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Taipei's History and Development

1. Dutch Formosa, Spanish Formosa, and Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-gong) of the Ming Dynasty

An ancient community stele that commemorates 'the yam city'During the 2nd year of Ming Emperor Tianqi's reign (1622), the Dutch East India Company set up a trading outpost in Dayuan (Anping of Tainan). 4 years later, in the 4th year of Emperor Tianqi's reign (1626), the Spanish landed on and occupied northern Taiwan at the ports of Keelung and Tamsui as a base to extend their missionary work and trade. In the 15th year of Ming Emperor Chongzhen's reign (1642), the Dutch forces drove out the Spanish to take over their fortresses in Keelung and Tamsui, and began trading and missionary activities.

The ancient adobes in the 44th 'kan' of Dalongdong

In the 15th year of Ming Emperor Yongli's reign (1661), Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-gong) landed in Luerman and captured Fort Zeelandia. He expelled the Dutch in the following year and established Chengtian Fu (Governor's Office) as the official leader of Taiwan, and erected Wannian and Tianxing counties. Taipei of this particular era belonged to Tianxing County in jurisdiction. Zheng sent his trusted general Huang An, his navy and army to defend Tamsui. He also inaugurated the Tuntian system (a state-promoted method of agriculture) and sent his navy to travel by Tamsui River to open up Guandu and Beitou areas.

2. Development during Qing Dynasty

The Taipei Basin, in its early days, was home of the aboriginal Ketagalan Tribe: this was where the tribesmen hunted and fished. In the 36th year of Qing Emperor Kangxi's reign (1697), Yu Yong-he arrived at the Taipei Basin and was greeted by a vast body of water, which was called Kangxi Taipei Lake. In the 48th year of Qing Emperor Kangxi's reign (1709), the “Chen Lai-zhang Land Grant” by the Han Chinese was granted imperial permission, and large-scale land development projects started.

Bustling tea trade in DadaochengIrrigation constructions and the expansion of arable lands resulted in population growth, and villages began to take shape. Mengjia was where the first viable street blocks and markets took shape. The town became what was presently known as Wanhua. Other marketplaces to form in succession were: Shilin Street, Xikou Street, Dalongdong, Dadaocheng and downtown Taipei. Their formation histories are as follows:

(1) Mengjia

Mengjia was colloquially called "the yam city", and located at the meeting place of Guiyang Street, Section 2, and Huanhe South Road, Section 2. The city was the eponym of the trade. Due to its close proximity to Tamsui River, many trade boats berthed along the city's riverside. The aboriginal Pingpu people traveled by "Mankha" - a type of canoe - on Tamsui River, and the Han settlers began calling the place by the community's Pingpu pronunciation, "Mengjia." In the 57th year of Qing Emperor Qianlong's reign (1792), Balifen (the estuary of Tamsui River) was elevated in its status to become an official trade port.

Boats and skiffs could travel directly to and from Hokkien without having to pass by Luerman in Tainan. The new policy helped cut down boat travels and freight expenses, and facilitated trade between northern Taiwan and China, solidifying Mengjia's status as a vital commercial port, and the community thrived. By early 19th century, Mengjia was Taiwan's 3rd largest port, earning its stripe in the city's slogan: "First Tainan, second Lugang, third Mengjia."

Boats by Tamsui riverside

North Gate in the Qing Dynasty/The present-day North Gate(2) Shilin Street

Today's Shilin District was actually the old settlement community of the aboriginal kimassauw people under the Ketagalan Tribe. Ketagalan Tribe was one of the Taiwanese Plains aborigines. Pattsiran Street was already in existence in the 20th year of Qing Emperor Qianlong's reign. Pattsiran Street was the foundation of the Old Street. Old Street was conveniently located: it could easily allow merchant boats to berth, and accommodate land transport. By mid-Qing Dynasty, Shilin Street had become a commerce hub, where local products were traded and marketed.

(3) Xikou Street

Xikou Street used to be the settlement community of the aboriginal Malysyakkaw people under Ketagalan Tribe. Conveniently located, Xikou was situated by the bank of Keelung River to easily accommodate boat traffic. Xikou was the midway point for transport from Mengjia and Tamsui to Keelung. The Han Chinese had built their own settlements in Xikou in the 29th year of Qing Emperor Qianlong's reign (1764). By the 1st year of Qing Emperor Daoguang (1821), the name, "Xikou Street" was in circulation.

Then and now: Beimen Street (Jingting) and Boai Street in
Downtown TaipeiThen and now: Ximen Street (Rongting) and Hengyang Street

Portrait of Shen Bao-zhen/Liu Ming-chuan, the First
Governor of Taiwan(4) Dalongdong

Dalongdong is located in the neighborhood of Keelung River and Tamsui River's convergence point; it used to be the settlement village of the aboriginal Daronpon people under the Ketagalan Tribe. It used to be where the settlement community of the aboriginal Daronpon. Daronpon communities inhabited by Han settlers were in existence in the 29th year of Qing Emperor Qianlong's reign (1764). Tongan people from Hokkien were a majority among the Han settlers, and it was why "Daronpon" began to be known as "Dalongtong." A mountainous outcrop in the shape of a dragon was found in Dalongtong, and Dalongtong Street was located at the tail of the dragon; that was why "Dalongtong" was rechristened to a similar-sounding "Dalongdong".

(5) Dadaocheng

Dadaocheng used to be the settlement community of the aboriginal Kimotsi people under the Ketagalan Tribe. Legend had it that Dadaocheng got its name from the square where harvested rice was laid out to dry. The marketplace in Dadaocheng started with the central street. In the 10th year of Qing Emperor Xianfeng's reign (1860), Tamsui Harbor was officially inaugurated. In the 2nd year of Qing Emperor Tongzhi's reign (1863), local authorities designated Tamsui River's headwaters in Mengjia as the gateway of Tamsui Harbor, and Dadaocheng became an external trade port. After the harbor was inaugurated, tea - in particular, oolong tea - became the export staple, and Dadaocheng became tea's processing center. This business development resulted in the slew of local tea shops in Dadaocheng, and the popularization of foreign commerce centers in the community dedicated to tea trade and other business interests.

(6) Downtown Taipei

The formation of downtown Taipei was heavily influenced by the city's prefectural establishment and fortress construction. In the 1st year of Qing Emperor Guangxu's reign (1875), Imperial Commissioner Shen Bao-zhen asked for permission from the Imperial Court to establish the Taipei Prefecture in Mengjia (a general term used to describe downtown Taipei), and built the Taipei Prefecture Office (located in today's Zhongzheng District), making Taipei a prefectural administrative district. In 1884, the 10th year of Emperor Guangxu's reign, the construction of a walled city was completed.

Three-lane artery roadway during Japanese Occupational
Period (Zhongshan South Road at present)Three-lane artery roadway during Japanese Occupational
Period (Zhongxiao West Road at present)

After Taiwan was established as a province of China in the 11th year of Emperor Guangxu's reign, the first Governor, Liu Ming-chuan was appointed. 2 years later in 1887, the province was reorganized into 3 prefectures, under the administration of Hokkien Province, 11 counties, and 3 subprefectures. The seat of government was set up in "Qiaozitu" (south district of Taichung City of today). Due to failures in subsequent administrative compliance, the provincial capital was temporarily relocated to the city of Taipei, and the city's status grew more crucial. It later became Taiwan's political center. Many development projects took place during Liu's governance, and they elevated Taipei's political, economic, financial and military significance.

3. Japanese Occupational Period

In the 38th year of the Meiji period (1905), Japanese colonists reorganized Taipei City's administrative districts to transform the town into a community capable of accommodating 150,000 inhabitants. The priority project of this development program was transportation services. The colonists demolished walls built during the late Qing Dynasty, and created three-lane artery roadways with discarded foundational walls. The street network in Taipei City was centered around the New Park (the today's 228 Peace Memorial Park), and the development spread outward in a radial fashion. In the 7th year of the Showa period (1932), Taihoku Prefecture announced plans to develop the Greater Taipei Downtown Area, transforming it into a city inhabited by a population of 600,000.

East Gate (Jingfu Gate) then and now

Nevertheless, the city became dichotomized in its community growth: the Taiwanese inhabitants and their Japanese counterparts lived in 2 distinct communities. Most of the Japanese, officials, military officers and merchants spread out to neighboring areas from downtown Taipei. As a result, the Japanese communities were more tight-knit, and segregated from the Taiwanese inhabitants. All the modernized development projects, including hospitals, lighting services, cultural and education organizations, and business centers were established with Japanese interests as priority, and set up in Japanese communities. Industrial establishments scattered across community blocks inhabited by Taiwanese. Dadaocheng's neighboring areas were devoted to ironworks; marketplaces within Dadaocheng were mostly dedicated to the food processing industry, particularly tea. Chemical industries were set up in areas south of Mengjia.

Xiaonanmen (the small South Gate) then and now

Taipei City Hall and Taipei 101 skyscraper)4. Provincial- and Direct- Municipality

After World War II, Taipei was designated as a provincial municipality in 1945. In 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Government relocated to Taiwan, and Taipei became a provisional capital; its status grew more important. In July, 1967, Taipei became a directlycontrolled municipality. In considering the city's urban development planning, Nangang Township, Jingmei Township, Muzha Township and Neihu Township of Taipei County, along with Beitou Township and Shilin Township were annexed into Taipei City. Meanwhile, a plan to transform Taipei into a city of 2.5 million also took shape.

Population grew quickly upon Taipei's status upgrade. The city's development also started to move eastward, and to keep up with such trending, the government unveiled Xinyi urban center project that would efficiently utilize large tracts of development-ready property in the eastern district. In 1990, Taipei’s administrative districts went through another reorganization: the 16 districts were restructured into 12. They are: Songshan, Xinyi, Daan, Zhongshan, Zhongzheng, Datong, Wanhua, Wenshan, Nangang, Neihu, Shilin, and Beitou.

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  • Updated: 2016/10/31 17:35
  • Reviewed: 2016/10/31 17:35

  • Source: Taipei City Government