Brief of Taiwan

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History

The name “Taiwan, “meaning “terraced bay,” was first used in 1430 by Admiral Cheng Ho of the Ming court. In the 16th century, the Portuguese named the island “Ilha Formosa” meaning “Beautiful Island.” The name Formosa was used until the end of WWII. Situated between northern and southern Asia, Taiwan has long played a crucial role in trade and politics. Taiwan’s location brought frequent invasions, but also provided the conditions needed for a modern, prosperous and democratic country.

Geography

Taiwan lies along the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, 193 km (120 miles) off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Taiwan has a land area of about 36,000 square km (14,400 square miles) and is nearly bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. The island is shaped somewhat like a sweet potato. Taiwan has broad plains, rolling hills, and precipitous mountains that form the spine of the island. There are six peaks over 3,500 m—the highest is Yu Shan at 3,952 m—and more than 200 peaks over 3,000 m. Swift rivers have carved steep gorges through the mountains. Taroko Gorge, with vertical rock walls hundreds of meters high, is a wonder of nature. Geothermal activity has produced many hot springs in mountains. Due to the abundant rainfall and generally warm temperatures, vegetation grows rampantly in Taiwan, from lowland agricultural crops to all manner of plant life cloaking the hills and mountains. Due to its unique climate and geography, the flora and fauna of Taiwan are tremendously diverse, and many species are endemic to the island.

Climate

In subtropical, northern Taiwan, the temperature during the cool, mild winters averages 18˚C /64˚F. The average temperature rises to 31˚C / 88˚F during the hot, humid summers. Southern Taiwan has a tropical, marine climate with generally warm and relatively dry weather. In the mountains, temperate conditions prevail. Snow may accumulate on some of the highest peaks, such as Yu Shan and Ho-Huan Shan. Rain may fall at any time, but the greatest amount usually falls from April to August. Typhoon season is from May to September.

Culture

The culture of Taiwan is a blend of modern and traditional, national and international, unique and universal. Due to Taiwan’s complex political history, the influences of indigenous culture, Confucianism, Japan, and Western civilization all can be seen at the same time. The Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945 influenced language, culture, and architecture. Visitors can still find a Japanese-style mansion and hear old Japanese songs emanating from nearby taverns. Taiwan’s aboriginal culture is unique and has started to flourish since the Ami chant “Jubilant Drinking Song” was sampled in a song to promote the 1996 Olympics. However, the dominant culture in Taiwan is still Chinese. Immigrants from mainland China, especially those who arrived in 1949, after civil war, brought Confucianism and Chinese culture to Taiwan. The National Palace Museum has an outstanding collection of 650,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts brought from the Forbidden City, making it a major attraction for visitors. Visitors also will see ornate temples and traditional Chinese characters.

Cuisine

In Taiwan, where it seems the people live to eat, it is said that there is a snack shop every three steps and a restaurant every five. Foods and dishes from around the world are available in Taiwan. However, Taiwan’s native cuisine, which has gained worldwide attention, is unforgettable – try it just once and you will remember it forever. Memorable dishes include: Pearl Milk Tea, Danzai Noodles, Shrimp Pork Soup, Oyster Omelet, Meat Rice Tamales, Stinky Tofu, Taiwanese Meatballs, Coffin Sandwich, Veggie and Meat Wrap, Oyster Vermicelli, Steamed Sandwich, and Crushed Ice Dessert.

(Information and photo above provided by the Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan, FICHET)

Please check FICHET web site for more detail information: www.studyintaiwan.org

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