After climbing 508 metres up the Taipei 101 tower, the highest structure in the world, it can be seen easily from anywhere in the city, one can look down on the genuine Taipei amidst all the modern buildings: temples, markets, the National Palace Museum and in between them, the many old streets and lanes where everyday life in Taipei actually unfolds.
There was a swamp at the site of Taipei about 300 years ago, right where one of Asia’s most modern cities now stands. Only the Pingpu, the original people of Formosa, who lived in the higher lying regions around the Taipei Basin, were able to reach this area by canoe.
Han Chinese from China came later to fish and trade, but they stayed on the banks of the Tarsui River and did not travel into the area of modern Taipei. In 1709, a Chinese farmer named Chen Lai Chang from Chuanchou laid the cornerstone of a farm house in Takala, which is now central Taipei. From that point onwards, the number of settlers continually grew. The original settlement was known as Manka.
From Manka to Tataocheng
The governance of Manka and the surrounding region was mainly handled by immigrants from various parts of mainland China. Because of differing views regarding the future of the administrative structure, tensions between the residents soon escalated. The violent confrontations that resulted came to an end in 1823.
One of the groups that was defeated fled from Manka, on the bank of the Tamsui River, to Tataocheng. There they began to make the land arable land laid the foundations for a flourishing community. Tataocheng surpassed Manka in the nineteenth century, and became the centre of Taipei Prefecture in 1875.
When the Japanese colonised Taipei in 1895, they built their main district in Taipei, and the city continued to develop steadily thereafter, even after the departure of the occupiers in 1945 and after the break with mainland China. Within a hundred years, the once rural district had developed into the administrative, economic and cultural centre of Taiwan.
Manka, Tataocheng and Chengnei have all lost their original appearance, but a number of historically important sites have been restored, including the Lin Family Villa and Garden, once the home of a very powerful clan in the 19th century, as well as the Peace Park and the 1919 Presidential Palace.
Modern city with established traditions
Today, all glass office high rises, luxury condominiums and modern shopping districts are situated along wide, tree lined boulevards. Elegant restaurants, stylish nightclubs and appearances by international stars are all part of people’s lives. Yet the traditional culture and way of life carries on below the contemporary surface.
Everywhere you go, you stumble on timeless scenes: believers praying to their gods in ancient temples, long religious processions winding their way through the streets to the accompaniment of firecrackers, and little shops offering herbal medicines that have been relied upon for millennia. Clearly, this is one of the oldest cultures in the world.
Looking for a low cost Australian airline? Think about Virgin Blue. Virgin Blue entered the Australian market in August 2000 and is now Australia ’s second largest airline. For more details, visit http://www.flightcentre.com.au/suppliers/virgin_blue.htm FCFC311208-6