Taiwan Aboriginal || The Truth Behind Taiwanese Aborigines

The Struggles, History, and Developments of Taiwan Aboriginal Culture

So what is the truth about Taiwan Aboriginals?

Taiwan, previously referred to as Isla Formosa, has a deep and rich history of thousands of years, dating back to the days of Taiwan aboriginal inhabitants.

Recent research suggests that they have inhabited the island for over 5,500 years. Indeed, there are some theories to suggest that it was the Taiwanese indigenous people that first made their way over to the South Pacific islands in Polynesia and Melanesia.

This would make the Taiwan aboriginals some impressive early explorers!

Today, Taiwanese aborigines make up 2% of the Taiwan population.

They are the indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan, years before the Han Chinese arrived in the 17th century.

Taiwan Aboriginal || An Introduction

Taiwan Aboriginal || A (Brief) History

Taiwan Aboriginal || Taiwan Today

Taiwan Aboriginal || Where Are They Based?

Taiwan Aboriginal || Struggles

Taiwan Aboriginal || Developments

Taiwan Aboriginal || Making the News

Taiwan Aboriginal || FAQs

Taiwan Aboriginal: An Introduction

Taiwanese aborigines (原住民) are Austronesian people.

Because so, their language is similar to that of the people of the Philippines, as well as other Polynesian ethnic groups.

Their genetic ties also match these patterns.

Taiwanese Aborigines: 

原住民 – yuan zhu min

Formosan people
Austronesian Taiwanese
Gaoshan people

Taiwan Aboriginal: A (Brief) History

Taiwan’s history is a turbulent one, and therefore similarly so have the lives of the Taiwan aboriginals.

Taiwan is located in a very favourable spot in the world, perfect for trade. Because of this, it has therefore been fought over for many years.

DID YOU KNOW || The Dutch originally (partially) colonised Taiwan.

Arrival of the First Europeans

The Portuguese Arrival in Taiwan (1544)

The first Europeans to arrive in Taiwan, or Formosa as they called it, were Portuguese.

Arrival of the Spanish

Spanish Colonisation of Taiwan (1626)

The Spanish partial colonization of the northern part of Taiwan was originally for the strategic interests it played, with Spain’s trade in Manilla in the Philippines playing an ever-increasing role.

It was short-lived, however, and most of this land came under Dutch rule within seventeen years.

Arrival of the Dutch

Dutch Colonisation of Taiwan (1624 to 1662)

When the Dutch arrived, the only inhabitants on the island were largely Taiwanese aborigines.

They colonized the south of the island partially and took over much of the Spanish territory.

Before the Dutch came, Taiwanese aborigines had been living on the island largely undiscovered and undisturbed for thousands of years. This, except for the Spanish who first landed on the island and named it for its beauty.

Arrival of the Han Chinese (Ming Dynasty)

Ming Dynasty’s Kongxia Takes Over (1662)

By 1662, the Han Chinese had been interested in Taiwan for a while now. They had established connections and several trade routes in Taiwan.

In 1662, the Ming Dynasty’s Kongxia took over the colonized parts from the Dutch. They then ruled in Taiwan until the Qing Dynasty then came along.

It was during Qing rule that Taiwan’s population became majority Han due to migration from mainland China.

Taiwanese Aboriginals Now

So, what happened next?

Unfortunately, just like many indigenous populations around the world, the Taiwanese aboriginal population is slowly dying out.

Today’s figures show that the Taiwanese aboriginal population makes up only 2% of the total Taiwanese population.

Various tribes, as well as their individual cultures and languages, are slowly being lost.

Out of the original 26 Formosan (Taiwanese aboriginal) languages, only a few remain. These few are slowly being replaced by Mandarin Chinese.

So, if there is any time to go to Taiwan to experience these unique cultures, now is the time!

Former Name of Taiwan 🏝 Isla Formosa and Taiwan History Thumbnail

Former Name of Taiwan 🏝 Isla Formosa and Taiwan History

When discussing the former name of Taiwan, Formosa & Isla Formosa come up as previous names of the Island, but how turbulent has Taiwan’s history been?

Taiwan Aboriginal || Taiwan Today

The Taiwanese government currently recognises 16 Taiwan aboriginal tribes.

You can see these Taiwanese aboriginal tribes in alphabetical order below;

  1. Amis
  2. Atayal
  3. Bunun
  4. Hla’alua
  5. Kanakanavu
  6. Kavalan
  7. Paiwan
  8. Puyuma
  9. Rukai
  10. Saisiat
  11. Sakizaya
  12. Seediq
  13. Thao
  14. Truku
  15. Tsou
  16. Yami

Where Can You Find Taiwanese Aborigines Today?

Today, Taiwanese aborigines are scattered all over Taiwan.

Most Taiwanese aborigines live in mountainous regions along the east coast. These areas are close to Hualian and Taitung.

However, in recent times many Taiwanese aborigines have migrated to the cities in search of better jobs.

Many now work in construction.

The Struggles of the Taiwanese Aborigines

Years of conflict and a series of colonisations have resulted in a large decline in the Taiwan aboriginal population.

Taiwan Aborigines - Their Story

With the decline in population also comes the decline in Taiwanese aboriginal culture.

This includes music, clothing, social practices, and language.

With the rise of Chinese and Taiwanese culture in Taiwan, cultural assimilation has taken place. This means that many traditional aspects of Taiwan aboriginal culture have been lost completely or are in the process of dying out. 

One example of this is the language.

Out of the 26 recorded Taiwan aboriginal languages, there could have been many more preserved.

10 are already classified as ‘extinct languages‘, and the rest are in the process of dying out or classed as ‘endangered‘.

Taiwan aboriginals are not part of the ethnic Han Chinese group.

Consequently, many face difficult social and economic barriers in Taiwan. One of which includes substandard education, stemming from language barriers.

This then results in social and economic deficiencies such as high unemployment rates and low living standards.

A Complete Guide to Kinmen Island // The Gateway to the Mainland Thumbnail

A Complete Guide to Kinmen Island // The Gateway to the Mainland

Kinmen Island, Quemoy, or rather Kinmen County/Kinmen Islands are a group of islands administered by Taiwan; not just one island! Come and discover it.

Taiwanese Aborigine Developments

Music brings the world together!

In recent developments, there has been a rise in Taiwan aboriginal culture. We can see this in achievements in the music and sporting world.

Music - Bringing the world together!

Regarding sports, some Taiwan aboriginal athletes have taken part in the Olympics. 

Music also plays a big part in these developments.

There are even some who have made it to stardom in the Mandarin-pop world! This includes:

  • A-mei (張惠妹, Chang Hui-mei)
  • Chang Chen-yue (張震嶽)
  • A-Lin
  • Liang Wen-yin (梁文音).

Give them a listen on the great Chinese music app QQ Music and improve your Chinese through music!

I’m currently giving Taiwan aboriginal music a go whilst writing this – not bad! 

Taiwan Aboriginal || Taiwanese Aborigines Making News

In very recent news there have been big developments concerning Taiwan aborigines.

The Taiwanese president made history.

For the first time, a Taiwanese president offered an apology.

The leader said she offered her “fullest apology” on behalf of the government and country for the treatment Taiwanese aborigines have endured over the years.

“If we wish to declare ourselves as a country of one people, we need to face these historical facts. We have to face the truth.”

Interestingly enough, President Tsai is the first leader of Taiwan with indigenous heritage background.

Her grandmother was apparently a Taiwanese aborigine from the Paiwan indigenous tribe.

Things You Have To Know About Taiwanese Mandarin Thumbnail

Things You Have To Know About Taiwanese Mandarin

What is the difference between Taiwanese Mandarin and Standard Mandarin? What language do they speak in Taiwan? Your questions are all answered here.

Whether you’re planning to visit Taiwan as a tourist, or coming to live, work, or study, don’t forget to head back to its roots and include checking out the Taiwan aboriginal culture during your exploration of this beautiful island.

Taiwan Aboriginal FAQs

How many Taiwan Aboriginal groups are recognized today?

16 are recognized today.

















How much of the Taiwanese population is aboriginal?

Unfortunately, just like many indigenous populations around the world, the Taiwanese aboriginal population is slowly dying out, with today’s figures showing that the Taiwanese aboriginal population makes up only 2% of the total Taiwan population.

What was Taiwan previously known as?

Taiwan was previously referred to as Isla Formosa.

Has a Taiwanese Aboriginal ever taken part in major sporting events?

Yes, in fact some Taiwan aboriginal athletes have taken part in the Olympics. 

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  4. Criolla

    I went to Sun Moon lake in Taiwan formerly Formosa in 1970, met aboriginal native people, it was impressive.
    I was the first female diplomat ever sent to represent a country in Taiwan.
    This is a fact that denied the claim of China that Formosa is chinese.

    1. Max Hobbs

      Excellent to hear Criolla! That must have been a fascinating trip.

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