Taiwanese History

The Aborigines

It has been estimated that people inhabited Taiwan 5000 years ago. The earliest inhabitants migrated from the Pacific islands. Linguistically, they are Indonesians.

The early inhabitants lived a communal life in the wildness. Their descendants, called aborigines these days, suffered from the Chinese arrivals. There were two groups of aborigines in Taiwan when the Chinese first arrived on this small island. One lived on the rich plains of western Taiwan, and the other lived in the mountains. Chinese immigrants occupied the rich plains and forced the aborigines into the remote mountain area. Those who were not driven into the mountain area assimilated into the rocky east coast. Many of them lived in slums and were forced into menial jobs in industry, mining, fishing or, prostituting by ancestors of the Taiwanese Han people.


Arrival of the Chinese

Beginning in the 1400s, large numbers of Chinese from the Fujian province migrated to Taiwan. Their Fujianese dialect is today's Taiwanese. The Fujianese is the keenest traveler of the Chinese. They can be found all over South-East Asia. Hakkas, coming from the Henen province in northern China, first moved to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces in the south and gradually migrated to Taiwan along with the Fujianese. Hakka means "guest" only their language distinguishes them from the Fujianese.


Arrival of the European

Portuguese sailors landed at Taiwan in 1517. They were so impressed by the island's beautiful scenery that they call it "Formosa," which means "Beautiful Island." The name "Formosa" had been used for a long time.

The Dutch followed imperialism and invaded Taiwan in 1624. The Dutch established the first capital at Tainan in the south-west part of Taiwan. The Spanish took control of northern Taiwan in 1626. They were expelled by the Dutch in 1641.

Fort San Domingo, the notable historical site in northern Taiwan has a legacy of Spanish occupation from 1626 to 1641. The fort was built in 1629 and taken over by the Dutch when they expelled the Spanish.

Taiwan didn't resist the Dutch until Ming Dynasty supporters, running from the up-and-coming Ch'ing Dynasty, arrived. Cheng Chengkung arrived in Taiwan with 35,000 troops in 400 war junks and expelled the Dutch in 1661.

Cheng Chungkung failed to recapture mainland China from the Ch'ing Dynasty. Instead, the Ch'ing took over Taiwan in 1682.


Ch'ing Period

During the Ch'ing period, more and more Fujianese migrated to Taiwan. Taiwan was then proclaimed a county of the Fujian province from 1684 to 1887.

Remote from Beijing, where Ch'ing's government was located, Taiwan didn't get much political attention even when Ch'ing claimed Taiwan as a part of the Chinese territory. This attitude resulted in the occupation of Taiwan by the Japanese.


The Japanese Rule

A dispute over Korea in 1895 led to the Sin-Japanese War. China was defeated and ceded Taiwan to Japan as one of the spoils of the Sino-Japanese War.

Many Taiwanese residents objected to Japanese rule. They proclaimed an independent republic, but this was quickly and brutally crushed by the Japanese.

To prevent Taiwan's rebellion, Japan brought a harsh rule onto Taiwan. The Taiwanese were asked to learn Japanese and not their own languages.

It is said Japan contributed to Taiwan's economic development. The Japanese indeed built roads and improved agricultural development in Taiwan. However, it was for their own consideration and convenience. Japan could take advantage of Taiwanese resources more easily when Taiwan had more efficient transportation.


The Republic of China

The Ch'ing dynasty collapsed in 1911 following a revolution led by Sun Yatsen (1866-1952). Warlords and factions had struggled for power during the early 20th century. The Nationalist army, led by Chiang Kaishek (1886-1975) finally took power in 1928. A few years later, the Nationalist party, also named Kuomintan (KMT), started to struggle for power at home and internationally. Japan invaded China in 1937. The Chinese Communists had greater influence during the war time.


World War II

Japan had a greate need for men during WW II. Japan drafted Taiwanese men into its army. Women of Taiwan, Korea, and other Southeast Asian countries were forced to be "comfort women," sex slaves for Japanese men during the War. Even today, some old Japanese women have accused the Japanese of sexually abusing them, forcing them to be comfort women during the War.


The Kuomintan rule

China regained Taiwan after Japan's defeat in WW II. October 10th became Taiwan's National Day, symbolizing the day Taiwan was taken back from Japan. However, the KMT disappointed the Taiwanese with its subsequent corruption. KMT's misrule led to the February 28th Incident in 1947.

the February 28th Incident was a forbidden topic in Taiwan until 1987, when the martial law was lifted. The government later announced February 28th a National Day, and dedicated a park in Taipei city to the incident.

Chinese communists took over mainland China in 1949 and established the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). The KMT, led by Chiang Kaishek, fled to Taiwan. About 1.5 million Chinese moved to Taiwan. The KMT thought they would soon recapture the mainland. They imposed martial law on Taiwan in 1949 and considered their stay temporary. This attitude was not welcomed by the native Taiwanese, who complained that the KMT didn't do a good job developing Taiwan.

In the 1950's, a land-reform program was introduced. In the 1960's, rapid industrialization brought Taiwan wealth. The subsequent successful economic development during the past four decades is known as "Taiwan's miracle."

Although enjoying successful economic development, Taiwan has suffered diplomatic difficulties. Communist China took over as the Chinese representative to the United Nations in 1971. The United States recognized the P.R.C in 1979 and severed diplomatic relation with R.O.C. (Taiwan). Since then, Taiwan has taken advantage of its strong economic position to keep its foreign relations.

Chiang Kaishek died in 1975. His influence was quite extensive in Taiwan. Taiwan's international airport is named after him. "Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall" is a notable Taipei tourism spot. Chiang's son, Chiang Chingkuo became president after Chiang Kaishek. In 1986, the KMT's liberalization and the formation of the first opposition party, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took Taiwan from an authoritarian system into a more democratic system.

The martial law was lifted in 1987 by Chiang Chingkuo. He died in 1988 and was succeeded by the native Taiwanese Lee Tenghui.

Lee Tenghui is still president of Taiwan. He is also the chairman of the KMT.


A Successful Development of the DDP

DDP is Taiwan's biggest opposition party. It is known for its positive stand on Taiwan's Independence. The Taiwanese may be fed up with the corrupt KMT and China's aggression. The DDP has more and more support with its increasing parliament seats in the elections. This late November, the DPP upset the KMT by 12 to eight for conttrol of 23 county and city governor seats.