History of Taiwan

Discover the fascinating history of Taiwan

There have been people living on the island of Taiwan for many thousands of years however the most notable group only became established there about 4000 years ago. These were the ancestors of the current Taiwanese aborigines and are genetically related to the Malay and Polynesians. Though the Han Chinese seem to have known about the island since the third century, records indicate that they only attempted to settle there from about the 1100s.

The 15th century saw the arrival of the first Portuguese ship who dubbed it 'Ilha Formosa' which appropriately means beautiful island. The Portuguese did not attempt to colonize the island which meant it was open to colonization by the Dutch who arrived some time later. This is exactly what they did and Tainan was made the colony capital. Dutch rule was short lived however as in 1662, Ming naval forces defeated the Dutch and took over the island. When the Ming dynasty fell Lord Cheng Cheng-Kung, who led these forces, retreated to the island and established the Kingdom of Tungning from where he regularly launched raids on the east coast of China.

Taiwan was formally annexed to China in 1683 when the Cheng holdout was defeated. Cheng's followers were forced to live in the farthest reaches of the Qing Empire while the Qing government continued to struggle to control those Han who continued to live on the island. Conflicts over land between the aboriginal inhabitants and the Han and illegal Fujian immigrants became common place. In 1887, Taiwan was made a self-province and the capital was moved to Taipei. It was about this time that the first railroad was built and a postal service was begun.

In 1895 China was defeated by the Japanese and Taiwan was ceded to Japan. Those who wished to stay under Qing rule were given two years to sell their property and moved to China. The island made a bold move to claim their independence in 1895 with the formation of the Republic of Taiwan. However the Japanese soon brought a stop to it and began major industrialization of the island in an attempt to make it a model colony. Railroads were extended, a sanitation system was developed and public schools were put into place amongst other things. Unfortunately, violence still continued and efforts were stepped up to bind Taiwan to Japan more firmly. However, when Japan was defeated in World War II, the country ceased to exercise its rule over Taiwan which was returned to China.


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