The significance of the Taipei City Gates

Currently in Taipei what reminds people most of the Qing Dynasty, are what’s left of the City Gates. The Japanese constructed the colonial capital with the City Gates as the corners to define the government district, which deserves a closer look, as they are one of the few things that did not get demolished and actually put into reference when the Japanese colonial era kicked in.

The North Gate

The City Gates can be gone through one by one, starting from the North Gate, where the Japanese colonial history started, as it is where the troops first marched in Taipei in 1895.  This is also the gate which remains the greatest resemblance since then, as the 3 other city gates were all later modified under the Guomindang government. Therefore to be precise, this part of the gates are actually the only thing perfectly preserved from the Qing Dynasty.

The North Gate locates near the Taipei Main Station, in between Zhongxiao Road, Zhonghua Road and Yanping South Road. With first glance, many would consider it merely an obstacle to the surrounding traffic system, as roads built to avoid it. The same situation applies to the other 3 gates as well, as they are all located in the main traffic hubs. Nonetheless the North Gate is a place of great importance, including its linkage with the Town God’s Temple, Office of Provincial Governor, Provincial Administration Hall and Danshui Country Administration etc. While these other Qing era buildings was taken down and later replaced by the construction of Bo’ai Road, one of the busiest roads in Taipei, the North Gates remains.

The West Gate

Walking along the Zhonghua Road from the North Gate, one would arrive the West Gate (Ximen). This is probably the most famous and well-known place, especially to the younger generation, as a popular tourist attraction filled with restaurants, shops, clubs, bars and fashion industry. Nonetheless, what remains of the former Qing Dynasty gate is the name Ximen and it only, as the actual gate structure was taken down during the first stage of Japanese urban planning. The West Gate was the first to be demolished in 1906 but since then the plan changed later right after, the other gates were to be included in the urban plan, causing The West Gate to be the only gate not surviving the colonial era.

The South Gate

Walking right onward Zhonghua Road and turn to Aiguo West Road, the South Gate and “Small South Gate” (Xiaonanmen) can be seen, while Xiaonamen touches a small interesting part of the rivalry history between locals, it and the South Gate did not escape the remodelling process after the retrocession of Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China in 1945 and then to Guomindang in 1949. It became more of a “northern Palace Style”, inspired by the imperial architecture of Northern China.

The East Gate

With the West Gate being most well-known, the East Gate might be the most prominent among the gates. Located close to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, it sits where two monumental boulevards built by the Japanese meet. These two boulevards each lead to places of great significance, including the Control Yuan, the Executive Yuan, the Office of the President, the Judicial Yuan and Zhongshan Hall etc. These are all government bodies offices, which generally leads back to the East Gate, reminding people of its significance as the government districts defining cornerstones.

 

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