大船入港，快樂出航 － 基隆港的歷史
The History of Keelung Harbor
Keelung harbor and city after completion of urban renewal,
the straight-shore docks and square-grid road system.
In physical appearance, Keelung City presents a distinctly contrasting multiplicity of textures. As you exit the Tayeh Tunnel and enter into the downtown area, what immediately jumps into your field of vision is the scene of harbor and ships, infused with maritime spirit. But besides the city’s enchanting harbor scenes and the famed eateries near the temples , Keelung has a rich and dazzling history of development, even long ago having achieved the ideal of organic oneness of port operations and city life. This week’s Window on Taiwan invites Lu Yueh-e, Research Fellow at the Chungyuan University Modern Architecture and Urban Research Institute, to help us appreciate another splendid aspect of this mountain town on the sea.
Keelung’s Ch’ing Dynasty-era traditional streets
During the Yung Cheng Reign Period of the Ch’ing Dynasty (1723-1736), ethnic Han Chinese immigrants settled in the Keelung region, living on the delta sand bars deposited by the rivers flowing into Keelung’s Hako Harbor, Shihying Harbor and Tienliac Harbor, living as farmers and fishermen in isolated communities with hardly any contact between them. When Europe and America began projecting their influence into the East Asia region during the Tao Kuang Reign Period (1821-1851), Keelung, because of its plentiful coal resources and excellent harbor conditions, became a major entrepot in the history of trade between China and other countries. For this reason, the Ch’ing government began noting Keelung’s importance and, besides upgrading its administative designation to “t’ing” or sub-prefect, also initiated substantive construction programs.
After Liu Ming-chuan took office as Taiwan’s first governor under the Ch’ing Court in 1885 (Kuang Hsu Reign Period Year 11), he first recruited Taiwan’s wealthiest figure Lin Wei-yuan as the General Overseer of Keelung port construction projects. Subsequently, foreign engineers were hired to survey the harbor and set out a development blueprint, which included dredging the inner harbor, making landfills to extend the shoreline outward, plus construction of canals, warehouses and other port facilities. In addition, in consideration of the commercial, coastal defense and transport needs of Taiwan as a whole, construction of a Keelung-Taipei railroad was begun. As part of that project, the Shihchiuling Tunnel was the first example of tunnel construction in the history of Chinese railways. The railway link with Taipei was completed in 1891 (Kuang Hsu Year 17). A third major item of construction was the Western-style state-run coaling facility at Patoutzu, the first such Western-style facility in China. Moreover, inasmuch as Keelung had always been one of the locales on Taiwan’s northeast coast most vulnerable to the incursions of pirates and Western powers, in view of Keelung’s steadily growing importance, the Ch’ing government naturally took steps to bolster the port’s military preparedness, including building artillery emplacements, establishing a mine-laying authority, and beefing up its troop deployment.
Alas, following Liu Ming-chuan’s departure from office this entire range of construction projects slipped into retrograde deterioration for want of a successor to promote them, resulting in Keelung Harbor’s failure to become completely modernized during this period of construction. Its streets were still those of a traditional village, its residents living in tightly packed quarters along narrow lanes. Adding to this condition was Keelung’s year-round rainy, windy weather and the low-lying topography of its streets, as a consequence of which it had a reputation for being a “breeding ground for pestilence.”
Keelung Railway Station during the Japanese colonial era,
the most important complex for land-sea shipment of cargoes to and from Keelung.
Japanese colonial era construction process
While Liu Ming-chuan had endeavored to build up Keelung’s port facilities, his actual accomplishments in that regard were limited. The period in which it can be said that Keelung was truly impelled into a modern stage of development was the Japanese colonial era. Subsequent to the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 (Year 29 in Meiji Era), by which Taiwan became Japan’s first overseas colony, in order to facilitate shipment of large quantities of manpower and materiel to Taiwan, the Japanese Viceroy’s Office selected Keelung, with its natural harbor and its closest proximity to Japan, as the first harbor or bay in Taiwan to undergo transformation into a modernized seaport. This marked the beginning of Keelung’s ongoing, systematic process of modernization.
The Viceroy’s Office in Taiwan placed great importance upon the large-scale port construction project in Keelung not only because of its importance as the primary port connecting Taiwan with Japan but because it could serve as a stage for demonstrating Japan’s capabilities as a colonial power. Consequently, the amounts of time, manpower and funds expended on Keelung port construction were the greatest for all of Taiwan, and Keelung became the premier port for Taiwan’s sea-borne trade. In 1896 (Meiji Year 29), the second year of Japan’s accession of Taiwan, the Keelung Port Construction Survey Commission was established, all of its participating technicians having had previous port construction and civil engineering experience. In 1898 (Meiji Year 31), it was planned that Keelung would serve as a purely commercial port, but with contingency plans for military applications should the need arise.
Keelung port construction proceeded in 4 phases over a period of 46 years, from 1900 (Meiji Year 33) until 1945 (Showa Year 20), when Japan was defeated in World War II. Due to budgetary constraints, the first phase was limited in scope. After dredging of the inner harbor of the port, it could simultaneously handle the loading or unloading of two 3,000-ton class steamships. The dredged silt and stones were employed as landfill, in all creating 47,500 ping [1 ping = 36 square feet] of new land on the eastern shore of the bay in the areas of “Little Keelung” and other communities. As the result of this first phase, however, Keelung’s potential as a seaport had only begun to be developed.
With commencement of the second phase of the port construction project in 1906 (Meiji Year 39), Keelung Harbor formally entered upon the period of largest-scale revamping of its inner harbor. After Seawall construction was completed Keelung Harbor was divided, with Hsientungpi as a demarcation, into inner and outer harbors, and construction of all inner harbor docks was completed. With its long-stretching straight docks and its advanced onshore transport and warehouse facilities, together with hydraulic engineering performed on the three rivers running through the city enabling them to serve as canals, the volume of trade handled by Keelung Harbor leapt beyond that of Tamsui, taking its place as the number one seaport in Taiwan.
Due to the ever-rising volume of shipping, a third phase of construction was launched in 1929 (Showa Year 4), during which the scope of facility development was extended to include the outer harbor, while the inner harbor was reorganized to handle purely commercial operations, and fishing ports were built at Sheliao Island (present-day Hoping Island) and Pachihmen. The fourth phase of construction was entered into in 1935 (Showa Year 10). Under the influence of Japan’s Southward Policy and subsequent war in the Pacific, and in order to augment Keelung Harbor’s shipping capacity during the war years, additional seawalls were built closer to the entrance of the outer harbor on its east and west sides, and a large-scale dry dock facility was constructed on Sheliao Island.
Over this 46-year construction period, Keelung Harbor was catapulted from its original status as hardly more than a fishing village into the ranks of a modernized seaport on a par with world standards. For the people of Keelung, this development brought not only flourishing business opportunities but, more importantly, accelerated improvement of the city’s system of streets.
Developmental process of Keelung’s urban space
In possession of the most advanced port facilities in Japanese colonial Taiwan, and experiencing a tremendous increase in the volume of goods which it swallowed and spit out, the traditional streets of the Keelung which had once been a mere service station for passing junks were no longer suited to the port’s needs. Given the need to establish a high-speed land-based transportation network for shipping goods to and away from the port, and because after construction of the docks ground water under the low-lying streets became even harder to expel, revamping of the environment to improve both city roads and public sanitation had become an imperative. Consequently, with the approval of the Taipei-Keelung Municipal Planning Commission, Keelung launched into its first-ever urban renewal project in 1907 (Meiji Year 40). After filling in lower-lying downtown areas, a grid-like road system was instituted, in addition to contruction projects for such public municipal facilities as parks, schools, markets, and canals. The harbor’s western shore was designated as a special zone reserved for harbor affairs. Deep-water docks, warehousing facilities and train station were all located in this zone. New land created by landfills along the harbor’s southern shore, or “Big Keelung,” and its eastern shore, or “Little Keelung,” were earmarked for new road construction.
For the people of Keelung, the aforementioned period of port construction plus urban renewal most definitely had a huge ameliorative impact on living conditions, constituting the most important period in Keelung’s modernization process. And basically speaking, to this day districts hugging the inner harbor area continue to operate within the framework established at that time. Later, in 1921 (Taisho Year 10) and in 1937 (Showa Year 12) respectively, municipal expansion and city planning programs were embarked upon, as the consequence of which, the scopes of public infrastructure construction and land management were extended to the outer harbor regions. By then, the city had finally emerged from the turmoil and confusion of the urban renewal years, and city life gradually moved forward on an even keel. Business opportunities offered by Keelung attracted large numbers of newcomers, promoting Keelung into the ranks of Taiwan’s major metropolises. Before the city planning project initiated in 1937 could be fully implemented, however, it had to be put off due to the outbreak of the Pacific war, and since then, there have been no comparably large-scale alterations in appearance of harbor and city.
Thanks to the active construction efforts beginning with Ch’ing Dynasty Governor Liu Ming-chuan and progressing onward with projects promoted by the Viceroy’s Office during the Japanese colonial era, the harbor and city of Keelung mounted to the top rank of maritime cities in Taiwan, and its streets and spaces plus its quality of life were also steadily enhanced, thus setting the foundation for present-day Keelung’s ongoing development, and evolving an organic intimacy between harbor operations and city life beneficial to their mutual prosperity. Keelung’s future development has now come to a bottleneck, however, owning to space limitations. Let us hope that future collaboration between harbor districts and city-at-large can, on the basis of respect for Keelung’s cultural legacy and natural environment, uplift it to a new peak in its life, enabling this gem of an ocean harbor cum mountain-embraced metropolis to reclaim its reputation as a wondrous vista of which all Taiwan’s people can be proud.
Edited by Tina Lee/ translated by James Decker