Indigenous peoples of Taiwan

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Indigenous Taiwanese people doing traditional dance

Indigenous peoples of Taiwan ( Chinese  原住民 , Pinyin yuánzhùmín , W.-G. yüan 2 chu 4 min 2  - "native people") is a collective term for the various Austronesian indigenous tribes in Taiwan . 16 indigenous peoples are officially recognized by the Taiwanese government today. The recognized indigenous peoples now make up around 2.36% of the total population of Taiwan (May 2017: 555,438 people).


In the past, the indigenous people of Taiwan were referred to by the Han as "fan" ( Han script番), one of the many Chinese terms that roughly correspond to the western word "barbarians". During the Japanese rule , the character 蕃 (fan) was used in Taiwan, which has the same meaning. Japanese ethnologists at the time divided the indigenous people of Taiwan into nine ethnic groups. Today in the Republic of China (Taiwan) the collective name yuanzhu min (Han script 原住民 'indigenous people') has established itself. In the past, terms such as shandi tongbao (Han script 山地 同胞 'mountain people'), tuzhu minzu (Han script 土著 民族 'indigenous peoples'), xianzhu min (Han script 先 住民 'first inhabitants') and gaoshan zu (Han- Scripture 高山族 'people of the high mountains') common.


The origin of the indigenous people and the time of their settlement in Taiwan are still controversial today. However, the majority of linguists, historians and ethnologists take the view that the Austronesians , whose language family also includes the indigenous people of Taiwan, originated on the Southeast Asian mainland (today's South China and Vietnam ). Certainly there have been several waves of immigration that began around 4000 years ago, i.e. in the 3rd millennium BC. Ended. In 1954, the ethnologist Ling Chunsheng (凌 純 聲) described cultural parallels between the Minyue, a branch of the Yue people who lived in pre-Christian times in what is now the Chinese province of Fujian , and the indigenous people of Taiwan. He concluded that the latter were descendants of the Minyue. The development was certainly not that straight forward, but an influence of the Yue peoples on the ethnogenesis of the early population of Taiwan cannot be denied.


Ink drawing of a native of Formosa by Caspar Schmalkalden, a traveler to East Asia (1650)

From about the 5th to 3rd millennium BC, Taiwan was settled by people who belonged to the ethnic groups that are now grouped under the umbrella term " Austronesians ", and which also include the inhabitants of today's Philippines , Indonesia , Malaysia , Oceania and Madagascar belong. These peoples lived essentially in tribal societies without developing a written culture or forming an overarching state. For a long time, well into the 20th century, archaic traditions such as headhunting persisted .

Encounters with European seafarers and conquerors from the early 17th century onwards formed the first profound contact with the wider outside world. These were mainly the Dutch, who partially controlled Formosa , as the island was called at the time, from 1624 to 1662. For the Dutch East India Company , Formosa was primarily important as a trading post in trade with China and Japan. The first translation of the Bible into a local language ( Siraya ) was made under Dutch rule . There was probably trade with China even before the arrival of the Europeans. The Dutch colonial administration also encouraged the immigration of Han settlers. In 1661 the Sino-Japanese pirate and army leader Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) landed on the island and expelled the Dutch. After that, after the subjugation of the descendants of Zheng, the island came under the control of the Qing Dynasty and in the following centuries the proportion of the Han population continued to increase. The indigenous population was either assimilated or increasingly pushed into the mountainous interior. The Taiwanese natives were viewed by the Chinese as uncivilized savages ( , Fān ) who had nothing to match the Chinese high culture. During the Qing Dynasty, only the western plains of the island of Taiwan were effectively under the control of the Chinese administration. In the central, inaccessible mountain country in the east of the island, the indigenous peoples continued to live in the traditional way and largely undisturbed by the outside world.

After the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, which ended the Sino-Japanese War of 1894/95, Taiwan came under Japanese rule . The Japanese rigorously suppressed any insurrection movement in Taiwan and, through the use of police and military, also brought the mountainous region under state control. Among other things, they carried out forced resettlements, but also promoted economic and cultural development. The indigenous cultures were intensively studied scientifically and attempts were made to adapt them to Japanese culture or to convey a Japanese ethos of values ​​to the leaders of the indigenous people.

Taiwan came back to China in 1945 after World War II. After the civil war was lost, the government of the Republic of China relocated to Taiwan in 1949. Initially, no significant attention was paid to the indigenous peoples. There was also considerable pressure to assimilate into the Chinese majority society. It was only after the democratization of the political situation in Taiwan in the late 1980s that attitudes changed and the cultures of the indigenous people were increasingly viewed as a valuable cultural heritage of Taiwan that had to be preserved.

Political emancipation and development of legal status since 1980

Important milestones in the emancipation of the indigenous peoples
year regulation
1994 Protection of the rights of indigenous peoples has constitutional status; Designation "indigenous people" instead of "mountain people"
1997 Official designation "indigenous peoples"
2005 August 1st becomes “Day of the Indigenous Peoples”; Entry into force of the "Basic Law for the Indigenous Peoples"
2016 Official apology from President Tsai Ing-wen to the indigenous peoples
2017 "Law on the Development of Indigenous Languages" comes into force

Parallel to the beginning democratization of Taiwanese society, a social movement developed among the indigenous peoples that demanded equality and recognition. On December 29, 1984, a group of 23 indigenous representatives and Han Chinese civil rights activists established the Taiwan Indigenous Rights Association ( 台灣 原住民 權利 促進會 ), which acted as an interest group.

On August 1, 1994, the National Assembly responded to one of the demands put forward by indigenous officials by adopting an amendment establishing the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the constitution. The former official bureaucratic designation shanbao ( 山胞 , "highlanders", literally "mountain cells") for the Austronesian indigenous people was the concept yuanzhumin ( 原住民 , "Native" or "Indigenous population", indigenous people replaced). In 1997, the term was again modified by the Constitution and by yuanzhuminzu ( 原住民族 , or "indigenous peoples", indigenous peoples replaced), the term applicable today.

The demands of the indigenous representatives were particularly listened to by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as they complied with the DPP's ideas of a genuinely “Taiwanese” identity and culture different from mainland China. In 2005, at the time of the DPP President Chen Shui-bian , the Executive Yuan decided to declare August 1 of each year as "Indigenous Peoples Day" ( 原住民 族 日 ) a public holiday. On February 5, 2005, the "Basic Law for the Indigenous Peoples" ( 原住民 族 基本法 , The Indigenous Peoples Basic Law ) came into force.

Under the DPP President Tsai Ing-wen , who has been in office since 2016, important laws to promote indigenous cultures and languages ​​were also passed. On July 29, 2016, the Executive Yuan approved a comprehensive package of measures to improve the welfare of indigenous peoples. Among other things, the government was obliged to submit a report on the situation of the indigenous peoples on August 1st each year. On August 1, 2016 - Indigenous Peoples Day - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen apologized to representatives of the 16 officially recognized indigenous peoples for centuries of oppression and disregard for their culture. The indigenous peoples have been violently deprived of their rights and land ownership by immigrants and rulers from the mainland over the past 400 years. A simple apology is not enough to redress this injustice. The President announced that she would set up a historical commission to investigate the history of the indigenous peoples and promised them greater rights in their self-government as well as support for the preservation of their language and culture. This was the first such statement by a Taiwanese head of state.

On 14 June 2017, the "Law for the development of indigenous languages" (was 土著語言發展法 , Indigenous Languages Development Act ) legal effect. The law stipulated that in regions of the indigenous peoples the locally spoken officially recognized indigenous languages ​​and dialects also in official use e.g. B. could be used in court. Official institutions and authorities should in principle also be signposted in the indigenous languages. Natural features (mountains, rivers, etc.) should preferably be given names in the indigenous languages. The multilingualism of authorities should be encouraged.

The 16 officially recognized native peoples

Approximate settlement areas of the indigenous peoples (in the settlement areas the indigenous peoples are mostly only a minority)

The following 16 ethnic minorities are officially recognized as indigenous peoples (including subgroups) (the Chinese name on the right):

  • the Ami ('Amis, Ami, Pangcah) 阿美族Amei to ;
  • the Atayal (Tayal, Tayan) 泰雅族Taiya to ;
  • the bunun布 農 族bunong to ;
  • the Hla'alua拉阿魯 哇 族Laaluwa to ;
  • the Kanakanavu卡 那 卡 那 富 族Kanakanafu too ;
  • the Kavalan噶 瑪蘭 族Gamalan to , also 卡瓦蘭 族Kawalan to ;
  • the Paiwan排 灣 族Paiwan too ;
  • the Puyuma卑南族Beinan zu , also called Pinuyumayan 漂 馬 族Piaoma zu ;
  • the Rukai魯凱 族Lukai zu , also called Tsarisen, Tsalisen or Salisen;
  • the Saisiyat賽 夏 族Saixia to , also transcribed Saisiat;
  • the Sakizaya (Sakiraya) 撒奇萊雅 族Sāqíláiyǎ zú ;
  • the Sediq塞德克Saideke .
  • the Tau達 悟 族Dawu zu , formerly also called Yami 雅美 族Yamei zu ;
  • the Thao劭 族Shaozu ;
  • the Truku (Taroko) 太魯閣 族Tailuge to ;
  • the Tsou鄒 族Zouzu , also 曹族Caozu ;
Status of the officially recognized indigenous languages ​​of Taiwan according to UNESCO classification
status language
Critically threatened Kanakanavu, Kavalan, Hla'alua, Thao
Seriously threatened Saisiyat
Clearly threatened Bunun
Threatened Ami, Atayal, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Truku, Tau, Tsou

The Amis, Kavalan and Tsou are tribal societies from the lowlands who fled to the mountains during the 20th century. According to the law for the development of native speakers ( 原住民 族 語言 發展 法 ) of June 14, 2017, the languages ​​of the 16 officially recognized indigenous peoples are considered the national languages ​​of Taiwan. In 55 municipalities in Taiwan, the authorities can publish or issue official documents in these languages.

Of the 16 officially recognized indigenous languages Kanakanavu, Kavalan, Hla'alua and Thao are "critically endangered" by the UNESCO as classified Saisiyat is "seriously threatened" as a ( severely endangered "clear threat") classified as Bunun ( definitely endangered ) and another eight (Amis, Atayal, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Truku, Tao and Tsou) are considered "threatened". The two languages ​​Seediq and Sakiraya do not appear in the UNESCO classification, as these languages ​​are not recognized by the People's Republic of China as languages ​​of their own, but are classified as a group of Atayal or Amis.

Ten unrecognized peoples of Taiwan

These groups are grouped together in Taiwan under the name Pingpu (Peipo) 平埔族Pingpu (peoples of the plains). They have been very much assimilated by the dominant culture of the Han who immigrated since the 17th century, and their languages ​​are all but extinct. Ten Pingpu peoples (some with subgroups) are currently striving for official recognition; these are:

  1. the Ketagalan凱達格蘭 族Kaidagelan too ;
  2. the Taokas道 卡斯 族Daokasi too ;
  3. the Pazeh巴 則 海 族Bazehai zu , also 拍 宰 海 族Paizaihai zu or 巴 宰 族Bazai zu ;
  4. the Kakabu (Kaxabu, Kahabu) 噶 哈 巫 族Gahawu (were formerly a subgroup of the Pazeh);
  5. the papora (papura) 巴布拉 族Babula to , also 拍 瀑 拉 族Paipula to ;
    • Favoran費 佛朗 人Feifolang ren ;
  6. the Babuza (Bapuza) 巴布薩 族Babula to , also 貓 霧 族Maowu to ;
  7. the Hoanya洪雅 族Hongya to , also 和 安雅 族He'anya to or 洪安雅 族Honganya to ;
    • Arikun阿立昆 人Alikun ren ;
    • Lloa羅亞 人Luoya ren ;
  8. the Siraya西拉雅 族Xilaya too ;
  9. the Makatao (Makalao, Makattao) 馬卡 道 族Makadao zu (used to be a subgroup of the Siraya);
  10. the Tavorlong (Taivoan) 大 武 壟 族Dawulong to , formerly also 四 社 熟 番Sishe shufan (formerly considered a subgroup of the Siraya);

There seem to be no more descendants of the Qaugaut猴猴 人Houhou ren who are still aware of their ancestry.


The following figures represent statistics from the Taiwan Ministry of Interior and the figures from the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Council . The official government statistics do not distinguish between different indigenous ethnic groups, but all are counted together as an "indigenous population".

Population share by administrative units of the Republic of China (2016)
New Taipei 54,882 3,985,698 1.38
Taipei 16,181 2,683,202 0.60
Taoyuan 69,896 2,181,470 3.20
Taichung 33,049 2,783,298 1.19
Tainan 7,525 1,886,387 0.40
Kaohsiung 33,622 2,776,791 1.21
Yilan County 16,830 456.756 3.68
Hsinchu County 21,207 551,447 3.85
Miaoli county 11,278 554,652 2.03
Changhua County 5,577 1,282,934 0.43
Nantou county 28,874 501.757 5.75
Yunlin County 2,341 691.021 0.34
Chiayi County 5,810 511,797 1.14
Pingtung County 58,892 830.697 7.09
Taitung County 78,872 219,686 35.90
Hualien County 92,479 329,462 28.07
Penghu Islands 474 103,956 0.46
Keelung 9,281 371,669 2.50
Hsinchu 3,912 440.409 0.89
Chiayi 1,048 269.364 0.39
Kinmen 1.005 137.042 0.73
Matsu Islands 193 12,823 1.51
total 553.228 23,562,318 2.35
Main residential areas of the various ethnic groups, according to the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Council
Ethnicity number Main settlement area
Americans 177,000 Bergland of Taitung County and Peninsula Hengchun the district Pingtung
Atayal 81,000 Northern highlands of Central Taiwan , including the area north of Puli ( Nantou County ) to Hualien ( Hualien County )
Bunun 50,000 scattered in the mountains of the Taiwan Central Mountains, around the Namaxia District of Kaohsiung , the Haiduan Township of Taitung County, and Nantou County
Hla'alua 400 in Gaojhong (高中 里) and Taoyuan (桃源 里) villages, both in the Tauyuan District of Kaohsiung; in Maya (瑪雅 里) village in the Namaxia district of Kaohsiung
Kanakanavu 520 in the Namaxia district of Kaohsiung, on the banks of the Nanzixian River (楠梓仙溪)
Kavalan 1,100 formerly in Yilan County , now in Hualien and Taitung Counties
Paiwan 86,000 western and eastern part of the Taiwan Central Mountains, in the north from Mount Dawu to south to Hengchun , from Fangliao (Pingtung County) in the west to Taimali ( Taitung County ) in the east
Puyuma 11,000 south of Taitung City in the Taitung Valley
Rukai 11,600 Maolin District, Kaohsiung City, Wutai Township, Pingtung County, and Dongxing Village (東興 村) in Beinan, Taitung County
Saisiyat 5,300 mainly in Wufeng ( Hsinchu County ), Nanzhuang and Shitan (both Miaoli County )
Sakizaya 971 in the Chilai Plain of Hualien County
Sediq 10,000
Dew (yami) 3,500 "Orchid Island" Lan Yu
Thao 648 Communities Yuchi and Shuili the Nantou County
Truku 24,000 Original home was the district of Nantou, from there hike over the central mountains to the east and settlement along the Liwu River
Tsou 6,500 Community Alishan ( Chiayi County ), community Xinyi (Nantou County) and districts Tauyuan and Namaxia of Kaohsiung

Native people of Taiwan in China

China considers Taiwan as a "renegade province" and one of the indigenous people of Taiwan as one of its 56 ethnic groups officially by the Chinese government recognized are. They are called " Gaoshan " ( Chinese  高山族 , Pinyin Gāoshān zú  - "mountain people").

See also


  • Tonio Andrade: How Taiwan Became Chinese. Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century . Columbia University Press, New York NY 2007, ISBN 978-0-231-12855-1 . (on-line)
  • Chi-lu Chen: Material Culture of the Formosan Aborigines. Taipei 1968.
  • Huixiang Lin: Taiwan Fanzu zhi yuanshi wenhua. (The ancient culture of the wild Taiwan). Shanghai 1930.
  • Ingo Nentwig : The indigenous people of Taiwan . Leipzig 1997, ISBN 3-910031-21-8 .
  • Michael Rudolph: Taiwan's Multi-Ethnic Society and the Indigenous Movement: Assimilation or Cultural Revitalization? LIT Verlag, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-8258-6828-1 (dissertation University of Heidelberg 2001 under the title “Assimilation and Cultural Revitalization - Origins and Implications of the Identity Movement of the Taiwanese Natives (Yuanzhumin) 1983-1996”).
  • Josiane Cauquelin: Ritual texts of the last traditional practitioners of Nanwang Puyuma. Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica, Taipei 2008, ISBN 978-986-01-4728-5 .
  • Sonja Peschek (Ed.): The indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Lectures on the history and society of Taiwan. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-631-61959-9 .
  • Anton Quack: The word of the ancients. Tales of the history of the Pujuma from Katipol (Taiwan). (= Collectanea Instituti Anthropos. 12). House peoples and cultures, Sankt Augustin 1981, ISBN 3-921389-66-6 .
  • Dominik Schröder, Anton Quack: Head hunting rites of the Puyuma of Katipol (Taiwan). A text documentation. (= Collectanea Instituti Anthropos. 11). House Peoples and Cultures, Sankt Augustin 1979, ISBN 3-921389-06-2 .
  • Michael D. Coe: Recommendations for Standardazing Formosan Tribal Names. In: American Anthropologist. Vol. 56, 1954, pp. 1090-1092.

Web links

Commons : Taiwan Indigenous Peoples  Album with Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Who Are the Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples? by Ciwang Teyra (July 7, 2015, Ketagalan Media) .
  2. ^ Council of Indigenous Peoples , Taiwan
  3. Nentwig, 1997, p. 5.
  4. Han Cheung datum = 2017-07-30: Taiwan in Time: The struggle for a proper name. Taipei Times, accessed May 20, 2018 .
  5. 「原住民 族 日」 - 臺灣 社會 和解 與 和諧 的 開始! ("Day of the Indigenous Peoples - the beginning of social reconciliation and harmony in Taiwan!"). Executive Yuan, August 10, 2016, accessed May 20, 2018 (Chinese).
  6. ^ Indigenous Peoples Day marks beginning of social reconciliation and harmony. Executive Yuan, August 10, 2016, accessed May 20, 2018 .
  7. Taiwan president gives first apology to indigenous groups. In: BBC News. August 1, 2016, accessed August 1, 2016 .
  8. Indigenous languages ​​development act takes effect. Taiwan Today, June 15, 2017, accessed May 20, 2018 .
  9. 總統 令 中華民國 106 年 6 月 14 日 (“Presidential Decree of June 14th of the year 106 of the Republic of China”). (pdf) Retrieved May 20, 2018 (Chinese).
  10. ^ UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages ​​in Danger. UNESCO, accessed April 28, 2018 (English, Taiwan is listed under "China").
  11. 原住民 族 語言 發展 法 (“Law on the Development of Mother Tongues”). Taiwan Ministry of Justice, June 14, 2017, accessed April 28, 2018 (Chinese).
  12. Indigenous languages ​​development act takes effect. Taiwan Today, June 15, 2017, accessed April 28, 2018 .
  13. 1.5- 現 住 人口 按 三 段 、 六歲 年齡 組分 (XLS) (ODF). Taiwan Ministry of Interior, accessed December 9, 2017 (Chinese, population statistics in tables, administrative units also in English).
  14. ^ The Tribes in Taiwan. Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Council, accessed November 16, 2017 .
  15. 原住民 人口 數 統計 資料 ("Population statistics of the indigenous people"). Council of Indigenous Peoples, Taiwan, accessed August 13, 2019 (Traditional Chinese).