, 2009 in: Geophysical Journal International, Volume 178, Issue 2, August 2009, Pages 753–774
  • Thomas Theunissen, Yvonne Font, Serge Lallemand, Wen-Tzong Liang—"The largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in Taiwan: Revised location and magnitude, and tectonic significance of the 1920 event". Published on Dec. 1, 2010, in: Geophysical Journal International, Volume 183, Issue 3, December 2010, Pages 1119–1133

For information about Taiwan's geology, fault lines, major earthquakes since the end of WWII and more click here.

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POW camps

During WWII Japan occupied large parts of Asia under its imperialist concept called "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" (da dongya gongrongquan 大東亞共榮圈), and some of the empire's prisoners of war (POW) were held in Taiwan. On May 1, 1999 the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society (Taiwan zhanfuying jinian xiehui 台灣戰俘營紀念協會, abbrev. TPCMS) was set up based on the work of Canadian expat Michael Hurst. The TPCMS website lists more than a dozen POW camps (zhanfuying 戰俘營).

No. Name of POW camp In operation Location
#1 Kinkaseki (Jinguashi zhanfuying 金瓜石戰俘營) 11/1942—6/1945 Ruifang District, New Taipei City
#1A Kukutsu (Xindian zhanfuying 新店戰俘營) 5/1945—8/1945 Xindian District, New Taipei City
#1B Churon (Taibei linshi zhanfuying 台北臨時戰俘營) 8/1945—9/1945 Songshan District, Taipei City
#2 Taichu (Taizhong zhanfuying 台中戰俘營) 9/1942—7/1944 Wufeng District, Taichung City
#2A Inrin (Yuanlin zhanfuying 員林戰俘營) 7/1944—3/1945 Yuanlin City, Changhua County
#3 Heito (Linluo zhanfuying 麟洛戰俘營) 8/1942—3/1945 Linluo Township, Pingtung County
#3A Inrin Temporary (Yuanlin linshi zhanfuying 員林臨時戰俘營) 11/1944—1/1945 Yuanlin City, Changhua County
#3B Toroku (Douliu zhanfuying 斗六戰俘營) 11/1944—4/1945 Douliu City, Yunlin County
#4 Karenko (Hualiangang zhanfuying 花蓮港戰俘營) 8/1942—6/1943 Hualien City, Hualien County
#4A Shirakawa (Baihe zhanfuying 白河戰俘營) 6/1943—8/1945 Baihe District, Tainan City
#4B  Maruyama (Wanshan 丸山) 8/1945—9/1945 Zhongshan District, Taipei City
#5 Tamazato (Yuli zhanfuying 玉里戰俘營) 4/1943—6/1943 Yuli Town, Hualien County
#5A Taihoku Moksak (Taibei Muzha 台北木柵) 6/1943—12/1944 Wenshan District, Taipei City
#6 Taihoku (Taibei 台北) 11/1942—9/1945 Zhongshan District, Taipei City
#6A Oka (Taibei zhanfuying 台北戰俘營/Gang 岡) 6/1945—8/1945 Shilin District, Taipei City
Takao (Gaoxiong 高雄) 9/1942—2/1945 Qijin District, Kaohsiung City
Taihoku Prison (Taibei jianyu 台北監獄) N/A Daan District, Taipei City

Churon and Maruyama are listed as evacuation camps. In addition, a Taiwan Hellships Memorial (erci dazhan zhanfuchuan jinianpai 二次大戰戰俘船紀念牌) was dedicated on Jan. 26, 2006 in Qijin District (Kaohsiung City).

* * * SEE ALSO * * *

Background information pertaining to that subject as well as additional contents about Japan's relations with Taiwan after WWII and China/the ROC since the 19th century can be found on the following pages of this website.

🔴 "Foreign relations of the ROC", The ROC and Japan
🔴 "Tools", Japan's Taiwan

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2-28, White Terror and a soured relationship

 ● Crucial date: February 28, 1947
 ● White Terror chronology (1947-1987)
 ● A topic no longer taboo
 ● Still unreconciled
 ● KMT reformed?

Crucial date: February 28, 1947

The victory of the Allies over Japan in WWII paved the way for the ROC to take over Taiwan, an explicit war goal since the 1943 Cairo Declaration. The ROC leadership under Chiang Kai-shek was wary of Taiwan since the island had been ruled by their enemies for half a century, so Taiwan was regarded to some degree as hostile territory. Chiang Kai-shek commissioned Chen Yi—a man who had gained some notoriety for his harsh rule as provincial governor of Fujian between 1934 and 1941—to head the ROC's new Taiwan provincial government because Chen could be expected to reliably set up the KMT-led administration, enforce its rule and crack down hard against any possible resistance on Taiwan.

When troops and administration personnel of the ROC arrived in Taiwan in October 1945, they received an enthusiastic welcome by locals who were happy to see Japan's colonial rule coming to an end. The joy did not last long because locals were largely excluded from administrative posts, and the new rulers who were fighting a civil war against the Chinese Communists on the mainland drained resources from the island, with negative consequences for the living conditions in Taiwan. The province also experienced unprecedented inflation. The resulting discontent and growing tensions eventually led to a violent uprising in February 1947 ("2-28") by locals against the ROC administration.

The 2-28 Incident was triggered by a clash between government officials and local bystanders after agents working for the government's Taiwan Provincial Monopoly Bureau (Taiwansheng zhuanmaiju 台灣省專賣局) on Feb. 27, 1947 confiscated contraband cigarettes from a 40-year-old widow named Lin Jiang-mai 林江邁 at the Tianma Tea House (tianma chafang 天馬茶房), located in today's Datong District of Taipei City. During the ensuing dispute and scuffle the officials fired shots and killed one person. The following day a large crowd gathered in front of the building previously used by the Japanese Governor-general in Taipei and demanded the monopoly agents to be brought to justice. Security personnel opened fire, resulting in several deaths. Protesters then seized a radio station, and news of the revolt was broadcast to the entire island, causing the uprising to spread. When open rebellion broke out at many locations on the island, the KMT-led central government in Nanjing deployed troops to suppress the insurrection with brutal force. According to an investigation conducted by a commission of the ROC government in 1992, an estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people were killed during the crackdown, which lasted into early May 1947. Martial law, imposed on May 25, 1947, remained in place for four decades.

The bloody campaign unleashed to exterminate the rebellion especially targeted the elite of Taiwanese intellectuals educated in Japan and wiped out a sizable portion of that group. It left the opposition traumatized and decimated, and in the White Terror period no serious attempts were made by organized opponents to overthrow the government. By and large, rare oppositional activity was non-violent, except for an assassination attempt against Chiang Ching-kuo in 1970 and another one against Shieh Tung-min in 1976. The following chronology lists a selection of major events in the aftermath of 2-28 until the end of martial law in July 1987.

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1947  Feb. 28: Chen Yi, Chief Executive of Taiwan Province, enacts martial law (lifted on March 2, 1947)
March 4: Chung Yi-jen 鍾逸人 and a group of activists form the “Democracy Defense Force” (minzhu baoweidui 民主保衛隊) at a school in Taichung, later renamed to “27 Brigade” (erqi budui 二七部隊)
March 9: Martial law is enacted again by Chen Yi (lifted on May 16, 1947 by Taiwan Provincial Governor Wei Tao-ming 魏道明)
March 16: Battle of Wuniulan (Wuniulan zhanyi 烏牛欄戰役) near Puli (Nantou County), the 27 Brigade disbands after being surrounded and running out of ammunition
March 24: The Taichung-based Taiwan branch of the military-published newspaper Peace Daily (heping ribao 和平日報)—many of its reporters and editors being left-leaning individuals—is temporarily sealed
April 23: Chung Yi-jen is arrested and subsequently imprisoned for 17 years (released on Feb. 6, 1964)
July 27: Publication of Peace Daily resumes
1948 Feb. 28: The Formosan League for Re-Emancipation (Taiwan zai jiefang lianmeng 台灣再解放聯盟) is established in Hong Kong
1949 April 6: ROC authorities storm a dormitory of Taiwan Provincial Normal Institute (Taiwan shengli shifan xueyuan 台灣省立師範學院) in Taipei, execute 7 students on the spot and arrest about 200; 40 of those are put on trial in May 1949 and 18 of them later executed
May 19: Taiwan Provincial Governor Chen Cheng 陳誠 announces martial law, comes into force on the territory of Taiwan Province the following day (repealed on July 15, 1987)
June 21: The Act for the Control and Punishment of Rebellion (chengzhi panluan tiaoli 懲治叛亂條例) is promulgated (rescinded on May 22, 1991)
Nov. 20: The first issue of the semimonthly FREE CHINA magazine (ziyou Zhongguo 自由中國) is published, with Lei Chen 雷震 as editor-in-chief
Dec. 10: Martial law is imposed in the counties of Kinmen and Lienchiang (Fujian Province, ROC), remains in force until Nov. 7, 1992
1950 June 13: The Espionage Law of the Period of the Communist Rebellion (kanluan shiqi jiansu feidie tiaoli 戡亂時期檢肅匪諜條例) is promulgated by ROC President Chiang Kai-shek (abolished on May 16, 1991 by ROC President Lee Teng-hui)
Oct. 14: Chung Hao-tung 鍾浩東 (aka Chung Ho-ming 鍾和鳴, half-brother of Hakka novelist Chung Li-ho 鍾理和) is executed in Taipei for his involvement in the operation of a Communist cell and the publication of the underground newspaper Kuangming News (guangmingbao 光明報)
1951 May 17: The first group of more than 1000 political prisoners arrives at "New Life Discipline Camp" (xinsheng xundaochu 新生訓導處) on Green Island (Taitung County)
1952 Aug. 29: Jih Chin-chun 日進春, a member of Taiwan's indigenous Saisiyat community, is executed in Taipei for alleged Communist contacts, the first Taiwan Aborigine to be put to death during the White Terror period
Dec. 28: ROC armed forces and police storm an armed communist party holdout created by Chen Tung-ho 陳通和 and his brother Chen Pen-chiang 陳本江 in Luku 鹿窟 (today's Shiding District, New Taipei City), about 200 people are arrested, 35 are subsequently sentenced to death, the events are also referred to as "Luku Incident" (Luku shijian 鹿窟事件)
1954 December: Chiang Kai-shek orders Lei Chen's expulsion from the KMT
1959 July 18: The manager of the Wuhan Hotel (Wuhan dalüshe 武漢大旅社) in Taipei Yao Chia-chen 姚嘉薦 is found dead inside the hotel, Yao's death is initially ruled a suicide
Dec. 8: The MJIB arrests seven persons, including Huang Hsueh-wen 黃學文, Lin Tsu-tsen 林祖簮, Yu Chuan-chiu 游全球, Wang Yi-yun 王靄雲, Chen Hua-chou 陳華洲 (reportedly a close ally of Lei Chen), Yang Hsun-chun 楊薰春 and Wu Liang 吳亮, and charges them with Yao Chia-chen's murder
1960 Feb. 1: The FREE CHINA magazine publishes an article 'sincerely advising' Chiang Kai-shek not to run for a third term as ROC President
March 24: The Taipei District Court sentences Huang, Lin, Yu, and Wang to death, Chen to life imprisonment, Yang and Wu to 16 years (the death sentences are not carried out) in connection with the Wuhan Hotel case
Sept. 1: The final issue of the FREE CHINA magazine is published
Sept. 4: Lei Chen, Li Ao 李敖, Fu Cheng 傅正, and other leaders of Taiwan's opposition who tried to establish a new party called the "China Democratic Party" (Zhongguo minzhudang 中國民主黨) are arrested
Oct. 8: Four leaders of Taiwan's opposition are sentenced to prison terms by the High Military Tribunal (gaodeng junshi shenpanting 高等軍事審判庭) of the Taiwan Garrison Command—Lei Chen to 10 years, Fu Cheng and Ma Chih-su 馬之驌 to 3 years each, Liu Tzu-ying 劉子英 to 12 years
1963 May 28: Pro-Taiwan independence activist Chen Chih-hsiung 陳智雄 is executed in Taipei, the first person in Taiwan to die for such activism
Sept. 27: Independent Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yu Deng-fa 余登發 is removed from office after being impeached by the Control Yuan on alleged embezzlement (jailed 1973–1974)
1964 April 1: Shih Ming-teh 施明德 (who had been arrested in June 1962 for Taiwan independence activities) is sentenced to life imprisonment (released on June 16, 1977)
Sept. 20: Scholar and dissident Peng Ming-min 彭明敏 is arrested after printing a "Declaration of Self-Salvation of the Taiwanese People" (Taiwan renmin zijiu xuanyan 台灣人民自救宣言) written by Peng and his students Roger T. M. Hsieh 謝聰敏 and Wei Ting-chao 魏廷朝
1965 April 2: Peng Ming-min and Wei Ting-chao are sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, Roger T. M. Hsieh to 10 years (Wei and Hsieh are released in 1970)
Nov. 3: Due to international pressure, Peng Ming-min is released from prison but put under surveillance
1966 Nov. 12: Japan-based advocates of Taiwan independence led by Lin Shui-chuan 林水泉 establish the Society to Promote the Unity of Taiwanese Youth (quanguo qingnian tuanjie cujinhui 全國青年團結促進會), echoed in Taiwan by the founding of the Domestic Action Group of the Taiwan Independence Comrades Union (Taiwan duli tongzhi lianhehui guonei xingdongtuan 台灣獨立同志聯合會國內行動團) in May 1967
1967 June 30: The Taiwan Independence Association (duli Taiwan hui 獨立台灣會, abbrev. TIA) is set up in Tokyo by Taiwan independence activist Su Beng 史明
1968 March 7: China-born dissident writer Kuo Ting-sheng 郭定生 (pen name Boyang 柏楊) is arrested for a translation of the American comic strip "Popeye" which was interpreted as criticizing Chiang Kai-shek's refusal to conduct free presidential elections
June 6: Writer Chiu Yen-liang 丘延亮 is arrested in connection with the case of the Democratic Taiwan League (minzhu Taiwan lianmeng 民主台灣聯盟); released from jail in 1971
July 1: Writer Chen Ying-chen 陳映真 is arrested in connection with the case of the Democratic Taiwan League; later sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and sent to Green Island; released in 1975
1969 Aug. 11: A military tribunal under the Taiwan Garrison Command sentences Kuo Ting-sheng to 12 years imprisonment (released in 1977)
Nov. 28: Lin Shui-chuan, Huang Hua 黃華 and several other activists are sentenced to lengthy prison terms up to 15 years for sedition
1970 Jan. 2: Peng Ming-min travels to Hong Kong with a forged passport and goes into exile in Sweden where he is granted political asylum (moves to the US in August 1970)
Feb. 8: A group of six political prisoners in Taiyuan Prison 泰源監獄 (Tungho Township 東河鄉, Taitung County) escapes after a failed uprising (recaptured by ROC authorities within weeks)
March 30: The Military Court of Taiwan Garrison Command (jingzong junshi fating 警總軍事法庭) sentences five participants in the Taiyuan Prison uprising—Chan Tien-tseng 詹天增, Chen Liang 陳良, Cheng Chin-ho 鄭金河, Chiang Ping-hsing 江炳興, and Hsieh Tung-jung 謝東榮—to death, Cheng Cheng-cheng 鄭正成 receives an additional 15 years jail term
April 24: Peter Huang 黃文雄 and Cheng Tzu-tsai 鄭自才 unsuccessfully try to assassinate ROC Vice Premier Chiang Ching-kuo in New York
May 30: The five death sentences in connection with the Taiyuan Prison uprising are carried out
Sept. 4: Lei Chen is released from prison
1971 Dec. 29: The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (Taiwan jidu changlao jiaohui 台灣基督長老教會, abbrev. PCT) issues the "Statement on our National Fate" (Taiwan jidu changlao jiaohui duiguo shide shengming ji jianyi 台灣基督長老教會對國是的聲明及建議)
1972 Jan. 10: Lei Chen proposes to change the ROC's name to "Democratic State of China–Taiwan" (Zhonghua Taiwan minzhuguo 中華台灣民主國), the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan ignore the proposals
April 24: The NEW YORK TIMES publishes the letter "From a Taiwan Prison" written by Roger T. M. Hsieh, the US House of Representatives sub-sequently sends a team to investigate human rights in Taiwan
1974 Aug. 11: Execution of Cheng Ping 鄭評 for his involvement in the Taiwan Independence Revolutionary Army (Taiwan duli gemingjun 台灣獨立革命軍)
1975 Aug. 1: Huang Hsin-chieh 黃信介, Kang Ning-hsiang 康寧祥, and Chang Chun-hung 張俊宏 —activists in the oppositional dangwai [黨外] movement—publish the monthly magazine TAIWAN POLITICAL REVIEW (Taiwan zhenglun 台灣政論) which is banned after just 5 editions
Nov. 18: The PCT issues the statement "Our Appeal" (women de huyu 我們的呼籲)
1976 Oct. 10: Taiwan's provincial governor Shieh Tung-min sustains severe injuries to his hands and face after opening a letter bomb sent to him by Wang Sing-nan 王幸男
1977 Jan. 4: Wang Sing-nan is arrested
Jan. 28: The Military Court of Taiwan Garrison Command (Taiwan jingbei zongbu junshi fating 台灣警備總部軍事法庭) sentences Wang Sing-nan to life imprisonment and sends him to Green Island (paroled on May 5, 1990 by ROC President Lee Teng-hui)
Aug. 16: The PCT issues the" Declaration on Human Rights" (renquan xuanyan 人權宣言)
Nov. 19: In Chungli 中壢 (Taoyuan County) voting irregularities during the city mayor/county magistrate elections give rise to allegations of electoral fraud, in the ensuing riots the local police station is burnt down
1979 Jan. 21: Yu Deng-fa and his son Yu Jui-yan 余瑞言 are arrested after protesting the postponement of the elections for the ROC National Assembly and the ROC Legislative Yuan (scheduled for Dec. 23, 1978)
Jan. 22: Independent Taoyuan County Magistrate Hsu Hsin-liang 許信良, Huang Hsin-chieh, Shih Ming-teh, Chen Chu 陳菊 and others co-organize a demonstration in Chiaotou township 橋頭鄉 (then-Kaohsiung county)—Yu Deng-fa's hometown—to protest against Yu's arrest; Hsu is subsequently impeached and suspended from office
April 16: Yu Deng-fa is sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for 'not reporting a Communist spy' (released on medical parole in 1980; died under suspicious circumstances on Sept. 13, 1989)
Aug. 16: The first edition of the monthly magazine FORMOSA (Meilidao 美麗島)—founded by Huang Hsin-chieh as a dangwai mouthpiece—is published (terminated after the fourth edition that came out on Nov. 25)
Oct. 3: Chen Ying-chen is arrested on rebellion charges, released after 36 hours following protests by Shih Ming-teh, writer Kenneth Pai 白先勇 and others
Dec. 10: Opposition activists and Formosa magazine staff (notably Shih Ming-teh) organize a rally in Kaohsiung to commemorate the international Human Rights Day, massive police presence and intimidation tactics result in violence; the events are later referred to as the "Kaohsiung Incident" (Gaoxiong shijian 高雄事件 or Meilidao shijian 美麗島事件)
Dec. 13: TPA delegate Lin I-hsiung 林義雄, dissidents Annette Lu 呂秀蓮 and Chen Chu are arrested in Kaohsiung for their involvement in the Kaohsiung Incident
1980 Feb. 28: Lin I-hsiung's mother You Ah-mei 游阿妹 as well as his 7-year old twin daughters Lin Ting-chun 林亭均 and Lin Liang-chun 林亮均 are murdered by unknown perpetrators in Lin's Taipei residence which had been under 24-hour police surveillance at the time, 8-year old daughter Lin Huan-chun 林奐均 survives with seven stab wounds
April 18: The First Court of the Taiwan Garrison Command's Judge Advocate Department (jingzong junfachu diyi fating 警總軍法處第一法庭) announces the verdicts against eight dissidents and dangwai activists who were arrested after the Kaohsiung Incident—Shih Ming-teh is handed a life term, Huang Hsin-chieh is sentenced to 14 years, six others (Chang Chun-hung, Chen Chu, Lin Hung-hsuan 林弘宣, Lin I-hsiung, Annette Lu, and Yao Chia-wen 姚嘉文) are each sentenced to 12 years in prison
1981 July 2: Scholar Chen Wen-chen 陳文成 is taken away by staff of the Taiwan Garrison Command for questioning about his pro-democracy activities in the US and his involvement in financial assistance to the Formosa magazine, the following day Chen is found dead on the NTU campus
July 20: The Taipei District Prosecutors Office (Taibei dijianchu 台北地檢處) describes Chen Wen-chen's death a result of 'suicide or an accident'
1984 Oct. 15: Assassination of journalist and writer Henry Liu 劉宜良 (pen name Chiang Nan 江南) in Daly City (Ca., USA) on orders of MIB boss Admiral Wong Hsi-ling
1985 April 9: The Taipei District Court sentences gangsters Chen Chi-li 陳啟禮 and Wu Tun 吳敦 to life in prison for the murder of Henry Liu
April 19: The MND Military Court (guofangbu junshi fating 國防部軍事法庭) sentences Wong Hsi-ling to life in prison (released on Jan. 21, 1991)
1987 Feb. 4: Deng Nan-jung 鄭南榕, Chen Yong-hsin 陳永興, and Lee Shen-hsiung 李勝雄 initiate the Association for 228 Peace Memorial Day (ererba heping jinianri cujinhui 二二八和平紀念日促進會)
Feb. 28: The 228 Redress Movement (ererba pingfan yundong 二二八平反運動) is staged for the first time in Taipei
July 1: The National Security Law During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion (dongyuan kanluan shiqi guojia anquanfa 動員戡亂時期國家安全法) which includes tight restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech and the press, is promulgated by ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo
July 15: Martial law is lifted on Taiwan and on Penghu
1992 Nov. 7: Martial law is lifted on Kinmen and Matsu

The Chinese term "dangwai" (黨外) means "outside the party" (i. e. the then-ruling KMT) and refers to an oppositional movement in the 1970s, a loose alliance and melting pot for political activists whose goals were quite diverse—the most important objectives were democratization (minzhuhua 民主化) and Taiwan independence (Taiwan duli 台灣獨立, abbrev. Taidu 台獨) as well as full civil and human rights. The founders of the DPP were mostly members of the dangwai movement.

The release dates of the "Kaohsiung Eight" who were incarcerated in connection with the Kaohsiung Incident were as follows (in chronological order):
  • Lin I-hsiung 林義雄—1984, Aug. 15;
  • Annette Lu 呂秀蓮—March 1985;
  • Lin Hung-hsuan 林弘宣—December 1985;
  • Chen Chu 陳菊—1986, Feb. 4;
  • Yao Chia-wen 姚嘉文—1987, Jan. 20;
  • Huang Hsin-chieh 黃信介 and Chang Chun-hung 張俊宏—1987, May 30;
  • Shih Ming-teh 施明德—1990, May 20.

All guilty sentences for Formosa Incident defendants were removed by the Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) by May 23, 2022.

Please note that the events in connection with the death of Deng Nan-jung 鄭南榕 (also known under the name Nylon Cheng) are not included in above chronology as they took place in April 1989, i. e. after martial law was lifted.

For additional information about the events around and after Taiwan was put under ROC rule the chief researcher recommends the classic "Formosa Betrayed" by George H. Kerr, published in 1965. Another noteworthy account about the events is the book "Taiwan 1947: The Uprising against the Kuomintang", written by German-British sinologist, translator and linguist Günter Whittome and published in 1991 by the Institut für Asienkunde (Institute for Asian Studies, abbrev. IfA) in Hamburg, available in English and German. (The IfA was renamed German Institute for Global and Area Studies—abbrev. GIGA—in 2006.)

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A topic no longer taboo

Since the lifting of martial law, many facts about 2-28 and the White Terror have been revealed in countless publications, and the ROC government has changed its official attitude towards those events. The developments since July 1987 can be distinguished as belonging to two categories—establishment of monuments, memorial sites and protection/maintenance of historical sites as well as laws and administrative measures.

Monuments and historical sites

The first 228 Peace Memorial Monument (Jiayishi mituolu ererba jinianbei 嘉義市彌陀路二二八紀念碑) was completed on Aug. 29, 1989 in Chiayi City. On Feb. 28, 1996, the 228 Memorial Monument (ererba heping jinianbei 二二八和平紀念碑) in the Taipei New Park (xingongyuan 新公園) was unveiled and the park renamed 228 Peace Memorial Park (ererba heping jinian gongyuan 二二八和平紀念公園), and on Feb. 28, 1997, the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum (Taibei ererba jinianguan 台北二二八紀念館) was opened.

Two prisons which held political prisoners in the White Terror period have been transformed into human rights memorial sites—the New Life Correction Center (xinsheng xundaochu 新生訓導處) and the Green Island Reform and Reeducation Prison (Lüdao ganxun jianyu 綠島感訓監獄) became the Green Island Human Rights Culture Park (Lüdao renquan wenhua yuanqu 綠島人權文化園區) on Dec. 10, 2002; and the former Chingmei Military Detention Center (Jingmei junshi kanshousuo 景美軍事看守所) became the Jing-mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park (Jingmei renquan wenhua yuanqu 景美人權文化園區) on Dec. 10, 2007.

Another military prison in the martial law era that should be mentioned was the Production and Education Experiment Institute (Taiwan shengchan jiaoyu shiyansuo 臺灣生產教育實驗所) in Tucheng (today's New Taipei City), a camp where political prisoners underwent re-education. It was established in 1954 and renamed Taiwan Renai Education Experiment Institute (Taiwan ren'ai jiaoyu shiyansuo 台灣仁愛教育實驗所) in 1972.

The National Human Rights Museum (guojia renquan bowuguan 國家人權博物館, abbrev. NHRM) was inaugurated with a ceremony at the Green Island White Terror Memorial Park (baise kongbu Lüdao jinian yuanqu 白色恐怖綠島紀念園區) on May 17, 2018 by ROC President Tsai Ing-wen and another one the following day at Jing-Mei White Terror Memorial Park (baise kongbu Jingmei jinian yuanqu 白色恐怖景美紀念園區) by ROC Premier William Lai Ching-te.

Laws and administrative measures

While the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" (dongyuan kanluan shiqi linshi tiaokuan 動員戡亂時期臨時條款)—short "Temporary Provisions", in force between May 10, 1948 and May 1, 1991—were the legal foundation for authoritarian rule in the Martial Law Period, other laws were important tools of suppression as well. The "Punishment of Rebellion Act" (chengzhi panluan tiaoli 懲治叛亂條例) was promulgated on June 21, 1949 and abolished on May 22, 1991; the "Suppression of the Communist Rebellion Act" (kanluan shiqi jiansu feidie tiaoli 戡亂時期檢肅匪諜條例) was promulgated on June 13, 1950 and abolished on June 3, 1991. Furthermore, Article 100 of the ROC Criminal Code (Zhonghua minguo xingfa 中華民國刑法) which criminalized peaceful advocacy of Taiwan independence, was amended on May 15, 1992.

(Please note that two laws mentioned above are also known under alternative names in English—
◉ "Punishment of Rebellion Act" = Statutes for the Punishment of Insurrection / Statutes for the Punishment of Rebellion / Rebellion Punishment Provision / Act for the Control and Punishment of Rebellion / Act Governing the Punishment of Rebellion / Betrayers Punishment Act / Suppressing Rebellion Act / Anti-Insurgency Law;
◉ "Suppression of the Communist Rebellion Act" = Statutes for the Purging of Communist Agents / Temporary Anti-Espionage Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion / Act Governing Espionage in the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion / Espionage Laws of the Period of the Communist Rebellion.)

On Nov. 29, 1990 the ROC Executive Yuan established the "Ad Hoc Research Group into the 228 Incident" (xingzhengyuan yanjiu ererba shijian zhuan'an xiaozu 行政院研究二二八事件專案小組) which on Feb. 22, 1992 published the "February 28 Incident Research Report" (ererba shijian yanjiu baogao 二二八事件研究報告). On Feb. 28, 1995 Lee Teng-hui, doubling as ROC president and KMT chairman, expressed a formal apology to the families of the victims of the 2-28 Incident, and on April 7, 1995 the ROC Legislative Yuan promulgated the February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act (ererba shijian chuli ji peichang tiaoli 二二八事件處理及賠償條例). On Feb. 27, 1997, the MOI designated the Peace Memorial Day (heping jinianri 和平紀念日)—observed annually on Feb. 28—a national holiday from 1998 on.

The Organizational Act of the National Human Rights Museum (guojia renquan bowuguan zuzhifa 國家人權博物館組織法) was approved by the Executive Yuan on July 20, 2017 and passed by the Legislative Yuan on Nov. 28 that year, stipulating that both former detainment centers for political prisoners will be combined into "White Terror Memorial Parks" (baise kongbu jinian yuanqu 白色恐怖紀念園區).

On Dec. 5, 2017 the Legislative Yuan passed the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (cujin zhuanxing zhengyi tiaoli 促進轉型正義條例) which aims at addressing injustices perpetrated by then-KMT led ROC government between Aug. 15, 1945, when the Japanese government announced it had surrendered, and Nov. 6, 1992, the last day of martial law on the outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. The bill also provided for the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission (cujin zhuanxing zhengyi weiyuanhui 促進轉型正義委員會, abbrev. cuzhuanhui 促轉會 in Chinese and TJC in English), with its nine members nominated by the premier and confirmed by the Legislature. That commission was formally set up on May 31, 2018 and dissolved on May 30, 2022.

On April 18, 2024 the ROC Executive Yuan confirmed the establishment of May 19 as White Terror Memorial Day (baise kongbu jiyiri 白色恐怖記憶日), to be observed annually but not as a day off.

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Still unreconciled

Despite the improved official stance, the alienation between local Taiwanese and mainlanders who arrived in Taiwan after 1945 still heavily influences politics in Taiwan today, and true reconciliation has yet to be achieved as great bitterness prevails, notably among the descendants of victims who lost their freedom or their lives between 1947 and 1987. Comments of older-generation mainlanders like former ROC Premier Hao Pei-tsun downplaying the extent of the White Terror are contributing to the problem, highlighting the fact that more disclosures concerning the events in question, sincere reflection and open-minded discussions are necessary to advance the process of transitional justice and help healing the wounds which are still aching Taiwan's society. Although leading KMT politicians have repeatedly offered apologies for 2-28 atrocities and the White Terror, those are often perceived by Taiwanese as not genuine and therefore rejected, especially since the same KMT politicians keep honouring Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo.

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KMT reformed?

The period of democratization was certainly a result of constant pressure by dissidents and the dangwai movement, but it was set in motion by Chiang Ching-kuo and massively expedited by Lee Teng-hui with the support of the KMT. Yet many members of the green camp (DPP et. al., Taiwanese and 'pro-Taiwan') are not convinced that the KMT has really embraced democracy, and they believe that the blue camp (KMT et. al., mainlanders and pro-China) still prefers a one-party state. In this context the Chinese term dangguo weiquan 黨國威權 (= authoritarian party state) is often used.

Note: Some Western observers regard the term "2-28 Incident" as not appropriate and use the English term "2-28 Massacre" instead.

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Cross-Strait relations since the late 1970s—an overview

The conflict between the KMT-led ROC and the Chinese Communists before and after the establishment of the PRC was primarily a military confrontation for decades. When the PRC was founded in October 1949, the regime in Beijing was resolved to 'liberate' the remaining territories under ROC control by force. The PRC captured the Dachen Islands off Zhejiang province in February 1955, and the shelling of Kinmen since August 1958 continued even after the deaths of the respective dictators Chiang Kai-shek in April 1975 and and Mao Zedong in September 1976.

The PRC puts pressure on Taiwan/the ROC in different ways:

  • Beijing refuses to rule out the use of force to achieve unification (wutong 武統) and has even passed an “Anti-Secession Law” (fan fenlie guojiafa 反分裂國家法), which in case of ‘[secessionist forces] act ... to cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China’ stipulates that the PRC ‘shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’—in other words: invading and annexing Taiwan.
  • Under its “wolf warrior diplomacy” (zhanlang waijiao 戰狼外交) approach, the PRC uses its global power and influence to limit Taiwan’s international space and isolate the ROC, e. g. by pressing countries to submit to the “One China” scheme and making them pledge not to officially recognize the ROC/Taiwan diplomatically.
  • PRC objection keeps Taiwan from being admitted to the United Nations (UN) and any of its affiliated agencies, thus preventing the World Health Organization (WHO) from inviting Taiwan to the annual sessions of the World Health Assembly (WHA); Taiwan is also barred from joining the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or participating in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Other global organizations like the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) that have statehood as requirement have been excluding Taiwan as well.
  • The PRC keeps forcing international corporations to change the name they use in referring to Taiwan, e. g. to “Taiwan, China” or “Taiwan, province of China”.
  • Due to PRC pressure, Taiwan has for decades been forced to use the degrading moniker “Chinese Taipei” when participating in the Olympics and other activities on the world stage, and likewise the use of the official state name “Republic of China” and its national flag is banned at most international venues.
  • There are indications that the PRC is trying to influence public opinion in Taiwan by paying Taiwanese media groups for positive coverage as well as by spreading misinformation and fake news via channels like Facebook and the Line messaging app, thus abusing freedom of expression in Taiwan.

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The following timeline shows noteworthy events which occurred after the PRC initiated reforms in the late 1970s.

1976  Sept. 9: Mao Zedong dies of ALS ("Lou Gehrig's Disease")
Oct. 7: Hua Guofeng assumes the post of chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission (zhonggong zhongyang junshi weiyuanhui 中共中央軍事委員會, abbrev. CCP CMC)
1979 Jan. 1: Ye Jianying 葉劍英, chairman of the Standing Committee of the PRC's National People's Congress (quanguo renmin daibiao dahui 全國人民代表大會, abbrev. NPC), delivers the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" (gao Taiwan tongbao shu 告台灣同胞書) and announces the end of Kinmen's bombardment
April 4: ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo announces the "three no's policy" (sanbu zhengce 三不政策)—no contacts, no negotiations, no compromise (bu jiechu, bu tanpan, bu tuoxie 不接觸,不談判,不妥協)—towards the PRC
1981 June 28: Hua Guofeng is replaced as CCP CMC chairman by Deng Xiaoping
Sept. 30: Ye Jianying explains the “Nine Principles for the Peaceful Reunification with Taiwan” (youguan heping tongyi Taiwan de jiutiao fangzhen zhengce 有關和平統一臺灣的九條方針政策, abbrev. Ye jiu tiao 葉九條 in Chinese, in English usually referred to as “Ye’s Nine Principles” or “Nine-Article Statement”) to Xinhua journalists
1982 Jan. 11: Deng Xiaoping reveals to foreign guests that Ye’s Nine Principles actually mean "one country, two systems" (yiguo liangzhi 一國兩制, abbrev. 1C2S) and would also apply to the issue of Hong Kong
1986 May 3: A China Airlines (CAL) Boeing 747-200F cargo plane with 3 crew flying from Singapore's Changi Airport to Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport is hijacked when pilot Wang Hsi-chüeh 王錫爵 overpowers his colleagues and diverts the jet to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 廣州白雲國際機場
May 20: CAL reaches an agreement with the PRC's Civil Aviation Administration of China (Zhongguo minyong hangkong zongju 中國民用航空總局, abbrev. CAAC) about the return of its hijacked cargo plane and two crew members
May 23: Two crewmen of the hijacked CAL cargo plane return to Taiwan
1987 Nov. 1: The ROC Red Cross starts accepting applications from residents of Taiwan who wish to visit relatives on the Chinese mainland
1988 Aug. 18: The Inter-Agency Mainland Affairs Committee (xingzhengyuan dalu gongzuo huibao 行政院大陸工作會報) is set up under the ROC Executive Yuan
Sept. 9: The Taiwan Affairs Office (guowuyuan Taiwan shiwu bangongshi 國務院台灣事務辦公室, abbrev. guo Tai ban 國台辦 in Chinese and TAO in English) under the PRC State Council is established
1989 June 10: Direct telephone links are opened between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait
Nov. 9: Jiang Zemin succeeds Deng Xiaoping as CCP CMC chairman
1990 April 30: Taiwan allows elected officials of all levels to make private visits to the mainland during recesses, and veterans who were stranded on the mainland after the ROC government moved to Taiwan in 1949 are allowed to apply for resettlement in Taiwan
June 25: The ROC government allows reporters from the mainland to visit Taiwan for newsgathering purposes (first two mainland journalists arrive on Aug. 12, 1991)
Oct. 7: The National Unification Council (guojia tongyi weiyuanhui 國家統一委員會, abbrev. guotonghui 國統會 in Chinese and NUC in English) is established under the ROC Presidential Office
Nov. 21: The private, government-funded Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) is established in Taiwan for direct dealings and handling of technical affairs with the mainland
1991 Jan. 28: The ROC creates the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)
March 14: The ROC Executive Yuan adopts the "Guidelines for National Unification" (guojia tongyi wangling 國家統一網領)
June 30: The ROC Planning Commission for the Recovery of the Mainland is disbanded
Oct. 12: The DPP adopts the "Taiwan Independence Clause" (Taidu danggang 台獨黨綱)
Dec. 16: The PRC establishes the "Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits" (haixia liang'an guanxi xiehui 海峽兩岸關係協會, abbrev. haixiehui 海協會 in Chinese and ARATS in English) in Beijing as the counterpart to Taiwan's SEF
1992 March 23: First meeting of representatives of ARATS and SEF in Beijing
July 16: The ROC Legislative Yuan passes the "Act Governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area" (Taiwan diqu yu dalu diqu renmin guanxi tiaoli 台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), promulgated on July 31; effective on Sept. 18 that year
Aug. 1: The NUC defines one China as "one country" and "two areas separately ruled by two political entities"
Sept. 2: The ROC government announces that members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (Zhongguo renmin zhengzhi xieshang huiyi 中國人民政治協商會議, abbrev. CPPCC) in the PRC may apply to visit Taiwan for cultural and academic exchanges
Oct. 28–30: Negotiations between representatives of ARATS and SEF in Hong Kong led by Zhou Ning 周寧 (ARATS) and Shi Hwei-yow 許惠祐 (SEF); the talks end without progress or results, no consensus is reached between the two sides
1993 April 27–29: SEF-ARATS summit in Singapore, four agreements are signed
Aug. 31: The PRC releases its white paper “The Taiwan Question and Reunification of China” (Taiwan wenti yu Zhongguode tongyi 台灣問題與中國的統一)
1994 March 31: At Qiandao Lake 千島湖 (Zhejiang Province), 24 Taiwanese tourists are robbed and killed by gangsters; on June 12 the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court (Hangzhoushi zhongji renmin fayuan 杭州市中級人民法院) sentences three men to death for the crime (executed on June 19); lack of transparency of the PRC authorities in handling the case seriously damaged the cross-Strait relations
1996 March 8–15: The PRC conducts several missile drills as well as naval and air force exercises less than 60 km off Keelung and Kaohsiung to intimidate Taiwan's populace ahead of the ROC presidential election
March 9: The PRC announces live-fire exercises to be conducted near Penghu from March 12–20
March 15: The PRC announces a simulated amphibious assault planned for March 18–25 off Fujian's coast
1998 July 14: Zhu Lilan 朱麗蘭, PRC Minister of Science and Technology, arrives in Taipei for a 9-day visit to Taiwan
Oct. 18: SEF Chairman Koo Chen-fu 辜振甫 meets PRC President Jiang Zemin in Beijing
1999 May 8: The DPP replaces its 1991 "Taiwan Independence Clause" with the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" (Taiwan qiantu jueyiwen 台灣前途決議文)
July 9: In an interview with German radio station Deutsche Welle, ROC President Lee Teng-hui defines ROC-PRC ties as "special state-to-state relations" (teshude guo yu guo guanxi 特殊的國與國關係)
2000 Feb. 21: The PRC releases its white paper “The One China Principle and Taiwan Question” (yige Zhongguode yuanze yu Taiwan wenti 一個中國的原則與台灣問題)
May 20: In his inauguration address ROC President Chen Shui-bian announces his policy of “Four Noes and One Without” (si bu yi meiyou 四不一沒有)
2001 Jan. 1: The Three Mini Links (xiao santong 小三通)—direct trade, postal, and transportation links—from Kinmen and Matsu to Xiamen and Fuzhou are opened
2003 Jan. 26: Historic indirect charter flight of a CAL passenger plane across the Taiwan Strait
2004 Sept. 19: Hu Jintao succeeds Jiang Zemin as CCP CMC chairman
2005 Jan. 15: The ROC's CAA and the PRC's CAAC reach an agreement about direct non-stop charter flights between the two sides during the Lunar New Year season
March 14: The PRC adopts the "Anti-Secession Law" (fan fenlie guojiafa 反分裂國家法)
2006 Feb. 21: Former MAC Chairman Su Chi admits he invented the "1992 Consensus" (jiuer gongshi 九二共識) in 2000 in order to improve cross-strait relations
Feb. 27: ROC President Chen Shui-bian announces that the NUC shall 'cease to function' (zhongzhi yunzuo 終止運作) and the National Unification Guidelines shall 'cease to apply' (zhongzhi shiyong 終止適用)
April 25: ROC Premier Su Tseng-chang announces an expansion of the three mini links between Kinmen and Matsu and PRC ports in Fujian Province
2007 April 1: Residents of the Penghu archipelago are included in the three mini links
2008 June 11–14: Direct talks between SEF and ARATS are resumed
July 4: Direct passenger charter flights on weekends between Taiwan and China begin; the first batch of PRC tourists arriving in Taiwan is accompanied by a delegation headed by PRC tourism official Shao Qiwei 邵琪偉
Dec. 15: Daily direct flights between the PRC and Taiwan begin, direct shipping links are also opened up across the Taiwan Strait
2010 June 29: Representatives of SEF and ARATS sign the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (haixia liang’an jingji hezuo jiagou xieyi 海峽兩岸經濟合作架構協議, abbrev. ECFA)
Sept. 2–8: PRC Minister of Culture Cai Wu 蔡武 visits Taiwan
2012 July 6–12: CCP politician Cai Qi 蔡奇 visits Taiwan
Nov. 15: Xi Jinping succeeds Hu Jintao as CCP CMC chairman
2014 Feb. 11–14: MAC Chairman Wang Yu-chi visits the PRC, confers with his counterpart Zhang Zhijun—head of the TAO—in Nanjing, marking the first official government-to-government contact between the two sides, Wang and Zhang address each other with their official titles
June 25–28: TAO head Zhang Zhijun visits Taiwan (New Taipei City, Changhua, Taichung, and Kaohsiung)
2015 Nov. 7: In a historical summit, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou and PRC President Xi Jinping meet in Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel in the capacity as leader of either side of the Taiwan Strait and address each other as 'Mr.' (xiansheng 先生), Ma uses the term "ROC", no agreement is signed and no joint statement is issued
2017 March 19: Taiwanese pro-democracy activist and former DPP staffer Lee Ming-che 李明哲 is detained after entering the PRC
March 19: Nov. 28: The Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court (Yueyangshi zhongji renmin fayuan 岳陽市中級人民法院) in Hunan province sentences Lee Ming-che to 5 years imprisonment for "subversion of state power" (released from jail on April 14, 2022)
2018 Feb. 28: The PRC TAO introduces "31 Favorable Measures for Taiwanese" (sanshiyi xiang hui Tai cuoshi 三十一項惠台措施) to promote more amicable ties between the two sides and open up more opportunities for Taiwanese living in China
2019 Sept. 28: The DPP passes a resolution rejecting "one country, two systems"
Nov. 4: The TAO and the PRC National Development and Reform Commission (guojia fazhan han gaige weiyuanhui 國家發展和改革委員會, abbrev. guojia fagaiwei 國家發改委 or fazhan gaigewei 發展改革委 in Chinese and NDRC in English) unveil "26 Measures" (dui Tai ershiliu tiao cuoshi 對台二十六條措施) to further promote economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait
2020 Sept. 21: PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin 汪文斌 denies the existence of the median line in the Taiwan Strait
2022 Aug. 2: Less than half an hour after the arrival of US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation for a 2-day visit in Taiwan the PRC announces military exercises which would include live-fire drills in six zones surrounding Taiwan from Aug. 4 to Aug. 7
Aug. 4: The PRC announces a seventh live-fire zone off Taiwan's east coast, in effect until Aug. 8; the ROC MND reports that the PLA launched a total of 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles into the waters surrounding northern, southern, and eastern Taiwan in several waves; Japan's government reports that five ballistic missiles launched by the PRC landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that day, four of them had flown over Taiwan
Aug. 8: The PRC announces that it would extend military exercises by sea and air around Taiwan
Aug. 10: The PRC releases its white paper “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era” ( Taiwan wenti yu xin shidai Zhongguo tongyi shiye 台灣問題與新時代中國統一事業)
Aug. 15: Following the visit of another US congressional delegation in Taiwan, the PRC announces fresh military drills around the island
2023 March 27—April 7: Former ROC Ma Ying-jeou visits the PRC (the itinerary including Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing, Changsha) to pay respects to his ancestors, the trip’s timing coinciding with Tomb Sweeping Festival (qingmingjie 清明節 aka saomujie 掃墓節), meets with TAO Director Song Tao 宋濤 in Wuhan on March 30; first visit of a former ROC president to the PRC since 1949
April 8: The PRC launches three days of military exercises around Taiwan dubbed "United Sword" (lianhe lijian yanxi 聯合利劍演習) in retaliation after ROC President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House of Representative Speaker Kevin McCarthy on US soil
April 12: According to media reports the PRC planned to impose a no-fly zone north of Taiwan from April 16–18, following protests the closure of the airspace in question is shortened to 27 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 9:57 a.m. on April 16, 2023
2024 Feb. 14: A speedboat from the PRC illegally enters Taiwanese waters near Beiding Island 北碇 of Kinmen County and capsizes after being pursued by a CGA vessel, 2 of the 4 persons on board drown; the TAO subsequently denies the existence of "restricted waters" (xianzhi shuiyu 限制水域) and "prohibited waters" (jinzhi shuiyu 禁止水域) around Kinmen

The portraits below show the successive paramount leaders of the PRC's authoritarian regime (i. e. CCP CMC chairmen).

Mao Zedong 毛澤東 (1893-1976, Hunan) Hua Guofeng 華國鋒 (1921-2008, Shanxi) Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平 (1904-1997, Sichuan) Jiang Zemin 江澤民 (1926-2022, Jiangsu) Hu Jintao 胡錦濤 (b. 1942, Anhui) Xi Jinping 習近平 (b. 1953, Shaanxi)

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Crossing the line

The Taiwan Strait (Taiwan haixia 台灣海峽) is the part in the Western Pacific that separates Taiwan from continental China. In international shipping, it is regarded a critical corridor connecting the East China Sea (donghai 東海) to the South China Sea (nanhai 南海).

The shortest straight line between the two sides can be drawn from Taiwan’s Zhonghe Borough 中和里 (Houlong Town 後龍鎮, Miaoli County) to China’s Wan'an Village 萬安村 (Dongshan Town 東瀚鎮, Fuqing City 福清市, Fuzhou City 福州市, Fujian Province), and according to Google Earth that line has a length of 136.34 km. From Taiwan’s northern tip, the Taiwan Strait is at least 198 km wide, from the southern tip of the island at least 361 km, the average width is about 180 km. The Taiwan Strait is relatively shallow with an average depth of 60 m, in the Penghu channel it reaches a maximum depth of 177 m, while above the Taiwan Shoal aka Taiwan Bank (Taiwan qiantan 台灣淺灘) near the center of the Taiwan Strait’s southern mouth it is merely 25 m deep.

Since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949) and the establishment of the PRC there has been a tacit agreement between Taipei and Beijing not to violate the median line (haixia zhongxian 海峽中線) of the Taiwan Strait which is also known as Davis Line (Daweisi xian 戴維斯線). The median line never had official status but was observed by both the ROC and the PRC starting in the 1950s, and crossing it as a deliberate provocation has been rare and remains uncommon, although an increased number of such incursions was reported following the high-profile visit of US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in early August 2022.

The ROC government considers the Taiwan Strait to be international waters, except for the 12-nautical-mile strip defined as territorial waters. The US considers the Taiwan Strait to be international waters as well. In contrast, the PRC government claims that the waterway falls within its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

* * * SEE ALSO * * *

More relevant contents pertaining to that subject can be found on the following pages of this website.

🔴 "Ministries and cabinet agencies", Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)
🔴 "Other central government agencies", Handling of the Cross-Strait relations
🔴 "Other central government agencies", Incessant threat—the PRC
🔴 "Foreign relations of the ROC", ROC vs. PRC since the 1970s

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Taiwanese NGOs for PRC minorities

Taiwan's civil society has produced numerous NGOs working in fields of all kinds. Some of them are dedicated to improving the plight of people living in regions of the PRC where a majority of the population is non-Chinese and subjected to restrictions and oppression, e. g. Tibet and Xinjiang.

Selected Taiwanese NGOs with a focus on Tibet:

  • Taiwan Tibet Exchange Foundation (Taiwan Xizang jiaoliu jijinhui 台灣西藏交流基金會), established on Jan. 20, 2003 in presence of then-ROC president Chen Shui-bian;
  • Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association (zai Tai Xizang ren fuli xiehui 在台西藏人福利協會), a non-profit social group established on May 9, 2004 to promote the interaction and solidarity of Tibetans in Taiwan;
  • Taiwan Friends of Tibet (Taiwan tubo zhi youhui 台灣圖博之友會, abbrev. TFOT), a non-profit NGO of Taiwanese residents who are concerned about the human rights of Tibet. According to some online sources that group was founded in 2006; and
  • Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan (Xizang Taiwan renquan lianxian 西藏台灣人權連線, abbrev. Zang Tai lianxian 藏台連線 in Chinese and HRNTT in English), a non-profit NGO which held its founding assembly on June 19, 2017.

Selected Taiwanese NGOs with a focus on Xinjiang/the Uyghur ethnic group:

  • Taiwan Friends of Uyghurs (Taiwan weiwuer zhi youhui 台灣維吾爾之友會), a preparatory group of which was formally set up on Sept. 29, 2012, its Facebook page was created on March 1, 2013; and
  • Taiwan East Turkistan Association (Taiwan dong tujuesitan xiehui 臺灣東突厥斯坦協會, abbrev. TETA), its Facebook page was created on June 13, 2019, the group had its first public appearance on July 5, 2019.

— — — Flag of East Turkestan — — —

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NCCU polls in connection with Cross-Strait relations

Foreign observers following the political events in contemporary Taiwan soon discover that common categories used for political evaluation—left versus right, conservative versus liberal, or socialist versus capitalist—don't really apply in Taiwan. That is due to the fact that the most controversial, defining political issue in today's Taiwan is the relationship with China, which is much more passionately debated than other pressing issues like the death penalty, nuclear energy or marriage equality. In Taiwan, the two sides of the political spectrum can be described as China-friendly and leaning towards pro-unification (blue camp) on the one side and China-sceptical and leaning towards pro-independence (green camp) on the other side.

Surveys conducted from time to time analyzing whether Taiwan's inhabitants see themselves as Taiwanese, Chinese or both indicate that the number of people in Taiwan considering themselves as Taiwanese only and not Chinese is steadily on the rise, now exceeding more than half of the island's total population. A smaller but still sizeable portion of respondents to said surveys identify themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese, while the smallest group (single-digit percentage) consider themselves as Chinese only.

The following two tables show the results of surveys conducted regularly by the Election Study Center (xuanju yanjiu zhongxin 選舉研究中心, abbrev. ESC) of the National Chengchi University (guoli zhengzhi daxue 國立政治大學, abbrev. zhengda 政大 in Chinese and NCCU in English) in Taipei. [ESC home page ⇒ Data Archives ⇒ Trends of Core Political Attitudes]

  • Table 1—Changes in the Taiwanese/Chinese Identity of Taiwanese (since 1992), see ESC graphic
  • Table 2—Changes in the Unification-Independence Stances of Taiwanese (since 1994), see ESC graphic
All figures represent the respective percentage.

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Table 1

Year Chinese Taiwanese Both No response
1992 25.5 17.6 46.4 10.5
[ No data available for that year! ]
1994 26.2 20.2 44.6 8.9
1995 20.7 25.0 47.0 7.3
1996 17.6 24.1 49.3 9.0
1997 19.2 34.0 41.4 5.3
1998 16.3 36.2 39.6 7.8
1999 12.1 39.6 42.5 5.8
2000 12.5 36.9 44.1 6.5
2001 10.6 41.6 43.1 4.7
2002 9.2 41.2 43.7 5.8
2003 8.3 42.5 43.3 5.9
2004 6.2 41.1 47.7 5.0
2005 7.2 45.0 43.4 4.4
2006 6.3 44.2 44.9 4.6
2007 5.4 43.7 44.7 6.2
2008 4.0 48.4 43.1 4.5
2009 4.2 51.6 39.8 4.4
2010 3.8 52.7 39.8 3.7
2011 3.9 52.2 40.3 3.7
2012 3.6 54.3 38.5 3.6
2013 3.8 57.1 35.8 3.3
2014 3.5 60.6 32.5 3.5
2015 3.3 59.5 33.3 4.0
2016 3.4 58.2 34.3 4.1
2017 3.7 55.5 37.0 3.7
2018 3.6 54.5 38.2 3.7
2019 3.5 58.5 34.7 3.3
2020 2.6 64.3 29.9 3.2
2021 2.8 62.3 31.7 3.2
2022 2.5 63.3 30.6 3.6
2023 2.5 62.8 30.5 4.2

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Table 2

1994 4.4 15.6 38.5 9.8 8.0 3.1 20.5
1995 2.3 19.4 24.8 15.6 8.1 3.5 26.3
1996 2.5 19.5 30.5 15.3 9.5 4.1 18.6
1997 3.2 17.3 30.5 16.3 11.5 5.7 15.4
1998 2.1 15.9 30.3 15.9 11.5 5.7 18.7
1999 2.2 15.2 30.9 18.8 13.6 4.7 14.5
2000 2.0 17.3 29.5 19.2 11.6 3.1 17.4
2001 2.8 17.5 35.9 16.4 10.5 3.7 13.3
2002 2.5 15.7 36.2 15.0 13.8 4.4 12.4
2003 1.8 11.9 35.0 18.0 14.5 6.2 12.5
2004 1.5 10.6 36.5 20.9 15.2 4.4 11.0
2005 1.8 12.3 37.3 19.9 14.2 6.1 8.5
2006 2.0 12.1 38.7 19.9 13.8 5.6 7.9
2007 1.9 10.0 36.8 18.4 13.7 7.8 11.4
2008 1.5 8.7 35.8 21.5 16.0 7.1 9.4
2009 1.3 8.5 35.1 26.2 15.0 5.8 8.1
2010 1.2 9.0 35.9 25.4 16.2 6.2 6.1
2011 1.5 8.8 33.8 27.4 15.6 4.6 8.2
2012 1.7 8.7 33.9 27.7 15.1 4.8 8.1
2013 1.9 9.2 32.6 26.3 17.2 5.7 7.2
2014 1.3 7.9 34.3 25.2 18.0 5.9 7.3
2015 1.5 8.1 34.0 25.4 17.9 4.3 8.8
2016 1.7 8.5 33.3 26.1 18.3 4.6 7.4
2017 2.3 10.1 33.1 25.3 17.2 5.1 6.9
2018 3.1 12.8 33.4 24.0 15.1 5.0 6.6
2019 1.4 7.5 29.8 27.8 21.8 5.1 6.5
2020 1.0 5.6 28.8 25.5 25.8 6.6 6.8
2021 1.4 6.0 28.4 27.3 25.1 6.0 5.8
2022 1.3 5.9 27.7 29.4 24.4 5.2 6.0
2023 1.6 5.8 28.6 32.1 21.4 4.5 6.0

: Unification as soon as possible; : Maintain Status Quo, move towards Unification; : Maintain Status Quo, decide at later date; : Maintain Status Quo indefinitely; : Maintain Status Quo, move towards independence; : Independence as soon as possible; : No response.

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◆ The indigenous peoples and their marginalization

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The indigenous peoples in contemporary Taiwan

 ● 16 indigenous groups in 2 categories
 ● Population and distribution
 ● Increasing official recognition
 ● Indigenous communities
 ● Overall demographic development
 ● Revitalization of Aboriginal languages

Although the population of modern Taiwan is ethnically dominated by Han of Chinese descent, large-scale migration from China to Taiwan began only after the 1600s, a colonization process resulting in the thorough marginalization of the island’s original inhabitants who belong to the category of ethnic Austronesians.

While archeological evidence confirms the presence of Malayo-Polynesian peoples on the island dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years, recent discoveries indicate that other populations had lived in Taiwan since the Pleistocene. Legends of the indigenous peoples have mentioned ‘little black people’ (hei airen 黑矮人), and skeletal remains recovered from the Xiaoma Caves (xiaomadong 小馬洞) in Taitung County are being explained by researchers as belonging to non-Austronesian small-stature individuals that might have continued to live in the remote mountains as late as the 1800s. A relevant study of scientists led by archeology professor Hung Hsiao-chun 洪曉純 titled “Negritos in Taiwan and the wider prehistory of Southeast Asia: New discovery from the Xiaoma Caves” can be found here.

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16 indigenous groups in 2 categories

Taiwan's indigenous peoples (yuanzhumin 原住民 or yuanzhu minzu 原住民族) are usually divided into two categories:
 ◉ mountain aborigines (gaoshanzu 高山族), and
 ◉ plains aborigines (pingpuzu 平埔族).
Today, the ROC government recognizes 16 distinct indigenous groups (as listed below), the Kavalan currently being the only officially recognized tribe in the plains aborigines category.

  • Amis (amei zu 阿美族),
  • Atayal (taiya zu 泰雅族),
  • Bunun (bunong zu 布農族),
  • Hla'alua (la'aluwa zu 拉阿魯哇族),
  • Kanakanavu (kanakanafu zu 卡那卡那富族),
  • Kavalan (gamalan zu 噶瑪蘭族),
  • Paiwan (paiwan zu 排灣族),
  • Puyuma (beinan zu 卑南族),
  • Rukai (lukai zu 魯凱族),
  • Saisiyat (saixia zu 賽夏族),
  • Sakizaya (saqilaiya zu 撒奇萊雅族),
  • Sediq (saideke zu 賽德克族),
  • Thao (shao zu 邵族),
  • Truku (tailuge zu 太魯閣族),
  • Tsou (zou zu 鄒族 ), and
  • Yami (yamei zu 雅美族) aka Tao (dawuren 達悟人).

The Yami are living on Orchid Island/Lanyu 蘭嶼 off Taitung's coast, the only of the 16 officially recognized indigenous groups not being based on Taiwan proper.

Please note that some indigenous groups are at times referred to with alternative names: Kavalan = Kavarawan; Puyuma = Pinuyumayan; Sakizaya = Sakiraya (shaqilaiya zu 沙奇萊亞族); Sediq = Seediq; Thao = Sao; and Truku = Taroko. The Amis call themselves "Pangcah" (bangcha 邦查), the Yami refer to themselves as "Iranmeylek".

In addition to the 16 officially recognized tribes, population statistics [二. 歷月人口統計資料(括弧內為資料起始年月), 04. 縣市原住民人口按性別及身分 (96)] compiled by the MOI also list "undeclared" persons (shangwei shenbao 尚未申報), i. e. persons who identify as indigenous but not belonging to one of the 16 tribes—including offspring of parents belonging to different tribes, or persons belonging to indigenous groups not officially recognized by the ROC government.

The main ROC government agency in charge of aboriginal affairs is the cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP).

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Population and distribution

The following two tables show the current population and main distribution areas (city/county) of Taiwan's indigenous groups as well as their totals for the main categories, the respective data were provided by the MOI.

Group Population Area
Amis 224,516 Hualien, Taitung, Pingtung
Atayal 97,987 Hualien, Nantou
Bunun 62,800 Kaohsiung, Taitung, Nantou
Hla'alua 477 Kaohsiung
Kanakanavu 441 Kaohsiung
Kavalan 1,633 Hualien, Taitung
Paiwan 108,618 Taitung, Pingtung
Puyuma 15,562 Taitung
Rukai 13,948 Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Taitung
Saisiyat 7,114 Miaoli, Hsinchu
Sakizaya 1,101 Hualien
Sediq 11,363 Hualien, Nantou
Thao 890 Nantou
Truku 34,902 Hualien
Tsou 6,834 Chiayi, Nantou, Kaohsiung
Yami 4,938 Taitung (Lanyu = Orchid Island)

All population figures are for end of June 2024.

16 tribes593,124321,162 Mountains Aborigines
Undeclared 8,827280,789Plains Aborigines

Figures and statistics concerning Taiwan's general population can be found here.

The following two maps show the distribution of indigenous peoples—the map on the left was provided by the Council of Indigenous Peoples/CIP (source: ROC Yearbook 2015, p. 49), the alternative map on the right is the reproduction of a map created by the National Chiayi University (guoli Jiayi daxue 國立嘉義大學).

— — — Maps of Taiwan's current 16 indigenous groups' distribution — — —

(Source/copyright notice see above)

The table below (created with MOI statistics) shows that the two counties of Taitung and Hualien in eastern Taiwan have by far the highest proportion of indigenous residents.

2000 2020
Population Aborigines % Population Aborigines %
Taipei City 2,646,474 8,466 0.319 2,602,418 17,131 0.658
New Taipei City 3,567,896 31,019 0.869 4,030,954 57,407 1.424
Taoyuan City 1,732,617 37,422 2.159 2,268,807 77,662 3.423
Taichung City 2,460,098 17,642 0.717 2,820,787 35,836 1.270
Tainan City 1,842,337 3,009 0.163 1,874,917 8,406 0.448
Kaohsiung City 2,725,267 20,722 0.760 2,765,932 35,756 1.292
Hsinchu County 439,713 15,788 3.590 570,775 21,984 3.851
Miaoli County 559,703 8,415 1.503 542,590 11,409 2.102
Changhua County 1,310,531 2,939 0.224 1,266,670 6,025 0.475
Nantou County 541,537 24,657 4.553 490,832 29,384 5.986
Yunlin County 743,368 731 0.098 676,873 2,648 0.391
Chiayi County 562,305 4,550 0.809 499,481 5,945 1.190
Pingtung County 907,590 50,949 5.613 812,658 60,5007 7.444
Yilan County 465,186 12,408 2.667 453,087 17,664 3.898
Hualien County 353,630 83,804 23.698 324,372 93,450 28.809
Taitung County 245,312 76,619 31.233 215,261 78,514 36.473
Penghu County 89,496 132 0.147 105,952 648 0.611
Keelung City 388,425 6,575 1.692 367,577 9,492 2.582
Hsinchu City 368,439 1,524 0.413 451,412 4,374 0.968
Chiayi City 266,183 546 0.205 266,005 1,153 0.433
Kinmen County 53,832 98 0.182 140,597 1,160 0.825
Lienchiang County 6,733 15 0.222 13,279 244 1.837
ROC total 22,276,672  408,030 1.831 23,561,236  576,792 2.448

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Increasing official recognition

After Taiwan was incorporated into the ROC in 1945, the government for decades officially recognized only 9 indigenous groups: Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Tsou, and Yami; the map on the right (source: ROC Yearbook 2000, p. 29) showing their distribution.

The table below contains data provided by the ROC MOI and shows population figures of Taiwan's nine major Aboriginal tribes at the end of 1988. Taiwan's indigenous population then totalled 335,603 persons, among them 180,990 mountain dwellers and 154,613 plains dwellers. (Source: ROC Yearbook 1990-91, p. 26-27)

Tribe Population Tribe Population
Amis 128,628 Rukai 7,575
Atayal 77,359 Saisiyat 4,345
Bunun 36,294 Tsou 7,540
Paiwan 61,058 Yami 4,230
Puyuma 8,574

Note: Amis was spelled "Ami" in the ROC/Taiwan Yearbooks from the 1986 edition up to the 2003 edition.

Seven groups won recognition since the year 2001 (see the following chronology):

2001  Aug. 8: Thao (10th)
2002 Dec. 25: Kavalan (11th)
2004 Jan. 14: Truku (12th)
2007 Jan. 17: Sakizaya (13th)
2008 April 23: Sediq (14th)
2014 June 26: Hla'alua (15th), Kanakanavu (16th) 

Except for the Kavalan, the members of the newly recognized groups had been listed under other indigenous groups before their recognition—the Hla'alua, Kanakanavu and Thao under the Tsou; the Sediq and Truku under the Atayal; and the Sakizaya under the Amis.

TOO ASSIMILATED?—Please note that several groups of Plains Aborigines like the Ketagalan (kaidagelan zu 凱達格蘭族), the Siraya (xilaya zu 西拉雅族), the Babuza (babusa zu 巴布薩族), the Makatao (makadao zu 馬卡道族), the Pazeh (bazehai zu 巴則海族) and others continue fighting for official recognition. During a one-day hearing held at the Constitutional Court on June 28, 2022, CIP Minister Icyang Parod expressed opposition to granting the Siraya and other Pingpu tribes constitutionally-protected Indigenous status, citing "big differences" between the recognized indigenous people and the Pingpu people regarding the degree of assimilation into Han society and warning that if Pingpu tribes were given Indigenous status, the rights of the indigenous peoples would be greatly affected.

On Oct. 28, 2022 the Constitutional Court ruled that legal provisions invoked to reject applications by members of an indigenous Pingpu tribe for formal Indigenous status were unconstitutional, and it ordered new rules to be drafted to address the issue, including amendments to the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples (yuanzhumin shenfenfa 原住民身分法).

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Indigenous communities

The CIP website lists 55 indigenous communities (yuanxiang 原鄉) in 12 Taiwanese cities and counties, 30 of which belong to the category of Mountain Aborigines communities (shandixiang 山地鄉/), 25 to the category of Plains Aborigines communities (pingdixiang 平地鄉/)—Chiayi County: 1 ; Hsinchu County: 2 , 1 ; Hualien County: 3 , 10 ; Kaohsiung City: 3 ; Miaoli County: 1 , 2 ; Nantou County: 2 , 1 ; New Taipei City: 1 ; Pingtung County: 8 , 1 ; Taichung City: 1 ; Taitung County: 5 , 10 ; Taoyuan City: 1 ; and Yilan County: 2 . In the following list, a   represents an urban township (zhen 鎮), an   represents a rural township (xiang 鄉).

• 55 indigenous communities with their 3-digit postal codes and area

City / county Community, postal code / Area (km²)
New Taipei City Wulai District 烏來區 233 321.1306
Taoyuan City Fuxing District 復興區 336 350.7775
Hsinchu County Guanxi Township 關西鎮 306  125.5193
 " Jianshi Township 尖石鄉 313  527.5795
 " Wufeng Township 五峰鄉 311  227.7280
Miaoli County Nanzhuang Township 南庄鄉 353  165.4938
 " Shitan Township 獅潭鄉 354  79.4324
 " Tai’an Township 泰安鄉 365  614.5127
Taichung City Heping District 和平區 424 1,037.8192
Nantou County Ren’ai Township 仁愛鄉 546  1,273.5312
 " Xinyi Township 信義鄉 556  1,422.4188
 " Yuchi Township 魚池鄉 555  121.3735
Chiayi County Alishan Township 阿里山鄉 605  427.8471
Kaohsiung City Maolin District 茂林區 851 194.0000
 " Namaxia District 那瑪夏區 849 252.9895
 " Taoyuan District 桃源區 848 928.9800
Pingtung County Chunri Township 春日鄉 942  160.0010
 " Laiyi Township 來義鄉 922  167.7756
 " Majia Township 瑪家鄉 903  78.7008
 " Manzhou Township 滿州鄉 947  142.2013
 " Mudan Township 牡丹鄉 945  181.8366
 " Sandimen Township 三地門鄉 901  196.3965
 " Shizi Township 獅子鄉 943  301.0018
 " Taiwu Township 泰武鄉 921  118.6266
 " Wutai Township 霧台鄉 902  278.7960
Yilan County Datong Township 大同鄉 267  657.5442
 " Nan’ao Township 南澳鄉 272  740.6520
Hualien County Fengbin Township 豐濱鄉 977  162.4332
 " Fenglin Township 鳳林鎮 975  120.5181
 " Fuli Township 富里鄉 983  176.3705
 " Guangfu Township 光復鄉 976  157.1100
 " Hualien City 花蓮市 970 29.4095
 " Ji’an Township 吉安鄉 973  65.2582
 " Ruisui Township 瑞穗鄉 978  135.5862
 " Shoufeng Township 壽豐鄉 974  218.4448
 " Wanrong Township 萬榮鄉 979  618.4910
 " Xincheng Township 新城鄉 971  29.4095
 " Xiulin Township 秀林鄉 972  1,641.8555
 " Yuli Township 玉里鎮 981  252.3719
 " Zhuoxi Township 卓溪鄉 982  1,021.3130
Taitung County Beinan Township 卑南鄉 954  412.6871
 " Changbin Township 長濱鄉 962  155.1868
 " Chenggong Township 成功鎮 961  143.9939
 " Chishang Township 池上鄉 958  82.6854
 " Daren Township 達仁鄉 966  306.4454
 " Dawu Township 大武鄉 965  69.1454
 " Donghe Township 東河鄉 959  210.1908
 " Guanshan Township 關山鎮 956  58.7351
 " Haiduan Township 海端鄉 957  880.0382
 " Jinfeng Township 金峰鄉 964  380.6635
 " Lanyu Township 蘭嶼鄉 952  48.3892
 " Luye Township 鹿野鄉 955  89.6980
 " Taimali Township 太麻里鄉 963  96.6523
 " Taitung City 台東市 950 109.7691
 " Yanping Township 延平鄉 953  455.8805

(Source for the area figures: Chinese Wikipedia)

More information about the ROC postal codes can be found here.

The following maps show the distribution of the 55 indigenous communities (highlighted with torquoise colour) in 12 cities/counties on Taiwan proper.

Taiwan proper—posted here for orientation purposes, indigenous areas highlighted in grey (left), all 55 indigenous communities (right)


New Taipei City (left), Taoyuan City (middle), Hsinchu County (right)


Miaoli County (left), Taichung City (right)


Nantou County (left), Chiayi County (middle), Kaohsiung City (right)


Pingtung County (far left), Yilan County (second left), Hualien County (second right), Taitung County (far right)


Please note that the ROC’s cities of Taipei, Keelung, Hsinchu, Chiayi and Tainan as well as the counties of Changhua, Yunlin, Penghu, Kinmen and Lienchiang (Matsu) have not designated any indigenous communities.

Altogether, the 55 indigenous communities cover an area of 19,223.3976 km², which is 53.566 percent of Taiwan proper’s total area (all cities and counties of Taiwan proper combined have an area of 35,886.8685 km²). The two offshore islands of Taitung county (Lanyu Township 蘭嶼鄉 and Ludao Township 綠島鄉) are included in this calculation. The percentage of the area indigenous communities cover in their respective city/county is listed in the table below.

City / county Area (km²) Indigenous area (km²) Indigenous percentage
Chiayi County 嘉義縣 1,903.6367 427.8471 22.475 %
Hsinchu County 新竹縣 1,427.5369 880.8268 61.702 %
Hualien County 花蓮縣 4,628.5714 4,628.5714 100.000 %
Kaohsiung City 高雄市 2,951.8524 1,375.9695 46.613 %
Miaoli County 苗栗縣 1,820.3149 859.4389 47.213 %
Nantou County 南投縣 4,106.4360 2,817.3200 68.607 %
New Taipei City 新北市 2,052.5667 321.1306 15.645 %
Pingtung County 屏東縣 2,775.6003 1,625.3362 58.558 %
Taichung City 台中市 2,214.8968 1,037.8192 46.856 %
Taitung County 台東縣 3,515.2526 3,500.1607 99.570 %
Taoyuan City 桃園市 1,220.9540 350.7775 28.729 %
Yilan County 宜蘭縣 2,143.6251 1,398.1962 65.225 %

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Overall demographic development

The table below shows population data of Taiwan's indigenous peoples as provided in the ROC Yearbooks/Taiwan Yearbooks published by the central government, the column marked "%" referring to the percentage of Aborigines in Taiwan's total population at the time. Please note that before the 2013 edition, disclosure of precise figures for the total population of the ROC was the exception; and older editions of those Yearbooks up to the early 1980s did not contain any details about Taiwan's aborigines at all.

Yearbook Total population Aborigines % Yearbook Total population Aborigines %
1986 19,012,512 320,000 1.68 2011 > 23,000,000 512,700 2.23
1991-92 > 20,000,000 335,603 1.68 2012 > 23,000,000 520,000 2.26
1996 21,170,000 365,000 1.72 2013 23,360,000 529,800 2.27
2001 22,160,000 402,000 1.81 2014 23,400,000 533,600 2.28
2006 22,800,000 465,000 2.04 2015 23,460,000 540,000 2.30
2010 23,000,000 504,500 2.19 2016 23,520,000 546,700 2.32

The following table contains figures provided by the MOI's Department of Household Registration Affairs and shows the number of all indigenous residents in the Taiwan area in relation to the total population.

Year Total population Total Aborigines Mountains Plains Aboriginal percentage
2000 22,276,672 408,030 216,479 191,551 1.831 %
2005 22,770,383 464,961 246,320 218,641 2.041 %
2009 23,119,772 504,531 266,716 237,815 2.182 %
2010 23,162,123 512,701 271,187 241,514 2.213 %
2011 23,224,912 519,984 275,226 244,758 2.238 %
2012 23,315,822 527,250 279,208 248,042 2.261 %
2013 23,373,517 533,601 282,786 250,815 2.282 %
2014 23,433,753 540,023 286,307 253,716 2.304 %
2015 23,492,074 546,698 289,968 256,730 2.327 %
2016 23,539,816 553,228 293,581 259,647 2.350 %
2017 23,571,227 559,426 297,110 262,316 2.373 %
2018 23,588,932 565,561 300,460 265,101 2.397 %
2019 23,603,121 571,427 303,706 267,721 2.4209 %
2020 23,561,236 576,792 306,826 269,966 2.4480 %
2021 23,375,314 580,758 309,152 271,606 2.4844 %
2022 23,264,640 584,125 311,328 272,797 2.5107 %
2023 23,420,442 589,038 314,221 274,817 2.5150 %

Statistics about Taiwan's indigenous population compiled by the ROC MOI usually also contain a category with the denomination "undeclared" (shangwei shenbao 尚未申報), referring to persons who are listed as aborigines but do not belong to a specific indigenous group for various reasons—the two parents might not belong to the same indigenous group, or the person might belong to an indigenous group that has not been officially recognized by the ROC government, among others. The table below shows detailed figures for all categories since 2014.

Category 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total pop. 540,023 546,698 553,228 559,426 565,561 571,427 576,792 580,758 584,125
Mountains 286,307 289,968 293,581 297,110 300,460 303,706 306,826 309,152 311,328
Plains 253,716 256,730 259,647 262,316 265,101 267,721 269,966 271,606 272,797

Amis 200,604 203,377 206,126 208,525 211,031 213,368 215,377 216,835 217,949
Atayal 85,888 87,041 88,243 89,563 90,884 92,014 92,843 93,714 94,516
Bunun 56,004 56,761 57,436 58,132 58,894 59,497 60,101 60,633 61,015
Hla'alua 213 287 358 391 404 413 423 445 457
Kanakanavu 125 253 317 330 343 355 375 391 409
Kavalan 1,378 1,412 1,431 1,459 1,482 1,494 1,528 1,550 1,565
Paiwan 96,334 97,649 98,951 100,164 101,472 102,625 103,759 104,555 105,235
Puyuma 13,387 13,629 13,838 14,051 14,340 14,512 14,709 14,891 15,073
Rukai 12,861 12,971 13,121 13,258 13,392 13,462 13,588 13,609 13,672
Saisiyat 6,412 6,483 6,533 6,596 6,662 6,735 6,795 6,830 6,837
Sakizaya 842 865 881 917 958 984 1,009 1,043 1,049
Sediq 9,081 9,399 9,686 9,921 10,193 10,436 10,645 10,805 10,922
Thao 760 769 776 778 799 816 826 829 836
Truku 29,731 30,308 30,845 31,320 31,826 32,292 32,811 33,217 33,582
Tsou 6,801 6,672 6,609 6,629 6,667 6,698 6,715 6,704 6,732
Yami 4,426 4,483 4,538 4,596 4,629 4,680 4,751 4,795 4,813

16 tribes total 524,847 532,359 539,689 546,630 553,976 560,381 566,255 570,846 574,662
Undeclared 15,176 14,339 13,539 12,796 11,585 11,046 10,537 9,912 9,463

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Revitalization of Aboriginal languages

The ROC government actively promotes the development of indigenous languages. After the Indigenous Languages Development Act (yuanzhu minzu yuyan fazhanfa 原住民族語言發展法) was promulgated on June 14, 2017, the Foundation for the Research and Development of Indigenous Languages (yuanzhumin yuyan yanjiu fazhan jijinhui 原住民語言研究發展基金會) was established on Feb. 22, 2020.

The numerous indigenous languages in the Taiwan area belong mostly to the category of Austronesian languages and can be subdivided in several groups—a selection is listed below.

  • Atayalic: Atayal/Tayal (Taiya yu 泰雅語), Sediq/Seediq (Saideke yu 賽德克語), Truku/Taroko (Tailuge yu 太魯閣語);
  • Northwest Formosan: Saisiyat (Saixia yu 賽夏語), Kulon/Kulun (Guilun yu 龜崙語), Pazeh/Pazih (Bazai yu 巴宰語/Bazehai yu 巴則海語), Kahabu/Kaxabu (Gehawu yu 噶哈巫語);
  • Western Plains: Thao (Shao yu 邵語), Babuza (Babusa yu 巴布薩語), Favorlang (Huweilong yu 虎尾壟方言 Huweilong fangyan 虎尾壟方言, Taokas (Daokasi yu 道卡斯語), Papora (Babula yu 巴布拉語), Hoanya (Hongya yu 洪雅語);
  • Tsouic: Tsou (Zou yu 鄒語), Kanakanavu/Kanakanabu (Kanakanafu yu 卡那卡那富語), Saaroa (La'aluwa yu 拉阿魯哇語);
  • South Formosan: Paiwan (Paiwan yu 排灣語), Rukai (Lukai yu 魯凱語), Bunun (bunong yu 布農語), Puyuma/Pinuyumayan (Beinan yu 卑南語);
  • East Formosan (Northern): Kavalan/Kbalan (Gemalan yu 噶瑪蘭語), Ketagalan/Ketangalan (Kaidagelan yu 凱達格蘭語), Basay/Basai (Basai yu 巴賽語/Basai fangyan 巴賽方言);
  • East Formosan (Central): Amis (Amei yu 阿美語), Sakizaya (Saqilaiya yu 撒奇萊雅語), Nataoran (Doulan yu 荳蘭語);
  • East Formosan (Sirayaic): Siraya (Xilaya yu 西拉雅語), Makatau/Makatao (Makadao yu 馬卡道語), Taivoan (Dawulong yu 大武壠語).

Please note that Yami (Dawu yu 達悟語) is a Malayo-Polynesian language and belongs to the Batanic languages found in the northern Philippines.

The map on the right shows the distribution of Formosan languages before Chinese colonization.

Source: Wikimedia © Creative Commons,
author: Kwamikagami
(at English Wikipedia, date: Aug. 28, 2008)

The "Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger", published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), established six degrees of endangerment that 'may be distinguished with regard to intergenerational transmission' (see table below).

Degree of
Intergenerational language transmission
Safe Language is spoken by all generations; intergenerational transmission is uninterrupted
Vulnerable Most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e. g. home)
Definitely endangered Children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home
Severely endangered Language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves
Critically endangered The youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently
Extinct There are no speakers left

According to above definition applied by UNESCO, Taiwan's indigenous languages can be categorized as follows:

  • Vulnerable: Amis, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Tayal, Truku, and Yami;
  • Definitely endangered: Bunun;
  • Severely endangered: Saisiyat;
  • Critically endangered: Kanakanabu, Kbalan, Nataoran, Saaroa, Thao, and Tsou;
  • Extinct: Babuza and its Favorlang dialect, Hoanya, Ketagalan and its Basay dialect, Makatao, Papora, Pazeh, Siraya, Taivoan, and Taokas.

One rare example of a case where linguistic research is still possible despite the language in question being extinct is the Siraya language. In the 17th century, Dutch missionaries created bible translations with Dutch and Siraya parallel texts still extant.

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Taiwan's colonization—implications, impact and consequences

 ● Different civilizatory concept
 ● Centuries of land grab
 ● Recent improvements
 ● No turning back?
 ● Disambiguation

The process that led from Taiwan being dominated by Austronesian peoples before the 17th century to today's society consisting of ca. 95 percent ethnic Han must be categorized as de-indigenization. That development was initiated by the Dutch, pushed forward forcefully by ethnic Han (mostly Holo and Hakka), and its execution was by and large completed at the end of Japanese rule.

Ironically, the term "sinification" is often used in today's Taiwan by descendants of those who were responsible for robbing Taiwan's indigenous peoples of their land and pursuing their general marginalization, and it has become a political buzzword in the antagonism between green camp and blue camp to describe the rapprochement of Taiwan to China/the PRC, thus distracting from the truth that Taiwan's indigenous peoples were the real victims in this historic clash of cultures and struggle of civilizations. Accordingly, the term "de-sinification" usually is not meant in a sense of restoring the dominance of Austronesian peoples and their ownership of land on the island but instead referring to the goal of replacing Mandarin as Taiwan's official language with Holo. (See also the paragraph "Languages in modern Taiwan".)

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Different civilizatory concept

In terms of what Western scholars today know about Aboriginal societies, a social hierarchy with a leadership recruited from nobility seems to have been common. Concerning statehood and administrative structure, there is no evidence that would clearly confirm the existence of Western-style political systems with a distinct bureaucracy in Taiwan's indigenous societies. Available sources also give no indication that there were formal representatives authorized by aboriginal leaderships to handle foreign relations, and no institutionalized historiography was in place, in part due to the lack of written script.

Some sources do mention an entity which the Dutch called "Kingdom of Middag", in Chinese dadu wangguo 大肚王國. A founding date or a line of successive rulers have not been recorded, but it apparently existed while the Dutch were active in Taiwan, and it is said to have perished after a (historically undisputed) massive aboriginal uprising against Qing rule that took place in the area of Taichung's Dajia 大甲 and was put down in 1732. The territory of the kingdom was approximately in the area of today's Taichung city and the northern part of Changhua county (see grey area in the Wikipedia-based Map 4). It is assumed that its ethnic composition consisted of the Taiwanese aboriginal peoples of Papora (paipula zu 拍瀑拉族), Babuza (babusa zu 巴布薩族), Pazeh (Bazehai zu 巴則海族), Hoanya (hongya zu 洪雅族), and Taokas (daokasi zu 道卡斯族).

Please note that information in connection with the Kingdom of Middag cannot be verified beyond doubt, hence reservations about its accuracy and reliability are justified.

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Centuries of land grab

Taiwan's colonization by the Dutch, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese eventually saw Taiwan's indigenous peoples thoroughly marginalized, a process that for the most part took its course roughly in the two and a half centuries following the end of Dutch rule. Advancing Han Chinese settlers forced the indigenous population from their settlement areas, and in the plains the aborigines faced loss of land, assimilation and outright violence. The fabric of traditional societies and tribal order was torn apart, and Taiwan's first inhabitants became dispossessed, displaced and foreigners in their own country. Adding insult to injury, members of the indigenous peoples were categorized in a derogatory fashion as 'barbarous' or 'savages' (fan 番); the offensive term "huan-a" (fanzai 番仔)—a racist slur in the Holo dialect used mostly against aborigines—is also still quite common.

In the end, the results of this development were disastrous for the indigenous peoples. In today's Taiwan, aborigines make up less than 3 percent of the population, they have been ousted from their main original settlement areas and are mostly confined to remote mountain regions (the plains tribes have even by and large disappeared altogether), their languages are severely endangered or, as in the cases of most Pingpu languages, already extinct, and Taiwan's mainstream culture is overwhelmingly dominated by the Han Chinese. Furthermore, the average life expectancy for members of the indigenous tribes in general is 8 to 9 years lower than for Taiwanese inhabitants of Chinese descent, the aboriginal unemployment rate is higher on average, and they often face prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination and cultural arrogance from non-aborigines. (An article of the Borgen Project about poverty among Taiwan's indigenous peoples published in 2020 can be found here, and a 2015 study analyzed their social exclusion.)

One issue which is continuously brought up by indigenous activists is the question of their "traditional areas" (chuantong lingyu 傳統領域). According to existing rules and regulations—the Guidelines for Demarcating Aboriginal Land or Tribal Areas (yuanzhu minzu tudi huo buluo fanwei tudi huashe banfa 原住民族土地或部落範圍土地劃設辦法) and others—traditional areas do explicitly not include private land, and groups like the Aboriginal Transitional Justice Classroom (yuanzhumin zhuanxing zhengyi xiaojiaoshi 原住民轉型正義小教室, abbrev. yuanzhuan xiaojiaoshi 原轉小教室) and the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples' Policies Association (Taiwan yuanzhu minzu zhengce xiehui 台灣原住民族政策協會) argue that restricting their land rights to traditional territories on public land and excluding private land amounts to an acknowledgement that the past behaviour and policies which led to the theft of Aboriginal land were legitimate, and the eventual result would be the final and complete loss of original lands. The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) has so far ruled out adjustments to delineation guidelines for traditional Aboriginal areas.

In this context it should be noted that the demand of some indigenous activists for the return of their ancestral land is often misunderstood. For them the issue is not about expropriating owners of private land. In Taiwan, privately owned land still falls under the jurisdiction of the ROC, so real estate property is subject to certain restrictions by law—for example, developers often need government approval for their projects, e. g. regarding environmental impact, then protection of historical monuments or objects of cultural significance has to be considered and so on. Indigenous people do not want privately-owned land to be taken from the current owners and handed to them, instead they want a say in how their traditional lands are used, much as the national government currently has the right to do over private property. Relevant regulations would remain in place for returned land, and private landowners just would have to consult with both the ROC government and a local indigenous council before proceeding with projects that would require official approval.

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Recent improvements

Meanwhile, social changes in Taiwan which accompanied the democratization and political liberalization after the lifting of martial law in 1987 also brought about a shift in attitudes and policies toward the indigenous peoples.

  • On Aug. 1, 1994 the term "mountain people" (shanbao 山胞) in the Additional Articles of the ROC Constitution (xianfa zengxiu tiaowen 憲法增修條文) was replaced with "indigenous people" (yuanzhumin 原住民) after the indigenous peoples had agitated against the old term for decades because of its racist connotation.
  • The Name Act (xingming tiaoli 姓名條例) was amended on Jan. 20, 1995 by order of ROC President Lee Teng-hui so that aborigines could apply for resumption of their traditional tribal names.
  • On Dec. 10, 1996 the Council of Aboriginal Affairs (today's CIP) was established as a cabinet-level agency.
  • After Chen Shui-bian had been confirmed as DPP candidate for the 2000 ROC presidential election on July 10, 1999, he signed the New Partnership Accord (xin huoban guanxi tiaoyue 新夥伴關係條約) with representatives of the indigenous peoples on Sept. 24, 1999 on Lanyu and again on Oct. 19, 2002 in Taipei as ROC president.
  • The Indigenous Peoples Basic Law (yuanzhu minzu jibenfa 原住民族基本法) was promulgated on Feb. 5, 2005.
  • On July 1, 2005 Taiwan Indigenous Television (yuanzhu minzu dianshitai 原住民族電視台, abbrev. yuanshi 原視 in Chinese and TITV in English) was launched, Asia's first indigenous TV station.
  • The Indigenous Languages Development Act (yuanzhu minzu yuyan fazhanfa 原住民族語言發展法) passed its third reading on May 26, 2017 and was promulgated on June 14, 2017, granting official status to Taiwan's aboriginal languages.
  • Alian Radio (yuanzhu minzu guangbo diantai 原住民族廣播電台), the first nationwide indigenous radio station, started broadcasting on Aug. 9, 2017, airing content in 16 aboriginal languages.
  • An Indigenous Legal Service Center (yuanzhu minzu falü fuwu zhongxin 原住民族法律服務中心) where Aborigines can obtain legal assistance was set up on March 12, 2018.

A recent public statement by current ROC President Tsai Ing-wen is of far greater significance. As first head of state in ROC history she issued a formal apology on behalf of the government to Taiwan's indigenous peoples on Aug. 1, 2016—a day that had been declared "Indigenous People's Day" (Taiwan yuanzhu minzuri 台灣原住民族日) in remembrance of Aug. 1, 1994. In her speech during the apology ceremony which was held at the Presidential Palace in Taipei, Tsai Ing-wen addressed several of the challenges Taiwan's indigenous peoples are confronted with today. She acknowledged that the indigenous peoples had been subject to four centuries of pain and unfair treatment, and she defined the status of indigenous peoples as Taiwan's 'original owners' (yuanzhu minzu shi Taiwan "yuanlaide zhuren" de diwei 原住民族是台灣「原來的主人」的地位).

One particular issue mentioned by President Tsai that exemplifies the conflict between modern society and traditional tribal culture is the question of hunting rights. While tribal leaders maintain that hunting is a tradition for indigenous people and should not be equated with poaching, the indigenous peoples' right to hunt sometimes collides with ROC laws like the Wildlife Conservation Act (yesheng dongwu baoyufa 野生動物保育法), the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act (qiangpao danyao daoxie guanzhi tiaoli 槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) and the National Park Law (guojia gongyuanfa 國家公園法). In general, hunting has been banned in the ROC and is subject to penalty. Although special provisions are regulating the indigenous peoples' right to hunt, aboriginal hunters are sometimes still arrested when legally hunting on designated lands.

President Tsai's formal apology to the indigenous peoples is part of her greater initiative to promote and implement transitional justice (zhuanxing zhengyi 轉型正義), a concept seeking to redress legacies of human rights abuses. Since 1987 Taiwan/the ROC has made impressive progress in the period of political transition from the authoritarian, dictatorial regime to democracy, but a lot has yet to be done to address past human rights violations and move forward on the path towards reconciliation.

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No turning back?

Although Tsai Ing-wen's historical, unprecedented apology was a noble gesture suggesting good intentions and bearing great importance for improving the status of and respect for the indigenous peoples, nobody should have illusions about a turning-back of the wheels of history. There is no indication that the results of colonization will be reversed since they are in fact largely irreversible.

  • In the foreseeable future the indigenous peoples will remain a small minority of Taiwan's population because the vast majority of descendants of Han Chinese immigrants have no inclination to move to the land of their ancestors, so the ethnic dominance of the Han Chinese in Taiwan will prevail unless undemocratic means like forced resettlements were applied.
  • Despite the ongoing attempts for revival of aboriginal languages in schools, none of these languages is expected to become a mainstream language in Taiwan/the ROC anytime soon.
  • It also would be exceptionally optimistic to expect that the bulk of public-owned land will be returned to the indigenous peoples.
  • It even is questionable whether the nuclear waste dumped on Lanyu will ever be removed from there because choosing a location on Taiwan proper as a replacement for long-term storage of radioactive materials is a mission impossible due to certain fierce resistance of local residents at potential alternative sites.

That being said, certainly more needs to be done in Taiwan in order to strengthen minority protection. The Indigenous Peoples Basic Law should be enforced more strictly, and there is definitely room for progress in areas like preservation of the languages and cultures of Taiwan's earliest inhabitants. Relevant measures should be welcomed and supported.

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In Taiwan, the term "colonization" is not exclusively used to describe the developments concerning the marginalization of the indigenous peoples by immigrating Han Chinese (Holos, Hakka) since the 17th century. Sometimes the term is also applied in the context of Taiwan being under ROC control since 1945, especially by individuals in the pan-green camp who claim that ROC rule over Taiwan was illegal under international law since the ROC never formally received sovereignty over Taiwan after WWII. (More details regarding this point can be found under the headline "Legal aspects of Taiwan in the ROC" of the section Taiwan Province on the page "Local administration".)

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