The demonym, Thao, meaning “people”, of the Thao people was introduced by Japanese scholars during Japanese colonization. It is said that the ancestors of the Thao people originally settled in Jianan Plain. When entering the Central Mountain Range during hunting, they accidentally found a rare white deer. After chasing it for days to what is today’s Tutingzi (Puzi), the white deer immediately jumped into the Sun Moon Lake. The Thao people stopped and found that it was a fertile place with many fishes, suitable for farming, hunting, and fishing. Therefore, they brought other Thao people to settle there. Lalu (formerly called Guanghua Isle, Zhuzi Isle) is the supreme ancestral spiritual place to the Thao people in the Sun Moon Lake area. In the Qing dynasty, the place was called “Shuishalian”, there were Tou (Shtafari) Village, Shui Village, Maolan Village, Shenlu Village, Pu Village, and Mei Village, collectively they were called the “Shuishalian 6 Villages”.
During over 200 years of the Qing dynasty, as the Han immigrants sought land and the government implemented the wilderness cultivation and forest development policies, the original Thao territory was divided and reduced, and their influence in Shuishalian gradually disappeared. During Japanese colonization, some Thao people continued to settle in Ding (tao) Village, Neiaozi Village, Shiyin Village, Shuiwei Village, Shui Village, and Maolan Village. When the area was flooded after the construction of the Sun Moon Lake hydroelectric power plant, the Thao people were forced to migrate to Ita Thao (Barawbaw) Village. In addition, thanks to the colonial government’s tourism promotion, Sun Moon Lake, the Thao tourism and the pounding performance have become one of the “Eight Wonders of Taiwan”.
Colonial prohibition was abolished since the R.O.C government took the reign, and many Han people moved and engaged in commerce there, the Han population started to increase . To improve local living quality, the government implemented urban re-zoning in the region in 1983. As a result, more land of the Thao people was split and expropriated for more business groups to purchase lands and build hotels there. The Thao people who had been living there for generations were forced to face the competition from the Han people and financial groups with commercial advantages. The Thao ancestors came from the Jianan Plain and Alishan Mountain. Ethnologically, they were classified as a branch of the Tsou people. Due to the significant differences in language, religion, and life ceremonies, the Thao people have striven for demographic rectification. After their long-time efforts, the government eventually recognized the ethnic group as the 10th indigenous group called the Thao in Taiwan in 2001. Currently, the Thao people are settled in Ita Thao (Barawbaw) (Sun Moon Village) in Yuchi (Qabizay) Township in Nantou County and Dapinglin Settlement (Taypina wa Thaw, Dingkang Village) in Shuili Township. There are also Thao people migrating to cities like Taichung and Taipei.