Southern Taiwan Travel: TaiNan’s AnPing Harbor District

TRIP TO HISTORICAL TAINAN (台南) PART 4

Taiwan aborigines, the Dutch, Chinese, British, German, and the Japanese have all had a say in the development of Taiwan’s southern city of TaiNan (台南). Nowhere more obvious than around the centuries-old AnPing Harbor.

By Stuart Hill

AnPing Old Fort (Fort Zeelandia)

Remaining section of AnPing Fort, TaiNan

Only a little remains of the original sections of the AnPing Fort (Fort Zeelandia)

While the old port has long since filled with silt, Fort Zeelandia once represented a major investment to the Dutch. The fort took 10 years to build and was sturdy enough to withstand a siege from Koxinga’s forces for 9 months or so.

Some sections of the original foundations remain, but most of what you see today is the result of the Japanese efforts to rebuild and adapt the site. The exhibition in the main building offers a bit more insight into the lives of the Dutch (as well as their defeat) while paintings and models give you a sense of the area’s original geography.

Furniture in the AnPing Fort, TaiNan, Taiwan

An ornate door carving on antique furniture displayed in the main building of TaiNan’s AnPing Fort.

Leave yourself time to walk around the streets that now form a kind of cultural district near AnPing Harbor. Close by is the Old Julius Mannich Merchant House of German traders, one of the remaining historical buildings of the time. The local cemetery is nearby too, filled with a colorful and ornate range of graves. But perhaps don’t visit at night. Meanwhile, reclamation and restoration projects are attempting to transform the area into something resembling its former glory as a working port centuries ago.

Old Tait & Co Merchant House and AnPing Tree House

While the guidebooks provide only a passing (and dismissive) mention, the Old Tait & Co Merchant House is another clue as to TaiNan’s colonial past. This British company secured access to Taiwan after the Opium War with China and was a trader in tea and camphor as well as opium. They also offered banking and insurance services.

Old Tait & Co Merchant House

The Taiwan headquarters of the Old Tait & Co building now houses a display illustrating the lives of the Dutch, Chinese and aborigines before Koxinga arrived

The building itself was originally closer to the water; these days due to siltation and urban development it seems quite inland. During the Japanese era, the building and AnPing Tree House were used for managing and storing salt by the Japanese Salt Company.

The building houses a small museum of dioramas and a display that recreates the multicultural atmosphere that might have existed in the time of the Dutch. First person accounts from the daily lives of various Dutch, Chinese and aboriginal inhabitants around AnPing harbor give some sense of the way each cultural grouped interacted. The stories are well presented on the first floor of the building along side commonly used items of the time.

AnPing Tree House, TaiNan, Taiwan

In its original form the AnPing Tree House was the warehouse of the Old Tait & Co Merchant House, and the Japanese Salt Company after that.

The “tree house” is an old warehouse built around 1867 and now so named because it is covered in the roots of banyan trees. Walkways allow you to walk around the roots and climb up above the collapsed storerooms and be among the tree branches. Further along you can also climb up to a tower to get a view of the silted harbor.

Entry to AnPing Fort and the Old Tait & Co building (which includes the AnPing Tree House) costs NT$50 for each site. Both places open at 8:30 am and close at 5:30 pm.

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