The Great Push to Machinery: Introduction to Electricity

As mentioned in the previous essays, Taipei and the whole Taiwan was a developing area before the colonial rule of the Japanese empire. Citizens there were having a simple lifestyle with not much production. Japan was a great driving force of modernising and further developing the area. One of the development brought by the Japanese colonial government was technological advancement. Other than the mentioned human-powered railing system brought by Goto Shinpei from the previous posts, electricity was also one of the most important technological advancement imported to start the electric era of Taipei, as well as the whole Taiwan.

The light industry was always an important sector of Taiwan. Therefore, in 1902, a Japanese entrepreneur called 土倉龍治郎 proposed to the government to construct Taiwan’s first power plant to help raise the efficiency and productivity of the industry. The government accepted his proposal in 1903. He started up the company called Taipei Electrical Corporation, which is also the predecessor of Taiwan’s modern electrical company owned by the government. The power plant, Gui Shan Power Plant, was located in the suburban area near Taipei City. This Hydroelectric power plant aimed to first supply electricity to Taipei’s light industry. Its construction was complete in 1905 and came into service in the same year, supply power to the northern part of Taipei. After a month of testing in the lower usage area, it started to supply electricity to the three main markets and areas in Taipei, including Taipei City, Dadaocheng and Monga. It started off with powering up part of the streets but on15th October in the same year, Taipei City became the first city in Taiwan with electrical street lights. This made a great step towards modernisation as well as industrial use of electricity.

After the great success of the construction of Gui Shan Power Plant in 1905, the government saw the importance of electricity to the development of the city. The demand of electricity greatly increased in a short period of time. Therefore, the government decided to constructed the second smaller hydroelectric power plant to increase the supply of electricity to deal with the excess demand in 1907. The construction of Xiao Cu Keng Power Plant, located at the downstream of Gui Shan Power Plant, was completed and came into service. It mainly supplied electricity to other areas like Keelong and Ruifang District as well as complemented the heavy demand in Taipei City. After the construction of the two hydroelectric power plants in the suburb near Taipei City, more and more cities were lit up electrically. Therefore, this construction didn’t only contribute to Taipei, but the development of the whole Taiwan significantly.

Although electricity was not really used in the industry in this period of time, it set up an important base for the future modern development of Taiwan. Electricity might only be used to light up the streets in the early development, but the introduction of this technology to Taiwan meant a lot more. The government was smart enough to see the potential of the advancement and carried it out in Taipei, which was a great mile stone towards modernisation.

Bibliography and Reference:

Liao, Cheng-hung. Urbanization in Taiwan: 1900-1985. Taipei: National Taiwan University, 1987.
Rubinstein, Murray A. Taiwan: a New history. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1999.

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