Taipei, the largest city on the island of Taiwan, was founded in the eighteenth century and has been the capital of the Republic of China since 1949. It is a major political, commercial, and industrial center.

Taipei, the largest city on Taiwan, has been since 1949 the capital of the Republic of China (the Chinese state that does not recognize the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China). Located in the far north of the island, in the basin of the Keelung, Tamshui, and Takokan rivers, Taipei is a major political and commercial center with a wide range of businesses, cultural institutions, and temples.

China’s ruling Qing dynasty (1644–1912) in 1885 declared Taiwan a separate province, and Taipei, a city formed from Chinese and aboriginal settlements, became its capital. During Japanese colonial rule over Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, Japan’s treatment of Taipei’s Chinese population varied between repression of nationalism and accommodation to some political aspirations of the emergent middle-class elites. When Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule in 1945, tensions with the new Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang) governor, Chen Yi, led Taipei to become a major center of the February 28th Incident of 1947, when city dwellers’ protests against the Nationalist government were quashed with some brutality. After 1949 Taipei became the “temporary” capital of the administration of Nationalist Party Chairman Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975). Taipei benefited during this period from the economic boom in East Asia and became a prosperous city. After Chiang’s death Taiwan democratized, and in the years 1994 to 1998 for the first time Taipei’s mayoralty was held by an opposition politician, Chen Shui-bian. The mayoralty has become a stepping-stone to island-wide power, as Chen’s successor, Ma Ying-jeou (mayor 1998–2006), was elected president in 2008.

Taipei’s architecture reflects the city’s stages of development. Little is left from the pre-1895 era, but the Japanese period left many colonial baroque buildings, including the Presidential Office Building and National Taiwan University. Beginning in the 1950s many undistinguished concrete buildings were hastily built, a process aided by Taipei’s lack of planning laws, but since the 1980s more care has been taken to build more sympathetically, with many new buildings, such as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and the Central Rail Station, incorporating traditional Chinese architectural themes. In 2004 the modernist Taipei 101 building, designed by C. Y. Lee and Partners, was opened and officially acknowledged as the world’s tallest completed building, a position it will hold until the Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower) skyscraper is completed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (scheduled for completion in 2009).

Taipei’s environment is plagued by pollution. Until the early 1980s highly polluting soft coal was burned without effective restrictions, and Taipei’s position in a basin worsened the resulting smog. Taipei’s relative decline as a manufacturing center reduced emissions (between 1954 and 1986 the proportion of Taiwan’s industrial workers based in Taipei fell by one-half to less than 8 percent), and city authorities have attempted to decrease vehicular traffic by building a mass transit rail system, which has been highly effective.

Further Reading

Chen Chiang-siang. (1956). The city of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan: Fu-min Geographical Institute of Economic Development.

Helms, B. H.-G., & Chih-ling Hou, Linda. (Eds.). (1996). Insight guides: Taiwan. Hong Kong: APA Publications.

Lai Tse-han, Myers, Ramon, H., & Wei Wou. (1991). A tragic beginning: The Taiwan uprising of February 28, 1947. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Selya, R. M. (1995). Taipei. Chichester, U.K., and New York: John Wiley & Sons.

One dog snarls at a shadow; a hundred howl at each others barking.


Yì quǎn fèi yǐng, bǎi quǎn fèi shēng

Source: Mitter, Rana. (2009). Taipei. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 2162–2163. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Taipei (Táiběi Shì 台北市)|Táiběi Shì 台北市 (Taipei)

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