Originally posted by sandman:
Maybe Cranky can shed a little light on why on earth the Nationalists (or was it the Japanese?)chose to set up in Taipei rather than further south -- I mean, the original "capital" was Tainan, wasn't it?
The original capital was indeed Tainan – and it remained so until the Japanese took over. Although Taipei wasn’t even a tiny spot on the map until the eighteenth century, it grew fairly rapidly to become the main center for commerce in the north. Around 1870, Taipei was large and important enough to be declared a special municipality, governed through Beijing rather than the local capital.
Tainan, while not stagnant, no longer had the same drive to it. (It was also a seat of resistance to the Japanese invasion, whereas many merchants in Taipei were more than willing to help the Japanese enter the city.) Taichung was too small and too far removed from resouces and commercial centers. Taipei was the logical choice for the Japanese, who were interested in not only exploiting the island’s resources but also demonstrating that Japan could be just as “advanced” as the Western colonial powers by building and lifting up Taiwan.
The climate of Taiwan was on the minds of the Japanese, though. I’ve read that of the thousands of Japanese who died in the invasion of Taiwan (because that’s what it was to the locals, no matter what the treaty of Shimonoseki said), only a few died in battle. The rest succumbed to various tropical diseases.
I’ve never spent any time to speak of in Taichung. People usually tell me of its many coffee houses. “Big deal,” I think. “I don’t even much like coffee.” But maybe I should visit the city properly and get a better feel for it. This gray, rainy Taipei morning makes such a visit seem all the more appealing.