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Taiwan: From the Historical to the Contemporary

Taiwan is a modern, vibrant and multi-cultural society that has managed to establish a contemporary, cosmopolitan country while still preserving its distinctive historical and cultural traditions. 

During its history, Taiwan has been populated by various peoples including Aborigines, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese. 

In the 16th century the Portuguese named Taiwan "Ilha Formosa" meaning beautiful island, a term which can still be heard today. 

In 1895, the island was ceded to Japan as a result of the Sino-Japanese War and the Japanese remained in control until the end of World War II. 

After World War II, the Republic of China led by the Kuomintang Party (KMT) began to govern Taiwan. In 1949, after the Chinese Civil War, the Kuomintang settled in Taiwan and ruled Taiwan as a single party state for forty years. In 1986 democratic reforms resulted in changing this "one party" system into a multi-party election system.

Since its early beginnings, indigenous minorities also referred to as Aborigines or Austronesians, have been living in Taiwan. There are 14 different officially recognized tribes including the Ami, Dahwa, Thao, Atayal, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiat, Kavalan, Truku, Sakiraya, Tsou and Hakka.  A visit to an aboriginal village is a unique, colorful and memorable experience for all tourists.

Approximately, 23 million people live on this densely populated island that is 245 miles (394 km) long and 89.5 miles (144 km) wide making it just 14,015 square miles (36,000 km) in total area.

Taiwan's diverse topography consists of spectacular mountain ranges, lush green forests, alluvial plains and basins.

There are over 100 hot springs in Taiwan whose medicinal effects have been known to relieve and treat such conditions as arthritis, rheumatism, skin problems and gastrointestinal ailments, among other conditions.

Its climate includes tropical, sub-tropical and temperate conditions with warm winters, hot and humid summers and rainy seasons.

Taiwanese culture remains deeply rooted in Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist and folk religion beliefs and many examples of Taiwan's reverence for its deities can be found in the simple and ornate temples throughout Taiwan. Taiwanese celebrate these deities through festivals in their honor. These festive and extremely vibrant events are ideal times for tourists to visit Taiwan.

Numerous feng shui masters and fortune tellers are also found around the country.

The Chinese tradition for learning and cultivating the arts is evidenced by the multitude of cultural activities in Taiwan which encompasses music, dance, opera, contemporary art, traditional handicrafts, tea ceremonies and more.

Food has always played an important role in Chinese socializing and culture. Many people consider Taiwan the best place in the world to sample the full range of ancient and modern Chinese regional cuisines. Taiwan's Chinese food includes Taiwanese, Hakka, Fujian, Guandong, Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghainese, Jianxi and Beijing regional cuisines.

Taiwan has been a democracy and an ally of the United States for many decades and Western culture is freely accepted and welcomed in Taiwan. In addition, the country has been widely recognized internationally for its humanitarian and economic support to developing countries. Taiwanese are noted for extending their warm hospitality to all guests.

The economic growth of Taiwan over the past four decades has been spectacular and its industriousness and entrepreneurial skills have made it one of the prime Asian examples of an "economic miracle."

Taiwan is a creditor economy holding one of the world's largest foreign exchange reserves of over $352 billion as of February 2010. It ranks 13th in the world by GDP and the GDP per capita of Taipei is $48,400. Its economy continues to expand at about 5% per year with low unemployment and low inflation.

According to a recent Business Risk Service report released by U.S.-based Business Environment Risk Intelligence S.A., Taiwan is the world's fourth best place in which to invest after Switzerland, Singapore and Norway.

Taiwanese are well-respected for their incredible ability to create and innovate. Their high tech products including silicon chips, laptop computers, electronics and other high tech devices account for more than half of Taiwan's exports and it is the world's 13th largest exporting country. It has been a major global player in electronics and semi-conductors and is now becoming a significant force in the field of cloud computing.

Taiwan lies south of Japan and Korea, north of the Philippines directly across the Taiwan Strait from China and within close proximity to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Because it is such an influential business center in Asia, there are many direct flights between Taiwan and almost all of Asia's major cities.

Additionally, there are many air routes to and from Taiwan to the U.S., Europe and Canada. Taiwan also has several ports for sea travel. Taiwan's easy air and sea access give it a distinct advantage in becoming a very desirable global player in the expanding industry of medical and cosmetic tourism.