TAIPEI, Taiwan — A second Academy Award for best director has thrust Taiwan native Ang Lee into the top ranks of world filmmakers and made him a national hero on this diplomatically isolated island.

Lee's victory at Hollywood's annual Oscar extravaganza on Sunday for the fantasy epic "Life of Pi" followed his 2005 win for "Brokeback Mountain." Garnering additional awards for visual effects, cinematography and original score, "Life of Pi" pulled down four Oscars, the most of any film this year.

News of Lee's triumph electrified Taiwanese, many of whom watched a live broadcast early Monday. It was not only the surprise nature of the directorial award – "Lincoln" director Steven Spielberg was considered the category's clear frontrunner – but the intense pride they felt at a native son making it big in the world at large.

Since losing most of its diplomatic allies to China in the 1970s and 1980s – the two sides split in a civil war more than six decades ago – Taiwan has been on the outer fringes of the international community. It is now recognized by only 23 countries – mostly impoverished and devoid of influence – and outside of information technology circles, its global footprint is small.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou saw Lee's triumph as at least a temporary reversal of those fortunes, thanking Lee for "pushing Taiwan toward the world."

"Taiwanese are proud of you," Ma said in a congratulatory message.

Making Lee's Oscar win even sweeter was Taiwan's key role in the production of "Life of Pi," which tells the story of a shipwrecked Indian boy sharing his small boat with a ferocious tiger. A majority of the film was shot at a specially constructed water tank in the central city of Taichung, and Taiwanese took many of the most important jobs in seeing the film to completion.

Taiwanese production team member Mike Yang said Lee had the total devotion of the Taichung crew.

"If he wanted us to make the wave bigger or the movement of the animated tiger more detailed, we were willing to cooperate, and not because he was Ang Lee but because he commandedárespect," Yang said.

Born in the southern Taiwanese city of Pingtung in 1954, Lee went to the U.S. in 1979 to study filmmaking at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He burst into international prominence with "Sense and Sensibility" in 1995 and was nominated for best director for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which won the 2001 Oscar for best foreign language film.

Taiwan's film industry has been in the doldrums for more than two decades. Once seen as a world trendsetter for its subtle presentation of human interactions, it now languishes well behind other Asian cinemas, including those in South Korea and Hong Kong.

Lee also has a strong following in China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and Chinese movie critic Meng Yuankai congratulated Lee on his win. "It's pride for the ethnic Chinese group. Can't wait for the next production," he said in his Sina Weibo account.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Anne Hathaway & Sarah Silverman

    Anne Hathaway carrying her Oscar for best supporting actress greets comedian Sarah Silverman as they arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Fashion credit: Custom dress by Saint Laurent) (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Jennifer Lawrence carrying her Oscar for best actress arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Christoph Waltz

    Christoph Waltz poses with his Oscar for best supporting actor after arriving for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Daniel Day Lewis

    Daniel Day Lewis carrying his Oscar for best actor arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • John Travolta & Kelly Preston

    John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Tommy Lee Jones & Jon Voight

    Tommy Lee Jones is greeted by Jon Voight as they arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jean Dujardin

    Jean Dujardin arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Patricia Clarkson

    Patricia Clarkson arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Miranda Kerr & Orlando Bloom

    Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Fashion credit: Bloom's tuxedo by Saint Laurent.) (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson

    Jesse Tyler Ferguson arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Reese Witherspoon

    Reese Witherspoon arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Bradley Cooper

    Bradley Cooper arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jeremy Reiner & Olivia Munn

    Jeremy Reiner and Olivia Munn arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Ben Affleck

    Director Ben Affleck arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/VF13/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

  • John Travolta

    John Travolta attends the Oscars Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Amy Adams & Charlize Theron

    Amy Adams and Charlize Theron attend the Oscars Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Kelly Preston & John Travolta

    Kelly Preston and John Travolta attend the Oscars Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Amy Adams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Charlize Theron

    Actors Amy Adams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Charlize Theron attend the Oscars Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Diane Kruger & Joshua Jackson

    Diane Kruger arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California following the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Richard Gere and Elizabeth Banks

    Richard Gere and Elizabeth Banks arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California following the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Allison Williams

    Allison Williams arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California following the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Anne Hathaway

    Anne Hathaway carrying her Oscar for best supporting actress and her husband arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Natalie Portman & Benjamin Millipied

    Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millipied arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California following the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. (Fashion credit: Millipied's tuxedo by Saint Laurent) (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Amy Poehler

    Actress Amy Poehler arrives at the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

  • Jennifer Westfeldt

    Jennifer Westfeldt arrives at the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

  • Jon Hamm & Jennifer Westfeldt

    Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Zooey Deschanel

    Zooey Deschanel arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Miley Cyrus & Kelly Osbourne

    Miley Cyrus and Kelly Osbourne attend Grey Goose at 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at Pacific Design Center on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images for Grey Goose Vodka)

  • Elton John & Chris Brown

    An alternate view of Sir Elton John and singer Chris Brown at the 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at Pacific Design Center on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for EJAF)

  • Elton John & Heidi Klum

    An alternate view of Sir Elton John and model Heidi Klum at the 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at Pacific Design Center on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for EJAF)

  • Gerard Butler

    Actor Gerard Butler arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/VF13/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

  • Christoph Waltz & Jennifer Lawrence

    Actors Christoph Waltz and Jennifer Lawrence attend the Oscars Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Quvenzhane Wallis

    Actress Quvenzhane Wallis attends the Oscars Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian & Heidi Klum

    TV Personalities Khloe and Kim Kardashian and model Heidi Klum attend the 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at Pacific Design Center on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for EJAF)

  • Amanda Seyfried & Samantha Barks

    Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/VF13/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

  • Vanessa Hudgens & Selena Gomez

    Actors Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/VF13/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)