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Tuesday 25th June
Taiwan Information - Page 2
Taiwan has been inhabited for over ten thousand years. The aboriginal people now living in the mountains are believed to have lived in Taiwan for six thousand years. Originally they occupied most of the island.

In the fifteenth century Chinese emigrants from the province of Fukien, which lies opposite Taiwan on the mainland, began to occupy the coastal areas where the best agricultural land was found.

In the early sixteenth century the Portuguese landed, giving the island the name Formosa (beautiful) by which it was known for many years. The Dutch and Spanish followed. In 1642 the Dutch drove the Spanish out but they were themselves expelled shortly afterwards by a Chinese army of supporters of the Ming emperors, fleeing the invading Manchus. In 1684 Taiwan, itself was conquered by the Manchus and officially became part of China.

At the end of the 1895 war between China and Japan, Taiwan was handed over to Japan. The island remained under Japanese rule until the end of the Second World War.

In 1911 China's last Emperor was overthrown and civil war followed. The victorious Nationalist Party then had to fight a Japanese invasion. At the end of the Second World War Taiwan was given back to China. When the Nationalist Party was defeated by the Communists under Mao Tse-tung in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Republicans, fled to Taiwan with around one and a half million supporters forming the Republic of China. On the mainland Mao Tse-tung declared the formation of the People's Republic of China.

In the years that followed, land reform, rapid industrialization and educational development gave Taiwan the foundations of its economic success.

Taiwan's economy was severely damaged by the Second World War. Industrialization and educational investment led to rapid growth. Today, service industries are important contributors to the Gross Domestic Product.

In June 2010 a landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed with the mainland.

Bilateral trade between the UK and Taiwan reached £5.796 million in 2014, a 50% increase over the level in the 2008/9 period. Ten years on, in 2019 the UK government reported that "Taiwan is the world’s twenty-second largest trading economy. Its high-technology strengths and national investment programmes present significant opportunities for UK companies."

Around a quarter of Taiwan's land is arable. Crops are rice, corn, sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, fruit and tea. Livestock includes pigs, chickens, ducks and dairy cattle.

Manufacturing is important to the economy. Taiwan is a leading supplier of electronic goods. There is also a motor vehicle industry. Other industries include petroleum refining, iron and steel, cement, machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, food processing, fisheries and the production of wood and bamboo products.

Tourism is an important source of foreign currency.

Chinese culture is the world's oldest living culture having developed uninterrupted from prehistory for around three thousand years. The National Palace Museum in Taipei contains art treasures dating back five thousand years. The museum itself began with the private collections of the Emperors of the Sung Dynasty (960-1279).

The pictorial nature of Chinese characters led to calligraphy becoming an art form.

Ink painting came to Taiwan from China in the fourteenth century and gained renewed popularity after the Second World War. Ink painting and poetry are seen as interlinked "paintings within poetry, poems within painting".

Since the beginning of the century Taiwanese art has been influenced by Japanese, Chinese and Western art styles.

Traditional Chinese dance dates back thousands of years. Chinese music has a three thousand year history. Most of the instruments are types of flutes and stringed instruments. Chinese Opera is broadcasted regularly on both television and radio so all people have access to this type of music.

The aboriginal people of Taiwan are skilled woodcarvers and weavers. Their music and dance is very different from the Chinese equivalents.

Basketball and baseball are the most popular sports. Tennis, table tennis and badminton are also played. Kungfu and other martial arts are traditional sports. Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong are part of the daily way of life with many people practising in the public parks.

As Taiwan is an island there is ample opportunity for water sports: surfing, scuba diving, sailing and deep-sea fishing.

Taiwan celebrates the traditional Chinese festivals the Chinese New Year beginning on the first day of the lunar month; the Lantern Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Birthday of Confucius. National Day is celebrated on the tenth day of the tenth month (called Double-Ten).

News from Taiwan is available from Newslink.

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