Our Land Our People: The Story of Taiwan
Let us traverse Taiwan’s hundreds of years of history together! Starting with mysterious origin myths, we, along with this land, witness the shifts and changes brought on by each historical period. We see the faces of every citizen, and we hear their voices and stories, blended into the history of Taiwan.
The exhibition is divided into seven main sections according to different historical periods: (1) Taiwan, An Island on the Crossroads, (2) Initial Arrivals, (3) An Island and People Relying on the Oceans for Livelihood, (4) Coexistence and Competition Amid Mountains and Oceans, (5) Depression and Dreams Under the New Order, (6) Striding Towards Democracy, and (7) Museum for Everyone. The prehistoric period and the modern era are hugely different, but you will still somehow detect a sense of familiarity.
Taiwan, An Island on the Crossroads
The story of Taiwan began at the crossroads. It is a story of different groups who collided, explored, and learned to share this island.
In those prehistoric tales, who were Taiwan’s earliest settlers? Where did they come from, and why did they come here? Before written records, small groups of people were already coming to Taiwan, bringing vibrant and diverse cultures. They interacted and socialized with one another, and made this island their hub for dispersal to other places around the world.
An Island and People Relying on the Oceans for Livelihood
In the mid-16th century, Taiwan gradually became a meeting point and transfer hub for East Asian trade. Major Asian and Western sea powers started competing here, presenting Taiwan’s indigenous society with multiple external challenges. At first it was Chinese and Japanese merchants and pirates who used Taiwan as a trading post. Then, in the 17th century, the Dutch and Spanish came from Europe. Eastern and Western cultures converged here. As a consequence, Taiwan’s role on the East Asian historical stage became significant.
Coexistence and Competition Amid Mountains and Oceans
In the 17th century, Taiwan was a country of open trade, and it was incorporated into the Qing Dynasty’s territory in 1684. Large numbers of Han Chinese migrants came to Taiwan, establishing settlements on the plains and in the hills west of the Central Mountain Range. They developed distinctive villages, industries, and lifestyles, gradually transforming into traditional regional societies constituted mostly of Han migrants and their descendants. As a result, local indigenous societies experienced unprecedented challenges. On this land amid mountains and oceans, different peoples coexisted and competed for survival.
Depression and Dreams Under the New Order
In 1894, the Qing Dynasty was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War. After the cession of Taiwan to Japan the following year, Tokyo sent powerful military forces to conquer and rule Taiwan. Unlike the island’s previous rulers, the new regime was committed to implementing thorough sovereignty, controlling the land and the population, and demanding loyalty from its people. This new encounter thrust Taiwan’s people through an unprecedented transformation.
Striding Towards Democracy
In 1945, the Republic of China (ROC) took control of Taiwan after World War II. The Taiwanese, hoping to escape from colonial rule and “return to the motherland,” actively participated in politics, until they were silenced by the February 28 Incident. After the ROC central government withdrew to Taiwan, cross-strait military confrontation ensued, and the government began restricting freedoms, imposing martial law that persisted for 38 years. As one generation gave way to the next, a road to democracy was eventually built on negotiation and conflict. For recent generations of Taiwanese people who have taken care of and engaged with each other, this transition is also a record of their life experiences.
Museum for Everyone
Shaped by humankind’s cacophonic individuality, the future both brims with tension and uncertainty, and beckons with infinite possibilities. In this museum, we speak as one: Let our disparate voices mingle into a melodic refrain of the future.