First Impressions of Taiwan

By | May 1, 2022

Taiwan – where old and new meet and are always looking for new harmonies. Millennia-old Chinese culture and cutting-edge technology of the 21st century Mountain panoramas are the cornerstones. Incomparably beautiful mountain panoramas, mountain gorges and rock formations are still able to inspire and challenge poets, painters and sculptors today. The content and values ​​of the more than 2500 year old philosophies and teachings of Confucius are being lived more and more today and are in demand again. On our travels we try to follow these traces again, for example with an overnight stay in a simple monastery hostel.

“Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island) was what Portuguese seafarers called the country when they dropped anchor off the north coast in 1590. In recent history, from 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony; In 1949, Chiang Kai Shek and Dr. Sun Yat Sen left communist China and found refuge here. Many riches and treasures went with them and can still be viewed in their original state in the National Palace Museum. This museum has become the most important museum in Chinese culture and is quite comparable in size to the Louvre in Paris or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The collection of Chinese emperors with more than 700,000 works of art from five millennia is shown permanently or in temporary exhibitions. Paintings, jade, porcelain at its finest.

Country designation

The official self-designation is still the Republic of China, but the designation Taiwan is common both inside and outside the country, and this goes hand in hand with increasing emphasis on Taiwanese independence. Government agencies are now also using the name Taiwan and auxiliary constructions such as the Republic of China on Taiwan or the Republic of China (Taiwan) in texts aimed at an international audience in order to do justice to this development. Manufactured items are also marked “Made in Taiwan”.


According to topmbadirectory, the island of Taiwan covers an area of ​​35,801 km² (for comparison: the area of ​​Baden-Württemberg is 35,752 km²). The island is 394 km long, the maximum width is 144 km. It is separated from mainland China in the west by the Taiwan Strait, which is 130 km wide at its narrowest point, and from the Philippines in the south by the Strait of Luzon. The Philippine Basin borders Taiwan to the east. In the northeast, Taiwan joins the Japanese chain of Ryukyu Islands, which separate the flat East China Sea from the rest of the Pacific. Southwest of the island lies the South China Sea, to the east lies the open Pacific.


The Tropic of Cancer, which marks the climate boundary between the tropics and subtropics, runs through the island at its highest point, the Yushan, at 3,952 meters. In the northern part there is a subtropical climate, the south is predominantly tropical, taking into account the climatic influence of the respective altitude. Due to the high mountains, there is also a temperate climate in the higher altitudes in the southern part – mainly characterized by daily fluctuations.


Due to the partly tropical, partly subtropical climate, Taiwan was an almost pure forest island until a few centuries ago. However, during the Japanese rule, especially during the Second World War, the forest stocks were increasingly decimated, since wood was used for military purposes. In addition, during this time the wood was used for the construction of shrines and the associated burnt offerings. Today, with the reforested areas, about 55 percent of Taiwan consists of forests and cultivated forests. Many originally endemic species have been introduced. In the mountains, they mostly consist of cypress (especially false cypress), juniper, fir, pine, spruce, bamboo, azalea and deciduous trees. The camphor tree has been nearly wiped out by excessive deforestation, as camphor was Taiwan’s main export in the past.

Environmental pollution

Due to the high population density, many regions of Taiwan are suffering from severe environmental pollution. The areas from Taipei and Tainan to Kaohsiung are the worst affected. In the past, this pollution was primarily caused by cars, scooters and factories when lead was used without hesitation. This changed after the establishment of an environmental authority that has already achieved measurable effects on air quality. Soil pollution is particularly due to recent heavy industry. The increasing number of toxins in the soil is a constantly growing challenge and directly harms the economy with its high export of agricultural products. Water pollution is also a big problem. Around 90 percent of wastewater is discharged untreated into rivers and the sea.


Taiwan was formed about five million years ago as a result of the collision of the Eurasian and Philippine plates. During the last glacial period (110,000 to approx. 10,000 years ago) in the Upper Pleistocene, the sea level was temporarily more than 100 meters below today’s level, so that Taiwan had a direct land connection to the main Asian continent. About 20,000 years ago, the first anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) reached what is now Taiwan via this land bridge. Other hominins may also have lived in the area during the Upper Pleistocene. In 2015, a human lower jawbone found near Penghu Island was scientifically described.

First Impressions of Taiwan