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Free «Taipei» Essay Sample

Taipei is the capital city of Republic of China, which is generally known as Taiwan. Taipei is approximately 25 km; it is situated on the Tamsui River, along the Pacific Ocean. Taipei is a rapidly developing city, and it has become a metropolitan city with approximately 2,618,772 citizens. It is also worth noting that Taipei has played an important role in shaping the culture, economic and political systems of Taiwan. Thanks to the National Palace Museum, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and photographs among others, Taipei has become the center of Taiwan. In addition, such outstanding infrastructures as high speed rail, airports, bus line connection, railways, and highways have played one of the major roles in the development of Taipei economy.        

Nostalgic about their hometown, people who have departed from the Chinese mainland have remade Taipei to remind themselves of Shanghai. This nostalgia is revealed through Taipei’s Chinese-style architecture and other forms of Chinese traditional culture that have almost vanished on the mainland. The architecture reflects the development of Taipei city and provides insights into Taiwan’s culture of the 20th century as well as the Modernization of East Asia (Hsiau, 2005). This includes the relationships between China, Taiwan, and Japan. The periods from 1887 to 1925 and from 1945 to 1975 have played an important role in the development of Taipei city, during which the city moved through different kinds of cultural influence. This paper will critically review the city of Taipei, its development, and the ways how people who departed from the Chinese mainland have changed the city so that it would remind them of Shanghai. The evidence in this paper will be supported by Taipei’s Chinese-style architecture, traditional culture, drawings and music along with other credible evidence.



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Chronological Transitions of Taipei City

Taipei city remains a unique town both in East Asia and the world in general. This uniqueness of the city is a result of the influence of various cultural waves that are evident in the city. Among these various cultures that have had a great influence on the city are the late imperial Chinese rule, the Japanese colonizing filter with modern aspects, and American internalization. The most recent trends are the cosmopolitanism of global and local cultures (Harell, 1994).  These cultural changes have somehow erased some authentic features, although the principal features have remained unchanged. As a result, there have appeared mixtures of various cultural trends. This cultural diversity is evident in many areas of Taipei city, the landscape being only one of its most vivid manifestations.

The cultural changes in Taipei city can be observed by viewing chronological transitions in the city’s constructions and buildings. Various processes are very important in the contemporary city landscape, including the construction of the city wall similar to the patterns of settlement in the Taipei basin during the imperial Chinese rule in comparison with the planning of traditional Chinese cities. The destruction of the wall by the Japanese reflects earlier patterns of Modernization in Tokyo and indicates the twentieth century changes of Urban China (Winckler, 1994). The Japanese colonization caused a great number of changes in the city.

In 1950, after the Japanese occupation, the Chinese population immigration started, which resulted in subsequent sinicization of the city houses and streets. The city gates were later changed from structural passages to cultural monuments, which were also used to display political power. When the KMT came into power, they refurbished the gates. They built the upper half of the gates in the northern palace style, which they felt looked more Chinese (Chun-chieh, p. 61).

Table 1. The development of the urban competitiveness of Taipei

ERA Important events Societal condition Economic policy Culture development Cultural policies
Ching Dynasty-1894 Early Chinese immigration Traditional society Agricultural products Traditional Chinese culture As the fringe of Mainland Chinese culture
Japanese colonization period (1894-1945) The Sino-Japanese War of 1894, the Treaty of Shimonoseki 1895, and 1945 Japan’s surrender after the WWII Colonial society Exportation of agricultural products Colonial culture of Japanese empire Culture as a symbol of colonial authority
1946-1980 1949 Taiwan Martial Law executed, 1950 Korea War, 1960 Vietnam War, 1970 the Movement of guarding the Tiaoyutai Islets,1971 R.O.C. Resigned from UN, 1979 the cessation of the formal diplomatic relation between US and Taiwan Authoritative government controlled society Labor-intensive production Promotion of traditional Chinese culture to against the Culture Revolution of PRC

Culture as an ideology of the nation state, as the

symbol of political confrontation

1981-2003 1987 Taiwan Martial Law ceased, 1995 Plan of Asia Pacific Regional Operation Centers, 1999 the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election and took over the office Global capitalism society Knowledge-based economy A boost of Commodity culture and Pop culture, recognition and rethinking of culture development, knowledge economy, creative industries From culture as leisure activities to developed culture industries of culture economy

Sources: Culture Development Committee. (2000). Statistic Bureau, Administration Yuan, 1996, Tsao, 2002, Lin, 2001, Bureau of Tourism, 2002



Chinese Models

The architecture of Taipei is similar in many ways to the standard models of China cities as suggested by F. W. Mote in his analysis of Nanjing. The planning of the administrative city with the governmental center surrounded by a grid of streets, all enveloped by a wall creating a square shape is a model typical of some major cities in China, such as Beijing and Chang’an (Griffiths, 1995). Another form of construction in the city is a contrast with the administrative center, where the design of the city is determined by the local physical and cultural geography, which often include river and trade routes. A combination of the two models is also another pattern of Chinese city models, where the administrative city plan allows for various accommodations.

The Early Taipei City Plan

Taipei city was established when there appeared a need to create an administrative center that would be an organic market. Then, the Qing dynasty established a prefecture in northern Taiwan in 1875, and later, the Taiwan province in 1886. The city wall was completed in 1884, and was ready in 1886. It served as a temporary center for the new provincial government. That period of time was very crucial to the development of the city. The capital area was sparsely populated, since the Chinese only began to settle in the Taipei basin in the 18th century. The building of this provincial center was late in the Chinese history and the settlement area was relatively undeveloped. Two towns had already been built in the Taipei basin when the provincial capital was coming up, one being the Mengjia area and the other being the commercial area of Dadaocheng (Lin, 2001). Sub-ethnic tensions existed between the two commercial towns that situated along the Tamsui river, and a stretch of two kilometers of undeveloped land was left to separate them. The Taipei administrative center was placed between the two, in the area with no settlements. The Imperial government felt that they would neutralize the rivalry between the two groups and help bring them together. The location of the city provided for a square shape and grid streets and avenues to connect the spaced city gates. The city also allowed for enough market places inside the city, although the city was relatively empty inside its walls.



Taipei city has a variety of tourist attractions including memorials, museums, and halls.  The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a unique structure on the eastern side of the Memorial Hall Square, the National theatre and the National Concert Hall with nearby luxurious parks. The famous monument is a landmark and a tourist attraction that was constructed in honor of the former China president, Chiang Kai-shek. The National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is another important structure established in honor of one of the most important founding presidents of the Republic of China (Chiang & Hsieh, 2002). The exhibits in the Hall formerly displayed revolutionary events of the founding fathers in the Qing dynasty, but its function later shifted to a cultural, educational, and social center of the Taiwanese republic.

Table 2. Major international tourist spots and related culture industries in Taipei


Type of capital place Establi-shed Year



Patterns Of Landscape Culture Industry Character
Industry Commodity
Nature capital Yang-ming-shan National Park 1985 11,455 Mountainous Park Hotel, Gardening, Restaurant, Bathhouse, Sports Special meals, Gardening Design, Local gourmets, Crafts, Souvenirs, CD, VCD A national park in capital city, 40% area in Taipei city, volcanic landscapes, rich ecological variations and hot springs
Heritage capital National Palace Museum 1965 15 A cluster of buildings

Hotel, Publication,

Printing, Design

Antiques, replicas, souvenirs, crafts Antiques shifted from Nan-jing, Mainland China, traditional Chinese architecture, the richest treasure of Chinese culture in the world, an important museum of Chinese culture study
Lung-shan Temple 1738 0.6 A cluster of buildings Travel, Restaurant Crafts, Local gourmets, Fortune telling Religious activities and rituals, religious center of Taiwanese, heritage tour
Martyr’s Shrine 1969 5 A cluster of buildings Travel Souvenirs In memorial of the soldiers in World War I and II, Chinese architecture
Educati-onal capital CKS Memorial Hall (National Opera House and National Concert Hall) 1987 24.8 Blocks Art, Travel , Publication Souvenirs, CD, VCD A Memorial Hall to CKS, the Opera House and Concert Hall are the largest performance halls and have the most shows in Taiwan, in the style of traditional Chinese architecture
Creativi-ty capital Hsin-men pedestrian district 1980 2 Streets Recreation. Design, Publication, Movie Fashions and apparels, Movies, CD, VCD The first commercial pedestrian district in Taiwan, one of the origin of youth culture, a place clustered of cinemas
Labor capital Night markets 1960 On numerous streets Streets Design, Restaurant Popular commodities, Local gourmets, Crafts 12 streets of night markets, commercial streets of vendors, consuming products in urban informal sectors

Source: Council of Cultural Affairs. (2000). The 2000 Cultural Statistic.

The period between 1895 and 1945 was marked by the Japanese expansion into Taiwan. Thus, resinification was necessary. The post-1945 phase was a corrective one and was meant to take the city back to its proper culture. In Taipei, people were willing to see their local culture. This is evident in all aspects of the city, from politics to renaming of museums, halls and streets, and the widespread commercialization of local culture in Taipei (Chiang & Hsieh, 2002).

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Another outstanding structure in the city is the National Palace Museum, which serves as a Museum as well as an art gallery. In the museum, there is a group of permanent ancient Chinese artifacts, and the museum is named after the Palace Museum in Beijing. The National Museum hosts not only one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese artifacts, but it also exhibits other international collections.

Taipei 101

This is a landmark skyscraper with 101 floors. When it was opened, it was the world’s tallest building (2004).

Performing Arts

Taipei city is famous for performing arts and has a number of concert venues including the Concert Hall and the National Theater, the Sun Yat-sen Hall, and Zhongshan Hall. There are local performers as well as foreign ones (Chiang & Hsieh, 2002).

Religion in Taipei

The city is rich in beautiful temples structured under Southern Chinese influences typical of older Taiwan buildings. The most common religions are Buddhism, Taoist, and Chinese folk religion.

Traditional Medicine in Taipei

Chinese traditional medicine is an important aspect of Taiwan culture as well as Taipei. People’s trust in this form of medicine is supported by the fact that it deals not only with diseases, but it also helps to maintain health. Chinese medicine is popular in Taipei and lays emphasis on preventing and curing diseases. This is achieved through a proper diet, emotional equanimity, and appropriate exercise. Among the most popular methods of Chinese medicine in Taipei city are the following ones:

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine that has been there for ages in the world and has its origin in China. It involves insertion of needles into different special acupuncture points and is aimed at restoring and maintaining the patient’s health by stimulating specific points of the body by means of various techniques. It has been proved that acupuncture can be used to treat a number of medical conditions (Foley, 2000)

According to traditional complementary medicine, health is attained by maintaining the body in a balanced state. Any imbalance in the body is a cause of pain. Acupuncture works by relieving pressure, redirecting energy, and promoting healing. Thereby, it balances negative and positive forces in the body. It has been established that acupuncture has been used to reduce pain and is being widely practiced by health practitioners to relieve or prevent pain in various conditions (Foley, 2000).

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Mind-Body Medicine. Meditation is said to bring about changes in pain behaviors awareness. This therapy enables an individual to understand their normal cognitive and emotional reactions to pain and allows them to adjust to more adaptive reactions (Foley, 2000). This change in cognitive and emotional processing away from habitual distress is related to better coping mechanisms, improved self-efficacy, and general alienation from stress. The feeling of relaxation that accompanies the meditation process is also another mechanism for dealing with pain and is often the aim of concentrative meditation techniques.

Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a trance similar to a state of mind where one is calmer, more focused, relaxed, and open to suggestions. Pain sensations and the disturbance of pain are decreased by the type of information passed on to the brain (Foley, 2000).

Manual Therapies. Massage therapy. Three theories explain the analgesic effects of massage as a pain therapy: restorative sleep hypothesis, gate theory, and the serotonin hypothesis. The restorative sleep hypothesis suggests that due to the fact that the neurotransmitter associated with pain is not transmitted in deep sleep, promoting sleep through massage inhibits the release of this substance and pain (Dillard, 2003). The Gate theory suggests that since pressure receptors are more myelinated and longer than pain receptors, massage will stimulate pressure signals that will be transmitted faster and close the gate for pain signals. The serotonin hypothesis maintains that massage increases serotonin levels, which is believed to modulate the pain control system.

Spinal manipulation and mobilization involves moving and placing a joint within or beyond the normal position. Spinal manipulation allows improved spinal movement that supports intervertebral disks and joint cartilage.

Movement therapy is another form of systematic movement of the body such as exercises that have also been used for centuries to promote mental and physical balances.

Homeopathy. The key premise in homeopathy is that every individual has an inherent energy or a self-healing mechanism. Health problems such as pain may develop when the human energy is imbalanced. The goal of homeopathy is the use of remedies that stimulate a person’s healing response. The basis of this therapy is the law of the “like cures like” principle. The theory suggests that if a certain substance in large doses can stimulate a response in a healthy person, smaller doses of the same substance can treat symptoms in a sick person. A homeopathy practitioner will therefore provide a smaller amount of the same substance that caused the symptoms to stimulate the healing response (Dillard, 2003).

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Indigenous Medical Systems. Many forms of traditional Chinese medicine are also common in the management of health in Taipei. These traditional medical systems have been used as a source of health care around the globe for many centuries. Natural substances especially plants have been used by Chinese indigenous cultures to promote healing or alleviate pain (Foley, 2000).

Nutritional Approaches. These can involve a change in diet or the use of dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, and other substances. These approaches prevent pain or act by promoting pain relief and inflammation as a form of the pain management strategy. Manipulating a diet may influence pain perception and inflammation. Essential fatty acids play different roles in the body including the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses (Dillard, 2003). Vitamins and minerals have a therapeutic effect, while enzymes influence chemical reactions some of which are pain inhibiting. Taipei diets are rich in nutritional value and play an important role in health promotion and disease management.


The city holds annual festive events that reflect Chinese culture. The Taipei Hot Spring Association sponsors the Taipei Hot Springs Season to attract tourists to numerous spring activities available for recreation. The activities that take place during this season include cultural tours, a hot spring travel exhibition, a Nakashi music contest, health workshops, and health expo.

Yangmingshan Flower Festival

Cherry trees blossom in the Yangmingshan National Park forests from February to April each year. The city continues to celebrate this season and the popularity of the blossoms has encouraged many families to plant cherry trees in their gardens. The festival is divided into three phases depending on the blossoming of cherry trees. The city has several traditional temples representing various religions practiced by people, the main ones being Taoist, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The city operates 24 hours, since it is a commercial center rich in information and media resources.

Taipei Food Industry

The people of Taipei view eating as a way of nourishing their bodies. They also perceive the eating process as an opportunity to spend time together with people they love.  The view of many tourists is that Taipei is one of the world’s most recognizable culinary museums. There are a lot of traditional dishes that are associated with celebrations and festivals. Taipei dishes originate from diverse sources and have been there for a long time. In fact, most Taipei foods can trace their sources back to aboriginal times (Lin, 2001). The influence of Chinese culture is also evident in Taipei food, mainly due to the fact that a great number of Chinese immigrants have come to the city. However, there are recognizable traces of other Asian immigrants such as the Filipinos, Thais, and Vietnamese, as well as the Japanese and Portuguese. The geographical location of the city also has a great influence on local dishes. Its location makes it easier to access a great variety of vegetables, fruits, seafood, and meats.

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Most foods in Taipei are quite exotic and have great orientation towards Chinese culture, since it is the major culture influencing many aspects of life in the city. People also eat their meals and snacks with Chinese tea or juice. Tea in Taipei is enjoyed in a very special way and various arts are present in the tea culture such as incense and flower arts. The food culture of a country is one of the most important things that shape its identity to a great extent and is one way to get to know a certain nation. The local influence is mainly connected with seafood, and seafood dishes remain popular till present. Some of the most popular dishes include Oyster Vermiceli and oyster omelet, which are made with several spices and local leaves. Lack of beef dishes is the main distinct characteristic of Taipei food. In fact, beef is not common in most Taiwanese foods. Instead, meat dishes have pork as a common ingredient. One popular way of serving is stewed pork with rice. Bah-uan is another popular pork dish. It is made by filling a dumpling with meat which is mixed with chopped mushrooms and young bamboo shoots. Then dough is made by starch from sweet potatoes, which make the dish very sweet.

Like in any other city, Taipei foods are served in restaurants and other small eating establishments. These street servings present a better picture of the local food culture. These foods are generally referred to as xiao-chi. Although they are not served elegantly, the foods are full of original flavors characteristic of Taipei (Lin, 2001). The staple food in Taipei is dumplings and they can be prepared in soups, stews or in their plain form. They take different forms and flavors such as steamed buns or sauce that is mixed with many other natural additives. 

Taipei cuisine is rich in seafood and an array of livestock. Fishing and hunting are still common in the city, and this has led to popular motorcycle auctions of red meats, vegetables, fruits, seafood and poultry. Since the ingredients are easily available, local Taipei people do not find it difficult to prepare traditional foods.

The major influence on the current Taipei cuisine is early Chinese settlements, and especially seafood. The introduction of Hakka dishes also exerted some influence on the local culture, though a great similarity exists between their aromas and flavors. These foods are not only prepared in restaurants, but also in their homes. Xiao chi has 8 basic ingredients

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Poultry. These could be either ducks or chicken dishes. The most popular dishes are chicken steamed in wine, stewed chicken in Chinese herbs, steamed chicken streams with wine, roast duck, boiled and salted duck, and smoked and marinated duck.

Seafood. This is the second basic ingredient and it includes oyster vermicelli, grilled marinated squid, oyster omelet, milkfish porridge and mangrove crab.

Rice and noodles make the third basic ingredient in Taipei cuisine. This could be Nantou noodles, stuffed flour dumplings, and oyster vermicelli noodles.

Meat makes the fourth basic ingredient and includes cow viscera, pork, sticky rice and dumplings stuffed with meatballs. These meats are very popular in Taipei and are mostly salted, stewed or steamed.

Pastries are also basic in Taipei foods including rice balls, dumplings and salty pie. Beverages complete Taipei cuisine and they include pounded tea, pearl milk tea and sugarcane juice, mostly Chinese.

Taipei Economy

Taipei’s economy is largely driven by culture industries. The top five production values within culture-related industries come from restaurants, building, publication, advertisement and broadcast industries. Workers from these five industries represent 12.3 % of all employees in Taipei city. The success of the restaurant industry is largely dependent on Chinese dishes served in Taipei and the eating and drinking culture of Taipei. The building industry is driven by early models of real estate and the concept of buildings reflecting a social status. The publishing industry develops from the culture of the city, which yields from the city’s emphasis on education and learning. The broadcast industry prevails due to the freedom that resulted after the Taiwan martial law had ceased to act. The art industry promoted the prosperity of the city (Griffiths, 1995). Taipei city has several scenery spots including the Yang-ming-shan National Park, which has unique cultural nature because of its natural resources and the farming activities of local residents. The city’s most important museum, the National Palace Museum, contains numerous historical art treasures, documents of Chinese culture, and other important artifacts. It is considered one of the best museums in the world (Hsiau, 2005).

Another important historical site is the Taoist religion center, Lung-shan temple. Each historical site is unique and symbolizes different things. Martyrs Shine is a historical landscape established as a memorial hall for soldiers, and it holds political meaning. Chinag Kieh-Shek Memorial Hall, on the other hand, attracts tourists because of its cultural facilities (Opera House and Concert Hall) and traditional Chinese architecture. Hsih-men-ding is a commercial spot with popular culture located in a highly populated and shopping district. Another important aspect in Taipei is the commercial sphere which is developed by night markets carried out by vendors and street stores in the peripheral part of the city. Strong cultural characteristics and fascinating sights in these places attract tourists from all over the world. As a result, these strong cultural characteristics facilitate further economic development (Tsao, 2002).

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In Hsih-men-ding, a pedestrian district with many shopping stores, a great number of goods from Japan, the U.K., and other parts of the world are stalked and sold to locals and tourists. However, the district does not rank as a favorite tourist spot, since the creativity and uniqueness of commodities has a great influence on their economic value (Tsao, 2002). Tourists also find the Martyr’s Shrine rather serious and it also comes behind other culture-related areas in tourist favoritism. This means that the more culture commodities and culture industries a place has, the more attractive it is. The symbolism of the above places creates economic value for the city. For example, the Yang-ming-shan in Yang-ming-shan National Park has a symbolic meaning. As a result, the mountain attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world to celebrate their special occasions. The prices of antiques from the National Museum are higher than those from other places, and the only addition is a mere label of “National Palace Museum”.  Visitors find the quality of performances at the Concert Memorial Hall of CKS Memorial hall higher than those played in other places, even though they might be given by the same players (Lin, 2001). The Lung-shan temple is built on religious culture, and it attracts visitors all the year round. The products from the temple are sold at higher prices and attract more buyers than those from other temples. Vendors in night markets make better sales due to the unique landscape, despite the fact that other stores sell similar products.

The most popular recreational activity is karaoke, which is drawn from Japanese culture. Hot springs have also become common since 1999. The most popular sport in the city is baseball.

Cram School Culture

The cram school culture that is very common in many Asian nations is also common in Taipei schools. This form of classes deals with preparing students for examinations and it is common in all institutions, since the culture measures merit by testing.

The people of Taipei speak both Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese. Though Mandarin is taught in schools, the two languages are equally important. Hakka immigrants still speak their native language, as do other Taiwan natives in the city though most of them can speak Mandarin and Taiwanese. However, English is also taught in schools.

Music in Taipei

Traditional folk dances are common in Taipei, and are often performed together with street music. It was initially associated with street begging, though the view changed in the post-war era when street musicians joined night time vendors to deal with problems of unemployment. During the martial law period, there was a general decline in grassroots and spontaneous street music. However, the need for competition in a globalized economy contributed to the integration of street music into street art. The resulting aesthetic landscape and “soundscape” makes the city more charming and accessible.

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Street music improves the beauty of the city, as asserted by the Taipei city government as well as destigmatizing street musicians and street vendors. Street music is common at weekends in the main commercial and leisure districts of Taipei city where many people come to relax. The government has made great effort to make street music an aesthetic feature of the city. Many theaters, concert halls, and exhibition halls have been reopened in order to remap the culture of Taipei (Hsiau, 2005). By doing so, the government have sought ways to create a new positive image of street life, as well as promote art. As you go down the streets of the city, you can often enjoy the sound of sweet melodies flowing from various stores. This transforms life in the city at the time of performance, and both the audience and the performer share a moment or interaction. In traditional Taiwan, folk music originate from mainland China and was mainly performed after work when people sat in a community square to listen to music. This usually creates a joyful atmosphere even after a hard day’s work. Street music was an important part of folk life and also served as a means of earning a living. Currently, street music is mostly performed during weekends in Taipei and usually in certain areas.

Taipei city remains one of the most unique cities in the world. Its style is unique because of its architecture, festivals, landscapes, culture, and arts. The charming nature of the city makes it popular not only with locals, but also with tourists. The charm is brought out by commercial and residential activities, night market activities, the 24 hour stores, and the exciting serene landscape of the city. This extraordinary urban lifestyle is a peculiar feature that makes Taipei such a unique city.

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