What is the history of Keelung City and its significance in Taiwan?

Welcome to our blog post on the history of Keelung City and its significance in Taiwan. Keelung City, also known as Jilong, is a historic port city with a rich cultural heritage that has played a crucial role in the development of Taiwan. From its strategic location to its long history of foreign influence, Keelung has a fascinating story to tell. In this post, we will take a closer look at the historical significance of Keelung City and explore why it remains an important part of Taiwan today.

Key Takeaways:

  • Early Settlement: Keelung City has a long history, dating back to the early 17th century when it was first settled by the Dutch. Throughout its history, it has been a key port city in northern Taiwan.
  • Strategic Importance: Due to its natural harbor, Keelung has served as an important harbor for trade and military purposes. This strategic location has played a significant role in the development of the city and its significance in Taiwan.
  • Colonial Period: Keelung has been occupied by the Dutch, Spanish, and Chinese, and it played a crucial role during the colonial period. It was heavily fortified and became an important military outpost for various foreign powers.
  • Modern Development: In the modern era, Keelung City has continued to be an important port and commercial center in Taiwan. It is known for its seafood, night market, and scenic beauty, making it a popular destination for tourists.
  • Cultural Diversity: Over the centuries, Keelung has been influenced by various cultures, including indigenous, Chinese, and Western. This diversity has shaped the city’s unique identity and contributed to its significance in the cultural landscape of Taiwan.

Early History and Settlement

The history of Keelung City dates back to ancient times, with evidence of human settlement in the area dating back to prehistoric times. The city has a rich and diverse history, shaped by the presence of various indigenous tribes, as well as foreign colonial influences.

Aboriginal Inhabitants

The earliest known inhabitants of the Keelung area were the Ketagalan and Ketagalan tribes, who were of Austronesian descent. These indigenous peoples lived in small, coastal villages and relied on fishing and agriculture for their sustenance. They had a rich culture and a deep connection to the land, which is still evident in the region today.

Dutch and Spanish Colonial Influences

During the early 17th century, Keelung, then known as Kelang, was briefly occupied by both the Dutch and the Spanish. The Dutch East India Company established a fort in the area in 1626, as part of their efforts to expand their influence in the region. However, their rule was short-lived, as they were eventually driven out by the Spanish, who in turn were later ousted by Ming Dynasty loyalists. Despite these conflicting colonial influences, Keelung’s strategic location as a port city made it an important center for trade and commerce.

In Keelung’s early history, you can see how the indigenous tribes and foreign colonial powers played a significant role in shaping the city’s cultural identity and historical development. The resilience and adaptability of the indigenous people, alongside the influence of various colonial powers, have left a lasting impact on the city’s heritage.

The Qing Dynasty and the Development of Keelung

Despite being called ‘Keelung’ by the Dutch and held as a temporary settlement during the early Qing Dynasty, it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the Qing government recognized the strategic importance of Keelung due to its natural harbor and started investing in its development. During the 18th century, Keelung began to emerge as a significant trading port under the Qing rule, serving as a vital hub for commerce and a gateway to the rest of Taiwan.

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Keelung as a Trading Port

Under Qing Dynasty rule, Keelung experienced significant growth and development as a trading port. You can imagine the bustling activity along the waterfront as ships from different parts of Asia arrived, carrying valuable goods such as tea, camphor, and rice. The city became a vital link for the export of Taiwanese products and the import of foreign goods, contributing to the economic prosperity of the region.

Conflicts and Fortifications

However, the strategic location of Keelung also made it a target for conflicts and invasions. The Qing government recognized the need to fortify the area and constructed a series of defense fortifications to protect the harbor from potential threats. The city was the site of several fierce battles, including the Keelung Campaign during the Sino-French War, where fortifications played a crucial role in defending the city. The historical significance of these conflicts can still be felt today, as they have shaped the development and identity of Keelung over the centuries.

Keelung under Japanese Rule

However, in 1895, Keelung came under Japanese rule following the First Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese established Keelung as a strategic port and developed it into a center for trade and commerce. Under Japanese rule, Keelung underwent significant urban development, with the construction of modern infrastructure such as roads, buildings, and a railway system. The Japanese also invested in the development of Keelung’s harbor, turning it into a major naval base and commercial port.

Modernization and Industrialization

During this period, Keelung witnessed rapid modernization and industrialization. The Japanese introduced modern technologies and industries, transforming Keelung into a bustling hub of economic activity. The city’s economy grew, leading to the establishment of various industries, including shipbuilding, mining, and manufacturing. As a result, Keelung became an important industrial center in Taiwan, attracting a large population of workers and migrants seeking employment opportunities.

The Role of Keelung in World War II

Amidst the modernization and industrialization, Keelung played a significant role in World War II. The port of Keelung served as a crucial naval base for the Japanese military, playing a key role in their operations in the region. As a result, Keelung became a target for Allied forces during the war. The city witnessed heavy bombing and naval attacks, causing significant destruction and loss of life. Despite the challenges and adversities faced during this period, Keelung remained resilient and continued to play a crucial role in the war effort.

You can see that Keelung’s history under Japanese rule was marked by rapid modernization and industrialization, as well as its strategic importance during World War II. The city’s transformation under Japanese rule laid the foundation for its future development and significance in Taiwan’s history.

Contemporary Keelung

Your journey through the history of Keelung brings us to the modern era, where the city has evolved into a bustling port and a crucial economic hub in Taiwan. Keelung has experienced significant developments and undergone numerous transformations in the aftermath of World War II, shaping its cultural and economic importance in the modern era.

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Post-World War II Developments

Following the end of World War II, Keelung experienced rapid urbanization and industrialization, transforming it into a thriving center of commerce and trade. The city’s strategic location, as Taiwan’s northernmost port, contributed to its growth as a vital gateway for international shipping and trade. The construction of modern infrastructure, such as the expansion of the port facilities and the development of transportation networks, played a crucial role in positioning Keelung as a key player in Taiwan’s economy.

Keelung’s Cultural and Economic Importance in Modern Taiwan

Today, Keelung is recognized for its cultural heritage and economic significance, playing a pivotal role in Taiwan’s modern landscape. The city’s rich history and diverse population have contributed to its vibrant cultural scene, featuring numerous festivals, local traditions, and historical landmarks. Additionally, Keelung’s economy remains a driving force in Taiwan, with its port serving as a vital link for international trade, benefiting industries across the country. Furthermore, the city’s proximity to the capital, Taipei, has further enhanced its importance as a key commercial and transportation hub in the region.

Keelung’s enduring significance in modern Taiwan is a testament to its resilience and adaptability, as the city continues to embrace its historical legacy while also embracing the opportunities of the present and future. Its strategic location and cultural richness make it a dynamic and essential part of Taiwan’s contemporary identity.


From above, you can see that Keelung City has a rich history intertwined with the colonization of Taiwan and its strategic significance as a port city. Its role in trade and defense has shaped the city and its significance in Taiwan. Understanding the history of Keelung City provides insight into the development of Taiwan as a whole and its relationship with other countries. As a traveler or someone interested in history, exploring the historical sites and learning about the significance of Keelung City can enhance your understanding of Taiwan’s cultural and historical heritage.


Q: What is the history of Keelung City?

A: Keelung City, located in northern Taiwan, has a rich and diverse history. Originally inhabited by indigenous peoples, the area later became a significant port for trade and commerce during the Qing Dynasty. It was also heavily influenced by Japanese colonization and played a crucial role in Taiwan’s economy and defense during various periods of history.

Q: What is the significance of Keelung City in Taiwan?

A: Keelung City holds significant importance in Taiwan due to its strategic location as a major port city. It has served as an essential hub for trade, military operations, and cultural exchange throughout history. In modern times, it continues to be a vital part of Taiwan’s economy, receiving large volumes of cargo and passenger traffic, and contributing to the country’s maritime and trade industries.

Q: Is Keelung City of any cultural or historical significance in Taiwan?

A: Yes, Keelung City is of great cultural and historical significance in Taiwan. The city has preserved numerous historical sites, including forts, temples, and old streets, showcasing its rich heritage and contributions to the development of the country. Additionally, Keelung hosts various cultural events, such as the Ghost Festival, which reflects its unique traditions and cultural practices. It is also known for its delicious local cuisine and vibrant cultural scene, attracting visitors from both within Taiwan and abroad.

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