During the period from 1400 to 1550, many from mainland China immigrated to Taiwan. The first main group was from the Fujian province. Afterward, a group known as Hakka, meaning “guest families,” arrived in Taiwan. These two groups along with the 16 aboriginal tribes on the island made for a multiethnic and multicultured society.
Western influence began in the 16th century, after Portuguese sailors sighted the island and named it Formosa, meaning "beautiful" island. The Dutch arrived in 1622, building the town of Anping. They later rivaled with the Spaniards for possession of the island. Their victory was short lived when the Chinese military leader Koxinga defeated them. Later, his rule in Taiwan fell to the mainland under China’s Manchu dynasty in 1683. From 1895 to the end of the second world war, Taiwan came under Japanese imperial rule.
In 1949, after losing the battle for control in China, the ruling party was forced to retreat to Taiwan, bringing 230,000 of the best art pieces from the Summer Palace in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Today, these treasures can be enjoyed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
It was during the 1960’s that Taiwan began an incredible economic upturn; it was later termed an “economic miracle.” Today, Taiwan boasts two of the world’s top 40 tallest buildings. The Taipei 101 in Taipei City completed in 2004, and the 85 story Tuntex Sky Tower completed in 1997, that is on the harbor of Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung.
Taiwan also has a bullet train, reaching speeds of 300 kilometers (186 mi) per hour, connecting Taipei to Kaohsiung along the west coast. A trip that may take more than 4 hours by car is made in as little as one-and-a-half hours. Taiwan’s cities bustle with modern trains and buses and, in the two largest cites, a network of subway systems that make travel fast and easy.
The year 2000 was a milestone in Taiwan's history when the government passed legislation that allows conscientious objectors to military service to choose alternative service. Taiwan is the first Asian country to introduce alternative service for its citizens.