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  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.

Clearly, 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.

  Population Density
   
 
 
 

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.

 
Ami
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.

Atayal
The Atayal are distributed over the northern part of Taiwan's central mountain regions: northern Nantou and Hualien , Ilan, and Taipei Counties. They can also be found in Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, and Taichung Counties. Their language is apparently not closely related to any of the other indigenous languages on Taiwan. In the past, their staple foods were corn, rice, sweet potatoes, and taro, and they lived in semi-subterranean houses built of stacked branches and cordwood with gable roofs. Clothing design was typified by rectilinear woven and beaded motifs. Facial tattooing was a special feature of this people. Their traditions of tattooing, head-hunting, and burial of the dead under dwelling structures ended more than a century ago.
The Atayal kinship system is ambilineal, with a tendency for nuclear families preferring patrilocal residence. Several leaders from community ritual groups, or gaga, usually controlled the political authority and economy. Atayal society was relatively closed. The Atayal believe in spirits and unnamed supernatural powers.

 

Distribution of the Indigenous People
 

Bunun
The Bunun live in mountainous regions of central Taiwan, including Hualien, Taitung, and parts of Nantou and Kaohsiung Counties. They alternately cultivated corn and beans using the slash-and-burn technique. They also made liquor from corn. Hunting was a key occupation, and it figures importantly in the Bunun oral literary tradition. Traditional houses were made by digging into a hillside and constructing an earth and stone terrace in front to provide a level or split-level foundation. The Bunun are patrilineal, with extended family households grouped in small villages. Patriarchal rule is absolute regarding familial division of labor, but every member has fair access to the settlement's resources. Close family ties give Bunun communities great cohesion. They have also incorporated cultural traits, such as clothing styles and facial tattooing, from other peoples into their own culture. The Bunun used to extract certain teeth as a sign of social identity and adulthood. Bunun pottery features impressed geometric designs. The Bunun have a strong musical tradition. Early Bunun religious beliefs included periodic offerings to the moon. The Bunun also believe in the existence of a guardian spirit that determines the innate abilities of a person. In the past, Bunun male and female shamans were equally responsible for treating illnesses through sorcery.

Kavalan
On December 25, 2002, the Executive Yuan formally designated the Kavalan as Taiwan's 11th indigenous people. The 1,200 members of the Kavalan group live in Hualien and Taitung Counties. They have preserved their traditional music, which sounds melancholic compared to the lively music of the Ami people.
Traditional Kavalan ceremonies are related to farming and fishing activities, with the most important being the Palilin ritual of paying respects to one's ancestors held before the Lunar New Year. The evening session of this ritual is open to the public, but the morning session is a strictly private family affair, for the Kavalan believe that the presence of outsiders at the morning portion of this ceremony would bring misfortunes to the family. Special healing rituals for women are conducted by a female priest during new moons, and ancestor worship rites are also held at this time of the month in late summer or early fall.

Paiwan and Rukai
The Paiwan are concentrated in Pingtung County while the Rukai mostly live on the eastern and western sides of the Central Mountain Range in southern Taiwan. The two groups are closely related in material culture. In the past, they mainly engaged in agriculture and lived in traditional houses similar to those of the Bunun. However, the southern and eastern Paiwan frequently constructed houses at ground level. The Paiwan and Rukai are noted for their outstanding wood and stone sculptures. Ancestral figures were often carved in shallow relief into house posts, slate, or plank panels.
Paiwan kinship was originally matrilineal but is now ambilineal. The custom is, however, not consistent among all branches. Most marriages are matrilocal. The hereditary chieftainship plays an important role in their oral literature. Past Paiwan and Rukai communities were composed of noble families, the commoners, and tenant farmers, but inter-class marriages were allowed.

Puyuma
Traditionally, the Puyuma depended on growing millet, taro, sweet potatoes, and beans on hillside plots cleared by burning. They supplemented farming with fishing and hunting. The Puyuma live in Taitung County and have been greatly influenced by Paiwan and Rukai culture. The Puyuma have a multilineal kinship system with ritual groups. The extended family inheritance goes to the eldest daughter, but the kinship system is ambilineal, and the positions of chieftains and shamans are patrilineal. The Puyuma society is stratified into noble families and commoners, but inter-class marriage is not prohibited.
The Puyuma clergy come from the leading clans' ancestral worship groups. Since 1964, there have been only three groups, which are responsible for performing ceremonies during harvests twice a year. The largest basic unit of a Puyuma settlement is called a samawan, which has a center for ancestor worship and a men's meeting house.

Saisiyat
The Saisiyat are the second smallest indigenous group in Taiwan. The northern Saisiyat live in the mountainous region of Hsinchu County, while most members of the southern branch live in Miaoli's highlands. The Saisiyat culture is strongly influenced by the Atayal. The early Saisiyat practiced crop rotation, slash-and-burn mountain cultivation, hunting, and river fishing. Later, they turned to settled agriculture and forestry.
The Saisiyat were among the first to be acculturated by the Han people and adopted Chinese surnames that were transliterations of such Saisiyat totemic surnames as bee, spider, and crab. The basic structural unit of Saisiyat society is the totemic clan linked by geographical and family ties. The Saisiyat habit of tattooing disappeared long ago. However, the Saisiyat in Miaoli County still observe the ancient Ceremony of the Dwarfs, or Pastaai, once every two years in November.

Tao
The Tao live almost exclusively on Orchid Island (Lanyu), and thus, fishing is central to their economy. Their basic cooperative units are fishing groups, and ceremonies related to fishing are a large part of their culture. Aside from fishing, the Tao also grow taro extensively, as well as sweet potatoes, yams, and millet. Men are responsible for laying out fields, building boats, fishing, constructing homes, and making baskets, pottery, and metalwork. Women tend the fields, gather taro, cook, and weave cloth. Tao dwellings are similar to those of the Paiwan, Rukai, and Bunun. The Tao live in nuclear families and tend towards patrilocality. Inheritance is patrilineal.
The Tao are known for their unique dugout canoes, which can carry eight to ten people. They are Taiwan's only indigenous group known to practice silversmithing and to have never practiced headhunting or made alcohol. One of the more notable of the many colorful Tao celebrations still held today is the launching of a newly completed boat.

Tsou and Thao
The Tsou depend mainly on mountain agriculture for their livelihood, but supplement it by hunting, fishing, and animal husbandry. Traditional Tsou houses had rounded corners and dome-shaped roofs of thatch, which extended nearly to the ground-level packed-mud floor. The men's meeting hut served as a religious and political center, with several small tribes or clans forming a political unit. The Tsou are patrilineal, and have several high positions, such as chiefs, war leaders, and elders. The former prominence of hunting among the Tsou is demonstrated by the extensive use of leather in their clothing. Their pottery, like that of the Bunun, is adorned with impressed geometric designs. The Tsou language is very different from Taiwan's other indigenous languages. Tsou people are found in Chia-I (Mt. Ali), Nantou (Sun Moon Lake), and Kaohsiung Counties.
In August 2001, the Executive Yuan formally approved the Thao as the tenth indigenous tribe in Taiwan. The Thao live in the Sun Moon Lake area of Nantou County and are the smallest indigenous group with a population between 355 and 450. They were previously categorized as members of the Tsou due to geographical factors, but the two groups differ greatly in language, lifestyle, and customs.