Tamsui District

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Tamsui District
Waterfront at sunset
Waterfront at sunset
Tamsui District in New Taipei City
Tamsui District in New Taipei City
Coordinates: 25°10′19″N 121°26′38″E / 25.17194°N 121.44389°E / 25.17194; 121.44389Coordinates: 25°10′19″N 121°26′38″E / 25.17194°N 121.44389°E / 25.17194; 121.44389
CountryRepublic of China (Taiwan)
Special municipalityNew Taipei City
 (January 2016)
 • Total162,441
Time zone+8
Tamsui 淡水老街 - panoramio (63).jpg
Tamsui District office
Traditional Chinese滬尾

Tamsui (Hokkien POJ: Tām-chúi; Hokkien Tâi-lô: Tām-tsuí; Mandarin Pīnyīn: Dànshuǐ) is a sea-side district in New Taipei, Taiwan. It is named after the Tamsui River; the name means "fresh water". The town is popular as a site for viewing the sun setting into the Taiwan Strait. Though modest in size (population 162,441), it has a large role in Taiwanese culture.



Originally settled by the Ketagalan aborigines, the location was called Hoba, meaning "stream's mouth". Hoba was loaned into Taiwanese Hokkien as Hobe. Historical works in English have referred to the place as "Hobe",[1] "Hobé",[2] or "Hobe Village".[3] The Spanish arrived in the 17th century and called this place Casidor and the Tamsui River Kimalon. Dutch records have used the placenames Tamsuy and Tampsui to refer to this area, but have also referred to another "Lower Tamsuy" in the south of the island.[4]

In his 1903 book The Island of Formosa, former US diplomat James W. Davidson related that the spelling and pronunciation of the placename (淡水) has been given in many variants by "as many so-called authorities. Tamsui, Tamshuy, Tamshui, Tamsoui, Tan-sui,...".[2] The first variant "Tamsui" is consistent with Hokkien literary readings,[5][6] and (possibly by chance) is equal to the Church Romanization of an older pronunciation (Tām-súi)[7] minus tone markings and hyphen. The variant "Tan-sui", with exception of the hyphen, is consistent with the romanization of Japanese. However, the first variant was apparently already well-known circa 1900,[8] and features prominently in two English-language maps of the same era.[9] Furthermore, at that time, the term "Tamsui" was used "in a most liberal way; it may mean the harbor, the river, the village of Hobe, Twatutia, or Banka, and it may mean the whole district."[10]


From 1950 until the 2010 creation of New Taipei City, Tamsui was officially "Tamsui Township" (Chinese: 淡水鎮; Hokkien POJ: Tām-chúi-tìn; Hokkien Tâi-lô: Tām-tsuí-tìn) in the former Taipei County. The spelling "Danshui" (from Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Dànshuǐ), formerly used officially by the Taiwan government, Taipei Metro, and other sources, is based on the Mandarin pronunciation. Meanwhile, the name "Tamsui" is based on the Taiwanese Hokkien pronunciation. Having long used "Tamsui" as the official English name,[citation needed] the local government of the district informed the national government in 2011 that "Tamsui" rather than "Danshui" should be used in English.


1626 Map of Keelung and Tamsui Harbor

Spanish colony[edit]

The Spanish arrived in the area of Tamsui in the 17th century. In the fall of 1629, the Spanish established the first major non-aboriginal settlement comprising the town and mission of Santo Domingo. The Spanish occupied northern Taiwan for the purpose of securing Spanish interests in the Philippines against the Dutch (who were already established in the South of Taiwan by then), the British, and the Portuguese, as well as for facilitating trade with China and Japan.

In 1641, the Spanish were expelled from Taiwan by the Dutch. The Spanish had already abandoned their settlement in Tamsui in 1638 and the Dutch built a new fort which they named Fort Anthonio (after the Governor-General of the Dutch East India Company Anthonio van Diemen). It is today known as Angmo Siaa (Chinese: 紅毛城; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Âng-mn̂g-siâⁿ; literally: 'red-hair fortress') and is the main building of the Fort San Domingo museum complex. In addition to "pacifying" the aboriginal tribes in the area, the Dutch also encouraged the immigration and settlement of the area by Han Chinese, as well as expanding the production and trade of sulfur, animal skins, and other indigenous resources.

The Dutch left Fort Zeelandia in Taiwan in 1662 following their defeat by Koxinga at the Siege of Fort Zeelandia, who continued the policy of increasing Han Chinese immigration until the surrender of his grandson Zheng Keshuang to the Qing Dynasty in 1683. In 1668, the Dutch left Keelung after getting harassed by aboriginals from Tamsui.[11]

Qing dynasty[edit]

Because of its proximity to mainland China, as well as its location in a natural harbor, Tamsui quickly became a major fishing and trade port. The Qing naval patrol also established an outpost in Tamsui in 1808. In 1862, the Qing government opened Tamsui to foreign trade under the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin, exporting tea, camphor, sulfur, coal, opium, and dyes. By the mid-19th century Tamsui had become the largest port in Taiwan, boasting a sizable foreign population as well as a British consulate at Fort Santo Domingo.[12][13]

Tamsui in 1895.

Canadian medical doctor and missionary George Leslie Mackay arrived in Tamsui on 9 March 1872, proceeding to establish Taiwan's first hospitals in Western medicine and formal educational facilities, including Oxford College (now part of Aletheia University), the oldest European-style higher-education institution in Taiwan by some measure.

During the Sino-French War the French attempted an invasion of Taiwan during the Keelung Campaign. Liu Mingchuan, who was leading the defence of Taiwan, recruited Aboriginals to serve alongside the Chinese soldiers in fighting against the French. The French were defeated at the Battle of Tamsui and the Qing forces pinned the French down at Keelung in an eight-month-long campaign before the French withdrew.

In 1884, the harbour of Tamsui was blockaded by the French Navy under the command of Admiral Amédée Courbet, during the Sino-French War.[14] The French were defeated at the Battle of Tamsui by the Chinese and, according to traditional accounts, the assistance of the goddess Mazu.

Japanese rule[edit]

By the time Taiwan was ceded to Japan following the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Tamsui's position as a seaport was beginning to wane due to the accumulation of sediments in the Tamsui River. By the 20th century, most of Tamsui's port operations had moved to Keelung, and the local economy had switched primarily to agriculture. However, public infrastructure construction projects by the Japanese led to Tamsui's rise as a local administrative and cultural center.

In the early years of Japanese rule (1895-1945), the population of the city was nearly 6,000.[15] From 1920, under the prefecture system, Tamsui was called Tamsui Town (淡水街), and was governed under Tamsui District of Taihoku Prefecture.


Following the end of World War II in 1945, Tamsui reverted to being a small fishing town as township of Taipei County. With the expansion of nearby Taipei City, Tamsui slowly became a center for tourism along Taiwan's northwest coast. In the last ten years, the city has become popular as a suburb of Taipei in the local real estate market.

Following the completion of the Taipei Metro's Tamsui Line in 1997, the town experienced a sharp increase in tourist traffic, reflected in the completion of several riverside parks, the growth of open-air markets specializing in traditional handicrafts and street-stall snacks, the construction of a fisherman's wharf, and the increase in passenger ferries traversing across and along the river.


Tourist attractions[edit]

Fort San Domingo


MRT Tamsui Station

Taipei Metro[edit]

Danhai light rail[edit]

Sister city[edit]

Notable natives[edit]




  1. ^ Davidson (1903), p. 310.
  2. ^ a b Davidson (1903), p. 261.
  3. ^ Davidson (1903), p. 310 (illustration).
  4. ^ Campbell, William (1903). "Explanatory Notes". Formosa under the Dutch: described from contemporary records, with explanatory notes and a bibliography of the island. London: Kegan Paul. p. 548. OCLC 644323041.
  5. ^ "Entry #824 (水)". 臺灣閩南語常用詞辭典 [Dictionary of Frequently-Used Taiwan Minnan] (in Chinese and Hokkien). Ministry of Education, R.O.C. 2011.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  6. ^ Iûⁿ, Ún-giân. 台語線頂字典 [Taiwanese Online Character Dictionary].
  7. ^ Douglas, Carstairs (1899). Chinese-English dictionary of the vernacular or spoken language of Amoy (2nd ed.). London: Presbyterian church of England. p. 473. OCLC 5516636. OL 25126855M.
  8. ^ Davidson (1903), p. iii: "In later chapters describing the island under Japanese rule, and in the map, the Japanese name is given first, and the Chinese in brackets, with the exception of a few well-known names such as Kelung, Takow, etc., and some English names of islands in the Pescadores." (Note: "Tansui" is not found until the index and is absent from the map)
  9. ^ see, for example:
  10. ^ Davidson (1903), p. 261: "The term Tamsui is used in a most liberal way; it may mean the harbor, the river, the village of Hobe, Twatutia, or Banka, and it may mean the whole district. Properly it is but the name of a river. A resident of Twatutia may likewise describe himself as a residient either of Twatutia, Taipehfu, or Tamsui, and still be quite correct so far as custom goes, although ordinarily the merchants and consuls, whether at Hobe or Twatutia, use Tamsui as their address."
  11. ^ Shepherd (1993), p. 95.
  12. ^ NEVILLE-HADLEY, PETER (2014). "Sleepy Tamsui Once a Thriving Treaty Port". Culture Locker. Meridian Writers’ Group.
  13. ^ The consulate was closed on 13 March 1972 and returned to the authorities in 1980. See Sino-British relations.
  14. ^ Elleman, Bruce A. (2001). Modern Chinese warfare, 1795-1989. Routledge. p. 89. ISBN 9780415214735. Following this setback, the Qing court officially declared war on France on 26 August 1884. On 1 October, Admiral Courbet landed at Jilong with 2,250 men, and the city fell to the French. Chinese forces continued to encircle Jilong throughout the rest of the War. Although a French blockade thwarted all subsequent Chinese efforts to send a fleet to relieve Taiwan, the French troops never succeeded in taking the riverside town of Danshui (Tamsui) in Taiwan's northwestern coastal plain, immediately north of modern-day Taipei. As a result, French control over Taiwan was limited merely to the northern coast. China's central fleet, based in Jiangsu Province, proved unable to break through Admiral Courbet's blockade of Taiwan. Although the south quickly requested assistance from the northern fleet, Li Hongzhang refused to place his own ships in danger. This decision almost guaranteed that China's coastal waters would be dominated by the French.
  15. ^ Takekoshi (1907), p. 200.
  16. ^ Guo, Elizabeth; Kennedy, Brian (10 July 2008). "Tale of two towns : Chico, Calif., and Tamsui, Taiwan, have more in common than you might think". Chico News & Review. Retrieved 28 December 2014.


External links[edit]