Taiwan, An Island on the Crossroads
The story of Taiwan began on the crossroads. It is a story of different groups who collided, explored, and learned to share this island in the sea. We came from near and far, and now make a home together here. The story of this crossroads is our story -- yours and mine.
Who were the earliest settlers in Taiwan? Where did they come from, and why did they come to Taiwan? Before history began to be recorded, groups of people had already successively landed on Taiwan. These small groups brought in diverse and vibrant cultures. They interacted and socialized with one another, and made this island their hub for dispersal to other places around the world.
An Island and a People Relying on the Oceans for Livelihoods
In the mid-16th century, Taiwan was gradually becoming a meeting point and transfer hub for trade in East Asia. As every major seapower of the East and the West was competing here, Taiwan’s indigenous communities had no choice but to face up to these waves of external impact. At first, it was merchants and pirates from China and Japan who used Taiwan as a meeting and trading location. During the 17th century, there also came the Dutch and the Spanish from Europe. The paths of Eastern and Western cultures converged here in Taiwan and consequently made the island a key player in the history of East Asia.
Coexistence and Competition Amid Mountains and Oceans
Taiwan, a place of free trade throughout the 17th century, was in 1684 incorporated into the territory ruled by the Qing dynasty. Large numbers of Han Chinese migrants continued coming to Taiwan and settling down in various regions, including the plains, the foothills, and mountainsides west of the Central Mountain Range. They developed their own villages, industries, and lifestyles, and gradually created traditional local communities constituted mostly of Han migrants and their descendants. At the same time, indigenous societies experienced an unprecedented impact. Amid the mountains and between the oceans, different groups of people coexisted while competing with one another. This was an era of complex, varied, and frequent interactions.
Territorial Societies and Plural Cultures
During the Qing Dynasty, a great number of Han Chinese people migrated to Taiwan and formed Han Chinese-dominated communities in many parts of the island. However, due to separation by the east-west rivers, transport between the south and north was very inconvenient.The Han Chinese adopted different land reclamation methods and cultures in response to the varied natural and cultural environments. With regard to the natural environment, the migrants built different kinds of villages based on factors such as terrain and hydrology. As for the cultural environment, different industries and cultures were established depending on indigenous customs and ethnic distribution. Eventually, regional societies with various characteristics were formed throughout southern and northern Taiwan.
Striding Towards Democracy
The Republic of China (ROC) took control of Taiwan after World War II, and Taiwanese people felt hopeful about escaping from colonial rule and “returning to the motherland.” They were active in politics, until they fell silent after the February 28 Incident. After the ROC central government withdrew to Taiwan, cross-strait military confrontation ensued, and the government began restricting people’s freedoms. Martial law was imposed for 38 years. The government revered Chinese culture, and also carried out local elections, portraying Taiwan as a model province of “Free China.” As one generation gave way to the next, there was an upsurge in activism and repeated sacrifices and struggles. Gradually, support for “Taiwanese identity” became part of society’s mainstream. From the lifting of martial law, termination of the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion, to its first direct presidential election, the ROC transformed itself into a country of direct democracy. The difficult road to democracy has been a process of negotiation and conflict, and it has also been a life experience through which recent generations of Taiwanese people have taken care of each other and engaged in dialogues.
Museum for Everyone
Shaped by humankind’s cacophonic individuality, the future both brims with tension and uncertainty and beckons with infinite possibilities. In this museum, we speak as one: Let our disparate voices mingle into the melodic refrain of the future.
Everyone can be a chronicler of history
What is history? History is a process as well as an experience It is a collaborative endeavor by people with differing opinions and perspectives to better understand, describe, and remember a shared episode in time. All who took the time to record and interpret history in the moment have given to us additional unique insight and understanding. Everyone can be a chronicler of history.