World Facts Index > Taiwan > Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung City, the second largest city in Taiwan, is comprised of eleven districts; each with its own unique character.

Qi Jin (Chi Chin)
Qi Jin Island is one of the oldest districts in Kaohsiung. Together with Gu Shan, Yen Cheng, and Zuo Ying, it forms what is commonly called the "old city". The first signs of permanent residents on the island can be traced back to the 17th century. These early settlers were fishermen who saw the island as the ideal place from which to launch their fishing boats. Not much has changed: Today the island still retains much of the charm of a sleepy fishing village despite the fact that it now forms part of a bustling city. Three-wheeled carts, once common all over Asia but now largely a thing of the past, are still a familiar sight here. The island is home to one of the oldest temples in the Kaohsiung area: the Matsu Temple (also known as the Tien Hou Kung Temple) is dedicated, appropriately, to the patron goddess of fishermen. The temple dates back to the late 1600s. The popular Qi Jin Beach runs along the west coast of the island. The Qi Jin Lighthouse and Qi Jin Seashore Park can also be found here-testament to the nautical origins of the local population.

Yan Cheng (Yencheng)
Yan Cheng is the original downtown area of Kaohsiung. In spite of the shift in focus to the east bank of the Love River, this district has remained a popular hangout because of the many restaurants, pubs and nightclubs in the area. Yan Cheng has a reputation for being a bit rowdy because it is frequented by sailors from nearby Kaohsiung Harbour: This district never sleeps! It is full of interesting people and interesting little shops selling everything from souvenirs to hard-to-come-by imported foodstuffs.

Gu Shan (Kushan)
This district is dominated by the beautiful vista of Shoushan Mountain, which is also called Longevity Mountain. The mountain is home to hundreds of indigenous Taiwanese monkeys who roam freely around Shoushan Park. It is also the home of many other animals in the Shoushan Zoo. It is in this district that much of the upgrading initiated during the Japanese Occupation took place-such as the extensive development of the harbour facilities. Chungshan University sits at the foot of the mountain with the Hsitzu Bay Beach forming part of its pretty campus. But not everything in Gu Shan is modern: This district has its roots and memories firmly anchored in the past as local monuments such as the Yuanheng Temple and the Martyrs' Shrine will testify. The Former British Consulate, the first foreign consulate in Taiwan and now a history museum, is also found in this district.

Zuo Ying (Tsoying)
Zuo Ying is full of reminders of Taiwan's history: Remains of the military fortress established in the mid-1600s are dotted around the area. Today the district still has a distinct military flavour-not surprising with the large Navy Harbour situated here. The most popular attraction in Zuo Ying, however, is the Lotus Lake scenic area. The Confucius Temple can be found on the shores of the lake-the largest temple in Taiwan dedicated to the great sage. The lake is also the site of the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas as well as the Spring and Autumn Pavilions.

The downtown area is comprised of the districts of Xin Xing, Chian Jin and Ling Ya. It is the area where the pulse of Kaohsiung beats the strongest; where old meets new and East and West exist side by side.

Xin Xing (Hsinhsing)
Xin Xing is the heart of the city in more ways than one. Situated roughly in the middle of Kaohsiung, this district has numerous bars and nightclubs, as well as interesting little shops catering to the teen and young twenties crowd. This district is always humming day or night. One of the most popular attractions is the Liu He Night Market, a shopping paradise for locals and tourists alike. The Xin Xing Market on Nan Hua Road is a great place to shop for inexpensive clothing or to go to watch the crowds.

Qian Jin (Chienchin)
The Love River borders this district on the west with the Shoushan Mountain rising in the background. With such a setting it is not surprising that Qian Jin is home to some of the best hotels in Kaohsiung. It is also a good place to go shopping as both the Tali Department Store and the Hanshin Department Store are situated here. If you are in the mood for a spot of sightseeing, this district boasts the Holy Rosary Cathedral, as well as superb views from the banks and bridges of the Love River. Alternatively, you can relax under the trees in Rotary Park - Kaohsiung's own "Central Park".

Ling Ya (Lingya)
Ling Ya forms the bulk of the downtown area and is known for its wide variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, as well as many of the top hotels in the city. It is a shopper's dream because of the many department stores, smaller specialty stores and souvenir shops in the area. You can also find the Garbage Market (don't be mislead by the name-the produce sold is of the very best quality) and Flower Market here. The district is home to Kaohsiung's tallest building, the Tuntex T&C Towers. The view over the city and harbour from the top of this building is breathtaking. Ling Ya is also the cultural heart of Kaohsiung: the Chiang Kai Shek Cultural Center has many exhibition galleries as well as performance halls where all sorts of artistic productions, from opera to contemporary dance, take place regularly.

The City Outskirts
Four districts lie on the outskirts of Kaohsiung, namely San Min, Nan Zi, Qian Zhen and Xiao Gang. These areas tend to be predominantly residential or industrial in nature.

San Min (San Ming)
San Min is a popular residential district because it is a little quieter than the downtown area, but is still close enough to be infected with the vibe of the city. San Min is also the market district: in addition to the big food markets on San Feng Zhong Street and at the intersection of Min Zu and Shi Chuan Roads, San Min is also the site of the Jade Market. Situated on Shi Chuan Road, this is the best place to shop for souvenirs and to take in some local culture at the same time. This district will also find favour with museum lovers as both the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts and the National Museum of Science and Technology are in this area. If architecture is your passion, take a trip to the Grand 50 Tower. This impressive, beautifully designed building has become a trademark feature of the San Min District.

Nan Zi (Nantze)
Nan Zi is the most northerly-situated district in Kaohsiung. It is in equal parts a residential district and industrial area. The export processing zones are situated here. It is possible to shop at the export processing factories for inexpensive items of all descriptions, but you must present your passport if you wish to make a purchase.

Qian Zhen (Chien Chen)
Qian Zhen is situated to the south of the city's downtown area. This is a district dominated by the fishing industry. Qian Jin Fishing Harbour is very pretty at night when the lights from the fishing boats sparkle across the water.

Xiao Gang (Hsiaokang)
This is the most southerly of Kaohsiung's eleven districts and the first place visitors see because it is home to the Kaohsiung International Airport. The area is heavily industrialized, but Kaohsiung Park near the airport goes some way to inject a bit of greenery into the otherwise grey, man-made landscape.

History of Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan and one of the largest ports in the world, has had a chequered past. It has been inhabited by many different peoples over the years, had many different names, and been under the control of a number of different world powers. No wonder this city can boast such a diverse and colourful culture.

The first known inhabitants of the Kaohsiung area were Austronesians, the forefathers of the modern Aborigines. These people migrated to the island from the area of present day Malaysia. The first such group is thought to have settled along the shores of southwestern Taiwan as early as 4000 B.C. Further waves of immigrants were to arrive, the last group settling a mere 1000 years ago.

These people were fishermen and small-scale farmers, for the most part. They lived in small villages along the coast and existed in peaceful harmony with their surroundings. Thus began the agriculture and fishing that have come to be such an important part of Kaohsiung's economy.

Some academics believe Taiwan to be the ancestral home of all modern Austronesians, that is, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the surrounding areas because of the diversity and richness of the languages spoken by the modern Taiwanese Aborigines. However, much of that line of thought remains speculation without more proof to either confirm or disprove the theory.

These Austronesians, however, were not the first inhabitants of Kaohsiung. Archaeological digs have turned up evidence that the area was inhabited even earlier than 4000 B.C., but by whom and for how long is still unknown. What is even more puzzling is what became of these mysterious people.

The first traceable mark of Chinese culture in Taiwan appears in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. In 1206 the island became a protectorate of the Chinese Empire under Genghis Khan, but there was not really a Chinese government on the island until much later. In the meantime, the Aboriginal people continued to dominate the Kaohsiung area.

In 1624 the first European settlers came to Kaohsiung with the arrival of the Dutch. They colonised the island, setting up their headquarters in Tainan with further forts established in modern Zuo Ying. While the north was contested by the Spanish, the Dutch held the southern part of the island firmly in their grasp until they were forcibly expelled in 1661 by the forces of the Chinese general Cheng Cheng-Kung, also known as Koxinga. Cheng was a Ming loyalist who planned to use the island as a base of operations in his war to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and reinstate the Ming Dynasty.

Cheng established Wan Nien County in modern Zuo Ying and extended the agricultural activities around the Kaohsiung area. In May 1662 Cheng Yung-Hua became the first governor of the region. Kaohsiung became known as Wan Nien Chow in 1664. With the implementation of the imperial examination system in 1666, Chinese culture and civilisation branded its mark on both Kaohsiung and Taiwan.

Kaohsiung was renamed Takao in the late 1600s and became inundated with immigrants from Mainland China. The Qing Dynasty brought Taiwan under its direct government in 1684 and Kaohsiung again underwent a name change to become Fengshan County, part of Taiwan City. It was now a prefecture of Fukien, a Mainland province. Kaohsiung was first opened as a port during the Qing Dynasty.

In 1895 Taiwan was ceded to Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki which concluded the war between Japan and China over Korea. The Japanese did a great deal for the city of Kaohsiung in terms of urban development. Other development projects such as the massive construction undertaken on the harbour provided the city with the wonderful infrastructure it boasts today. The Japanese named the area Kaohsiung Town on 1 October 1920 and upgraded it to Kaohsiung City on 25 December 1924. At the end of World War II, Taiwan was returned to China. In 1979, on 1 June, Kaohsiung became a special municipality ruled directly by the Republic of China.


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