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People and Culture of Taiwan

06/13/2006

People

The larger part of the island's inhabitants are the descendants of immigrants from the various provinces of mainland China, but in particular from the southeastern coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Because the different ethnic groups have fairly well integrated together, differences that originally existed between people from different provinces have gradually disappeared. About 360,000 indigenous people, the original inhabitants of Taiwan, still live here.

The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese (or Guoyu), other major dialects like Minnanese (or Holo) and Hakka are also widely spoken. The most popular foreign language in Taiwan is English, which is part of the regular school curriculum. Many elderly people can also speak some Japanese, as they were subjected to Japanese education before Taiwan was returned to Chinese rule in 1945 after the Japanese occupation which lasted for half a century.

When you visit Taiwan, you will most certainly be amazed at the diversity of things this beautiful island has to offer, as a rich historical background has provided Taiwan with a multifaceted culture. People from many different places and backgrounds, such as Taiwan's indigenous people, the southern Fujianese from early China, Hakka immigrants, the Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and the recent immigrants from mainland China, have all played a role in Taiwan's development. While gradually developing a new culture indigenous to Taiwan, they also hold on to their respective customs and traditions; as a result, you will be able to sample indigenous, Taiwanese, and Chinese cultures and even find traces left by the Dutch and the Japanese when traveling in Taiwan.

Hakka Folk Performance The Array of Acrobatic Performances
Hakka Folk Performance The Array of Acrobatic Performances

Culture

Before the earliest Chinese settlers came to Taiwan at least four hundred years ago, the aboriginal people had already left their mark on the island. The aboriginal lived in tribes, and their art took the form of beautiful houses and clothes that signified tribal authority. The houses were usually decorated with carved objects and utensils, and the clothes were beautifully woven and embroidered. Facial tattoo was also a common art form.

The traditional Glove Puppetry has a history of two hundred years. It gradually developed into a splendid cultural and social vehicle to entertain, educate, and preserve traditional values and legends. T traditional Glove Puppetry also served to communicate veiled voices of political opposition. It has developed to hundreds of divisions, forming one of the most symbolic entertainment forms in Taiwan.

Taiwanese Opera is originated from I-Lan, and it is also the only traditional local opera developed in Taiwan. It has a century old history. Taiwanese Opera is a branch of traditional Chinese entertainment, and its performance is composed of singing and acting.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is a local dance group. It has its roots in Asian myths, folklore, and aesthetics, but it brings to these age - old beliefs and stories a contemporary and universal perspective. The company is made up of two-dozen dancers whose training includes tai chi, meditation, martial arts, Chinese Opera movement, modern dance, and ballet.

Lion dance Palmar Puppet
Lion dance (Gadou Dance) Palmar Puppet

Photos provided by R.O.C. Ministry of Transportation & Communications Tourism Bureau