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Taiwan Art & Civilization


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Taiwan's specific situation in Asia is the source of its thorn past. Situated in the South East of China, Taiwan was at the crossroads of many maritime routes and squeezed between its neighbors, China and Japan. After centuries of foreign occupation, Taiwan has a unique history. Taiwan, Art and Civilization sheds light on Taiwan's beautiful scenery as well as its colorful history in the form of a true initiatory trip. Through magnificent illustrations, Taiwan reveals its secret beauty, its fauna and flora intertwined with its unique architecture. Home of the traditional and the modern, the gorgeous island is also the home of a very dynamic artistic scene. One thus fully grasps why the Portuguese named her Ilha Formosa, beautiful island.



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Published 15 September 2015
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EAN13 9781783107629
Language English
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© Confidential Concepts, for the present edition, USA
© For the present edition, Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
© All pictures from the Taiwan National Cultural Association
© English translation by Taiwan National Cultural Association
All rights reserved worldwide

Published by Parkstone Press International
An imprint of Confidential Concepts

Secretary General: Ms Yu-Chiou Tchen

ISBN: 978-1-78310-762-9

No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright
holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lie with
the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish
copyright ownership. Where it is the case we would appreciate notification.
Art and Civilisation

C o n t e n t s

An Invitation Knowing and Appreciating Taiwan’s Beauty
By Tchen Yu-Chiou Secretary General, National Cultural Association
Introduction By Janice Lai Director General, Taiwan Tourism Bureau
More than Thirty Thousand Years of History
A Natural Miracle
Architectural Style and Culture in Transition
Flourishing Performing Arts and Traditional Life
Vigorous Visual Arts
Index of Artists
List of Illustrations
Photographical CreditsSky LanternsAn Invitation
Knowing and Appreciating
Taiwan’s Beauty

By Tchen Yu-Chiou
Secretary General, National Cultural Association

In the last forty years, studying and working have given me the chance to make innumerable trips
abroad. Among the foreigners I have met, many have been to or heard of my country Taiwan, while
some do not even know where Taiwan is, or what kind of country it is. But when they hear me
describe or introduce Taiwan, they often say something like: “Is that so!” or “Oh, spectacular, I didn’t
know that!”
Yes, Taiwan is indeed a place full of surprises, a mesmerizing island.
This island nation, occupying only 36000 square kilometers, once implemented martial law for 38
years, the longest period of martial law in the world. During this period, due to its people’s
hardworking nature, Taiwan became one of the world’s largest textile producing nations in the 1970s, and
one of the leading computer products manufacturer in the 1990s. Entering the twenty-first century,
Taiwan, with its population of 23 million, is the sixteenth world economy in terms of GDP and third
in its foreign currency reserves. Its competitiveness stands at number 13 among 125 countries,
according to the “2005-2007 Report on Global Competitiveness” of the World Economic Forum.
The second impressive thing about Taiwan is its natural environment and culture.
Taiwan’s geographical location is special, helping create a diverse natural scenery and ecology.
Not only are plants from many different climatic zones represented; their habitat and species diversity
are also uncommon. On this land, there are aborigines who share a common ancestry with the
Austronesians, but who have developed their own culture that is uniquely Taiwanese. In recent
centuries, however, as a result of historical factors such as immigration and colonization, there
developed a phenomenon where Chinese Han culture, Western culture, and Japanese culture blended
Thus we see that Taiwan has long been multicultural, its different cultures coexisting
symbiotically. The world not only witnesses different species existing here, but also different ethnic
groups coexisting together, different cultures agitating, gradually forming the face of modern Taiwan,
spurring this tiny island’s creativity and arts to truly amazing accomplishments. Especially since
entering into the democratic era beginning in the 1990s, full progress and impressive achievements
have been made in the visual and performing arts.The diverse geography and assorted ethnic cultures have enabled the Taiwanese to bravely face
difficulties and challenges, with unwavering stamina, in spite of repeated assaults, and a gentle,
goodnatured fellow-feeling. This capacity for life is also on constant display in the annual festivities and
To the Taiwanese and the world, Taiwan possesses two famous and conspicuous landmarks:
Yushan, the tallest mountain peak in East Asia, and the Taipei 101 skyscraper, the tallest building in
the world. They represent imprints of natural history and modern science, respectively. Rising
confidently out of the earth, with their tangible shapes, they show the world Taiwan’s intangible
Even though the island of Taiwan is fifteen million years old, the Taiwanese are a vigorous,
emerging people of recent times. They have not only preserved completely their traditional characters
and traditional Chinese culture, but have also generated the most dazzling creative energy. In the
Chinese-speaking world, Taiwan is also the most accomplished in establishing democracy and human
rights standards.
Taiwan is like a diamond, small yet beautiful, small yet sparkling. Through this album’s words and
pictures, I hope international friends can become further acquainted with Taiwan appreciate it. I also
invite readers to share the beauty of this oriental island nation situated in the global village.

By Janice Lai
Director General, Taiwan Tourism Bureau

It is my great privilege and pleasure to jot down a few paragraphs to introduce this splendid
compendium, aimed at acquainting readers with Taiwan’s beauty. The brain-child of Mme Tchen
YuChiou, Secretary General of the National Cultural Association, can reasonablely be expected to be
universal in its appeal. Mme Tchen studied music in Paris for nearly a decade and is an established,
world-famous pianist.
It was her heart-felt love for Taiwan that brought her back to her native home and inspired this
This volume illustrates landscape and human activities of Taiwan in both words and photographs.
The coverage is quite comprehensive, including landscapes, the visual arts, architecture and
performing arts. Many readers are likely to be familiar with the Taroko gorges and the Cloud Gate
Dance Theatre of Taiwan, internationally acclaimed site and performing arts ensemble included in
these pages. But there are many other lesser-known attractions that remain to be explored and
appreciated in Taiwan.
It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, and to a large degree, this book trusts the photos to
speak for themselves. Viewed through the lenses of our photographers, one may amply see that
Taiwan is indeed a mesmerizing island replete with delightful surprises.
Taiwan is an economically advanced country with a complex history. Today, it boasts a fervent
democracy unrivalled in Southeast Asia. As you flip through these pages, you will see the cultural
diversity of its long history.
With great pride, I present to you, the ultimate guide “Taiwan Art and Civilisation”. I am sure that
this precious book will open new windows to the diversity and beauty of Taiwan.Map of the island of Formosa and coastal China made by the Frenchman J.N. Bellin (1760).More than Thirty Thousand
Years of History

Thanks to archaeologists and the sites and artifacts they unearthed, it has been proven that the earliest
inhabitants of Taiwan—a land at least fifteen million years old—can be traced back to thirty-seven
thousand years ago. On Taiwan’s east coast, the Changbin Culture site in Taitung County silently tells
of stone-age men using chipped stone tools to hunt, whereas the five main sites of the Peinan Culture
present the social behaviors and lifestyle of agricultural settlements that engaged in farming, pottery
production, and trade.
In its long prehistoric period, Taiwan had little contact with the inhabitants of other lands that
existed beyond the seas and oceans surrounding the island, and seemed to exist in isolation. Humans,
far outnumbered by mountains, trees, and animals, lived simple lives in lush forests and fields,
accumulating life’s skills and wisdom as they faced nature’s tests, weathering frequent typhoons and
earthquakes and the shifting of the four seasons.
During that time, Taiwan was home to indigenous peoples of the Austronesian language family
who varied in their language, social organization, and material culture. Since the nineteenth century,
ethnologists have held that Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, aided by ocean currents and seasonal winds,
arrived during different periods and through different routes from places south of it, such as the
Philippines and Indonesia. For more than a decade now, however, more and more anthropologists
have come to believe that Taiwan was very likely the original homeland of the peoples in neighboring
regions to its south.
After the mid-sixteenth century, Western European maritime powers arrived in succession in the
East Asian seas. Following Spain’s occupation of Manila, the East China Sea and South China Sea
quickly became a paradise for adventurers who were half-trader, half-buccaneer. Taiwan also became
a playing field where Western Europeans, Chinese, and Japanese competed for profit. In 1624, the
Dutch joined forces with the East India Company to occupy Taiwan, using Tainan as a base for trade
with China, and actively developed tropical agriculture that centered on sugar cane and rice; this was
the first “semi-regime” to emerge on the island of Taiwan. In 1662, the Ming dynasty (1386-1644)
loyalist Cheng Cheng-kung retreated to Taiwan after the resistance against the newly established
Ching dynasty (1644-1911) on the mainland had been thwarted. With his military power, he
established a Chinese-style regime on Taiwan. Two decades later, the powerful Ching Empire crossed
the sea and wiped out the regime of the Cheng family, annexing Taiwan.
The Ching Empire was passive in attitude and weak in their rule over Taiwan, but the inhabitants
of China’s coastal area, driven by the need for livelihood, braved the wind and waves of the TaiwanStrait and the government ban, arriving in this new land of opportunity in endless succession. With
this great wave of immigration, people brought the technology and culture of their homeland to
Taiwan, gradually settling the plains, forming settlements consisting mainly of ethnic Han Chinese
people from China’s southern Fukien province.
Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, Western colonial powers again arrived in the Far East. In
1860, northern and southern Taiwan each boasted a major trading port, and missionaries came to
spread their faith. International relations, which had been severed for some 150 years since the early
eighteenth century, were reopened; the production of tea and camphor became emerging industries,
contributing to the rapid development of Taiwan’s northwestern mountains and hills. In 1884, French
forces engaged in a landing battle on Taiwan’s northern coast, blockading Taiwan’s ports with their
fleet. A decade later, Japan, undertaking massive military expansion in the footsteps of European
empires, defeated the Ching Empire with their modern weapons. Taiwan was made the scapegoat and
ceded to Japan as a colony.
After forcefully cracking down on one after another armed uprisings by the Taiwanese people, the
Japanese launched massive transportation building projects for railroads, highways, and harbors;
improved public environmental health; established modern Western healthcare and education systems;
and put in place the infrastructures necessary for a modern nation, such as administrative institutions
and legal systems, contributing to Taiwan’s modernization. At the dawn of the twentieth century,
there emerged in Taiwan many small cities and towns with modern aspects, as well as the first
generation of intellectuals in the island’s history. This led to the birth of public opinion groups and
publications concerned with modern democratic thought and which carried out a difficult nonviolent
resistance against the Japanese government.
Half a century later, in 1945, Taiwan, freed from colonial rule following Japan’s defeat in World
War II, was taken over by the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party), which had lost the civil
war against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the mainland. The “Republic of China”
continued to exist in Taiwan as the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek with 1.5 millions of soldiers and
his government fled to Taiwan and made it a military base with the aim of recovering Mainland
China. He declared a martial law which lasted for thirty-eight long years.

In the 1970s the “Republic of China” was forced to withdraw from the United Nations: in a few
short years, most nations in the world had shifted their recognition to the People’s Republic of China
and severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, driving the island into diplomatic isolation.
Nonetheless, with resilience and resourcefulness, Taiwan broke through with its vibrant
manufacturing industry and export-oriented economy. International trade has enabled Taiwan to touch
all corners of the world; from the developed countries in Europe and the United States, to the
developing continent of Africa, Taiwan’s entrepreneurs and trading pioneers have left their footprints,
as well as won Taiwan renown as a major producer of textiles, bicycles, and computers and peripheral
products. With economic development came a heightened sense of cultural awareness, and both have
led to all-around social and political democratization in Taiwan.
Since the martial law has been lifted in 1987 as well as the ban on newspaper publication in 1988,
Taiwan has come to enjoy unprecedented freedom of speech. Democracy, liberty, openness and
diversity have become the core values most treasured by the people of Taiwan. Through waves of
popular reform movements, Taiwan has seen significant change in terms of parliamentary and
locallevel elections and direct presidential elections, undergoing its first transfer of power between
political parties in 2000, when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) replaced the KMT, which had
been for half a century Taiwan’s ruling party. At the turn of the millennium, Taiwan has finally
entered a new phase both in political and cultural terms, forging ahead through the trials of
democratic transition to become the only exemplary democracy among Chinese societies throughoutthe globe.The Tainan Confucius Temple, built in 1665 during the Ming Dynasty, is Taiwan’s earliest Confucian
temple. This temple was known as Taiwan’s highest institute of learning during the Qing Dynasty.The Dutch built this fortress—known as Fort Zeelandia—in what is now Tainan City in 1624. This was
the center of Dutch power and trade in Taiwan.Pingpu aborigines (one of Taiwan’s aboriginal groups) in Liukui Li in southern Taiwan (now Liukui
Township, Kaohsiung County) (1871).Canadian Presbyterian minister George Mackay on a visit to the Chilai Plain (near Nanfangao in
northeastern Taiwan) (circa 1871).Reverend Mackay, who was also a dentist, pulls teeth of converts at the Wunuan Pingpu Church in Ilan
County (circa 1871).Performers play p i p a lute and s a n x i a n. This was then one of the main forms of entertainment in
respectable society (1895-1919).A folk opera performance, one of the most popular forms of entertainment at the time, in the outskirts of
Tainan (1895-1919).A Traditional Market in Taiwan (circa 1900).“Pig Lord Contest”—a religious festival held at the City God Temple in Tahsi, Taoyuan County. This folk
ceremony is usually held on the gods’ birthdays (1926).