Tonga - Fat States
The Kingdom of Tonga is located in the western Pacific, and means
“sacred island” in the local dialect. Covering a total land area of
747 square kilometers, Tonga is home to a population of 101,000, the
vast majority of whom are Tongans. Residents are Christian, and
Tongan and English are the most common languages. The currency is
the panga, and the capital is Nuku'alofa. It is the closest from the
international date line west of the capital.
The land has been inhabited for 3000 years, with four
dynasties since AD 950. In 1845, George Tupou I, Taufaahau
established his dynasty, but during the 17th and 18th centuries, the
Netherlands, Britain, and Spain invaded. In the 19th century the
island was converted to Christianity, and in 1900 became a British
protectorate. On June 4, 1970, Tonga declared independent and became
a member of the Commonwealth.
Economy and Cultural Customs
Tonga is industrially underdeveloped, with agriculture dominating
the economy; half of the population are engaged in agricultural
based employment. Cultivation and export of copra, bananas, and
pineapple occurs, and the island has rich fishery resources. Tourism
is also an important source of government revenue.
In 1886, Tonga began issuing stamps, the first of which was round
and caused the philatelists of the time great excitement and
interest. Over 50 different types of special-shaped stamps were
later issued, included round, triangle, and diamond shapes, with
such irregularity making them known worldwide.
Tongan people are often considered to be fat, with Tongan women seen
as having large waists and short necks. This has earned the country
the reputation of the “fat country.”When the people of
Tonga receive guests, the hostess will personally make a wreath to
hang around the visitor’s neck, as a welcoming gesture. The Tongans
also will wear a skirt of soft and beautiful bark, which is the
specialty of Tonga and the South Pacific.