"Taiwan" is also commonly used to refer to the territories administered by the Republic of China (ROC) and to ROC itself, which governs the island of Taiwan, Lanyu (Orchid Island) and Green Island in the Pacific off the Taiwan coast, the Pescadores in the Taiwan Strait, and Kinmen and the Matsu Islands off the coast of mainland Fujian.
The island groups of Taiwan and Penghu (except the municipalities of Taipei and Kaohsiung) are officially administered as Taiwan Province of the Republic of China.
However, in practice, almost all government power is exercised at the national and local (city/county) levels.
The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa (from Portuguese (Ilha) Formosa, meaning "beautiful (island)"), is located in East Asia off the coast of mainland China, southwest of the main islands of Japan but directly west of the end of Japan's Ryukyu Islands, and north-northwest of the Philippines.
It is bound to the east by the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait, to the west by the Taiwan Strait and to the north by the East China Sea.
The island is 394 kilometres (245 miles) long and 144 kilometres (89 miles) wide and consists of steep mountains covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation.
Location: Pacific Ocean, 120 km (74.6 mi) off the coast of mainland China
Area: 35,801 km² (13,822.8 sq mi)
Highest point: Yu Shan - 3,952 m (2.5 mi)
Administration: Republic of China
Population: approx. 23 million (as of 2005)
Indigenous people: 98% Han Chinese
Min-nan (70% of the total population)
Hakka (15% of the total population)
2% Taiwanese aborigines
Evidence of human settlement in Taiwan dates back thirty thousand years, although the first inhabitants of Taiwan may have been genetically distinct from any groups currently on the island.
About four thousand years ago, ancestors of current Taiwanese aborigines settled in Taiwan.
These aborigines are genetically related to Malay and Polynesians, and linguists classify their language as Austronesian.
Polynesians are suspected to have ancestry traceable back to Taiwan.
Han Chinese began settling in the Pescadores in the 1200s, but Taiwan's hostile tribes and its lack of the trade resources valued in that era rendered it unattractive to all but "occasional adventurers or fishermen engaging in barter" until the sixteenth century.
It has been claimed but not verified that the Ming Dynasty admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) visited Taiwan between 1403 and 1424.
In 1544, a Portuguese ship sighted the main island of Taiwan and dubbed it "Ilha Formosa", which means "Beautiful Island."
The Portuguese made no attempt to colonise Taiwan.
In 1624, the Dutch established a commercial base on Taiwan and began to import workers from Fujian and Penghu as labourers, many of whom settled.
The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tayoan City (present day Anping, Tainan).
Both Tayoan and the island name Taiwan derive from a word in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages.
The Dutch military presence was concentrated at a stronghold called Castle Zeelandia.
The Dutch colonists also started to hunt the native Formosan Sika deer (Cervus nippon taioanus) that inhabited Taiwan, contributing to the eventual extinction of the subspecies on the island.
Tainan Confucius Temple.
Four characters on the inscribed board
mean "First School in All of Taiwan"
Naval and troop forces of Southern Fujian defeated the Dutch in 1662, subsequently expelling the Dutch government and military from the island.
They were led by Koxinga (pinyin: Zhéng Chénggong).
Following the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Koxinga retreated to Taiwan as a self-styled Ming loyalist and established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662-83).
Koxinga established his capital at Tainan and he and his heirs, Zheng Jing (pinyin: Zhéng Jing), who ruled from 1662-82, and Zheng Keshuang (pinyin: Zhéng Késhuáng), who served less than a year, continued to launch raids on the south-east coast of mainland China well into the Qing Dynasty, attempting to recover the mainland.
In 1683, following the defeat of Koxinga's grandson by an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang of Southern Fujian, the Qing Dynasty formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province.
The Qing Dynasty government tried to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, issuing a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights.
Immigrants mostly from Southern Fujian continued to enter Taiwan.
The border between taxpaying lands and "savage" lands shifted eastward, with some aborigines 'Sinicising' while others retreated into the mountains.
During this time, there were a number of conflicts between Chinese from different regions of Southern Fujian, and between Southern Fujian Chinese and aborigines.
In 1887, the Qing government upgraded Taiwan's status from prefecture of Fujian to full province, the twentieth in the country, with its capital at Taipei.
This was accompanied by a modernisation drive that included building Taiwan's first railroad and starting a postal service.
Modern democratic era
Chiang Kai-shek's eventual successor, his son Chiang Ching-kuo, began to liberalise Taiwan's political system.
In 1984, the younger Chiang selected Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese technocrat, to be his vice president.
In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed illegally and inaugurated as the first opposition party in Taiwan to counter the KMT.
A year later Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law.
After the 1988 death of Chiang Ching-Kuo, his successor as President Lee Teng-hui continued to hand more government authority over to the native Taiwanese and democratise the government.
Under Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of localisation in which local culture and history was promoted over a pan-China viewpoint.
Lee's reforms included printing banknotes from the Central Bank rather than the Provincial Bank of Taiwan, and disbanding the Taiwan Provincial Government.
Under Lee, the original members of the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly, elected in 1947 to represent mainland constituencies and having taken the seats without re-election for more than four decades, were forced to resign in 1991.
Restrictions on the use of Taiwanese in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted as well.
In the 1990s, the Republic of China transformed into a true democratic state, as President Lee Teng-hui was elected by the first popular vote held in Taiwan during the 1996 Presidential elections.
In 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, was elected as the first non-KMT President and was re-elected to serve his second and last term since 2004.
Polarised politics has emerged in Taiwan with the formation of the Pan-Blue Coalition of parties led by the KMT, favouring eventual Chinese reunification, and the Pan-Green Coalition of parties led by the DPP, favouring an eventual and official declaration of Taiwan independence.
On September 30, 2007, Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party approved a resolution asserting separate identity from China and called for the enactment of a new constitution for a "normal country".
It called also for general use of "Taiwan" as the island's name, without abolishing its formal name, the Republic of China.
Since the DPP believes the independence position is popular among Taiwanese, President Chen has used this as rationale for holding a referendum in the 2008 presidential election on whether the island should enter the United Nations under the name Taiwan.
This issue has also forced the KMT to become more identity-driven: it countered with its own version of the referendum.
However, due to China's veto power as a member of the UN Security Council, neither methods will likely lead to Taiwan's admission.
Whether the DPP is likely to benefit for both the presidential and legislative elections remains to be seen.
For a more information about Taiwan see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan) see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, March 2008.
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in March 2008. E. & O.E.
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