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Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to Fantasyland: the Commonwealth of Taiwan - The People and theLand

A brief mention of Taiwan’s native peoples and its land (their land?) as our exercise continues…

Government building of Tainan Prefecture 台南州 (

Taiwan 台湾 is unique when compared to Japan in its relative ethnic diversity. Whereas there are only a small number of native Ainu アイヌ peoples remaining in Hokkaidō 北海道, and the presence of roughly a million resident Koreans 在日韓国・朝鮮人, in Japan, the commonwealth is home to 14 aboriginal tribes that have received official recognition by the government in Taihoku: the Ami アミ, Atayal タイヤル, Bunun ブヌン, Kavalan クバラン, Paiwan パイワン, Puyuma プユマ, Rukai ルカイ, Saisiyat サイシャット, Tao タオ, Thao サオ, Tsou ツォウ, Truku タロコ, Sakizaya サキザヤ and Sediq セデック. Recognition as an indigenous community gives a tribe title to ownership of certain land tracts, as well as the right to use their native names on official documents, such as family registries 戸籍 and passports. The latter caused much friction with Japanese authorities, who insisted that as Japanese citizens, Taiwan’s aborigines must use kanji 漢字 in writing their surnames and given names. Eventually, the Japanese government acceded to repeated requests by aboriginal activists and Taiwanese authorities, and now allows native people to use kana 仮名 for purposes of transliteration.

Despite much progress in recent decades, the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan are still economically disadvantaged in comparison to other commonwealth ethnic groups. Entertainment, military service and sports continue to provide popular routes for aboriginals seeking to improve their economic status.

There are four areas designated as “state parks”, and administered by the commonwealth’s interior ministry. Three were established during the pre-war period – Daiton 大屯, Shintaka Arisan 新高阿里山 and Tsugitaka Taroko 次高タロコ – while the other one (Kontei 墾丁) was set up by the commonwealth authorities. These areas are not considered part of the Japanese national park system 国立公園. In addition, the commonwealth’s tourism bureau has designated twelve areas throughout the island as “scenic areas”.

As an external territory of Japan, Taiwan is responsible for its own environment, and thus administers a separate set of environment regulations from those in Japan. This has provoked a great deal of controversy among the Taiwanese public, especially in recent years, as many people feel the commonwealth government has not been stringent enough in its efforts to maintain a clean and healthy natural environment for its residents.

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