28 interesting facts about Taiwan

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The most interesting facts about Taiwan, from a toilet-themed restaurant to garbage trucks that play classical music.

Interesting facts about Taiwan include its links to China
Interesting facts about Taiwan include its links to China (Pixabay)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of China
Population: 23.5 million
Area: 35,980 sq km
Capital city: Taipei
Major languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese (Min Nan)
Major religions: Buddhism, Taoism
Time zone: UTC+8 (National Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Factbook

Interesting facts about Taiwan

1. Taiwan is an island nation located in Eastern Asia off the southeastern coast of China in the Pacific Ocean.
– Source: Britannica

2. Taiwan has been inhabited for around 20,000 to 30,000 years after human remains were discovered on the island.
– Source: Olsen, J. W., and S. Miller-Antonio. 1992. The Palaeolithic in Southern China. Asian Perspectives 31 (2): 129-60. University of Hawai’i Press: Honolulu

3. Taiwan used to be joined to the Asian mainland until sea levels rose around 10,000 years ago. Today, it is separated by the Taiwan Strait.
– Source: Gillespie et al. (2009) Encyclopedia of Islands. University of California Press: Oakland

A map showing the territories of China and Taiwan
The “two Chinas” scenario (Nat, CC BY 3.0)

4. In 1683, Taiwan formally became part of China’s Qing Dynasty. Beforehand, it had been divided between aboriginal kingdoms and Chinese and European (mostly Dutch) settlers.
– Source: BBC News

5. China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949 when the defeated Kuomintang (Nationalist) government fled to the island after the Communists – under Mao Zedong – took control of China following the Chinese Civil War.
– Source: BBC News

6. The Nationalist leaders moved China’s capital to Taiwan marking the start of the “two Chinas” scenario where two states claimed to be the rightful China. In 1971, the UN recognised the People’s Republic of China (mainland China) as the exclusive government of China after the Republic of China (Taiwan) refused a dual-representation deal. As such, the People’s Republic of China took over China’s UN Security Council seat and the Republic of China (Taiwan) was expelled from the UN.
– Source: History Channel, New York Times

A vector of Taiwan's flag
Taiwan’s flag (Pixabay)

7. Taiwan’s flag has a red background with a blue rectangle featuring a white sun in the top left corner. The red represents the traditional symbol of the Han (Chinese) people while the white sun on a blue field is the party flag of the Kuomintang government.
– Source: Britannica

8. In Chinese, the word Taiwan is made up of two characters. The first means “stage” or “terrace,” and the second means “bay” or “gulf”.
– Source: Taiwan Today

9. In 1542, when Portuguese sailors spotted Taiwan, they called it Ilha Formosa which means “beautiful island”.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Green mountains and the sea
The Portuguese called Taiwan the “beautiful island” (Public Domain)

10. Taiwan sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of active volcanoes and earthquake epicentres bordering the Pacific Ocean. As such, it is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2022, around 400 tourists were stranded on a mountainside in Taiwan when a strong earthquake hit the island.
– Source: The Independent

11. In Taiwan, yellow garbage trucks play music – either Beethoven’s Für Elise or A Maiden’s Prayer by Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska to announce their arrival. Residents have to throw their garbage into the compactors and put their recycling and food scraps into smaller trucks.
– Source: The Guardian, New York Times

12. The National Palace Museum in Taipei has the world’s largest collection of Chinese art. The museum houses over 650,000 art objects and documents that were formerly held in Beijing including paintings, calligraphy, statues, bronzes, lacquerware, ceramics, jade and religious objects.
– Source: Lonely Planet, Britannica

The front of the National Palace Museum in Taipei
The National Palace Museum in Taipei (Pixabay)

13. Taiwan is roughly the same size as Guinea-Bissau or slightly larger than Belgium. but with a population of 23.5 million, it has almost 12 times as many people as Guinea-Bissau’s 2 million and over twice Belgium’s 11.5 million.
– Source: World Bank1, World Bank2

14. That gives Taiwan a population density of around 660 people per sq. km of land area making it the world’s eighth most densely populated sovereign state.
– Source: World Bank

15. At 508m (1,667ft), Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010. Today, it is the world’s 10th, Asia’s 7th and Taiwan’s tallest.
– Source: Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

Taipei skyline, Taiwan
Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building (Shutterstock)

16. In Chinese, Taipei means “Northern Taiwan,” reflecting the city’s location in the north of the island.
– Source: CIA World Factbook

17. Taipei is considered one of the most powerful cities in the world. The city was ranked 37th in the 2020 edition of the Global Power City Index.
– Source: Global Power City Index, Mori Memorial Foundation

18. A taxi driver in Taiwan offers free rides to passengers in return for them singing karaoke – a popular pastime in Taiwan. Tu Ching Liang then uploads the videos to his YouTube channel which has received over 12 million views.
– Source: The Guardian

Two passengers performing karaoke in a taxi
Passengers performing karaoke in Liang’s taxi (Tu Ching Liang)

19. Often referred to as Taiwan’s national snack food, stinky tofu is a popular Taiwanese dish that is full of live bacteria making it putrid smelling. It has been likened to sour milk and rotting garbage.
– Source: BBC Travel

20. Only 2.3% of Taiwan’s population is classed as indigenous, i.e. Malayo-Polynesian. Over 95% are of Han Chinese descent.
– Source: CIA World Factbook

21. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was under Japanese control after China lost the First Sino-Japanese War.
– Source: BBC News

22. In Taipei, there is a restaurant called the Modern Toilet Restaurant where customers are greeted with the sound of a toilet flushing and a sign claiming ‘crappy food’ and diners sit on toilets while eating.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Interesting facts about Taiwan include its toilet-themed restaurant (riNux, CC BY-SA 2.0)

23. Taiwan’s largest mammal is the Formosan black bear which is endemic to Taiwan. The species is endangered due to years of illegal hunting and land clearing, with only around 200 to 600 bears thought to remain in the wild.
– Source: CNN, IUCN, Bear Conservation

24. As Taiwan is not a member of the UN it does not have any UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Even though several potential sites in Taiwan have been identified, interference from China has thwarted any Taiwanese site from being listed.
– Source: The Taipei Times, Ministry of Culture Taiwan, UNESCO

25. Taiwan is known as the “kingdom of butterflies” as there are an estimated 430 species of butterflies in Taiwan, including 50 endemic to the country.
– Source: Smithsonian Magazine

A butterfly in Taiwan
A butterfly in Taiwan (Pixabay)

26. Taiwan is considered to be one of the best countries for expats. It consistently performs well in the Expat Insider survey – the largest of its kind. In 2021, it was named the number one country for expats.
– Source: InterNations

27. Taiwan is also considered to have some of the world’s best healthcare. In the 2021 Legatum Prosperity Index, it was rated as having the world’s fifth-best healthcare.
– Source: Legatum Institute Foundation

28. Taiwan has produced one Noble Prize Winner, Yuan T. Lee who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
– Source: Nobel Prize

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Taiwan using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.