china absolute tours logo
Zoom In  Zoom Out

Taiwan History


The island has been China's territory since history. It named as Yizhou (literally "barbarian prefecture") in Eastern Han Dynasty, changed as Liuqiu in Sui Dynasty and called as Beigang and Dongfan (literally "eastern barbarian") in the Ming Dynasty. An administrative bureau was established in Penghu Archipelago during the Yuan Dynasty. The name "Taiwan" was appeared as early as in official documents in the Ming Dynasty in 1635 AD, then the name was still used in the Qing Dynasty and we're continued to call the island nowadays.

But what's the origin and meaning of the name? There are different views among scholars in China. It is said that "Taiwan" was from the first words of "Dai Island" and "Yuan Bridge" according to an ancient folk legend. And some said that the name was due to frequent hit by typhoons on Taiwan and Fujian coast; with some say it was originally called as "Maiyuan" (literally "burying the ones who died by the cause of enmity or bad luck") but changed to "Taiwan" because the former name was a hoodoo. But many claimed that "Taiwan" was come from "Dayuan", "Taiyuan" or "Dawan", and "Taiwan" was derived from translation or from the titles of local tribes; this point of view is maintained in Cihai (Dictionary Sea, one of the greatest modern Chinese dictionaries) today. In the Taiwan section of Origins of Provincial and Regional Names of China wrote that the island was called as Dayuan during the 16th Century, which was a transliteration from the pronunciation of a highland native tribe and the location was Anping Town in Tainan County; and the local Han Chinese called it Taiwan in 17th Century when the Dutch invaders built the Zeelandia City. When Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong) expelled the Dutch invaders in 1662, Taiwan was the name used for area that is now called Tainan City, and then the establishment of the Taiwan Regional Government by China's Qing Dynasty, Taiwan became the name called for the whole island. Another view is that "Taiwan" was derived from the fact that the Dutch had built city and artillery platform (Tai) along the coast of bay (Wan).

Furthermore, in some ancient literatures and documents the island was called Dahui, and scholar Mr. Wu Zhuangda thought that Dahui, Dayuan and Taiyuan later were the transliteration from the pronunciation of southern Fujian dialect for the area. He demonstrated that "Taiwan" was derived from Dawan, which was a name for ancient Anping Bay in Tainan. According to archeological survey in Tainan, it is confirmed that the region was the original residence of the native Tayovoan. Dawan means Tayovoan, and in historical Dutch documents described the Anping area as Tayovoan, but sometimes as Tyovon, Teijoan and Toyouan.

Taiwan is sometimes nicknamed as Formosa. The origin of the name was that during 15th and 16th Centuries due to the discovery of the New World and new maritime routes as well as the widespread speculation that there were much gold and spices in the Orient, so European countries like Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands dispatched ships to Asia for exploration and merchandising in succession.

Since the mid 16th Century, the shipping to Asia was becoming frequent, and many maritime routes were near Taiwan and its adjacent waters. When a Portuguese merchant ship passing the coast of Taiwan, China, the crew viewed the island and saw that it had beautiful sceneries of high mountains, vast forest fields and green meadows, then they called it loudly as "Ilha Formosa!" This means "beautiful island".

The then Portuguese are concentrated their attention in Indochina Peninsula so Taiwan was just a scenic spot that they passed through. But Formosa was still used by the Dutch, and many people like to call the island as Formosa nowadays.

The earliest inhabitants in Taiwan were mostly emigrated directly or indirectly from Mainland China. The archeological discovery in Zuozhen Village at Tainan County of the earliest human fossils there in 1971 and 1974 respectively and named as "Zuozhen People"; archeologists thought that these people were come here from Mainland China about 30,000 years ago, and they are the late Homo sapiens of the Stone Age as Qingliu and Dongshan People in Fujian Province. Zuozhen people were very akin to the characteristics of people on Mainland China. Beside Chinese people, Negrito and Liuqiu are the minority races settled there, who are also the ancestors of ethnic minorities on the island.

The earliest written documents can be found about the history of Taiwan date back to 230 AD. At that time the emperor of Wu State, Sun Quan dispatched troops of ten thousand to Yizhou (Taiwan), and a citizen of Wu State called Shen wrote the first record of the island. During the Suitang era (589 to 618 AD) it was named Liuqiu and the Sui dispatched navy forces three times to the island. In 610 AD (the sixth year of Daye in the Sui Dynasty) the Han Chinese began to live on Penghu Archipelago according to historical records; during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1368 AD) the archipelago was quite populated by the Chinese. When they developed Penghu, they went to the main island to further development and brought the advanced production techniques there. In the 12th Century, the authority of the Song Dynasty put Penghu Archipelago under the administration of Jinjiang County at Quanzhou in Fujian Province with armed forces stayed there. Troops were sent during the Yuan Dynasty also. On Penghu Archipelago, law and order bureaus were established in Yuan and Ming Dynasties, which were responsible for police patrol and crimes investigation as well as doing salt trade. The name Taiwan was begun to appear in the late Ming Dynasty and in the 17th Century there was increasingly large-scale development by Han Chinese. During the ages of chaos and disasters in the Ming Dynasty, the Fujian authority and Zheng Zhilong Group organized people to emigrate Taiwan.

Powers like Spain and The Netherlands were rapidly expanding and going to the East in the 16th Century. During early 17th Century the peasant uprising and the expansion of the Manchu in northeast China, which had made the Ming government in difficulty, the colonial Dutch made use the opportunity to invade Taiwan. Later, the Spanish occupied northern and eastern parts of the island, but was expelled by the Dutch in 1642 thus Taiwan became the colony of The Netherlands. The colonial government implemented coercive administration, imposed many kinds of revenue, plundered rice and cane sugar crops on the island, as well as bought raw silk materials, sugar and porcelain products selling to various countries thus obtained huge profits. The harsh administration had angered the people of Taiwan and triggered rebellion. In September 1652 the peasant's leader Guo Huaiyi lead a large-scale armed uprising, but suppressed by the Dutch authority, yet the crisis of the colonial government was about to begin.

In 1644 the Manchu forces entered Beijing and established the Qing Dynasty on China's soil. In April 1661 Koxinga, as the General of the Southern Ming lead a force of 25,000 troops and several hundreds battleships advanced to Taiwan from Kinmen. Koxinga told Dutch colonialists that "Taiwan always belongs to China, the people on the island and Penghu Archipelago are Chinese and they possess and till this land since ancient times. You should give back the land to its people." After a series of heavy fighting and besieges, in February 1662 General Koxinga successfully forced the colonial governor signing to surrender, thus resumed China's administration on the island, and Koxinga had become a revered national hero.

General Koxinga died in June that year. The Koxinga's administration had introduced Mainland China's political and educational systems to the island, and emphasized in land development, renovating irrigation facilities and promoting foreign trade. By the end of the administration, the Han Chinese population had increased to about 120,000.

The late period of Koxinga's administration was under high tension of military confrontation. When the Qing Dynasty had stabilized the political situation on the Mainland China, the authority was planning to attack Taiwan, and used some tricks to persuade the Koxinga's administration that it should acknowledge allegiance to Qing's authority but all in vain. The Koxinga's had counterattacked several times on Mainland China's shores in attempt to recover the Ming's regime, and failed in autumn 1678 and lost all occupied lands, then the administration retreated to Taiwan. In the meantime, the Qing rule had become reality for China and the Koxinga's in Taiwan inevitably became a regional separatist regime. On July 8, 1683, Shi Lang, the prefect of navy force in Fujian lead 20,000 troops and over 200 battleships advancing from Tongshan to Penghu and Taiwan. The attack by the Qing forces had defeated the Koxinga's troops. The grandson of Koxinga came over and pledged allegiance to the Qing government.

The Qing government established official bureau in Taiwan and it was under the administration of Fujian Province in 1684. The population there had increased to about 1.9 million of which mainly came from Fujian and Guangdong Provinces. The people had vastly developed farmland thus making it became a new agricultural region, which provided much rice and sugar for Mainland China; and Taiwan's economic development was depended on the import of daily commodities and raw construction materials, while the ties between the province and Fujian and Guangdong became very close, so the Chinese culture had greatly influenced the island.

The Western Powers compelled China to open ports for foreign trade after the Opium War with Britain in 1840. In the 1860s, Danshuei, Jilong, Anping and Dagou were ports forced to open in succession on Taiwan for large-scale opium import and engaging export in tea, sugar and camphor.

After implementing the Meiji Reforms in the 1870s, Japan wanted to expand its territory. The first targets were Ryukyu and Taiwan, which Japan claimed that these were "barbarian regions" without sovereignty and not under China's rule. The Qing government stated again and again that "Taiwan is China's territory since ancient time; the native people there are of Chinese citizen". In January 1874, the Japanese forces invaded the island; and in October China and Japan signed the Beijing Clauses. Although it represented a compromise to Japan due to the weakness of the Qing government, but China's sovereignty over Taiwan was maintained. The Qing officials suggested that to upgrade Taiwan from a prefecture of Fujian to a full provincial status afterwards.

The Western Powers were threatening the frontier of the China's soil in the 1880s. During the Sino-French War (1884 to 1885), the French forces attacked Taiwan, but the forces had been inflicted heavy losses by General Liu Mingchuan's troops. By June 1885, the French troops were forced to leave Taiwan according to the New Sino-French Treaty.

The Qing government strengthened its sea defense after the Sino-French War. In 1885 Taiwan became the 20th province in China. Liu Mingchuan, the first governor of the province implemented a series of new policies and measures like increasing land taxes and financial revenue, purchasing ships, installing telegraph cables, setting up general post office, building railways, purchasing warships and building cannon emplacements; as well as establishing machinery factories for manufacture of home-made weapons, coal bureau for managing and installing the new coal mining machines, the infrastructure bureau for building roads throughout the province, and setting up western-style schools and telegraph institutes for bringing up experts and specialists. Governor Liu had promoted these new kinds of industry in the island, thus making Taiwan one of the most advanced provinces in China.

Japan launched the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894. China's Qing government was defeated in the following year and forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, Taiwan became a Japanese colony. The Qing army fought fiercely with the Japanese forces for further five months that cost the latter much but lost. Since then, Japan colonized Taiwan for 50 years.

Japan imposed an autocratic regime on Taiwan and set up strict political police mechanism in order to control the whole society. Since Japan launched complete invasion to China in 1937, the colonial government in Taiwan pushed forward the movement of "The Taiwanese are Emperor's Subjects" that Chinese people on the island should loyal to the Japanese emperor and patriotic to Japan. In the economic aspect, Japan imposed a policy that Taiwan should provide rice and cane sugar to Japan (Taiwan was then the seventh largest sugar producer in the world); then before and during the World War II Taiwan became industrial and weaponry back up place for Japan's southing policy. Chinese people in Taiwan had never been yielded to Japanese rule, during which people (mainly peasants) organized armed resistant movements to battle with the imperialist for about 20 years. Later, some folk organizations and the Communist Party had also lead people to against the Japanese.

During the Anti-Japanese War (1937 to 1945) many Taiwanese people went back to Mainland China to help compatriots fighting the invader. On December 9, 1941 China's government announced the Declaration of War to Japan that "All treaties, accords and contracts that concerned the Sino-Japanese relations have entirely been abolished".

Japan was defeated in August 1945 and declared unconditional surrender on 15th, the island of Taiwan and the Penghu Archipelago were returned to China by Japan. On October 25, 1945, Chinese troops representing the Allied Command accepted the formal surrender of Japanese military forces in Taipei. The then leader of China, Chiang Kai-shek, announced that date as "Taiwan Restoration Day". The main island of Taiwan and Penghu Archipelago as well as Kinmen, Matsu and Diaoyutai Islets are under the administration of Taiwan Province.


Like Mainland China, Taiwan's ancient economy was mostly depended on agriculture and fishing. Salt trading began in the Yuan Dynasty and well developed during the Ming Dynasty. In the mid 17th Century the Dutch colonists bought local raw silk materials, sugar and porcelain products selling to various countries and obtained huge profits for its benefits, which had badly baffled the economy and people's livelihood in Taiwan (See History above). After Koxinga's restoration of Chinese sovereignty on the island, the island's domestic and foreign trade as well as its agriculture flourished until the late 19th Century. Camphor oil extraction and cane sugar production played an important role in Taiwan's exportation from the late 19th Century through the first half of the 20th Century. The Japanese colonists plundered the island's rice and cane sugar crops during its fifty years rule thus hampered Taiwan's economical development, albeit Japan had introduced some advanced technologies to the island.

At the end of the World War II, Taiwan was facing hard time and striving for its economic recovery, during which the political situation was very chaotic and the population rapidly increased, so material shortages and rising consumer prices were common. Therefore, the Taiwan's authority took a series of measure to stabilize and vitalize the economy, which included land and currency reform, strengthening restriction on foreign exchange, as well as to make domestic industries like electrical power, fertilizer production and textile manufacture having development priority.

At the early stage of recovery the land reform and the "aid" from the US gave positive impact to Taiwan's economy. The land reform meant to reduce land revenue for landlords and release public farm fields originally occupied by the Japanese before 1945 to peasants who are having no or just small area of lands.

Since the 1950s, the United States has been sent large quantity of Greenback, food, cotton and chemical fertilizer etc. to aid Taiwan, so greatly eased the local food and material shortage. From 1950 to 1965, the US has offered the island a total amount of 1.5 billion US Dollars aid that about 100 million annually, as well as accumulated about $US 3 billion military assistant during the period, thus giving the local authority an opportunity to concentrate its attention to develop local economy.

In such unique social and economical circumstance the local economy was getting stable and the authority has imposed an export priority policy, which is to develop exportable industries first and to reduce import. Thus, income and expenses have been balanced and the local textile, food production, cement and plastic industries were doing well. With great quantity of gold got from Mainland China, economic aid from the United States, the reconstruction after the war, land reform and export substitution have successfully rescued Taiwanese economy from the heavy downturn within ten years. In the late 1950s, the consumer prices have become stable and the supplies of daily commodities become abundant. But within such a small market, the economy began to appear overstocked.

In 1958 the Executive Yuan introduced a series of economic reform measures like changing the multiple exchange rates to single, which was to abolish the system that different rate for different import or export goods, reducing the import revenue and encouraging export. In the 1960s the authority imposed new favorable policies for foreign investments, which is to exempt the first five years of sales tax for enterprises if over 50% of their products are exported. These new measures have built a good foundation for the island's further development.

In the meantime Taiwan became industrialized. The export rate in 1962 was reached 50.5%, which was exceeded the amount of export in agricultural products for the first time. In 1964 it was the first time of two-digit growth in local economy with average personal income exceeded 200 US Dollars annually.

During the 1970s, large-scale infrastructures on the island were planned under the circumstances of World Energy Crisis in 1973 and 1979 respectively. Heavy and light industries were doing well like petrochemistry, steel and television manufacture; so Taiwan ranked 21st among world's foreign trade economies.

To develop high tech industry, Hsinchu Science Park was established in 1980, which was exempted various kinds of tax including income tax for the first five years. After over twenty years of development the Hsinchu Science Park attained great success, where mainly produces semiconductors for communication products, as well as CRT monitors, computer motherboards, mouse and computer chips etc.

The New Taiwan Dollar was forced to appreciate due to the pressure in America's trade protectionism in mid 1980s, so rising wage and land value have changed the overall economic climate; this lead to the authority to impose open up and free market strategies with less interference from the government. However, the new circumstance has brought new problems to the economy. Because great increase operating cost for traditional industries, so that during the late 1980s many of them have been transferred to the Mainland China and South East Asia. Since then, outbound investment became a trend; and since 2000, the Third Industry occupies 65% of GDP and becomes a principle part in Taiwan's economy, while the agriculture now relies heavily on marketing and exportation of certain kinds of specialty, such as banana, guava, lychee, wax apple, and high-mountain tea. Taiwan was heralded as one of the Asian Four Tigers with Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea during the 1980s and 90s.


Leave your comments or questions:(You can use Facebook or default response system for writing down your message)
Leave a response

1-888-414-0686 (US & CA)

0-808-189-0371 (UK)

1-800-982-536 (AU)

0086-571-85278076 (Intl)

Many people are looking for   travel deals before their trip to China. We believe you may find a good China travel deal here that suits you best.

If you're looking for a great guide to the best and most interesting tourist attractions in China, then allow us to show you China from the inside.

About Us | Why Us | Terms and Conditions | Contact Us Ltd ©2008-2016

Tourist Complaint Hotline: 96118