Using place names to look at Taipei’s history
（Professor, History Department, National Central University）
“Manka” is a word meaning “canoe” in one of the Pingpu languages.
This picture shows a covered arcade in a street in Manka in the 1931.
Taipei is Taiwan’s largest city, and an internationally famous one. Its rapid transformation into a metropolis changed the old face of Taipei, but inspection of some of its place names can show us the developing trajectory of Taipei’s history. It’s really true that for each step we take, we uncover a piece of history.
Explanatory notes on the Pingpu tribes and Spanish and Dutch colonists
The Taipei basin was once generally known as the home of the Ketagalan people, one of the Pingpu tribes. After a long period of contact between the Pingpu and Han peoples, the Pingpu people lost external signs of their ethnicity and culture, but they did retain some commonly-seen place names, such as “Tatun Mountain,” a name which derives from a Pingpu placename, and which was written as “Touckenan” in the Dutch era. “Peitou” was originally spelt “Kipatauw,” meaning “witch,” and the old name for the Shihlin district was “Pattsiran,” which meant “hot springs.” The old name for Sungshan was “Tsigauantsigau.” The Neihu district was known as “Tayou,” or, as the Dutch wrote it, “Cattajo,” indicatinga woman’s head ornament. Talungtong was originally called “Pourompon” and “Sirongh,” both of which are names of Pingpusocieties. “Manka” means “canoe” , “Shetzu” was the Han people’s name for a place where the Pingpu peoples lived.
西班牙人在1571年東來取得菲律賓作為殖民地，1626年佔領北台灣，據說東北角的「三貂角」與San Diago有關，1628年在淡水河口山丘建聖多明哥（St. Domingo）城，附近的「關渡」一般台語稱「甘豆」，有一說是來自西班牙文Casidor（岬角）的意思。淡水捷運線有一站名「唭哩岸」，荷語拼音為Kirananna，起源自西班牙人將菲律賓群島的一海灣Bahia-Irigan的名稱移用而來。
In 1571, The Spanish came east and took the Philippines as a colony. In 1626, they captured Taiwan, and it is said that San Tiao Chiao, the name of the northeast tip of Taiwan, comes from the name the Spanish gave this place, San Diago. In 1628, the Spanish built the fort of San Domingo in the hills at the mouth of the Tamshui River, and Kuandu, called “Gamdau” (lit. “sweet bean”) in Taiwanese, is, according to one version, taken from the Spanish “casidor” (meaning “cape”). There is a station on the Tamshui MRT line called “Chili An”, a place name which was spelt “Kirananna” by the Dutch. Thename’s origins derive from a bay in the Philippines which the Spanish called “Bahia-Irigan.”
Footprints left by pioneers from the Qing Dynasty
In 1683, after the Qing empire took Taiwan, Han people from Fujian and Guangdong began to cross the sea to Taiwan in large numbers. In 1709, the Chen Lai-chang Development Company opened up and developed the Taipei Basin, and villages grew up one after another, so we have the names “Hsin Chuang” (“new village”) and “Chiu Chuang” (“old village,” this is a place name in Nankang) as names of settlements. If these places were communities where inhabitants shared a common family name, then we have the place name “Chu Tsuo Lun” (near to Chang An East Road). Around the Taipei Basin are hills and mountains with topographical characteristics such as “Yuanshan” (“round mountain”), “Chanchu Shan” (“toad mountain”), “Kuanyin Shan” (“Goddess of Mercy mountain”), “Wuchih Shan” (“five fingers mountain”) and “Chi Hsing Shan” (“seven stars mountain”). In areas where the topography is flatter, we see “pu” (“plain”) appearing in place names, such as “Neipu” (“inner plain”) and “Wufenpu.” Where the land rises up, we have “Chung Lun” (“center mountain”). Where streams and rivers flow, we have “Shuanghsi” (“twin streams”), “Huanghsi” (“sulphur stream”), “Hsintienhsi” (“Hsintien stream”), etc. Names which show the position of settlements include “Nankang” (“south harbor”), “Neihu” (“inner lake”), “Linkou” (“entrance to the woods”) and “Pingting” (“top of the level ground”). Back when land development was beginning, certain animals and plants were also used in place names, such as “Shanchu Ku” (“mountain boar’s den”) and “Lu Ku” (“deer’s den”). These names indicate low-lying lakes haunted by mountain boar and deer. In the past, Taiwan had many camphor trees, and in there is a place near to Nankang called “Changshu Wan” (“camphor tree bay”).
Han people have left behind them many place names connected with agriculture from the days when they were developing Taipei. For instance, a number of people cooperated to develop the land, and left the names “Wuku” (“five shares”) and “Shipafen” (“eighteen portions,” a place in Peitou). Paddy fields necessitated the construction of irrigation systems, and so we have the names “Liukungchun” (“Liu public irrigation ditch), “Yungchunpei” (“eternal spring irrigation ditch”) and “TaAnPei” (“great peace irrigation ditch”). After the land was developed, people had to calculate the area of the land, and they continued to use the “jia” (roughly, acre) from the Dutch era as a unit of measurement. In the past, the area of land an ox could plow was around five jia, and so we have the place names “Sanchang Li” (“three areas to plow”), “Liuchang Li” (“six areas to plow”), “Chichang Li” (“seven areas to plow”) and “Shiherhchang Li” (“twelve areas to plow”). The place where harvested rice was put out to dry was called “Tataocheng” (“big plaza for rice”), and the place designed for shops and firms to run their businesses was called “Hsintien” (“new shop”). The place where landlords collected rent and had their offices was called “Kungkuan” (“villas” owned by these rich landlords, where they would collect the rent).
In the process of developing and exploiting the land, clashes occurred between Han people and Aboriginal people, and so bamboo hedges were planted as defense measures to keep those inside safe and prevent outsiders from invading. One such place was called “Chuwei” (“bamboo surroundings”). If wood was used to build fencing, then it was called “Mucha” (“wooden fence”), if earthen ramparts served the same purpose they were called “Tucheng” (“earthen city wall”). In the Hsintien Creek basin, there still exist place names that show the order of these fortifications: “Tingcheng” (“top city wall”) and “Erhcheng” (“second city wall”). In view of the frequent clashes between Han and Aboriginal peoples, the Qing government installed stone markers on the boundaries, restraining the Han people from developing any land beyond the boundaries, which might jeopardize the Pingpu people’s livelihoods. The original “Shihpai” (“stone marker”) still exists, and has been put on display at Shihpai MRT station, where it stands as a witness to history.
Taipei’s development as a metropolis started in the three city areas of Manka,
Tataocheng and Chengnei, and gradually extended eastwards to make up the city we see today.
This picture shows Tataocheng’s Chienchiu Street in 1958 (today South Kueiteh Street).
The city of Taipei was established between 1882 to 1884, and the area bordered by today’s Chunghsiao West Road, Chunghua Road, Aikuo West Road, Chungshan South road was what was known as the “Chengnei” (“inner city”). The land outside the Cheng’en Gate is the “Peimenkou” (“north entrance”). Taipei’s development as a big city started from the three city areas of Manka, Tataocheng and Chengnei, and gradually extended eastwards to make up the city we see today.
Many modern, public buildings were constructed during the Japanese colonial period,
establishing the foundations of Taipei as a modern city.Union Hall (today’s Chungshan Hall)
Taihoku Prefecture Hall (today’s Control Yuan)
Vestiges of the Japanese colonial era
After Japan took possession of Taiwan in 1895, Taipei continued to be the provincial capital it had been under the Qing, and became the administrative center of colonial rule. The Japanese tore down the city walls, and build a great many contemporary public buildings, such as the Governor’s Office (Japanese:Sotofuku), law courts, the official residence of the Taiwan Governor, the Monopoly Bureau, Union Hall (today’s Chungshan Hall), banks, railway stations, new parks, museums, hospitals, schools and more, establishing the foundations for Taipei as a modern city. In the 1920s, the Japanese changed many of Taiwan’s place names. Places in the Taipei region such as Shuifanjiao, which became “Shiosi,” the Japanese pronunciation of today’s Hsichih. Hsikou became “Matsuyama” (Mandarin pronunciation:Sungshan), Manka became “Banka” (Mandarin pronunciation:Wanhua), etc. Urban street blocks were also named in the Japanese style, giving us “Kabayama Machi” (“Huashanting”, commemorating the first Japanese governor of Taiwan, Motonori Kabayama), “Umaba Machi” (“Machangting”), “Nishin Machi” (“Jihshinting”), and one which we still have today, “Seimon Machi” (Hsimenting).
The R.O.C. government’s political doctrines cover big streets and little alleys
After the Nationalist Government took over Taiwan in 1945, the first thing they did was to get rid of place names which were too Japanese. In 1949, after the central government moved to Taiwan, it vigorously changed or reordered Taiwan’s place names and street names, particularly in Taipei, along the following principles: 1. Names of Chinese provinces or cities. Taipei City became mainland China in miniature, hence Tihua Street, Hami Street, Lanchou Street, Kulung Street, Chengtu Road, Hsinning Road, Changsha Street, Hsitsang (Tibet) Road, Kangting Road, Kuilin Road, Tingchow Road, Hsiamen Street, Fuchou Street, Wenchow Street, Chenchiang Street, Peiping (Beijing) Road, Tientsin Road, Nanking East and West Roads, Lungchiang Street, Fuyuen Street:all these display a longing for China. 2. Names which have the meaning of a country restored to its owner: Kuangfu North and South Roads (lit. “retrocession”), Fuhsing North and South Roads (lit. “renaissance”, “rebirth”), Chienkuo North and South Roads (lit. “build the country”), Chengkung Road (lit. “success”), etc. 3. Names broadcasting political ideas, such as Hsinhai Road (“Hsinhai” is 1911 in the lunar calendar, the year of Sun Yat-sen’s revolution overthrowing the Qing), Chukuang Road (Chu was a state in ancient China, “chukuang” means the light, or glory, of Chu), Sanmin Road (Sun Yat-sen’s “three [principles of the] people”), namely Mintsu, Minchuan and Minsheng (nationalism, democracy and livelihood). Also Chuangching Road (“dignity”), Tzuchiang Road (“self-strengthening”) and Aikuo East and West Roads (“love the country”). 4. Ethical and moral values: Siwei Road (“four virtues”), Pateh Road (“eight virtues”), Chunghsiao East and West Roads (“loyalty and filial piety”), Jenai Road (“benevolent love”), Hsinyi Road (“trust and appropriate behavior”), Hoping East and West Roads (“peace”), Tunhua North and South Roads (“education through acculturation”), Anho Road (“peace”), Loli Road (“enjoy gain” -gain for the country, not the individual, of course), Kangning Road (“health and tranquillity”), Chungcheng Road (“loyalty”), Tehsing East and West Roads (“virtuous conduct”), Hsingyi Road (“appropriate conduct”), Chihsing Road (“knowledge [is hard but] action [ is easy]”), Yangteh Road (“pursue virtue”) and Shichien Road (“praxis”). 5. Roads and streets named after political figures, such as Yenping North and South Roads (Yenping is one of Koxinga’s names), Chungcheng Road (for Chiang Kai-shek, one of whose names is Chiang Chung-cheng), Chungshan North and South Roads (for Sun Yat-sen, one of whose names is Sun Chung-shan) and Yi-hsien Road (the Mandarin pronunciation of “Yat-sen”), Linsen Road (for Lin Sen, president of China, 1932-43), Yunung Road (for General Tai Yu-nung, former head of the secret police), Roosevelt Road (for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt), etc. These place names are the outcome of a purely political consciousness, far removed from those names which came about as a natural result of the historical development process, and it’s hard for the public to feel a close relationship with these names. They are used purely for the purpose of identifying an address.
We can look to historical remains, footprints, buildings, maps, written records, orally transmitted stories and legends to understand a city’s history, and from the names of the places we go to meet, work, study and enjoy ourselves, we can also learn about local history. All places of action have a history, and an interest in and knowledge of history naturally build up a person’s humanity and tolerance.
Edited by Tina Lee/ translated by Elizabeth Hoile