Piecing Together Taiwan’s History in the Southern City of TaiNan


One of the most fascinating places to begin understanding parts of Taiwan’s colonial history is found in what remains of the old capital, in the southern city of TaiNan (台南).

Old shop in TaiNan, Taiwan

The streets of TaiNan are packed with both the old and the new

A worthwhile trip for anyone interested in Taiwan’s pre-KMT and Japanese past, TaiNan offers a lot of points of interest that can be explored in 1, 2 or even 3 days of quick taxi rides and easy footwork. You can get to TaiNan via the High-Speed Rail from Taipei, or catch a slow train from KaoHsiung. By car from KaoHsiung, the trip is less than an hour.

Living in Taipei, you can easily forget that for over 200 years TaiNan was the capital of Taiwan and a hugely important trading port and military outpost. Today, TaiNan is Taiwan’s fifth largest city, the repository of Taiwan’s literary history, and renowned for Taiwan’s most authentic local snack foods. For many it represents the soul of all things “Taiwanese”.

A plant in the Confucius Temple, TaiNan, Taiwan

Temples, like the Confucius Temple, are everywhere in TaiNan.

Whereas modern Taiwan has been hugely affected by Japanese and Chinese rule over the last 120+ years, TaiNan’s biggest influences reach back to the Dutch and Chinese in the late 17th Century. The city of the time was taken from the Dutch via what seems to have been a negotiated settlement, between the “treasonous” Dutch governor and the famous Ming Dynasty “loyalist” Koxinga (also known as Zheng ChengGong).

While Singapore and Hong Kong easily stand out as prime examples of Britain’s past maritime power, you can also look at Nagasaki, Shanghai, Manila and Macau as other centers of European economic influence in the nearby region.

Likewise, the competition that drove the European powers to scramble for prime real estate throughout Asia ensured Taiwan’s location offered huge value along the major trading routes between Japan, China, South East Asia and beyond. In this context you can see why TaiNan, DanShui and parts of the PengHu Islands represented strategic locations of military and trading interest.

Unexploded bomb, TaiNan, Taiwan

There are all kinds of cultural and historical references to be found in downtown TaiNan

Check out Top Taipei Day Trips: DanShui River for information about Fort San Domingo on Taipei’s DanShui river.

Day 1 TaiNan Itinerary Suggestion:

Spend a morning at the Koxinga Shrine and Museum. Walk to the nearby Confucius Temple and have lunch across the road, where you can eat “dry” noodles and battered fish in soup (tastes 100x better than it reads). Spend the afternoon at the Confucius Temple, followed by a quick stop at Lily Fruits for a drink or shredded ice dessert. Head past the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature and make your way across town to ChihKan Tower.

Day 2 TaiNan Itinerary Suggestion:

If you still have time on your first day, catch a taxi down to the AnPing harbor precinct and visit AnPing Fort (closes at 5:30 pm). Better yet, leave it for a second day of TaiNan exploration. After visiting the fort in the morning, stop off for a simple lunch at the historical Old Julius Mannich Merchant House then head down to the Old Tait & Co Merchant House and AnPing Tree House. Later in the afternoon retrace your steps to see the KaiTai TianHou Temple and grab something to eat from one of the local shops or stalls you passed on the road in to AnPing Fort.

Day 3 TaiNan Itinerary Suggestion:

If you are planning to spend 3 days in TaiNan, you can intersperse the first two days with more time visiting the huge number of temples around town, eating more, or getting out of town to visit the Taiwan Salt Museum or nearby wetlands (where depending on the season you might see rare migratory black-faced spoonbills).

More about TaiNan’s key historical sites:

More information about TaiNan:


6 responses to “Piecing Together Taiwan’s History in the Southern City of TaiNan

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    • Hi Fredricklowma, great to hear this story helped you. If you have visited TaiNan, let me know you experience, would like to hear what you saw/did.

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  4. Pingback: Top Ten Countries for 2012: Taiwan is Number 9 | Syurati-vision the Blog

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