Religion in Taiwan


The population density in Taiwan (656 residents per km2, 2019) is among the highest in the world. The majority of the population is concentrated to the coastal plain in the west, where there are regions with more than 1,000 residents per km2. In the 1950s, the population increased by 3.7 percent per year, but then child restraint campaigns were carried out. Now the annual population increase is very low internationally. The growing proportion of older people in the population and the very small increase in population have meant that nowadays the single-child family is no longer considered the only desirable one.

With industrialization, cities have grown rapidly, and now less than a quarter of rural residents live. About 73 percent of the residents live in cities with over 100,000 residents. The largest cities are Gaoxiong (2.8 million, 2014), Taizhong (2.7 million) and the capital Taibei (2.7 million).

The majority of the population consists of Chinese (86 percent) whose ancestors immigrated from the mainland about 500 years ago. They identify themselves as Taiwanese and thus differ from the so-called mainlanders (15 percent), immigrant Guomindang followers from China who went into exile in Taiwan after the Communist takeover of power in 1949.

According to thesciencetutor, the Taiwanese are culturally and linguistically divided into two groups: Fujianese (70 percent) and mince (15 percent). The island’s indigenous population (2 percent or 458,000 in 2006) consists of thirteen officially recognized peoples living in the mountains where they mainly feed on sweat farming. Some are also found in the coastal areas. Ecotourism is a growing source of income. Among these groups, ami is the largest. Other groups are atayal, bunun, kavalan, paiwan, puyuma, rukai, sakizaya, thao, truku and tsou as well as on the island of Botel Tobago yami, which predominantly feeds on fishing. They speak Austronesian languages, many of which are severely threatened or even extinct.

People in Taiwan

Taiwan’s population is for the most part immigrants from the mainland. The colonization process, by Chinese peasants and traders, began in the 17th century. and obviously concerned the western plain. The human groups originating from the island, of Malay stock, progressively relegated to marginal areas, now amount to about 440,000 units. The ethnic and demographic influence of the Japanese occupation period (1895-1945) was modest, while a decisive contribution came from the large number of refugees from mainland China after 1949: the population thus grew from 6 million residents in 1946 to 9 million in the early 1950s. The natural movement remained intense until the 1960s, with birth rates close to 30 ‰ which, with the persistence of illegal immigration flows, determined an annual growth coefficient of approximately 3%. Subsequently, the birth rate decreased significantly, up to 9 ‰ of 2009, and, consequently, the average increase stabilized at rates just above 0%. The good socio-economic level is reflected in one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (5.3%) and in an average life expectancy which has risen to 77 years. The largest urban agglomerations are those of the capital and of Kaohsiung, located at the NW and SW ends of the island, respectively. Other important centers on the coast and in the western plain, which bear 90% of the island’s anthropic load, are Taichung and Tainan ; to the N is Keelung, the largest port in the country, while on the eastern edge only Hualien and Taitung exceed 100,000 residents.

The official language is Mandarin Chinese, but the local Chinese idiom (min) is one of the southern Chinese dialects. The most widespread religions are Buddhism (22.8%) and Taoism (18.1%); Christians, divided between Catholics and Protestants, are 3.4%. 47.7% of the population declares themselves non-religious.


The indigenous population (about 300,000) speaks a dozen different Austronesian languages, but the majority of the population speaks Chinese dialects, mainly mine (about 15 million). Chinese is a school language and is spoken as a native language of about 4.3 million.


The traditional Chinese folk religion, which holds the traits of original animism, shamanism and ancestral worship and has been influenced by both Buddhism and Daoism, is the most popular religion. During Taiwan’s isolation from the mainland, the people’s religion has developed many features. The role of the cult of Matsu, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, plays a major role.

Buddhism, introduced during the Japanese Occupation (1895-1945), has in recent decades developed significant missionary activities both within and outside Taiwan. With the help of rich donations, Buddhist organizations also practice significant charity, especially in health care.

Taiwanese Daoism, suppressed by the Japanese colonizers, has experienced a renaissance since 1945. It has preserved many liturgical elements that characterized the religion during the Song Dynasty. A number of smaller religious communities exhibit strongly eclectic features. These include Yiguandao (I-kuan Tao), the all-encompassing doctrine, which seeks to reconcile conceptions with domestic law in Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.