First Move towards Colonisation: Removal of the City Wall

One of the most important architecture of Taipei City is the city wall. Yet there has always been a discussion on its demolition after the rise of the Japanese Colonial government because of its defensive purpose against outsiders, including the Japanese themselves. The first attempt on removing this defensive infrastructure actually happened on the first city correction movement in1900. All the moats around the city wall were reclaimed and the space between the city wall and the moats became public space. The wall were started to be penetrated by opening more gates. And the West gate was demolished in the same period.

The large scale demolition happened in the second five-year-development started in 1901. Originally, all gates around the city wall was planned to be demolished. However, owing to the strong repellence force by the citizens while demolishing the West gate, the North, East, South and the sub South gate were conserved. The whole city wall, except the four gates were completely demolished by 1904. This large scale destruction of the city seemed to opposed the biological principle proposed by the city planner, Goto Shinpei. Yet, there were still constructive development after this deconstruction. The stones of the original city wall were recycled as the building material the jail and the military base near the East gate. Some of the remaining material were also used to build walls and gates inside the city.

Another key infrastructural construction based on the demolition of the city wall was the triple line traffic roads. This triple line system, which was completed in 1909), was constructed to replace the city wall so that it followed the boundary and foundations of the wall. The triple lines were a foreign model imported from the European cities. The three lines were separated by two strips of green field in between as refuge island. This created delighted environment around the inner city. That was why Taipei City has once been referred as “the Eastern Little Paris”. There were even literature and songs about based on this romantic infrastructural system. One might argue that this directly mimicry of the European model in the context of Taipei was against the biological principle. Yet, triple line system actually created a great buffer zone to separate the inner and outer city. It kept the spirit of the original city wall with no defensive agenda. This might be the win-win solution that achieved the objective of the colonial government and fit into the site context at the same time.

1895 mapTaipei City with city wall in 1895

1907 mapTaipei City with triple line traffic roads in 1907

In conclusion, changes happened on the urban fabric was inevitable during the colonial period of Taipei by Japan, especially for the sensitive infrastructure related to military. It is good to see the colonial government did not force to destroy the city wall without negotiation. At least some of the gates were conserved because of the opposition of the citizens and the new infrastructural system served part of the function of the demolished city wall. In addition, the imported triple line system provided a descent public space for the city that tried to compensate the lost of the city.


Bibliography and Reference:

Liao, Cheng-hung. Urbanization in Taiwan: 1900-1985. Taipei: National Taiwan University, 1987.
“Google Map/Earth觀察報@Sinica » 台灣百年歷史地圖.” Accessed December 9, 2016.,5145.1.

Rubinstein, Murray A. Taiwan: a New history. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1999.

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