Before I start I have to be honest and say I really love this place, Taiwan is closest thing to paradise I have ever seen (despite of occasional racism). What I am going to say is just my opinion and it is valid for me only ,readers may agree or not .
Anyway , Taiwan has specific place in history of Chinese people and specific place in kung fu history and development . There are several number of aboriginal tribes who live on Taiwan for thousands of years . First settlers from China came in 1100’s on Penghu island but first serious colonization started after fall of Ming dynasty and Koxinga’s war against t Dutch . In 1661 Koxinga took the island from Dutch , he planned to make Taiwan a base where he will raise an army to overthrone the Ching and return Ming Dyisaty to power . Koxinga died in 1662 and Ching took over the island several decades later . First wave of settlers who came from Fujian province bringing their martial arts were Koxinga’s soldiers. Most of them were pirates or ex Ming officers and soldier , both experienced warriors with great martial skills .After fall of the island in the hands of Manchurians many of these people and their descendants scattered all over the island in order to avoid capture and they preserved their martial arts as a crucial survival tool . Many of these styles died out in China but still exist on Taiwan . Let’s keep in mind that during the Ching’s rule martial arts practice was forbidden in China , it was forbidden on Taiwan as well but government has very weak influence and almost no power outside of the city walls of Tainan where people freely practiced their arts without fear of capture . Over time , many people from Fujian province came to Taiwan and many arts now lost in mainland China are still preserved here . Other big group of people who came to Taiwan are Hakka people from Guandong province . They brought their martial styles but they are still very closed to outsiders do not teach outside their ethnic group so information about their arts are very limited.
Because of the weak government control Taiwan was a center of antidynastic activities for centuries . First revolutionary groups are formed on Taiwan, some are still active, to mention “Heaven and Earth society “ as one of the most famous . Legend about Southern Shaolin was invented here in Tainan in order to give common origin for various martial and revolutionary sects all over Chine and bring a sense of unity and brotherhood. For centuries Taiwan preserved southern, mostly Fujianese martial styles . There is a large number of White Crane styles today which cannot be found anywhere else as well as other , less known styles like “Golden Eagle” , Wing Chun ( same name as wildly known style from Foshan, but totally different art), some form of Yue Fei boxing to mention just a few. A large number of styles are still secret and practiced only by family members.
Just like 400 years before , in 1948 people massively escaped Chine in a search for a refuge , when communists came to power. Same thing happened all over again , but this time refugees were mostly from north of China . A large number of prominent “soft styles” masters came to Taiwan as well as the masters of Bajiquan , Long Fist , Mantis boxing , Pigua and others. While kung fu practice was strictly forbidden in China it was supported by government on Taiwan . Many people think that Bruce Lee is the most significant person for introducing Chinese martial arts to rest of the world but they are wrong. Decades before Bruce westerners were coming to Taiwan and learned kung fu , “internal” systems mostly . During the time when China was behind the “Iron Curtain” Taiwan was the place where most of the people came to learn kung fu . Many of the Taiwanese instructors traveled over the world spreading Chinese matrial arts and many of them immigrated to the “west” permanently setting up the schools and teaching their arts. Taiwan was and still is primary source for Tai Chi , Ba Gua , Hsing Yi and other “sot “arts and was and still is primary source for large number of White Crane styles as well as Northen Mantis boxing .
Taiwan is important for one more thing and that is a price of kung fu classes . China opened in the recent years and many people went there to learn kung fu . Sensing a good business opportunity , people now days charging insane amounts of money for teaching . Hong Kong is no exception and they are doing that for decades . On Taiwan someone can pay classes for several years with same amount of money he would spend for only couple of months in China or Hong Kong .