Overview of Taipei

History of Taipei

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Taiwan was first populated by Austronesian people. The name for these native people, goan-chu-bin, literally translates to "original inhabitants". Recent research suggests their history may stretch to approximately 8,000 years before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century. Economic competition and military conflict with colonizing powers eventually led to cultural assimilation that dismantled the native traditions and language. Of the 26 known languages of the Taiwanese aborigines, ten are extinct.

Colonization was largely undertaken by the Dutch in the 17th century. The Han Chinese were the next to come onto the island in force, including Hakka immigrants from areas of Fujian and Guangdong of mainland China. In 1662, Koxinga- a Ming Dynasty loyalist, defeated the Dutch and took control of the island nation. Zheng's forces were later overrun by the Qing Dynasty in 1683.

The first Sino-Japanese War ended in the island being ceded to Japan in 1895. The Japenese were able to use the island for its production of rice and sugar as well as a base for Japanese colonial expansion. the infrastructure of Taiwan was greatly expanded during this time and much of the architecture of Taipei dates from Japanese rule.

This period of colonization was ended by WWII in which Japan lost the war and a great deal of its power. China formerly took ownership of Taiwan on October 25th, 1945 after Japan renounced the former colony. However, Japan did not specify to whom Taiwan and Penghu should be assigned which has led to a complex situation concerning the independence and political status of Taiwan in regards to the Republic of China.

Today the countries formal name remains the Republic of China (RoC), but it is commonly known as "Taiwan".


Taipei was developed as the primary trading centre for the nation. The Qing Dynasty declared Taipei the provincial capital of Taiwan in 1886. After the Japanese acquired Taiwan in 1895, they retained Taipei as the capital. The city continued to develop and Taiwan maintained its prominence after the Republic of China re-claimed the area in 1945. The Chinese Civil War led to communists taking over in mainland China and Chiang Kai-shek and his government were forced to retreat to Taiwan on December 7, 1949. Though he declared Taipei as the provisional capital of the Republic of China, the official capital remained in Nanjing (Nanking).

The city's population reached one million in the early 1960s and continued to inflate during the 1970s. Since the 1990s, the population has stabilized, though the city remains one of the world's most densely populated urban areas with 2.5 million inhabitants. Despite its size, the city does not have unsafe areas, even at night.

This history of takeovers and varied linguistics have resulted in some confusion about the name of the city. Literally translated to "Northern Taiwan City", in Mandarin Chinese under the official New Phonetic System (also known as Hanyu Pinyin) the city's name is romanized as Táibei. In recent years, government authorities have made efforts to convert signage and other official spellings to conform with this spelling, however, the familiarity of the longstanding "Taipei" spelling has been difficult to change.

Update 10/12/2010

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