He was greeted at the Taipei airport by fans, and accepted bouquets of flowers from admirers, some of whom were wearing Houston Rockets T-shirts - his NBA team - emblazoned with his trade mark number 11.
Yao responded to reporters' questions only by saying "thank you."
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, but maintain commercial, cultural, and sports contacts.
During his stay on the island, Yao is expected to visit the Taipei 101 tower - until recently the tallest building in the world - and play a friendly basketball game with local professionals.
Yao's visit came a day after that of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
Bryant arrived in Taipei as part of a five-stop Asian tour to promote his latest model of sports shoes.