|Island Taiwan and the outlying small islands|
by Huei-Min Tsai
current territory of Taiwan, Republic of China, is comprised of Taiwan
Island and 121 outlying small islands.
The main Island Taiwan covers
a 36,000 square-kilometer area which
is ranked as the 38th largest island, in comparing with other
major islands in the world; With about 22.5 millions people living on
Taiwan, the island is also ranked as the sixth most populous islands of
the world.(see http://www.globalislands.net/
-island information ).
Geologically main Island Taiwan lies between two plate boundaries and on the edge of continental shelf. While the outlying islands are mostly distributed in the Taiwan Strait, which is part of continental shelf, some islands off the east coast of Taiwan are in the Pacific Ocean and separated from the continental edge by a deep ocean trench. Island types could be classified by different geological origins. There are granite-origin continental islands which are close to China's coastline (e.g., Kinmen and Matzu island groups), volcanic oceanic islands (e.g., Green Island, Orchid Island, Turtle Island, Penghu Archipelago), and islands based on raised coral reef or atolls (e.g. Liuchiuyu, Pratas Atoll, and Spratly Atoll).
Islands comprising the 11 island groups of Taiwan could be characterized as five types.
A. Near-shore continental islands
1. Kinmen Islands: continental islands, granite origin; less than eight km from China's coastline (southern Fujian province); about 50,000 people live on two main islands and about 300 live on a more remote island Wu-chiu; the other 10 island/rocks are uninhabited; mass emigration to Southeast Asia between the late 19th century and early 20th century; remittances from abroad enrich the island economy and cultural landscape; successful reforestation and cultural heritage preservation due to 40-odd years of military frontline isolation; rich wild bird habitats; tourism re-opened since 1992, and cross-border trade re-opened in 2001.
2. Matzu Islands: continental islands of granite origin, comprised of 19 small islands; less than six km from China's coastline (northern Fujian province); about 7,000 people live on five main islands; other islands are uninhabited; local economy relies on fishery; unique cultural heritage owing to 40-odd years of military frontline isolation.
B. Mid-oceanic archipelagos
Archipelago (the Pescadores): Sixty-four small islands; volcanic
origin composed of basalt rock and coral reef coast; 90,000 people
distributed on 18 small isles; most
isles are uninhabited; rich natural diversity
over 300 km of coastline provides typical
environment — sea, sun, sand — that can be exploited for
island tourism; abundant wildlife; geological lab.
C. Remote oceanic islands
Island (Lutao): Volcanic,
coral reef, human rights memorial at the island's historic prison.
Island (Lanyu): volcanic, sub-tropical rain forest, Yami
culture, traditional knowledge
of natural resource use and sustainable livelihood.
D. Near-shore or connected islands
6. Liuchiuyu: raised coral reef island, fishery villages, tourism for marine recreation activities.
7. Turtle Island: volcanic, undersea thermal spring, uninhabited, aquaculture, opened for tourism in 2000.
8. Keelung Islands: one of 4 small islands is connected to Keelung City; others are uninhabited rocks.
E. Remote, uninhabited islands
9. Diaoyutai Islands (Senkaku in Japanese): eight small volcanic islands lying on the continental shelf of the East China Sea, the name of the island group means "Fishing platform"; territorial dispute.
10. Pratas Atoll (Tungsha): Unique atoll looks like a coral ring lying on the blue ocean; located in the Southeast China Sea, 440 km south of Taiwan Island's southern tip; land mass less than 2 sq km; increasingly impacted by tourism.
11. Taiping Island, Spratly Atoll (Nansha): Atolls located in the South China Sea, 1,600 km from Taiwan; among hundreds islets, Taiping isle, or Itu Aba isle, belongs to Taiwan's navy garrison; international territorial dispute involving at least four surrounding countries.
The majority of people on Taiwan Island are Han
Chinese who immigrated from Fujian Province and Hakka from Guangdong
Province in the 17th and 18th centuries. About 13%
are so-called "mainlanders" who fled from China after the
communist revolution of 1949 (or are descended from these exiles). Two
percent are indigenous people belonging to one of the ten major aboriginal
tribes that have been identified in Taiwan. The people and culture in
outlying small islands are diverse with respect to their location,
culture, historical background, and natural environment. For instance,
Kinmen and Matzu islands, lying near China’s Fujian coast, retain a
legacy of traditional Chinese architecture and ruins of historical
battlefields due to their strategic location. The Penghu Archipelago lies
at the midway point of the Taiwan Strait and islands in the group have
been considered to be stepping stones for people migrating from coastal
China to Taiwan, though they also became homes for early fishermen and
their descendants. Orchid Island on the Pacific is less connected to
Taiwan both geologically and culturally. Islanders clearly share traits
and a lifestyle with their Polynesian kin. People living on other islands
are mainly fishermen and occasionally soldiers serving on military
For more information...
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