The Plains: From Hunting Grounds to Farmlands
The plains of western Taiwan were originally inhabited by indigenous people who lived traditional lifestyles. They hunted the great number of Formosan sika deer and other wild animals with which they shared the lowlands. But starting in the 17th century, the plains attracted Han Chinese settlers. During the mid-17th century, large areas were devoted to sugarcane cultivation, and the popularity of this cash crop continued into the Qing era. Responding to increasing demand for grain in southern China, rice farming slowly expanded into central and northern Taiwan in the 18th century. Investment in large-scale irrigation systems boosted rice production and farmers’ incomes; paddy fields continued to spread, and extended from the lowlands to the foothills.