|Taiwan's Population Distribution|
Taiwan's population density was 622 persons per square kilometer, making it the second highest in the world after Bangladesh. Kaohsiung City, which covers 154 sq. km, was Taiwan's most crowded urban area with 9,827 persons per square kilometer. Taipei City (272 sq. km) was next, with 9,720 persons per square kilometer; and Taichung City (163 sq. km), the third most populated area, had 6,099 persons per square kilometer.
Heavily populated urban areas have grown outside the official limits of major cities, forming large metropolitan areas, which are now home to 68.75 percent of Taiwan's total population. In recent years, however, the establishment of satellite towns and stronger basic infrastructure nationwide has slowed the population influx to urban areas. Among Taiwan's metropolitan areas, the Jhongli-Taoyuan Greater Metropolitan Area grew the fastest in 2001, with a population increase of 1.77 percent. The Taichung-Changhua Greater Metropolitan Area was second with a 1.24 percent growth rate. The metropolitan area with the highest population remained the Taipei-Keelung Greater Metropolitan Area, with 6.55 million residents and 42.50 percent of Taiwan's urban population. The Kaohsiung Greater Metropolitan Area was second with 2.73 million residents, and the Taichung-Changhua Greater Metropolitan Area was third, with 2.12 million people.
The earliest census taken in Taiwan recorded the population at 3.12 million in 1905. After 40 years, the figure nearly doubled to 6.02 million. In 1964, the government began encouraging family planning, easing the pressure on population growth. The natural population growth rate fell from 3.158 percent in 1961 to 0.68 percent in 1998. Although the figure rose to 0.81 percent in 2000, it declined to 0.59 percent in 2001 due to a decrease in the birth rate, which dropped from 1.38 percent to 1.17 percent during the same time period. Meanwhile, the death rate rose slightly from 0.568 percent in 2000 to 0.571 percent in 2001.
Taiwan's population structure has undergone great changes over the last
few decades. As those born during the baby boom have grown up, the economically
productive 15-64 age group increased to 70.38 percent of the total population
in 2001. Meanwhile, the proportion of dependents dropped from 64 percent
in 1975 to 42 percent in 2001.
Taiwan's Ethnic Composition
Archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric human habitation in Taiwan that dates back 12,000 to 15,000 years, indicating that Taiwan's earliest inhabitants came from at least two places: southern China and Austronesia. In general, early settlers from southern China settled in northern and central Taiwan, while Australoid settlements were mainly in southern Taiwan and along the eastern coast. These early settlers, which now compose Taiwan's indigenous peoples, make up less than 2 percent of Taiwan's population.
In the 16th century, Han people from China's coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong began immigrating to Taiwan in large numbers to build a new homeland away from war and famine. This group of early Han immigrants consisted mainly of Southern Fujianese and Hakka. Today, these two groups constitute about 85 percent of the population, with the Fujianese outnumbering the Hakka by a ratio of approximately three to one. When the Kuomintang (KMT) government relocated to Taipei in 1949, it brought a new influx of Han immigrants to Taiwan. The Han form the largest ethnic group in Taiwan, making up roughly 98 percent of the population; 15 percent of this group came to Taiwan after 1945. Taiwan's population also consists of almost 60 other non-Han minorities.
|Taiwan's Indigenous Peoples|
An excellent place to get a comprehensive introduction to Taiwan's indigenous peoples is the Aboriginal Culture Park in Pingtung County, where common traditional dwellings, utensils, clothing, activities, and customs are displayed and explained. Performances of tribal music and dance are held daily.
There are currently 11 major indigenous peoples in Taiwan: the Ami, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai , Saisiyat, Tao, Thao, and Tsou. As of 2002, the total number of indigenous people in Taiwan was 433,689. The Ami account for over one third of the indigenous population, followed by the Atayal and Paiwan. The Tao, also known as the Yami, is the smallest group. Many indigenous people live in mountainous reservations, which cannot be sold to non-aborigines.
Cultural characteristics formerly common to all or most of Taiwan's indigenous groups include animism; lack of shrines or sanctuaries within tribal settlements; lack of a written language; horizontal back-strap loom weaving and in-woven designs; bark cloth-making tapa; ironsmithing to make knives, spearpoints, and other implements; slash-and-burn cultivation; cultivation of millet and tuber crops, such as sweet potatoes and taro; production of fermented-grain wine (except among the Tao); treatment of disease by female shamans; the hunting of deer, wild boar, and other animals with bow and arrow, harpoon-like spears, snares, and traps; and head-hunting (except among the Tao). Below are some of the distinctive historical traits of the 11 main indigenous peoples in Taiwan.
The Ami, Taiwan's largest indigenous group, live in the valleys of the Hualien-Taitung area. The Ami began to use oxen to cultivate paddy fields relatively early. They continue to fish, but now hunt only for recreation. Ami houses are traditionally built flat on the ground, with wooden or bamboo beams and posts and plaited dwarf bamboo walls. Traditional Ami villages were relatively large, with populations between 200 and 1,000. The Ami have preserved the art of pottery making in the form of food vessels, water ewers, rice pots, and earthenware steamers. All pottery was traditionally made by women. Sacrificial vessels in varying sizes were also made, and these were buried with their owners at death. Ami society is matrilineal, with the oldest woman in the extended family being the head of the household. Men only exercise their authority during village council meetings, which are held among the leading men from each village ward. A rigid system of authority based on age is enforced. The Ami have elaborate cosmogonic myths, which may be recited only by trained male "lineage priests" and are subject to strict recitation-related taboos.