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Asunto:[CeHuNews] 262/03 - Geography of Taiwan
Fecha:Sabado, 8 de Noviembre, 2003  21:18:22 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt>

CeHuNews 262/03

Geography of Taiwan

Taiwan is formally known as the Republic of China (ROC). Founded in 1912, the ROC is Asia's first constitutional republic. The ROC government, led by the Kuomintang (KMT), relocated to Taiwan in 1949 when the Chinese Communist Party established the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland. It has since exercised jurisdiction over Taiwan, Penghu (the Pescadores sq), Kinmen (Quemoy ), Matsu , and numerous other islets. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have since been governed as separate territories.


Off the eastern coast of Asia lie the mountainous island arcs of the Western Pacific. The island chain closest to the continent marks the edge of the Asiatic Continental Shelf. Taiwan, one of the islands of this chain, is the largest body of land between Japan and the Philippines.

The island of Taiwan is 394 km long, 144 km at its widest point, and shaped like a tobacco leaf. It is located between 21 deg 53'50" and 25 deg 18'20" N latitude and between 120 deg 01'00" and 121 deg 59'15" E longitude.

With a total area of nearly 36,000 sq. km, Taiwan is separated from China by the Taiwan Strait, which is about 220 km at its widest point and 130 km at its narrowest. The island is almost equidistant from Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The surface geology of the island varies in age from very recent alluvial deposits to early sedimentary and crystalline rocks. The structure is formed by a tilted fault block running roughly northeast to southwest along the entire length. The steep slope of this tilted block faces east and the rock mass slopes more gently to the west. This block is composed primarily of old rocks, some of which have been subjected to heat and pressure. Only one-third of the land area is arable. The mountains are mostly forested, with some minerals, chiefly coal, at the northern end.

Area of Taiwan
Locality Number of Islands Area (sq. km) Coastline (km)
Taiwan Area 86 35,967.33 1,566.34
Taiwan Proper and 21 offshore islands 22 35,840.47 1,239.58
Penghu Islands 64 126.86 326.76
Source: Ministry of the Interior

On the east coast, the mountains rise steeply from the Pacific. To the west, the level sediments lie just below the surface of the sea. As a result, river deposits have filled the shallow waters and extended the land 15 to 30 km westward from the foothills, giving Taiwan a larger proportion of useful level land than either Japan or the Philippines. Natural resources and agricultural potential make this coastal plain of great importance.

The shoreline of Taiwan is relatively smooth and unbroken with a total length of 1,566 km (including the Penghu Islands). Off the southern end of the island lie small areas of coral reefs, which have built up along the island's shores.

The most important feature of Taiwan's topography is the central range of high mountains running from the northeast corner to the southern tip of the island. Steep mountains over 1,000 meters high constitute about 31 percent of the island's land area; hills and terraces between 100 and 1,000 meters above sea level make up 38 percent; and alluvial plains below 100 meters in elevation, where most communities, farming activities, and industries are concentrated, account for the remaining 31 percent. Based on differences in elevation, relative relief character of rock formations, and structural patterns, the island can be divided physiographically into five major divisions: mountain ranges, volcanic mountains, foothills, tablelands, and coastal plains and basins.

Position of Taiwan
Locality Longitude Latitude
  Aspect Apex Aspect Apex
Total Taiwan Area Eastern Point
Western Point
124 deg 34' 09"
119 deg 18' 03"
Southern Point
Northern Point
21 deg 45' 18"
25 deg 56' 21"
Taiwan Proper Eastern Point
Western Point
121 deg 59' 15"
120 deg 01' 00"
Southern Point
Northern Point
21 deg 53' 50"
25 deg 18' 20"
Penghu Islands Eastern Point
Western Point
119 deg 42' 54"
119 deg 18' 03"
Southern Point
Northern Point
23 deg 09' 40"
23 deg 45' 41"

High Peaks in Taiwan (meters)
Mount Jade (Mt. Morrison) És:
Main Peak Dp
Eastern Peak Fp
Northern Peak _p
Southern Peak np
Mount Snow s 3,884
Mount Siouguluan qhrs 3,860
Mount Wulameng Qԩss 3,805
Mount Nanhu njs 3,740
Central Range Point ¡ys 3,703
Mount Guan s 3,666
Mount Cilai _ܤs:
Northern Peak _p 3,605
Main Peak Dp 3,559
Mount Siangyang Vs 3,600
Mount Dajian jCs 3,593
Cloud Peak p 3,562
Mount Pintien ~Фs 3,529
Mount Dasiue js 3,529
Mount Dabajian jQys 3,505
Mount Dongjyun Fpjs 3,500
Mount Wuming Lús 3,449
Mount Nenggao పs:
Southern Peak np 3,349
Main Peak Dp 3,261
Mount Jhuoshe js 3,343
Mount Sinkang sds 3,335
Mount Tao s 3,324
Mount Baigu թhjs 3,341
Mount Taroko Ó|դjs 3,282
Mount Dan js 3,240
Mount Hehuan Xws 3,146
Source: Ministry of the Interior

Mountain Ranges

Taiwan's five longitudinal mountain ranges occupy almost half of the island. As a group, they extend 330 km from north to south and average about 80 km from east to west. They include more than two hundred peaks with elevations of over 3,000 meters.

Central Range

The Central Range ¡s extends from Suao Ĭ¿D in the north to Eluanbi Zqó in the south, forming a ridge of high mountains and serving as the island's major watershed for rivers and streams. The range is predominantly composed of hard rock formations resistant to weathering and erosion, although heavy rainfall has deeply scarred the sides with gorges and sharp valleys. The relative relief of the terrain is usually extensive, and the forest-clad mountains with their extreme ruggedness are almost impenetrable. The east side of the Central Range is the steepest mountain slope in Taiwan, with fault scarps ranging in height from 120 to 1,200 meters.

Mount Snow Range

The Mount Snow Range ss lies northwest of the Central Range, beginning at Sandiao Jiao TI in the northeast and gaining elevation as it extends toward the southwest. Mount Snow s, the main peak, is 3,884 meters high.

Mount Jade Range

The Mount Jade Range Éss runs along the southwestern flank of the Central Range. It includes the island's tallest peak, the 3,952-meter Mount Jade És.

Mount Ali Range

The Mount Ali Range ss lies west of the Mount Jade Range, with major elevations between 1,000 and 2,000 meters. The main peak, Mount Ta s, towers 2,484 meters.

East Coastal Range

The East Coastal Range F¡s extends from the mouth of the Hualien River á in the north to Taitung County OF¿ in the south, and chiefly consists of sandstone and shale. Although Mount Singang ss, the highest peak, reaches an elevation of 1,682 meters, most of the range is composed of large hills. Small streams have developed on the flanks, but only one large river cuts across the range. Badlands are located at the western foot of the range, where the ground water level is the lowest and rock formations are the least resistant to weathering. Raised coral reefs along the east coast and the frequent occurrences of earthquakes in the rift valley indicate that the fault block is still rising.

Volcanic Mountains

Although igneous rocks are not commonly found in Taiwan, smaller outcroppings of extrusive bodies are scattered over the island, representing at least five periods of igneous activity.

The Datun mountain area j٤s is a prominent group of volcanic peaks lying at the promontory between Keelung Harbor 򶩴 and the Danshuei River He and overlooking the Taipei metropolitan area. The entire area is covered by lava that poured out of the volcanic craters, which now stand as conical notches of over 1,000 meters. The area is unique for its hot springs and fumaroles.


The foothills are found in a narrow zone surrounding the Central Range. This zone, with an elevation of from 100 to 500 meters, is connected with the Central Range and linked with the tablelands in continuous slopes. Low hills with gentle slopes and longitudinal valleys woven with transverse gullies are characteristic topographic features of this zone, as are broad escarpments and short hogbacks formed on fault scarps or along rock formations.

Along the Central Range, the Keelung-Miaoli foothills and those extending from Chia-I Ÿq to Pingtung ̪F are the broadest. The Keelung-Miaoli foothills start from the coast at Keelung and end south of Miaoli ­]. The Chia-I foothills are located below Mount Ali, with its northern border on the Jhuoshuei River ¿B and southern border between Kaohsiung and Pingtung. There is a shallow-faulted region between these foothills and the Fongyuan ­ foothills, extending from Fongyuan, just north of Taichung O, to Nantou n, some distance to the south. This is the widest section of western foothills in Taiwan. It is intersected by three rivers: the Dajia jҷ, Dadu j{, and Jhuoshuei. Included in this region is the Sun Moon Lake Basin é֦a, which lies about 765 meters above sea level and forms a graben basin. At the southern flank of the Central Range are the Hengchun foothills that occupy most of the Hengchun Peninsula íKbq. The topography is downgraded on the eastern and western sides.

Terrace Tablelands

From the foothills, Taiwan's terrain is gradually reduced to tablelands from 100 to 500 meters in height. These thick deposits of well-rounded sandstone gravel are usually accumulations of eroded material washed down from higher areas, though some of the gravel beds may have been deposited near the sea and then raised into flat-topped tablelands by recent tilting. The broadest tableland is the one between Taoyuan é and Hsinchu s in northern Taiwan. Next in size are the Houli Terrace ZOa in Taichung, the Dadu Terrace j׻Oa and the Bagua Terrace KOa in Changhua , and the Hengchun Terrace íKOa in southern Taiwan.

Coastal Plains, Basins, and Valleys

To the west, the physical character of Taiwan changes through the foothills zone to the alluvial plain. Topographically, the coastal plains and basins are monotonously flat, except near the foothills. All of the larger rivers running through the plains have their sources in the high mountains. Flowing out of the western foothills, these rivers diverge into a number of channels and meander to the ocean, forming large alluvial deltas. Many of these have been linked by irrigation and drainage canals.

The coastal plains are generally covered with gravel, sand, and clay, with an average slope of between half a meter and one kilometer. Slopes are gentle enough to eliminate the need for major terracing and are rarely subject to serious soil erosion. The western edge of the plain, where it meets the Taiwan Strait, is marked by wide tidal flats, and the coast is swampy. Shore currents have built up a series of spits and offshore bars, with many lagoons formed by shoreward shifting of the sandbars.

The Jianan Plain ūn­­ is the broadest in southwestern Taiwan, extending from Changhua to Kaohsiung. It is about 180 km long and 43 km wide at its broadest point, making up more than 12 percent of the total land area of Taiwan. Next largest are the Pingtung Plain ̪F­­ and the Ilan Plain y­­. Finally, there are two major basins, the Taipei Basin O_֦a and the Taichung Basin O֦a.

The East Longitudinal Valley OFÁa is an extremely narrow fault valley in proportion to its length. It has a general elevation of about 120 meters above sea level and dips slightly toward the east. Coalescing alluvial fans have developed at the foot of both sides, and the river beds are filled with gravel. Due to repeated movements along the fault line and frequent shocks, subordinate watersheds have developed in the valley.


The Central Mountain Range is the major watershed for Taiwan's rivers and streams; thus, most rivers in Taiwan flow in either an easterly or westerly direction. They are short and steep, especially on the eastern side of the island, and become torrential during heavy rainstorms, carrying heavy loads of mud and silt. The riverbeds tend to be wide and shallow, making them difficult to manage and develop as water resources.

Taiwan has 151 rivers and streams. The Jhuoshuei River is the longest (186 km), while the Gaoping River ̷ has the largest drainage basin (3,257 sq. km).

Major Rivers in Taiwan
River Drainage
(sq. km)
Passes Through
Lanyang River 978 73 Ilan County
Danshuei River He 2,726 159 Taipei City, and Taipei and Taoyuan counties
Toucian River Ye 566 63 Hsinchu City and County
Houlong River ás 537 58 Miaoli County
Daan River jw 758 96 Miaoli and Taichung counties
Dajia River jҷ 1,236 124 Taichung County
Wu River Q 2,026 119 Taichung, Changhua, and Nantou counties
Jhuoshuei River ¿B 3,157 187 Nantou, Changhua, and Yunlin counties
Beigang River _ 645 82 Yunlin and Chia-I counties
Puzih River l 426 76 Chia-I City and County
Bajhang River Kx 475 81 Chia-I and Tainan counties
Jishuei River 379 65 Tainan County
Zengwun River ¿ 1,177 138 Tainan City, and Chia-I and Tainan counties
Yanshuei River Q 344 41 Tainan City and County
Erren River G 350 63 Tainan City, Tainan and Kaohsiung counties
Gaoping River ̷ 3,257 171 Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties
Donggang River F 472 44 Pingtung County
Linbien River L 344 42 Pingtung County
Beinan River n 1,603 84 Taitung County
Siouguluan River qhr 1,790 81 Hualien County
Hualien River á 1,507 57 Hualien County
Source: Ministry of the Interior

Natural Vegetation and Soils

Because of Taiwan's location, plant species are diverse and abundant. The high altitude of the island's mountains provides climatic and vegetation zones ranging from subtropical to alpine. Except for the western coastal plain and the Penghu Islands, Taiwan was once entirely covered by forests. The forested area today is estimated at 1.9 million hectares.

Acacia trees are ubiquitous on lower hills. Bamboo groves and forests are found naturally in central and northern Taiwan, whereas in the south, most stands of bamboo are cultivated on farms. Outside of forests, bamboo is normally confined to relatively moist areas; thus, it can be cultivated almost anywhere in the Taiwan area.

The flora of Taiwan resembles that of China. A wide range of Asian subtropical species are found in the lowlands, and low altitude flora is closely related to that of China's southern provinces. Mountain flora is related to that of western China, and high alpine flora to that of the Himalayan region.

Soils vary in fertility. Many have lost their natural fertility after centuries of irrigation and heavy rainfall. In the north, the soils of arable land are primarily acid alluviums and diluvial latosols, some of which are residuals. In the southwest, where agricultural production is concentrated, most of the arable soils are alluviums of neutral to weak alkalinity and planosol-like alluviums. Upland soils of mountainous areas are mostly lithosols, which are usually thin and infertile.

Climatic Statistics for Selected Locations in Taiwan
City Period Average Temperature (deg C) Average
Rainfall (mm)
Rainy Days
Per Year
Annual January July
Taipei (1897-2001) 22.1 15.4 28.6 2,165.6 179
Keelung (1903-2001) 22.3 15.7 28.8 3,358.0 207
Taichung (1897-2001) 22.6 15.9 28.1 1,714.7 121
Hualien (1911-2001) 22.9 17.4 27.8 2,102.9 184
Kaohsiung (1932-2001) 24.5 18.7 28.5 1,780.5 97
Hengchun (1897-2001) 24.7 20.5 27.9 2,181.7 142
Source: Central Weather Bureau


Situated off the east coast of Asia and in the path of warm ocean currents, Taiwan has an oceanic and subtropical monsoon climate, conspicuously influenced by its topography. Summers are long and accompanied by high humidity, while winters are short and usually mild. In the coldest months, snow is visible on the peaks of high mountains. Frost is rare in the lowlands, where most of the population lives and works. The mean monthly temperature in the lowlands is about 16 deg C in the winter, and ranges between 24 deg C and 30 deg C the rest of the year. The relative humidity averages about 80 percent.

Taiwan is in the trade wind belt of the planetary wind system and is greatly affected by the seasonal exchange of air masses between the continent and the ocean. Besides location and topography, the winter (northeast) and summer (southwest) monsoons are the main factors controlling the climate of Taiwan.

The different directions of the winter and summer monsoons cause seasonal distribution of rainfall in northern Taiwan to be different from that in the south. The northeast monsoon F_u­ in the winter lasts about six months from October to late March and brings steady rain to the windward (northeast) side of the island. The central and southern parts of the island, however, are on the leeward side of the northeast monsoon; thus, they have sunny winters, with less than 30 percent of their annual precipitation falling at this time.

The annual "plum rain" season in May and June brings a lot of precipitation. In the summer, the southwest monsoon nu­ prevails for about five months, beginning in early May and ending in late September. During this period, southern Taiwan usually has wet weather, while northern Taiwan is relatively dry. The moisture, carried by the southwest monsoon and local terrestrial winds, falls largely in convectional form. Thundershowers and typhoons bring Taiwan heavy rainfall during the summer months.

Typhoons in 2001
Month Name of Typhoon Warning Issued Warning
June Chebi Sea: 22nd, 3:00
Land: 22nd, 8:10
Sea: 24th, 8:20
Land: 24th, 5:35
5 deaths/missing
116 injured
Agricultural Loss: NT$785 million
July Trami Sea: 10th, 9:40
Land: 10th, 20:15
Sea: 11th, 21:00
Land: 11th, 21:00
4 deaths/missing
Agricultural Loss: NT$127 million
July Toraji Sea: 28th, 5:25
Land: 28th, 11:10
Sea: 31st, 14:35
Land 31st, 14:35
214 deaths/missing
189 injured
Agricultural Loss: NT$14.72 billion
September Nari Sea: 8th, 23:50
Sea: 13th, 15:00
Land: 15th, 2:45
Sea: 10th, 9:00
Sea: 19th, 23:05
Land: 19th, 17:10
104 deaths/missing
Agricultural Loss: NT$5.69 billion
September Lekima Sea: 23rd, 20:30
Land: 24th, 14:30
Sea: 28th, 9:10
Land: 28th, 9:10
Agricultural Loss: NT$859 million
Source: Central Weather Bureau
Taiwan lies in the path of severe tropical cyclones known in East Asia as typhoons. With their violent winds and extremely heavy rainfall, these storms often cause severe damage, especially to crops. However, they are the greatest source of water in the Taiwan area. During a typhoon, windward mountain slopes may receive as much as 300 mm of rainfall in 24 hours. An average of three to four typhoons hit Taiwan every year, usually in July, August, or September. However, in 2001 five typhoons--Chebi, Trami, Toraji, Nari, and Lekima--hit the Taiwan area (see chart). Chebi's high winds capsized 107 fishing vessels in Penghu waters. Toraji and Nari brought torrential rains, which resulted in 318 people dead or missing. The total losses of the above two typhoons were estimated at NT$14.72 billion and NT$5.69 billion, respectively.

The distribution of water resources in Taiwan is uneven, both in time and space. Rivers can be characterized as steep and rapid. These characteristics mean that in spite of Taiwan's abundant rainfall, water available for use per capita is low. According to a statistical analysis by the Water Resources Agency under the Ministry of Economic Affairs gٳ¡Qp, the mean annual rainfall in the Taiwan area is 2,471 mm, based on data collected from 1900 to 2000 at 464 rainfall gauging stations. Rainfall is most abundant in the northern region, with the mean annual rainfall at 2,924 mm, followed by the central region at 2,114 mm, the southern region at 2,463 mm, and the eastern region at 2,532 mm. The southern area of Taiwan receives 90 percent of its rainfall between May and October. In the north, the seasonal distribution of precipitation is more even, with 60 percent falling between May and October. Throughout the entire Taiwan area, the driest months occur between November and February.

The government's policies for water resources in 2001 emphasized exploration, river management, and damage mitigation. To meet increasing water demands, fifteen hydro-constructions--including weirs, reservoirs, channels, and water-supply facilities--were completed that year. Five major projects were implemented to manage rivers: (1) overall planning for the Keelung River, which meanders through the Taipei area; (2) improving drainage in the Tainan Science-based Industrial Park; (3) maintaining levee and local drainage along the coast; (4) enforcing the River Management Regulations [jet޲z to ensure river dredging; and (5) supervising local governments in removing dumps in regulated areas to make room for rivers.


Taiwan has a high degree of seismic activity due to its location at the junction of the Manila Trench and the Ryukyu Trench along the west side of the Philippine Sea plate. The collision of the Philippine Sea plate and the Eurasia plate, which created the uplift of land that became Taiwan's four major mountain ranges, continues to push against each other. Most of the Taiwan area is under northwest-southeast compression, with a measured convergence rate of about eight cm per year.

The largest earthquakes in the past 100 years include a 7.1 magnitude temblor that killed more than 3,250 people in 1935; a 6.8 magnitude quake on November 14, 1986, which killed 15 and injured 44; and a powerful and devastating earthquake that struck at 1:47 a.m. on September 21, 1999, toppling high-rise buildings, damaging roads and bridges, and severing powerlines across the island. This last quake registered a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale and had its epicenter at Jiji township in Nantou County. More than 1,300 aftershocks were reported by the morning of September 22, with the strongest registering a magnitude of 6.8 in central Taiwan.

According to the final statistics released by the National Fire Administration of the Ministry of the Interior F¡p, the massive "921 Earthquake" caused the deaths of 2,415 people and injured 11,305. The greatest number of casualties was in Taichung County, with 1,175 dead and 6,190 injured.

On October 22, 1999, another major earthquake occurred 2.5 km northwest of Chia-I City at 10:19 a.m., registering 6.4 on the Richter scale. Although there were no deaths, 122 were injured, and ten buildings were severely damaged or collapsed. There were also 37 cases of gas leaks and 4 cases of fire.

The release of tectonic energy in the aftershock area of the "921 Earthquake" continued in 2000. Three strong aftershocks with magnitudes of 5.3, 6.7, and 6.1 were reported in the area on May 17, June 11, and July 29, respectively. In addition, a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 occurred to the north of Hualien in eastern Taiwan on September 10.

In 2001, 16,244 earthquakes were detected and 136 larger earthquakes were felt and reported by the Central Weather Bureau. Three earthquakes registering a magnitude larger than 6 on the Richter scale occurred on the offshore area of eastern Taiwan. On December 18, the biggest quake of the year hit in the offshore area of Hualien City, registering a magnitude of 6.8 but causing no damage. Compared with the previous two years, seismic activity in western Taiwan (the epicenter for the Jiji earthquake) has been decreasing, while seismic activity in eastern Taiwan has been quite active.

Penghu Islands

Lying between 119 deg 18'03" and 119 deg 42'54" E longitude and 23 deg 09'40" and 23 deg 45'41" N latitude, the Penghu Islands (the Pescadores) consist of 64 islets situated in the Taiwan Strait, midway between China and Taiwan. They form a natural demarcation between the East China Sea and the South China Sea. In the past, they were a key stop for ships sailing throughout the Far East and crossing the Pacific. Penghu is the only county that is an archipelago.

Only 20 of the islands comprising Penghu are inhabited. Two of the three main islands, Yuwong ήq and Baisha ըFq, are connected by two causeways, and the Cross-sea Bridge ój, with its 76 spans, is the longest inter-island bridge in the Far East.

The total area of the islands is 126.86 sq. km. Penghu, the largest island of the archipelago, accounts for half of the total area and is home to 70 percent of the population.

The islands were formed by a mass of basalt rising from the sea through volcanic action. Due to long-term underwater erosion, the islands have a relatively flat terrain. Their highest elevation, located on Mao Yu ¿ (Greater Cat Islet), is only 79 meters above sea level. There is some arable land on the three main islands, with altitudes varying from three to five meters above sea level. The islands have no rivers and are marked by winding coastlines forming numerous natural harbors. The shallow, warm water around the Penghu Islands favors the growth of coral, with numerous reefs sheltering the coral from sea waves.


The Penghu Archipelago's climate is characterized by hot summers, cold winters, and strong winds. From October to March, the northeasterly wind (known as the northeast monsoon) blows at a high velocity of nine meters per second. This often brings sea water to the islands in the form of "salty rain." From June to October, the southwesterly wind is mild. Typhoons frequently hit the islands during the summer.

Annual rainfall in Penghu County is about 1,000 mm, only half the rainfall of the plains of Taiwan. Moreover, the strong monsoon winds result in a high rate of evaporation. Over 1,800 mm of water, or 1.8 times the annual rainfall, evaporate every year. Therefore, maintaining water supplies is a high priority. At present, there are five reservoirs in the Penghu area: Chenggong \, Singren ¿, Dongwei F, Baisha Chihkan ըFr (an underground reservoir with a capacity of 1,761,774 cubic meters), and Sian w. Virtually every household has its own private well.

Kinmen (Quemoy)

The 12 islands of the Kinmen group are located off the southeastern coast of Fuchien Province, covering an area of 150.45 sq. km. They lie at approximately 118 deg 24' E longitude and 24 deg 27' N latitude, a key position in the Taiwan Strait that blocks the mouth of Xiamen (Amoy) Bay and protects Taiwan and the Penghu Islands.

The Kinmen Islands are 82 nautical miles west of the Penghu Islands and 150 nautical miles from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. The shortest distance from the main island of Kinmen to communist-held territory is only 2,310 meters.

Although its satellite islets are low and flat, Kinmen itself is hilly. Mount Taiwu ÓZs is the highest point of the island, rising to 253 meters in the eastern part of the island. Mount Shuhao Us stretches into the sea, where precipitous cliffs have formed as a result of sea wave erosion. Most rivers in Kinmen are short and narrow with unsteady flows, so it is necessary to construct reservoirs for water supply and irrigation.

Due to its hilly terrain, there are several harbors around Kinmen. Liaoluo Bay ùW on the southern tip of the island is the most famous. Zihgan Harbor lP of Liaoluo Bay is deep enough to accommodate ships of several thousand tons.

Rain showers in the Kinmen area usually occur from April to August, and typhoons often strike the islands in July and August. East winds last for about eight months a year. The average temperature varies from 13 deg C to 28 deg C. The average relative humidity is 85 percent.


Situated outside the mouth of China's Min River Ԧ¿, the Matsu Islands form the northern anchor of the offshore defense line. The main island of the complex is Nangan nñ, but it is more commonly known as Matsu , which is the name of the major port of the island. Matsu is 114 nautical miles northwest of Keelung, the port city on the northern tip of Taiwan, and is the same distance north from the Kinmen Islands. There are two harbors in Nankan: Fuao ¿D and Matsu. Other major islands of the group are Beigan _ñ, Gaodeng n, Liang Island Gq, Daciou jú, Siaociou pú, Dongyin F, Siyin , Dongju F, and Siju . Nangan is the largest, with an area of 10.4 sq. km. Gaodeng is located only 5.5 nautical miles (9,250 meters) off the coast of China.

The islands are composed of an uplift of igneous rock. Granite is the Matsu area's major natural resource. The climate is characterized by monsoon rains from August to December and typhoons during the summer.

Although the hilly terrain is not well-suited for agriculture, ten reservoirs, 15 sea dikes, and two ponds have been constructed and 320 irrigation wells drilled to facilitate farming. Vegetable production has reached the point of self-sufficiency.

South China Sea

The ROC maintains a historical claim to the islands of the South China Sea. All are part of the territory of the Republic of China. Four groups of coral reef archipelagoes are scattered over this immense area: the Dongsha (the Pratas) Islands FFsq, Nansha (the Spratly) Islands nFsq, Sisha (the Paracel) Islands Fsq, and Jongsha (the Macclesfield Bank) Islands Fsq. Currently the ROC's effective jurisdiction includes the Dongsha and Taiping Ó­ Islands.

Since 1993, the government's policy towards the region has been set by the Executive Yuan's Policy Guidelines for the South China Sea nF, which expresses Taiwan's desire to resolve all disputes peacefully, step up the exploration and management of resources in the South China Sea, promote cooperation with the other claimant states, and protect the ecology of the region. In keeping with its peaceful intentions, the government has pursued a policy of shifting authority from the military to civilian authorities over the Dongsha and Taiping Islands. In 1999, responsibility for defending both islands was transferred from the Ministry of National Defense to the newly created Coast Guard Administration of the Executive Yuan F|p, and the administration of the Dongsha and Taiping Islands was officially transferred to the Kaohsiung City Government.

Dongsha (Pratas) Islands

The Dongsha Islands comprise Dongsha Island FFq and two coral reefs, the North Vereker Bank _y and the South Vereker Bank ny. The archipelago is located in a strategically important position along the major sea route connecting the Pacific and Indian oceans, between 116 deg 40' and 116 deg 55' E longitude, and 20 deg 35' and 20 deg 47' N latitude. The group is 140 nautical miles south of Shantou Y in Guangdong Province, 430 nautical miles northwest of Manila, 170 miles southeast of Hong Kong, and 240 nautical miles southwest of Kaohsiung. Dongsha Island is a coral atoll with a land area of 2.4 sq. km. Shaped like a horseshoe, it extends 0.9 km from east to west, and 2.7 km from north to south. Of these islands, only Dongsha is always above water. North and South Vereker Banks are completely submerged at high tide. On Dongsha Island, the ROC government set up a national monument and a corridor on June 30, 1989, and May 18, 1992, respectively, to assert its sovereignty over the archipelago.

The Dongsha Islands enjoy a subtropical climate, which is influenced by northeast winds during the winter.They experience their warmest weather in July, with an average temperature of 29.8 deg C. Temperatures are lowest in January, when the average is 22 deg C.

The areas around Dongsha provide excellent fishing grounds, and ROC fishermen visit the region during March and April. In addition to being a source of salt, fish, and minerals, the islands are an outpost for the ROC Navy in the South China Sea. A hospital, power station, satellite tracking station, and runway have been built on Dongsha Island. A fishermen's service center, comprising three jetties and an onshore service center, also provides emergency shelter for fishermen operating in the South China Sea and gives directions to fishing boats.

Nansha (Spratly) Islands

The Nansha Islands consist of 180 islands, reefs, cays, and banks, in an area that stretches 810 km from north to south and 900 km from east to west. Taiping Island, the major island of the group, is located in the center of the island group. Six hundred and eighty miles to its north lies Hong Kong; 700 miles to its northeast is Kaohsiung; and Singapore is located 880 miles southwest of the island. James Shoal at the south of the island complex is the southernmost Chinese territory.

Taiping Island is located at 114 deg 22' E longitude and 10 deg 23' N latitude. The island has a land area of only 489,600 sq. m, and stretches 1,360 meters from east to west and 350 meters from north to south. Its average altitude is 3.8 meters above sea level. A cross-island highway runs about one km and a trip around the island can be completed in 30 minutes. The area has abundant fishing, mineral, and petroleum resources.

The Nansha Islands have a strategic importance, and the ROC Coast Guard currently has people stationed on Taiping Island. Facilities on the island include a radar station, meteorological center, power plant, library, and activity center.

Pacific Coast Islands

The two major islands located off the Pacific coast of Taiwan are Green Island ñq and Orchid Island . (For further information on these islands, see Chapter 20, Tourism.)

To the northeast of Taiwan are the Diaoyutai Islets OC, a tiny archipelago consisting of Diaoyutai O, Huangwei Islet , Chihwei Islet , Nan Siao-dao npq, Bei Siao-dao _pq, and three neighboring reefs. The group has a total area of 6.3 sq. km, and lies just 75 nautical miles northeast of Pengjia Islet ^, Keelung. (These islets have been officially included as part of Taiwan as early as the Ming dynasty.)