With a population of nearly 2.7 million, Taipei City is located in northern Taiwan, including the northeastern part of the Taipei Basin and the surrounding hills. It is divided into twelve administrative districts covering an area of 271 square kilometers. Taipei is home to a diverse population including indigenous people, Minnanese, Hakkas, mainlanders, new immigrants, and expats.
Compared to other major cities on Taiwan’s west coast, Taipei developed fairly late. Prior to large-scale immigration of Han Chinese from southern Taiwan in the early 18th century, the Taipei area inhabited mainly by plains indigenous peoples. In 1884, the Qing court officially moved Taiwan’s administrative capital from Tainan to Taipei and erected a large wall to protect the city, marking a significant economic and power shift towards the north. Since then, Taipei has been Taiwan’s political, economic and cultural center.
Taipei City Government: http://english.gov.taipei/
New Taipei City
Surrounding the country’s capital, New Taipei City covers an area of just over 2000 square kilometers and has a population of over 3.9 million. Its proximity to Taipei has helped New Taipei City develop as a major concentration of industry and commerce, and 70% of the population originally hails from other parts of Taiwan. The administrative center of New Taipei City is located in the Banqiao district, which is also the most populated and thriving area of the city.
The city’s region was once inhabited by Taiwan’s Plain Indigenous People. Immigration by ethnic Han Chinese began in 1620 A.D. The Tamsui River runs through Taipei north to the ocean and the Tamsui District at the mouth of the Tamsui River was established as an international commercial port in 1850, serving as a critical transport and warehousing hub for Taiwan’s tea exports. Taiwan’s tea trade was so important to the British that they established a consulate here to facilitate exports to Europe.
With the Japanese retreat from Taiwan in 1945, the incoming Republic of China (Taiwan) government established Taipei City and Keelung City into provincial administrative municipalities while making the rest of then Taipei region into Taipei County. In 2010, Taipei County was officially upgraded to a special municipality called New Taipei City.
New Taipei City Government: http://foreigner.ntpc.gov.tw/
Taoyuan city lies west of New Taipei City, directly across the Taiwan Strait from China’s Fujian province, and migration from China in the 18th century established Taoyuan as a thriving area of commerce and transport. Since 1979, Taoyuan has been the site of Taiwan’s largest international airport, making the city Taiwan’s key gateway to the outside world. On its own, Taoyuan is Taiwan’s 4th largest city, and was upgraded to a special municipality in 2010, leading to deeper integration into the Greater Taipei Area.
Taoyuan is a melting pot of different cultures including Hakka, Minnan, mainlander Chinese immigrants, indigenous people, and new immigrants. Nearly 40% of the population is Hakka, making Taoyuan a key center of Hakka culture and giving the city a unique vitality.
Taoyuan Government: http://www.tycg.gov.tw/eng/index.jsp
Taichung, literally ‘the center of Taiwan’, is the largest city of central Taiwan. Before the 18th century, the central area of Taiwan was controlled by the “Kingdom of Middag,” an alliance of indigenous tribes. The Qing court initially included Taiwan as a part of Fujian province, but decided in the late 19th century to establish Taiwan as a province in its own right. The Taichung area was initially selected as the site of the new provincial capital, and construction began on a new capital city to be called “Taiwan County.” However, budget problems interrupted construction and the capital was relocated to Taipei. In 1896, the incoming Japanese colonial government restarted construction and named the city “Taichung.”
Taichung is an essential economic and transport hub for the whole of Taiwan, linking together industry and agriculture in the cities and counties that make up Taiwan’s central region. Originally separate administrative regions, Taichung County was incorporated into Taichung City in 2010, making it the second-largest of Taiwan's five special municipalities with a population of around 2.8 million. Occupying a broad plain framed by high mountains to the east and the sea to the west, Taichung has developed as a critical hub for road, rail, sea and air transport connecting the region to all other parts of Taiwan.
The Central Mountain Range effectively shields Taichung from Taiwan’s seasonal typhoons, leaving a city known for pleasant weather and a warm, energetic population. The city is made up of 29 administrative districts, each boasting uniquely distinctive cultural and natural landscapes, the legacy of centuries of diverse immigration and organic development, and giving the city a thriving cultural scene marked by a broad array of local and international events.
Taichung City Government: http://eng.taichung.gov.tw/mp.aspx?mp=49
Established in 1624 by the Dutch East Indian Company, Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest city, and is famous for its rich history, culture, architecture and heritage sites.
Today, Tainan has 34 districts; they were formerly under Tainan City and Tainan County under Tainan Provincial Government but came under Tainan City’s jurisdiction when Tainan was made a special municipality in 2010. Today, Tainan covers nearly 260 square kilometers and is home to nearly 1.9 million people.
A walk around Tainan is like stepping back in time, and emphasizes the importance of traditional religion in Taiwanese life. Tainan is a city of temples, including Taiwan’s oldest Confucius temple. Tainan developed around water transport, and today the city’s ancient canal is still the ideal place to get a sense of the pace of ancient city life. A stroll through the maze of nearby traditional neighborhoods brings intimate encounters with relics of the city’s past which continue to be vital parts of the community’s present.
Tainan is also famous for its street food scene, and is one of the few instances of street snacks to earn a mention in the Michelin Green Guide. Dishes unique to or originating from Tainan include fresh and tasty beef soup, rice cakes with dried fish and braised pork on top or aromatic steamed rice cake. These delicacies are part of the foundation of Tainan’s gastronomic culture and bear the historical memories of four centuries.
Tainan City Government: https://www.tainan.gov.tw/en/
Before the 16th century, the area now occupied by Kaohsiung City was home to the Makato indigenous tribe who called it “Takau,” which translates to “bamboo forest”. Han Chinese immigrants who later settled in the area adopted the pronunciation “Takau”, but wrote it phonetically using the Chinese characters 打狗 (dagou), which means “beat the dog”. Later, the Japanese occupying forces changed the name of the city to 高雄 (kaohsiung) after an area in Ukyo-Ku, Kyoto.
Today, Kaohsiung is a thriving metropolis spread over nearly 3000 square kilometers and with a population of nearly 2.8 million. From above, the city presents a rich and varied landscape, with lush mountains, lakes, and rivers flowing to the sea which provides a steady cooling breeze for this sun-soaked city. The Port of Kaohsiung is one of the world’s busiest container ports, with a constant stream of cargo ships forming a critical artery for Asia-Pacific trade and commerce. In addition to the beauty of its natural setting, the city’s long history as an international port has also helped Kaohsiung develop a unique and thriving culture.
Kaohsiung City Government: http://www.kcg.gov.tw/EN/Default.aspx