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Taipei's History and Development

1. The Origin of the Name “Taipei”

In the book Zhuqianpu (literally means Record of Zhuqian Plain) written by Lan Ding-yuan in the Qing Dynasty, there is a passage that reads: “the Zhuqian plain stretchs some 50 kilometers in both length and width. One may travel a whole day without seeing any signs of human habitation. Travelers are fearful when passing through this area due to the appearance of aborigines. Yet, it is a necessary path to and from Tamsui. The land is flat and extremely fertile, and can be cultivated into several thousand hectares of productive farmland. There is no other place that can benefit people of ‘Taipei’ more.” At the time, the area referred to as “Taipei” was the area north of Zhuqian in Northern Taiwan.

In 1875, Imperial Commissioner Shen Baozhen established Taipei Prefecture in Mengjia (the general term used to refer to the main urban area of Taipei at the time), and built the “Taipei Prefecture Office” (located in today’s Zhongzheng District). It was only then that Taipei became an administrative area. The construction of Taipei’s city walls was completed in 1884.

After Taiwan became a province of China, the first Taiwan Provincial Governor Liu Ming-chuan set up his office in Taipei Prefecture, and focused on developing the Chengnei and Dadaocheng areas. These two areas along with Mengjia later became the core urban area of Taipei, and were jointly referred to as the “Three Areas.”

Taiwan Governor-General Office declared a municipal system for Taiwan during the Japanese Colonial Period. Taipei became a prefecturecontrolled city in accordance with the system and Taipei Municipal Office was established in 1920. This is when the name “Taipei City” officially came into being.

2. Home of the Ketagalan Tribe

Taipei is situated at the center of the Taipei Basin in Northern Taiwan. Geologists believe that the Taipei Basin was once a large lake in ancient times, and eventually formed a basin after long years of sedimentation. In the book Great Sea Journal by Yu Yong-he, Taipei Basin is described in the passage: “Upon entering Guandu Notch, there is a massive lake that seems to have no boundaries. After walking over 10 kilometers, you are surrounded by high mountains some 50 kilometers in each direction with a plain at the center.” Before the Han people arrived, the Taipei Basin was inhabited by the Ketagalan Tribe, who made a living by gathering, fishing, hunting, and nomadic cultivation.

The Ketagalan were among one of the first Pingpu tribes to inhabit North Taiwan, living in an area extending to present-day Taoyuan in the south and Sandiaoling and Yilan in the north, including the areas of present-day Keelung, Tamsui River and Taipei. According to the Japanese scholar Kanori Ino, the Ketagalan first established a settlement at Sandiaoling near the west coast and then settlers moved into the Taipei Basin via Keelung, Jinbaoli, Fuguijiao, and Huwei (Tamsui), following the Keelung River; in the Xizhi area the Fengzisi settlement was established; in the Songshan District Xikou settlement was established; near Dadaocheng the Guibeng settlement was established, and, near Dalongtong, the Dalangbeng settlement was established; some also crossed the Xindian River to form the Baijie and Xiulang settlements. They were the earliest documented inhabitants in the Taipei Basin.

Taipei City Government after the Taiwan Retrocession
(originally Jian Cheng Elementary School, now the Museum
of Contemporary Art) Three lane road built in Taipei during the Japanese Colonial
Taipei City Government after the Taiwan Retrocession (originally Jian Cheng Elementary School, now the Museum of Contemporary Art) Three lane road built in Taipei during the Japanese Colonial Period

3. From the Dutch and Spanish to Koxinga in the Ming Dynasty

Junks (ships) sailed between the coastal areas of China, Keelung and Tamsui for fishing and trade in the 16th century. The Dutch invaded Dayuan (now Tainan’s Anping) in 1622, and the Spanish occupied Keelung and Tamsui in 1626, building a fort and commenced missionary work and trade. The Dutch moved north to drive out the Spanish in 1642, and took over the forts built by the Spanish in Keelung and Tamsui, after which they also began missionary work and trade. In 1661, Cheng Cheng-Kung landed at Luermen and laid siege to Zeelandia, driving out the Dutch the following year. After controlling Taiwan, he established Chengtian Prefecture and two counties – Wannian County and Tianxing County. Taipei belonged to Tianxing County at the time. Cheng Cheng-Kung dispatched the renowned General Huangan to Tamsui and implemented a military habitation system. Troops were stationed along Tamsui River to cultivate the land in present day Guandu and Beitou.

Taipei City Government Building
Taipei City Government Building

4. Development under Qing Dynasty Rule

Taiwan was reclaimed as part of the Qing territory in 1683. Taiwan Prefecture was established the following year, overseeing Zhuluo, Taiwan and Fenshan counties, and the number of immigrants from Fujian and Guangdong provinces significantly increased. After the Chen Lai-Chang Development Company requested the government’s permission to develop the Dajiala area (today’s Mengjia, Xinzhuang, and Dalongdong) in 1709, the number of Han immigrants in Northern Taiwan gradually increased. During the Qianlong period, starting with Sweet Potato Street (named from the trading of sweet potatoes between Han settlers and aboriginal people) in Mengjia, where Xindian River and Tamsui River meet, Taipei began to develop into a political, military and commercial center. Mengjia became the 3rd largest harbor city during the Jiaqing period as depicted in the saying “Tainan first, Lugang second, Mengjia third.” In 1862 to 1874, Dadaocheng thrived from the tea trade, as Taipei tea became famous in the international market.

The walls of Taipei were completed in 1884, and Taiwan was officially established as a province in 1887. The first governor of Taiwan,Liu Ming-chuan, sequentially carried out his plan to develop Taipei during his term in Taipei, building railways, roads, and schools. Taipei’s walled city was planned as the administrative district, Dadaocheng was developed into a commercial district, and area around today’s Guide Street was planned as a foreigner’s community. This urban planning laid the foundation for development into the Taipei we know today.

Taipei 101 Building
Taipei 101 Building

5. Infrastructure Construction in the Japanese Colonial Period

After the Japanese occupied Taiwan in 1895, the Japanese established Taiwan Sutokufu (Governor-General Office) in Taipei. The Japanese expanded roads and renovated the drainage system in Taipei in 1899 and 1901. The walls of Taipei built during the late Qing Dynasty were torn down in 1905, and the foundation of the walls was turned into a road, linking together Mengjia, Chengnei, and Dadaocheng, and expanding the administrative area of Taipei. Taipei City Hall was established in 1920 and Taipei became a prefecture-controlled city. The administrative area expanded from the Three Areas mentioned above to today’s Daan, Zhonglun, and Songshan in east Taipei, and was once planned to accommodate a population of 600 thousand.

6. Booming Development after Retrocession

Taipei was designated a provincial city after Taiwan’s retrocession in 1945. The city hall from during the Japanese Colonial Period was abolished in October the same year, and the Taipei City Government was established with 10 administrative districts; boroughs were established under districts, and neighborhoods were established under boroughs. The central government relocated to Taiwan in 1949, local autonomy was implemented at the county/city level in 1950, and Taipei elected its first city council, laying the foundation for democracy. Considering that Taipei had already become the second capital during wartime on December 31, 1966, and was Taiwan’s political, military, cultural, and economic center, the central government elevated Taipei’s status to special municipality by order of the President on July 1, 1967, and made Jingmei, Muzha, Nangang, Neihu, Shilin, and Beitou townships subordinate to Taipei in July 1968. At this time Taipei had a total of 16 administrative districts.

Taipei’s administrative districts were readjusted on March 12 1990 into 12 administrative districts, namely Datong, Zhongzheng, Wanhua, Zhongshan, Shilin, Beitou, Songshan, Nangang, Neihu, Xinyi, Daan, and Wenshan districts, and have been maintained until today.

The Taipei Basin belongs to the administrative systems of Taipei and New Taipei City, forming an urban living circle of twin cities. Development of the twin cities are inseparable, especially with the extension and development of traffic networks, such as the MRT. The lives of residents have long broken down any administrative boundaries to form a greater Taipei living circle.

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  • Updated: 2014/11/20 16:28
  • Reviewed: 2014/11/20 16:28

  • Source: Taipei City Government