The island of Taiwan is located in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Philippines off the southeast coast of China, from which it is separated by the Taiwan Strait. With a total area of about 36,179 square kilometers, Taiwan is 394 kilometers long and 144 kilometers wide at its widest point.
High mountains over 1,000 meters 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.
Taiwan' s most prominent geographic feature is its 270-kilometer central mountain range, which has more than 200 peaks over 3,000 meters high. At 3,952 meters, Mount Jade is the highest peak in East Asia. Foothills from the central mountain range lead to tablelands and coastal plains in the west and south. The eastern shoreline is relatively steep, and mountains over 1,000 meters high dominate the island in the north.
Crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, Taiwan has a subtropical climate with the exception of its extreme southern tip, which is tropical. Warm ocean currents give Taiwan a climate conducive to the growth of lush vegetation and two or three rice harvests per year. With an average annual precipitation of 2,471 millimeters, rainfall is abundant. However, the distribution of water resources is uneven, making the water available for use per capita low. Thundershowers and the occasional typhoon bring heavy downpours in the summertime, whereas November through February is Taiwan' s driest period.
In the springtime, patches of lily blossoms can be seen scattered throughout the Taiwan countryside. (Courtesy of Fu Guo-cai, Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation & Communications)
Summers are long and humid, while winters are short and usually mild. During the coldest months, snow is visible on the island' s higher mountains. The average monthly temperature in the lowlands is 16oC in the winter and ranges between 24 - 30oC the rest of the year.
Taiwan' s subtropical climate is home to an abundance of diverse plant life, including low altitude flora closely related to that found in southern China, mountain flora similar to that of western China, and high alpine flora resembling that of the Himalayan region. Acacia is ubiquitous in the lower hills, and bamboo groves and forests are found throughout central and northern Taiwan. Native plant species are numerous, accounting for roughly 40 percent of Taiwan' s total vegetation.