Taiwan's first inhabitants left no written records of their origins. Anthropological evidence suggests that Taiwan's aboriginal peoples (Gaoshan), who originated in Austronesia and southern China, have lived on Taiwan for 12,000 to 15,000 years. Their vocabulary and grammar belong to the Malayan-Polynesian family of modern day Indonesia, and they once shared many Indonesian customs such as tattooing, using identical names for father and son, gerontocracy, head-hunting, spirit worship, and indoor burials. Over 500 prehistoric sites in Taiwan, including many dwelling areas, tombs, and shell mounds, have provided more and seemingly contradictory clues to the origins of Taiwan's aborigines. The majority of prehistoric artifacts discovered so far, such as flat axes, red unpolished pottery, decorated bronze implements, and glass beads, suggest an Indonesian connection. However, other items, such as painted red pottery, red polished pottery, chipped stone knives, black pottery, stone halberds, pottery tripods, and bone arrowheads, suggest that Taiwan's earliest settlers might have come from the Chinese mainland. Many other questions remain unanswered. Were these prehistoric remains left by the ancestors of today's indigenous peoples? The question is a complex one, but many anthropologists have suggested that the remains discovered so far have no proven connection to the present indigenous cultures in Taiwan.
Chinese Administration (A.D. 230 ~ 1622)
Migration to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland began as early as A.D. 230. The Book of Three Kingdom says, "[in A.D. 230,] King Sun Quan of Kingdom Wu sent general Wei Wen and Zhuge Zhi with 70,000 soldiers to conquer Yi Zhou (or state of Yi, ancient name of Taiwan). They succeeded and captured thousands of captives. That began Chinese operation in Taiwan. During Sui Dynasty (A.D. 581 ~ 618), Emperor Yang sent 3 groups of bureaucrats to Taiwan, to administer Taiwan. In year 1271, governor Wang Da-Yo of Quan Zhou had sent troops and civilians to Penghu Islands. During 1335 - 1340, Taiwan is a part of Tong An County, Fujian Quan Zhou. During the Ming Dynasty, the Ming strengthen their national defense in order to drive out pirates. The name "Taiwan" started to appear on official documents in later Ming Dynasty.
European Colonization (1622 ~ 1661)
When Portuguese navigators first came upon Taiwan, they were struck by the tremendous beauty of its green mountains rising steeply of the blue-green waters of the Pacific. They named the island Ilha Formosa, or "beautiful island," a name by which the island has been known in the West for centuries after. Portuguese interest in the island was limited, for they left soon after establishing a settlement in the north.
The next group of Europeans to come to Taiwan were the Spanish and the Dutch. In 1622, the Dutch East India Company established a military base on the Pescadores Islands (Penghu). In the following year, they were forced out by the Chinese and moved to the much larger island of Taiwan where they established a colonial capital and ruled for the next 30 years. At the same time, the Spanish also occupied northern Taiwan in 1626. The Dutch strengthened their foothold by forcing the small Spanish settlement to leave the island in 1642.
Dutch rule increased the amount of land under cultivation by reorganizing Chinese villages and indigenous territories. Taiwan became a trading and transshipment center for goods between a number of areas, such as Japan, China, Batavia (now Jakarta), and Holland. Taiwan's exports to China included rice, sugar, rattan, deer hides, deer horns, and medicine. The island's imports from China included raw silk and silk textiles, porcelain, and medicine. Some products from China were again shipped either to Japan, Batavia, or Europe. Imports to Taiwan from Batavia included spices, amber, tin, lead, cotton, and opium, some of which was later traded to China. Before the Dutch arrived, the Chinese on Taiwan had enjoyed free trade with the Japanese without taxation. The Dutch subsequently established a tax on exports, which consisted mainly of deer hides and sugar. Taiwan proved to be one of the most profitable branches of the Dutch East India Company in the Far East, accounting for 26 percent of the company's world profits in 1649.
In addition to trade, Dutch missionaries were also active in converting Taiwan's population to Christianity. Protestant missionaries established schools where religion and the Dutch language were taught. By 1650, the Dutch had converted 5,900 of the island's inhabitants to Christianity.
Settlement by Han people in Taiwan dates back to the 12th century A.D., but large-scale immigration did not begin until the 17th century, during the period of Dutch administration. While the Dutch were colonizing Taiwan, China was going through a period of strife. In 1644, the Manchus invaded China and established the Qing dynasty. The struggle for control continued for several years in the south, affecting many people. At the same time, Japanese pirates repeatedly ravaged Chinese coastal towns. Consequently, thousands of people, especially from the coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong, migrated across the Taiwan Strait to Taiwan. In the 20 years from 1624 to 1644, more than 25,000 Chinese households--some 100,000 people--immigrated to Taiwan.
This mass migration to Taiwan changed the character of the island. Recognizing the urgent need for industrious farmers, the Dutch employed the new immigrants, providing them with oxen, seeds, and implements. Every new settler was promised an annual subsidy of cash and an ox. Because all land in these areas belonged to the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch were able to profit enormously from collecting heavy rents from the Chinese tenants. Although settlers petitioned to be allowed to buy and own the land they were tilling, so that they could pay taxes instead of rent, the Dutch rulers refused. Mistreatment by the colonial rulers and collection of a new poll tax increased tensions. In September 1652, frustrated Chinese farmers revolted against the Dutch. The rebellions were violently suppressed by the Dutch, who slaughtered nearly 6,000 peasants.
Cheng Chen-Kung and Qing Rule (1661 ~ 1895)
As Manchu troops poured into northern China, many Ming loyalists escaped southwards, where they resisted the foreign invasion for over 20 years. One of the most celebrated resistance fighters was Cheng Cheng-kung (Zheng Chenggong, known in the West as Koxinga). Son of the pirate Cheng Chi-lung and his Japanese mistress, Cheng made Taiwan his base to restore the Ming dynasty. Forcing the Dutch out in 1661, he established a capital at Anping (present-day Tainan). Dutch control over parts of Taiwan had lasted for 38 years.
Cheng Cheng-kung set up schools for the young, introduced Chinese laws and customs, and built the first Confucian temple in Taiwan. During his rule, a steady stream of Chinese continued to arrive in Taiwan and settlements sprang up in increasing numbers along the west coast. Agriculture developed primarily on the southern portion of the island. Industry consisted of refining sugar, tile manufacturing, and salt production. Trade, which had begun under the Dutch, continued with neighboring areas, such as the Philippines, Japan, and Okinawa.
Cheng's son and grandson ruled Taiwan for 20 years before surrendering control of the island to the Manchus in 1683, following military defeat. Taiwan was then ruled by the Manchus for the next 200 years.
Under Qing rule, agriculture expanded northward and increasing numbers of Chinese left the mainland to settle on the island, despite laws forbidding emigration. Camphor, a major cash crop, became a cause of conflict between the new arrivals and the indigenous peoples. Bamboo, rice, and tea were cultivated for the first time.
Four ports in Taiwan were forcibly opened to foreign trade following the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858. Foreign interest in the island made the Qing court realize Taiwan's importance as a gateway to the seven provinces along China's southeastern coast. Consequently, through the 1870s and 1880s, a number of progressive and ambitious Qing officials sent to Taiwan succeeded in strengthening defenses, exploiting coal, and constructing telegraph lines between central and southern Taiwan, as well as with Fujian Province across the Taiwan Strait. In order to administrate Taiwan better, Qing further establish Taipei capital, Tamshui county, Hsinchu county, Yilan county, and Keelung in 1875. In 1885, the Qing dynasty made Taiwan its 22nd province. The first governor Liu Min-Chuan executed a series of programs such as railroad construction, mining, power line, ship manufacture, commerce development, and education, which transformed Taiwan into a modern society.
In 1895, a weakened Imperial China ceded Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki following the first Sino-Japanese war.