Throughout its history, Taiwan was ruled and colonized by different empires and countries. Malayo-Polynesians were the earliest settlers and are now called Aboriginals. As waves of Chinese immigrants called Han immigrants settled in Taiwan, the Aboriginals were forced to move to the mountains. Today many of them are clustered in the southern and eastern coastal plains of Taiwan.

In the 17th century, the Dutch invaded and ruled Taiwan. During this time, the Spanish established colonies to the north until the Dutch drove them out in 1642.

In 1661 Manchurian forces of the Ching dynasty conquered mainland China. Ming Dynasty loyalists fled to Taiwan and expelled the Dutch. These Chinese migrants were mostly from Fukien province and some from Kwangtung province. They brought many traditional Chinese customs with them to Taiwan.

Shortly afterwards, Manchurian forces took over Taiwan and ruled for the next two centuries. The settlers in Taiwan, accustomed to an independent way of life, frequently rebelled.

In the late 19th century, China ceded Taiwan to Japan. Japanese rulers forced the people of Taiwan to speak Japanese, adopt Japanese names and sever their Chinese cultural roots.

At the end of the Second World War, Japan surrendered Taiwan. Civil war broke out on the mainland between the Nationalists and the Communists. In 1949, the Communists took over mainland China. The Chinese Nationalists, called Kuo Min Tang (KMT), who claimed to represent all of mainland China, retreated to Taiwan and established a government under the newly elected President, Chiang Kai-shek.
Did you know?

The Chinese have an intricate culture which dates back at least 3000 years, making it one of the world's oldest surviving societies.

Chiang supported Taiwan's economic development, but he also imposed martial law. Political opposition was suppressed, and the people's constitutional rights and freedoms were restricted.

In the 1970s President Chiang Ching-kuo was able to stabilize the situation by implementing major infrastructure projects and expanding trade ties with other countries. President Chiang died in 1988. His legacy was a rejuvenation of democracy and the lifting of the Emergency Decree, which had been the basis for the enforcement of martial law for over 30 years.