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LONDON:

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THE PENNY CYCLOPÆDIA

OF

THE SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF

USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.

ΤΑΙ

|

TAI-WAN (Taywan) is the Chinese name of an island which in Europe is known by the name of Formosa, and Hermosa, and, according to the Dutchman Valentyn, is called by the aborigines Pekan or Pæk-and. It lies between 21° 58′ and 25° 15′ N. lat., and between 120° and 122° E long., and extends from south by west to north by east about 240 miles. In width it varies much. From its most southern point, where 't is only about four miles wide, it increases gradually, so that at 23° N. lat. it is 60 miles wide, and at 24° N. lat. nearly 100 miles. Its northern portion decreases in width, but very slowly, for near its northern end it is still 60 miles wide. A rough calculation gives the surface an extent of about 14,000 square miles, which is about half the area of Ireland, and 3000 square miles more than that of Sicily.

The north-western point of Taï-wan is only about 80 miles from the coast of the Chinese province of Fukian, or Fokian; but farther south the channel of Fokian, as the sea between Taï-wan and China is called, grows wider. In the parallel of Amoy, 24° 40′ N. lat., it is 150 miles across, and still wider south of that parallel. This part of the China Sea contains several banks, and the soundings are also extremely irregular, especially in the vicinity of the Ponghu or Phenghu Islands, called also Pescadores, or Fisher Islands. The southern extremity of Taï-wan is divided from the Bashee Islands, which are south-east of it, by the channel of Formosa, which is nearly 80 miles wide, and has also very irregular soundings.

The broad promontory which terminates the island on the south, and forms the south-east and south-west cape, is a low flat, but at the distance of about two miles the country suddenly rises into mountains, which continue to run in an unbroken chain northward nearly through the middle of the island to its northern extremity, terminating with high cliffs at the north-east cape. As it is certain that this range of mountains, which is called Ta Shan, or Great Mountain, is nearly the whole year round covered with snow, its elevation has been estimated by Humboldt at about 12,000 feet above the sea. The declivities of these mountains, with the exception of the crests of the most elevated portion, are covered with fine trees and pasture-grounds, and thus the island, when seen from the sea, presents a very pleasing appearance, whence it was called Hermosa by the Europeans who advanced thus far into the Indian Sea. These mountains have never been visited by Europeans, but from the accounts of the Chinese geographers, which have been collected by Klaproth, it appears that there is more than one volcano on this island. The Tshykang (Red Mountain), south of the town of Fung-shan-hian, was once an active volcano, and there is still a lake of hot water on Shin Mountains. The Phy-nan-my-shan, south-east of Fung-shan-hian, emits in the night-time a brilliant lustre. The Ho-shan (Fre-Mountain), south-east of Tshu-lo-hian, is said to contain many wells from which flames issue. There are some other mountains which exhibit traces of volcanic P. C., No. 1488.

TAI

action, and sulphur constitutes an important article of export.

The mountains have a steep declivity on both sides, but on the west side they terminate at a considerable distance from the sea, so as to leave a wide tract between them and the shore. This tract has an undulating surface, and terminates on the sea in a low sandy beach. The adjoining sea is full of sand-banks and shoals, and can only be approached in a few places by vessels drawing more than eight feet of water. On the east of the Ta-shan range the mountains seem to occupy nearly the whole space between the crest of the range and the sea, and high rocks line the shore. There are no soundings along this coast. This circumstance, united to the strong current which sets along this side from south to north, is probably the reason why this part of Taï-wan has never been visited by European vessels; nor does it appear that Japanese or Chinese vessels have any intercourse with this part of the island. It is an unknown portion of the globe.

Rivers are numerous on the west side, but as they originate in a very elevated region, from which they descend in continuous rapids and cataracts, they bring down a considerable quantity of earthy matter, which they deposit at their mouths, forming bars, which have so little water as to admit only small vessels: this however seems to be no great disadvantage, as there are numerous islands along the shore, between which junks of ordinary size (about 200 tons burden) find good anchorage. Some of the rivers however are said to be navigable for a considerable distance inland, especially the Tan-shuy-khy, which falls into the Tan-shuy-kiang Bay, which lies in the narrow part of the channel of Fukian. The rivers also offer the great advantage of an abundant irrigation, though they are sometimes destructive to the crops by their inundations.

No portion of the ocean is subject to such violent gales. as the sea surrounding Taï-wan on the west and east. Both monsoons, the north-eastern and the south-western, blow in the direction of the channel of Fukian, and as they are confined between two high mountain-ranges, the mountains of Fukian and of Taï-wan, their violence is much increased. At the change of the monsoons the most violent gales come on suddenly, and are accompanied by typhons, whirlwinds, and waterspouts. Many Chinese vessels are annually lost at these seasons. The Japan Sea, which lies north of Tai-wan, is noted for its terrible tempests. In the vicinity of the island the north-eastern monsoon generally lasts nine months, as it continues to blow to the beginning of June. In other respects the climate of the island is very temperate, neither the heat nor the cold being excessive on the plains along the western coast. The island is subject to earthquakes, and they are sometimes very violent. In 1782 the whole lower portion was laid waste, and the sea inundated the country to the base of the mountains for VOL. XXIV.--B

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