Folklore /ˈfōklôr/: the traditional customs, beliefs, stories and sayings of a community, passed down through generations largely by word-of-mouth.
The term originated in the German Volklehre, which means “people’s customs.” It is akin to the Old English folclār meaning “shared learning” and is contrasted with bōclār, or “book-learning.” Folklore is concerned with the shared memories and heritage of everyone within a community and every community has its unique set of “people’s customs.”
Today, folklore is of great interest especially in democratic societies—like Taiwan—as these communities of, for and by the people embrace their common shared inheritance.
The Taiwanese tales and traditions collected in this online repository are organized into six very general and overlapping categories. Many of the terms below are interchangeable in popular usage.
These are stories from the indigenous Austronesian communities of Taiwan. They represent the mind-bogglingly diverse cultures and languages of the Taiwanese Aborigines who have called the island home for thousands of years.
These are stories passed down in the many distinct Chinese (Han or Sinitic) languages and dialects spoken throughout Taiwan. They include stories born on the island from the experiences of Han immigrants since the 17th century as well as some that were brought to the island from the continent.
Folktales are stories passed down through generations, usually through word-of-mouth, within a community or culture. Most of these stories originate in popular culture and contain the cultural memories, ideals and philosophies of their communities.
Legends are a community’s traditional stories that are popularly regarded as history or are based on historical events. These tales often elaborate on the lives of famous or influential figures in the past.
The primary function of mythology is to provide explanations for certain natural or social events. These traditional stories typically feature supernatural beings or occurrences and often concern the early history or origin of a people.
Traditions are beliefs, ideas, customs and practices passed down from generation to generation within a community. These include religious or ritualistic practices and often trace their origin to certain folktales, legends or myths.