Ponso no Tao – island of the people (Irala)

Lanyu – home of the Tao

Lanyu (Orchid Island) is home to the Tao, an ethnic minority group who migrated to the island from the Batan Archipelago (modern day Philippines) 800 years ago. The island is known to them as Ponso no Tao “Island of the people” or Irala.

People harvesting taro
People harvesting taro


Out of a total current population of 4000, approximately 2400 belong to the aboriginal Tao community and the remaining 1600 are mainly Han Chinese. In neighboring Philippines the island is referred to as Botel Tobago. (wikipedia.org)


The Tao language is more closely related to those of the Philippines than to the aboriginal languages of mainland Taiwan.

fishing season
The fishing season starts in March

The most iconic expression of that identity is the Tao wooden canoe, hand-carved and richly decorated but serving a mostly ceremonial purpose today (see boat launching ceremony). The Tao’s traditional dress is also very distinctive, the men wearing loincloths and striking steel helmets. But nowadays it is only worn at celebrations like the Flying Fish Festival in March/April.

boat launching festival
New boat launching festival

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