If this is your first visit to Taiwan, you will most certainly be amazed at the diversity of things this beautiful island has to offer, as a rich historical background has provided Taiwan with a multifaceted culture. People from many different places and backgrounds, such as Taiwan’s indigenous people, the southern Fujianese from early China, Hakka immigrants, the Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese, and the recent immigrants from mainland China have all played a role in Taiwan’s development. While gradually developing a new culture indigenous to Taiwan, they also held on to their respective customs and traditions.
Taiwan also retains many relics of traditional Chinese art and culture, which is not only apparent from the exhaustive collection of cultural artifacts from past dynasties exhibited in the famous National Palace Museum, but can also be found by the traditional architecture and folk art in Taiwan.
Temples and Architecture
Taiwan’s traditional architecture is an aggregation of folk art. Decorations are refined and while they form an important part of the architecture, ranging from colored paintings to calligraphic illustrations, wooden and stone carvings, clay sculptures and ceramics, they tell the story of Taiwan’s rich culture. Next to traditional Chinese architecture brought to Taiwan by the southern Fujianese from early China and the Hakka immigrants, architectural features used in Chinese temples can also be found across Taiwan. Some of the most famous temples in Taiwan that are not only of historical but also of artistic value are the Lungshan Temple and the Mazu Temple (Queen of Heaven Temple) in Lugang, and the Chaotian Temple in Beigang.
The People of Taiwan
Taiwan has a population of 23 million. The larger part of the island’s inhabitants are the descendants of immigrants from the various provinces of mainland China, but in particular from the southeastern coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Some 360,000 indigenous people, the original inhabitants of Taiwan, still live here; they can be distinguished into 13 different tribes. The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese (Guoyu), but because many Taiwanese are of southern Fujianese descent, Min-nan (the Southern Min dialect, or Holo) is also widely spoken. The smaller groups of Hakka people and aborigines have also preserved their own languages. Many elderly people can also speak some Japanese, as they were subjected to Japanese education before Taiwan was returned to Chinese rule in 1945 after the Japanese occupation which lasted for half a century. The most popular foreign language in Taiwan is English, which is part of the regular school curriculum. Taiwan is also the most ideal place to learn Chinese. There are numerous language schools that offer Chinese classes and many foreigners from Europe and the United States, as well as other areas, come to Taiwan to spend their holidays, or one or two years, studying Chinese.
Taiwan is known for its towering mountains, and is reputable as a “Mountainous Island.” The island is spotted with numerous mountains over 3,000 meters. It is also home to the Northeast Asia’s tallest mountain, Jade Mountain, which is nearly 4,000 meter in height. Besides mountains, beautiful coastal scenes are also part of Taiwan’s great natural asset. Taiwan now has six National Parks: Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei suburban, which is famous for its volcanic landscape; the Shei-Pa National Park, acrossing Hsinchu & Miaoli counties and famous for special fish species- formosan Oncorhynchus masou; locating in Hualien county adjacent to Li Wu creek, Taroko National Park is known for its lofty canyon landscape; across many counties in central Taiwan, Yushan National Park is famous for its bright sunshine; locating in south tip, Kenting National Park gives you a total touch of Southeast Asia; last on the list is Kinmen National Park which is known for legacies from the war decades ago. In addition to the beautiful natural setting provided, above six National Parks also offer great ecological environment for tourists. The Dongsha Atoll Marine National Park was established in January, 2007 at the north tip of the South China Sea, marking the southern portal to the Taiwan Strait. The atoll has a unique white sand landscape formed of coral and shell.