Driving Directions Taiwan

TAIWAN was formerly known to the West by its Portuguese name of Formosa, “Beautiful Island.” It is the largest of a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean about 161-kilo­meters or 100 miles off the southeast coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan’s independence, resulting from the island’s seizure by nationalists in 1949, is not entirely accepted internationally, and China lays claim to the territory. An additional 78 islands make up Taiwan province, including those called the Pescadores (“Fishermen’s Islands”) by the Portuguese but known as Penghu to the Chinese. Other islands, such as Quemoy (Jinmen) and Maju, lie closer to the coast of the main­land.

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Mountains dominate the island covering three-quarters of the land area and absent only from western coastal regions. Most of the mountains are high, with more than 60 peaks attaining heights of 3,040 meters or 10,000 feet. However, the highest of all is the Jade Mountain (Yu-Shan), which stands at 3,940 meters or 12,960 feet high.

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The mountain slopes mostly covered with coniferous trees (cedar, pine, larch) at higher levels and broadleaved evergreen species (Chinese cork oak and camphor) at lower levels. A variety of wildlife is indigenous to Taiwan, but many species confined to remote mountain regions where there is less disturbance from humans. Their number includes the Formosan black bear, Formosan sambar, sika and Chinese Muntjac deer, Formosan rock monkey, green turtle, Taipei tree turtle, Formosan salamander, black-faced spoonbill, and Formosan landlocked salmon.

The climate of the island is subtropical with hot, wet summers and mild winters. About 20 million people, almost all of whom are Chinese, live on the island of Taiwan, and the population density is high.

The capital and largest city are Taipei. Low-lying land in the West of Taiwan is fertile and heavily cultivated with a variety of crops including rice, sugar cane, tea, coffee, cashew nuts, sweet potatoes, bananas, pineapples, tobacco, cotton, sisal, and cloves. Forestry is carried out in Taiwan to supply a plywood industry, and numerous fish species are harvested from the surrounding seas, providing an important food source.

Taiwan’s relatively few resources include gas, marble, limestone, and small coal deposits. Taiwan is a major international trading nation based on its broad range of manufactured goods and has some of the most successful export-processing zones in the world, accommodating both domestic and overseas companies. Exports include “high tech” goods, machinery, electronics, textiles, footwear, toys, and sporting goods.

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