Taiwan Flag - the History of Taiwan in 13 Flags

The different incredible flags that have flown in Taiwan over the centuries tell a fascinating and complex history, quite different from that of mainland China

Taiwan Flag - since 1945 until today Taiwan Flag - since 1945 until today.

Here above you can see the current Taiwan flag. More exactly, that is the Republic of China flag - some time ago also called Nationalist China.

Anyway, what I want write in this page is not only about the current flag but also about the different flags, of various countries, which over the centuries have flown over Taiwan.

As you can see below, a very complicated history is evidenced by these flags. A history of foreign invasions, of maritime trade, of openness (sometimes forced) to the world.

An history that explains why Taiwan culture is so rich.

At the bottom of this web page you can also find some interesting Taiwan flags of today, one of which tells an amusing trick that some Taiwanese fans have used to fly a "flag of Taiwan" under the nose of the Chinese police at Beijing Olympics in 2008.

From prehistory to 1624 - the First Nations

Ancient Dutch print depicting aboriginal headhunters

The different austronesians aboriginal tribes, often at war with each other or with the intruders, dominated almost undisturbed during this long period.

Contacts with the outside world were mostly limited to a small number of Chinese fishermen and traders who visited Taiwan from time to time.

Chinese envoys, Japanese pirates, and towards the end of this period, a shipwrecked Portuguese crew, they all raised their banners on the island in different times and places. They all left no trace, except a few heads.

The aborigines had flags? Not that I know of.

So here I just add this fine Dutch print of that time that shows aboriginal warriors with a head just captured.

From 1624 to 1662 - the Dutch Rule

The flag of the Dutch East India Company The flag of the
Dutch East India Company

European powers - Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands - enter the scene.

The Dutch East India Company established a stronghold in Anping, now part of the city of Tainan, in southwest Taiwan.

Almost at the same time the Spaniards settled in the north of Taiwan, at Jilung and Danshui.

The Spanish garrison, however, is weak. Soon they were driven out by the Dutch and the diseases.

A Spanish military flag of the 17th centuryA Spanish military flag of the 17th century
Image by Sergio Camero
FOTW Flags Of The World

Within 20 years the Dutch took control, direct or indirect, of most of Taiwan, except the mountains.

Taiwan became an important commercial base between China, Japan and Europe. The Dutch introduced the sugarcane and developed the immigration of Chinese farmers from China.

The christianization of the aborigines also commenced in this period.

Taiwan was deeply changed by the Dutch rule ...

From 1662 to 1683 - the kingdom of the Zheng

Ming Dynasty Banners Ming Dynasty Banners

Koxinga (real name Zheng Chenggong) was the son of a Chinese pirate-merchant-admiral and of a Japanese lady. Around mid-1600, Koxinga was fighting in South China against the foreign dynasty of the Qing, alongside the Ming.

In 1662 Koxinga wipes out the Dutch from Taiwan and turns the island in a constant threat to the Qing invaders.

The son Zheng Jing continues the fight in increasingly desperate conditions, as the Qing strenghtened their power over southern China.

Among defections and betrayals, finally Taiwan falls into the hands of the Qing in 1683. For the first time in the history, Taiwan became part of the Chinese Empire.

From 1683 to 1895 - the Qing Dynasty

Flag of China during the Qing Dinasty Flag of China during the Qing Dinasty

The Qing did not know what to do with Taiwan. At first they thought of selling it back to the Dutch - who did not accept the offer - or even to evacuate the island of all Chinese people.

Eventually they reluctantly decided to keep it but to limit immigration from the mainland.

Soon, however, the Chinese population in Taiwan was growing again, and Taiwan aborigines of the plains were gradually assimilated into the Chinese culture.

Later, in the 19th century, China was in deep decline. The Chinese Empire was attacked from all sides and was increasingly unable to defend itself.

Taiwan was attacked in 1840 by the British, in the Opium War, and again in 1885 by the French during the Sino-French War.

French FlagThe French flag flew
for a few months
in Jilung and in the Penghu islands.

Because of the capable command of Liu Mingchuan, one of the few honest officers in the late Qing era, the French expeditionary force was stopped virtually on the seashore. Indeed, the French suffered an embarrassing defeat in Danshuei.

The end of the Qing rule in Taiwan was only delayed for 10 years. In 1895 the Japanese defeated China in Manchuria. Under the peace treaty signed at Shimonoseki, Taiwan was ceded to Japan.

1895 - the short-lived Republic of Taiwan

Flag of the ephemeral Republic of Taiwan in 1895 Flag of the ephemeral
Republic of Taiwan in 1895

Some members of prominent Taiwanese families, along with Qing officials, did not recognize the treaty and proclaimed - with the tacit goodwill of Beijing - a Republic of Taiwan.

This Republic of Taiwan had a short life,only 5 months.

Anyway Japanese troops had to overcome an unexpected armed resistance, before reaching Tainan, the capital of the Republic.

For some, the Republic of Taiwan represents the first stirrings of an independence movement in Taiwan. More likely, the Republic was linked to international intrigue designed to impede or delay the conquest of Japan

The Republic of Taiwan, if nothing else, left us a beautiful exotic flag.

From 1895 to 1945 - the Japanese Rule

Flag of Japan Flag of Japan

The Empire of the Rising Sun ruled Taiwan for 50 years.

The Japanese legacy is important. Today's Taiwan was profoundly influenced by that colonial experience.

The Japanese brought a brutal rule, especially at the beginning, but also peace, order and law-abiding public servants.

The living standards for most of the population improved - schools and hospitals were opened, public health regulations were issued and enforced.

The final intention of the Japanese was probably a gradual assimilation of the Taiwanese in the Empire of Japan - the Japanese language was compulsory at school and in many everyday situations.

The Japanese also brought advanced farming techniques, irrigation channels and the first industries.

At the end of this period, Taiwan is more developed than mainland China.

From 1945 to date - the Republic of China

Flag of Nationalist China The current Taiwan Flag.

In 1945, Japan lost the Second World War. Taiwan is assigned to the Republic of China (Nationalist China) - which in 1911 had overturned the old Qing dynasty.

Nationalist China is in turn defeated by the Communists of Mao Ze Dong, that in 1949, only 4 years later, took over the mainland and founded the People's Republic of China.

The remaining Nationalist forces retreated to Taiwan.

Since then Taiwan has been separated from mainland China again.

Other flags of today's Taiwan

Chinese Taipei Olympic flag Chinese Taipei Olympic flag.

In the 70s, China ended its self-inflicted isolation. Countries that want to have diplomatic and trade relations with the Chinese giant are forced to interrupt the relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan became increasingly isolated diplomatically.

Even in sports competitions Taiwan can not join with its own name and flag, but has to resort to humiliating expedients.

This is the flag of Chinese Taipei - under which name Taiwan's athletes compete in the Olympic Games.

The trick of the flag

Myanmar (Burma) Flag. Myanmar (Burma) Flag.

This was the flag of Myanmar (Burma) until October 2010.

As you can see is very similar to the Taiwan flag, and on television, probably indistinguishable.

The flag of Myanmar - a country that is a good friend of mainland China - has been waved at the Beijing Olympics to support athletes from Taiwan and make fun of the Chinese police - that would certainly not have allowed the flag of Taiwan to enter the stadium.

As I wrote above, Myanmar has changed recently its flag - the new flag is now very different from the Taiwan flag.

True friends come in the time of need! ;D

Deep Greens

Flag of one of Taiwan independence movements Flag of one of Taiwan
independence movements.

Some political movements in Taiwan support a full and formal independence from China.

And even the adoption of a new Taiwan flag - since the current one is still the flag of a Chinese state.

This is one of the proposed Taiwan flag - the color green is considered a symbol of Taiwan.

Last but not least ...

People's Republic of China Flag People's Republic of China Flag.

This is the flag of the People's Republic of China ... China, in fact.

That is also the country whose government maintains that Taiwan and the Taiwanese, like it or not, are part of China.

Will this flag be the Taiwan flag one day? Time will tell ...

The only sure thing is that, among all these flags, this is the only one that has never flown over Taiwan - at least in public.

Taiwan Flag Meaning

If you are interested on the symbolism of the Republic of China flag, I have found a great resource is FOTW page about Taiwan. This website displays virtually every kind of flag waving in Taiwan today.

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