The highest point in Taiwan is Jade Mountain, which is 3,950 m above sea level.
Taiwan is Chinese for terraced bay.
Taiwan was named Isla Formosa - beautiful island - by the Portuguese and for many years was called Formosa.
The mountain people settled in Taiwan six thousand years ago.
The mountain people or aborigines are believed to be the same race of people who colonised the islands of the Pacific Ocean; some people believe the migrations started form the west and spread south and east; others that Taiwan was the last place the migrants from the east reached.
In the fifteenth century a number of Chinese emigrants from the province of Fukien moved to Taiwan.
Taiwan was conquered by the Manchus in 1684 and officially became part of China.
At the end of the 1895 war between China and Japan, Taiwan was ceded to Japan.
Taiwan remained under Japanese rule until the end of the Second World War when it was given back to China.
In 1949, following defeat by the Communists in China, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Chinese Republicans, fled to Taiwan with around one and a half million supporters forming the Republic of China.
The earthquake in September 1999 killed and injured thousands of people and left many homeless.
Taiwan's Taipei 101, completed in 2003, was said to be the tallest building in the world at five hundred and eight metres.
On 19 March 2004 Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian and the Vice-President Annette Lu were shot only hours before the country's election and a referendum. They did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
In March 2008 Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang Party was elected president.
In June 2008 the first formal talks were held with China since 1999. In November the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan in more than 50 years held talks in Taipei on improving relations. In December the gift of two giant pandas by China was seen as a further improvement in relations.
In April 2009 China dropped objections to Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organisation, while Taiwan announced it would lift the ban on investment from China. In July the leaders of Taiwan and China exchanged direct messages for the first time in more than 60 years.
In August typhoon Morakot hit southern Taiwan, leaving hundreds dead. Taiwan’s president Liu Chao-shiuan resigned amid criticism of the government’s response to the Typhoon.
In June 2010 Taiwan and China signed a free trade pact seen s a significant agreement in 60 years of separation.
In March 2011 five convicted murderers were executed, the second use of the death penalty in the year.