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People, Language & Religion
 
 
 

People

About 98% of Taiwan's population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. Of these, 86% are descendants of early Han Chinese immigrants known as the "benshengren" in Chinese. This group is often referred to "native Taiwanese" in English, but the term is also frequently used for the Taiwanese aborigines. The benshengren group contains two subgroups: the Hoklo people (70% of the total population), whose ancestors migrated from the coastal southern Fujian (Min-nan) region in the southeast of mainland China starting in the 17th century, and the Hakka (15% of the total population), whose ancestors originally migrated south to Guangdong, its surrounding areas and Taiwan.

About 12% of the population are known as "waishengren", composed of people who (or whose ancestors) emigrated from mainland China after the Chinese Civil War with the KMT government.

The other 2% of the population are about 521,000 Taiwanese aborigines, divided into 14 major groups. The Ami, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Sakizaya, Sediq, Thao, Truku and Tsou live mostly in the eastern half of the island, while the Yami inhabit Orchid Island.

Languages

Most people on Taiwan now speak Mandarin Chinese (Peking dialect). It is the official language and is used in administration, jurisprudence, education, and, to a large extent, in commerce; it has come into increasingly common use during the last three decades. The Wade-Giles system of romanisation, which has been replaced on the mainland by the pinyin system, is still used in Taiwan.

Native Taiwanese speak a variety of southern Chinese dialects, but mainly Southern Fukienese. This is the native tongue of about 70% of the population. It has also influenced the vocabulary of Mandarin spoken on Taiwan. There is also a sizeable population of Hakka speakers. This dialect is mainly spoken in Kwantung Province on the mainland. As a result of 50 years of Japanese rule, most Taiwanese and aborigines over the age of 60 speak or understand Japanese. Tribal peoples speak dialects of the Malay-Polynesian family which have no written script.

Religions

The Chinese are traditionally eclectic in their religious beliefs. The Taiwan folk religion is a fluid mixture of shamanism, ancestor worship, magic, ghosts and spirits, and aspects of animism. commonly overlap with an individual's belief in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism or other traditional Chinese religions. Natural phenomena have been deified, and ancestors, sages, virtuous women, and historical personalities have been given the status of gods. In 2003, registered organisations estimated that about 33% of the population were Taoists, 23.9% were Buddhists, 2.6% were I Kuan Taoist, and 1.2% were Protestant.

The first Westerners to bring Christianity to Taiwan were the Dutch (1624). However, a great persecution of Christians took place when the island was lost to Cheng Cheng-kung in 1662. Christianity made another beginning in 1860, when a missionary from Scotland came to the island. The English Presbyterian Mission started its work in the southern part of Taiwan about 100 years ago. Since the end of World War II, more than 80 Protestant denominations have been established on the island, and the activities of Christian missions, many coming over from the mainland, have become widespread. Christians constitute about 4.5% of the total population. Denominations represented include Roman Catholic, Presbyterians, Mormons, Baptists, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Episcopalians, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Other faiths include Tien Ti Chiao (Heaven Emperor Religion), Tien Te Chiao (Heaven Virtue Religion), Li-Ism, Hsuan Yuan Chiao (Yellow Emperor Religion), Maitraya Great Tao, Chinese Holy Religion, Hai Tzu Tao (Innocent Child Religion), Tien Li Chiao (Heaven Reason Religion), the Baha'i Faith, Mahikari and Judaism. About 14% of the population are atheists.

 

 
 

 



 


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