Taiwan Travel Guide

Taiwan People & Religion


Taiwan has a population of 23 million. The larger part of the country's inhabitants are the descendants of immigrants from the various provinces of mainland China, but in particular from the southeastern coastal provinces: Fujian and Guangdong. Because the different ethnic groups have fairly well integrated, differences that originally existed between people from different provinces have gradually disappeared.
Nearly 500,000 indigenous people, the original inhabitants of Taiwan, still live here; they are into 16 different tribes, namely Amis, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Rukai, Tsou, Saisiyat, Yami, Thao, Kavalan, Truku, Sakizaya, Sediq ,Kanakanavu ,and Hla'alua.


Language  

The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese; but because many Taiwanese are of southern Fujianese descent, Minnan (the Southern Min dialect or Heluo) is also widely spoken. The smaller groups of Hakka people and indigenous tribes have also preserved their own languages. 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.

The most popular foreign language in Taiwan is English, which is part of the regular school curriculum. However, for your own convenience, when taking a taxi in Taiwan, it is advisable to prepare a note with your destination written in Chinese to show the taxi driver.

Taiwan is also the ideal place to learn Chinese. There are numerous language schools that offer Chinese classes, ranging from hourly-based classes to recognized university programs. Many foreigners from Europe and the United States, as well as other areas, come to Taiwan to spend their holidays, or one or two years, studying Chinese.


Religion

Taiwan is highly diversified in terms of religious belief, with the practices of Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Mormonism, the Unification Church, Islam, and Hinduism, as well as native sects such as Yiguandao and others. The country not only respects traditional faiths but also opens its arms to other types of religious thought from the outside.

For the most part, the traditional religions practiced in Taiwan are Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religions; except for a small number of purely Buddhist temples, however, most of the island's traditional places of worship combine all three traditions.

Taoism is China's native religion, and many of its gods are deified persons who actually lived in the past and made important contributions to society. Guan Gong, the God of War, is a classic example of this; in history he was Guan Yu, a famous general of the Three Kingdoms period. Taoism came to Taiwan in the 17th century, but it was suppressed during the period of Japanese occupation (1895-1945) because of its embodiment of the spirit of Chinese culture. During those years the adherents of Taoism had to worship their gods surreptitiously in Buddhist temples, and after the country was returned to Chinese rule, the convergence of these two religions continued. Today all sorts of deities are worshipped in the same temple, forming one of the unique features of religion in Taiwan.

Confucius is another important part of religious thinking in Taiwan. Confucius was China's most famous and beloved teacher, advocating the practice of rituals and the worship of ancestors. Emperor Yuan of the Western Han Dynasty (207 B.C. - A.D. 24) built the first shrine dedicated to Confucius, and after that many more temples were constructed as a mark of respect to the sage. External religions first arrived on Taiwan in the early part of the 17th century when Catholicism and Protestantism were introduced by Spanish and Dutch missionaries. Presbyterianism is perhaps the Protestant branch of Christianity that has played the most prominent role in Taiwan's history.

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