Mon, Feb 11, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Old consulate beckons to visitors

HERITAGE SITE:A complex consisting of the old British consulate in Kaohsiung and the consular residence provides insight into the influence of foreign cultures in Taiwan

Staff writer, with CNA

The British Consulate at Takow, established during the Qing Dynasty in 1879, is pictured in Kaohsiung on Tuesday last week.

Photo: CNA

Perched on top of a hill overlooking Sizihwan (西子灣) in Kaohsiung, the former residence of the British consulate established during the Qing Dynasty in 1879 is Taiwan’s oldest remaining Western mansion.

Visitors flock to the historic site to relive the era of ocean trade, and watch the sun set on the horizon over the sea while sipping a cup of English tea.

The building, upgraded to national monument status in December last year, is a testament to why for centuries Taiwan, named Ilha Formosa (“Beautiful Island”) by the Portuguese in 1542, attracted foreign visitors.

After the Qing government opened the Port of Anping (安平港) and the Port of Tamsui to foreign trade in 1858, Jilong (today’s Keelung) and Takow (today’s Kaohsiung) ports were opened as secondary ports, and the British relocated their vice-consulate in southern Taiwan to Takow in November 1864.

A few months later, in February 1865, the office was upgraded to Britain’s first consulate in Taiwan, but it was initially housed on a ship in Takow Port and then a local residence.

It was not until 1878 when work began on the consulate complex supervised by the British Royal Engineers.

The consulate residence was on the top of a hill looking down at the port, while the consulate office was at the foot of the hill near customs, making it easier to deal with consular services and trade.

Francis Julian Marshall, the acting surveyor at the Office of Works in Shanghai, which handled the construction of all consular facilities, was the architect behind the consulate complex, explaining the buildings’ colonial style, with verandas and symmetrical archways.

Although designed by a Briton, the residence and consulate were built by Chinese workers using materials imported from Xiamen across the Taiwan Strait.

However, the old consulate’s heyday came to a quick end, as Taiwan was in April 1895 ceded to Japan by the Qing government. With trade stagnating under Japanese colonial rule, the consulate was closed in 1910 and its ownership was transferred to the Japanese government in December 1925.

Under Japanese rule, the residence was in 1931 converted into the Kaohsiung Marine Observatory of the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office, and the office was in 1932 turned into the Kaohsiung Aquatic Research Station.

In 1946, after the Japanese left Taiwan following the end of World War II, the residence was taken over by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) forces that had assumed control of Taiwan and turned into the Kaohsiung Meteorological Observatory of the Central Weather Bureau.

The residence stood idle after May 1973, when the observatory relocated to the Chienchen Fishing Port, and Typhoon Thelma left the building in ruins in 1977.

However, the Kaohsiung Bureau of Cultural Affairs restored the site and in 2003 positioned it as a cultural heritage site and tourist attraction.

The old consulate at the foot of the hill became the Kaohsiung Branch of the Taiwan Provincial Fisheries Research Institute in June 1950, but staff working there moved out in 2004, and the building was designated a municipal historic site.

The complex consisting of the old residence and office, and a hiking trail that connects the two was on Nov. 12, 2013 opened as the British Consulate at Takow (打狗英國領事館), bureau deputy head Lin Shang-ying (林尚瑛) said .

The complex has deep cultural significance, Lin said, adding that it offers insight into Taiwan’s past and is a remnant of the influence of foreign culture on different parts of the country.

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