- Alternative meaning: Taipei County
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall at night during the Taipei Lantern Festival/ taken by Philo Vivero/ 9 February, 2004
Taipei City (Chinese: 台北市, pinyin: Táibĕi Shì, tai.: Tâi-pak) is the provisional capital of the Republic of China and the largest city in Taiwan. Home to 2,619,022 people (2005 census data), it is the center of Taiwan's commerce, government, and culture. Major industries include electrical and electronic equipment, textiles, metals, ship-building, and motorcycles.
Taipei City is a special municipality administered directly under the central government. It is not part of but surrounded entirely by Taipei County, which is administered as part of Taiwan Province.
Taipei administers twelve districts (區):
The region known as the Taipei basin was home to Ketagalan tribes before the 18th century. Han Chinese began to settle in Taipei Basin in 1709.
In the late 19th century, Taipei gained economic importance due to the trade of tea. In 1875, the northern part of Taiwan was separated from Taiwan Prefecture (台灣府) and became Taipei Prefecture (台北府). A new city was established in the Taipei basin for the new bureaucracy, located between two populous towns, Bangka (艋舺) and Dadaocheng (大稻埕). The new city was known as Chengnei (城內), and government buildings were erected there. Taiwan became a province of China in 1885, but remained a temporary capital of the province before it became the official one in 1894.
As settlement for losing the Sino-Japanese War, China ceded the entire island of Taiwan to Japan in 1895. Taipei was the political center of the Japanese Colonial Government. Much of the architecture of Taipei dates from the period of Japanese rule (during which the city was known in Japanese as Taihoku) including the Presidential Building which was the Office of the Taiwan Governor-General. See Taipei Prefecture (Japanese Rule).
In 1949, the Communists forced the Kuomintang government under Chiang Kai-shek to flee mainland China and establish Taipei as the provisional capital of the ROC (Nanking remains to this date the "official" capital). Taipei was also the capital of Taiwan Province until the 1960s when that was moved to Jhongsing Village.
From 1875 (during the Qing Dynasty) until the beginning of Japanese rule in 1895, Taipei was part of Danshuei County (淡水縣) of Taipei Prefecture (台北府). Taipei was incorporated in 1920 as part of Taipei Prefecture (台北州). It included Bangka, Dadaocheng, and Chengnei among other small settlements. The eastern village Songshan (松山庄) was annexed into Taipei City in 1938. As approved on December 30, 1966 by Executive Yuan, Taipei became a centrally administered municipality on July 1, 1967. In the following year, Taipei City expanded again by annexing Shilin, Beitou, Neihu, Nangang, Jingmei, and Muzha. In 1990, 16 districts in Taipei City were consolidated into the current 12 districts.
The current mayor of Taipei is the Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou. The office of mayor of Taipei is seen as a stepping stone to higher office. Both the current and previous Presidents Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui were mayors of Taipei, and Ma Ying-jeou is widely regarded as the most likely Kuomintang candidate for President in 2008. Until 1994, the mayor of Taipei was an appointed position, but since then it has been elected.
Taipei City has a higher proportion of Mainlanders than average in Taiwan. This and the fact that the city is highly dependent on commerce and finance which would be disrupted in case of conflict with the People's Republic of China means that the city is more favorable to Chinese reunification than other areas of Taiwan. Indeed, it was partly due to the fact that Chen Shui-bian was still able to win the mayorship in 1994 despite his pro-independence tendencies that made him the obvious DPP candidate for President in 2000.
Festivities in Taipei
There are many yearly Taiwanese festivals that commonly are held in Taipei including the Lantern Festival and Double Tenth Day. A common location for festivities in Taipei is the square in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Recently, some of the major festivals normally held in Taipei (specifically, the Double Tenth Day fireworks) have been moved to others cities in Taiwan.
Taipei has 15 universities:
In addition, there are nine colleges:
- China Institute of Technology
- Chung Kuo Institute of Technology
- Kuang Wu Institute of Technology
- National Taipei College of Nursing
- National Taipei Teachers College
- National Taipei College of Business
- Taipei Municipal Teachers College
Taipei Physical Education College
- Takming College
A view of Taipei, with Shilin Night Market to the right, and the Jiantan metro station in the middle-left.
Taipei's public transport system MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) uses both a light rail system based on VAL technology and a conventional metro. Unlike most rail transport in Taiwan which follow the Japanese practice and have trains running on the left, the Taipei public transport system runs its trains on the right. See Taipei Rapid Transit System.
Taipei Main Station is the largest Taiwanese railway station and also functions as the nexus for the MRT system.
Nearby Taoyuan hosts Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, which serves Taipei for international flights. There is also Sungshan Domestic Airport in the heart of the city.
An extensive city bus system runs throughout the city to serve areas not covered by the MRT system. Some buses require payment per passenger at pick-up time, and others at drop-off time. Riders of the city MRT system are able to use their MRT passes on buses for discounted rates, making the bus system effectively an extension of the MRT system. The passes, known as Easy Cards contain credits which are deducted each time a ride is taken. The Easy Card is extremely convenient since it is read via sensory panels on buses and in MRT stations capable of scanning through wallets or purses, thus eliminating the need for the passenger to remove the card from his or her wallet or purse.
Taxis are abundant and relatively affordable. It is well-known in the city that many taxi cab drivers are very aggressive and fast. It is considered by some a harrowing experience to take a taxi, but after some time, one grows accustomed to it.
A quintessential form of transportation in Taipei (and much of Taiwan) is the ubiquitous motor-scooter, somewhat analogous to the motorcycles found in other industrialized nations. However, motor-scooters are not subject to conventional traffic laws, and generally thread between cars and occasionally through oncoming traffic. A loophole in Taipei's motor vehicle laws ensures that in any accident between a motor-scooter and another vehicle, the other vehicle is at fault. For these reasons, scooters are perhaps the most convenient (though environmentally unfriendly) way for locals to navigate through their city.
The spelling Taipei derives from the Wade-Giles romanization T'ai-pei, in which "p" is pronounced more like an English "b". Thus "Taipei" should accurately be pronounced like the English words Tie-Bay, rather than Tie-Pay, its common English pronunciation.
Both Hanyu Pinyin, which is used both in the PRC and in Taipei City itself, and Tongyong Pinyin, which is mandated by the central government, reflect this pronunciation, romanizing Taipei as Taibei, a spelling that is closer to the Mandarin pronunciation. However, this romanization is very rarely seen.