The Dalai Lama denied any political agenda as he began what he described as a "purely humanitarian" mission to comfort victims of Taiwan's worst storm, trying to calm fears that he would further anger China.
Although the Tibetan spiritual leader has traveled to Taiwan before, many fear his visit could hurt the island's improving relations with rival China - the signature issue in the 15-month-old administration of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.
China has protested the visit, and a Chinese official for Taiwan affairs Sunday night warned it "is bound to have a negative influence on the relations between the mainland and Taiwan."
Ma has said he approved the Dalai Lama's visit but will not meet him.
The Dalai Lama, who greeted Buddhist followers and supporters at the Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei on Sunday, said his visit would have no political overtones.
"I've visited different parts of the world, and I may have a political agenda there ... (but) my visit here is purely for humanitarian concerns," he said.