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All About Taiwan: (FSF Cultural Exploration)

Taiwan Overview

Taiwan is a mountainous island nation between the Strait of Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the Philippine Sea and shares maritime borders with the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the Philippines. It is notable for being ruled by China’s nationalist party since they fled the mainland to escape the communist takeover. Over the five decades under nationalist rule, the country has slowly democratized and experienced economic prosperity. This has led it to develop a largely homogenous society with a strong patriarchal, class-oriented culture with education serving as the main means of advancement.

A Brief History

Taiwan, despite being inhabited for 30,000 years, was largely unexplored until The Dutch East India Company established a colony in 1624 to extract rice and sugar from the region. In 1660, supporters of China’s Ming Dynasty looked to Taiwan as a place to regroup after being defeated by the newly-founded Qing Dynasty. They successfully repelled the Europeans but were forced to rejoin the Chinese Empire 20 years later due to an attack by Qing forces. Over the next two centuries, the population grew despite China banning immigration, leading to the emergence of sizable towns. This was accompanied by widespread corruption, leading to lawlessness. Other powers began to take interest in the region in the late eighteenth century due to economic and strategic reasons, but China managed to hold the island until 1894 when the losing a war forced them to cede it to Japan. The Japanese made major improvements to the island's infrastructure and public health but were resented by natives due to them taking away guns and monopolizing the island’s natural resources.

During World War 2, it was used as a staging base for attacking South-East Asia leading thousands of civilians to die in American air raids. After the war, the island was turned over to the Republic of China (ROC), resulting in rampant corruption, a ruined economy, and ultimately riots that were violently suppressed. Meanwhile, the ROC was losing to the communists on the mainland. The ROC ultimately retreated to Taiwan, cracking down on descent to maintain its power. The regime launched a land reform program and used its wealth to industrialize the island nation. In 1978, the US cut ties with the ROC to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Since 1988, the nation has moved to democratize and allow free expression of public opinion.

Taiwan Culture and Traditions

Taiwan’s culture places a strong emphasis on family. It is common for three or more generations to live in a single household and even when living apart parents often support their children after marriage. Deference is expected to be deferred to those older than oneself. This extends to religion, with ancestor worship being prominent. This is based on the notion that living can provide a means of happiness to those who have passed away and is carried out due to both love and fear as they may deliberately harm their descendants if neglected.

Festivals play a major role in Taiwanese society. They are largely funded by the government and make money from tourism. For much of the ROC’s reign over the island, they provided some of the only opportunities to feast, relax and travel. All of them have music and dance playing a critical role. For the aboriginal minority, festivals offer an opportunity to celebrate and consolidate their identity. The longest festival in Taiwan is the Chinese New Year, which involves fireworks, lavish meals, purchasing gifts for loved ones, and is also considered an excellent time to clear all debts.


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