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.”
The Taiwanese tales and traditions collected in this online repository are organized into seven very general and overlapping categories. Many of the terms below are interchangeable in popular usage.
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.
Click to view Taiwan’s folktales.
Folklore is an important component of a people’s history. It both results from and creates history. Island Folklore documents not just the traditions and narratives of Taiwan’s folk culture, but also the unique history of the island’s diverse peoples.
Click to view stories from Taiwanese history.
These are stories from the indigenous Austronesian and Formosan communities of Taiwan. They represent the mind-bogglingly diverse cultures and languages of the Taiwan’s “First Nations” who have called the island home for tens of thousands of years.
Click to view Taiwan’s indigenous folklore and history.
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.
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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.
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These are stories passed down in the many distinct Sinitic, Han or Chinese languages and dialects spoken throughout Taiwan—Taiwanese, Hakka and Mandarin. They include stories born on the island from the experiences of Han settlers since the 17th century as well as tales that were brought to the island directly from the continent.
Click to view Taiwan’s Sinitic folklore and history.
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.
Click to view Taiwan’s traditions.