Life in Taipei: the old city walls

Beimen (North Gate) in Taipei

Taipei was only founded in the late 1800s when Taiwan was part of the Qing Empire, and the city walls were pulled down a short time later in the early 1900s when Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese administration did this to make way for the wide boulevards which are still there today, but they left 4 of the original 5 gates standing.

Those 5 gates were Beimen (North Gate), Ximen (West Gate), Dongmen (East Gate), Nanmen (South Gate) and Xiaonanmen (Little South Gate). Ximen was the gate that fell victim to Japan’s road building, while Beimen is the only one still standing in its original form today – the others were redesigned during Chiang Kai Shek’s dictatorship in the same style as the National Palace Museum.

Beimen

If you’re curious to see a piece of the old city wall, Beimen is definitely the one to check out – both because it’s the only original gate, and also because it’s the only one not standing in the middle of a major road. A main road still passes right in front of it, but the area immediately around the gate itself is a reasonably pleasant pedestrian space:

Beimen (North Gate) in Taipei
Beimen (North Gate) in Taipei
Beimen (North Gate) in Taipei

North Gate is a short walk from Beimen Station (the station being named for the gate) and also easily walkable from Taipei Main Station.

Ximen

Although the gate is long gone, Ximen is one of the main shopping & entertainment districts in the city and a place that most visitors will either stay in or at least spend an afternoon or evening hanging out in. This small model of the gate is on the east side of the main intersection above the station:

Model of the old city wall gate in Ximen, Taipei

While over on the southwest side of the same intersection (near exit 1) there’s this scale model of the city wall with its 5 gates:

Scale model in Ximen of the old Taipei city walls

As well as this random statue of a Qing dynasty dude clutching a coffee:

Statue in Ximen, Taipei

Dongmen, Nanmen, and Xiaonanmen

The other 3 gates stand in the middle of busy roads and so aren’t really places to linger. They were remodelled by Chiang Kai Shek in the 1950s to look like this:

Dongmen (East Gate)
Nanmen (South Gate)

The south & east gates are both a short walk from Liberty Square though (where Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall is located) so if you’re interested you can easily go for a quick look when you visit Liberty Square. Dongmen stands in the roundabout at the northwest corner of Liberty Square, while Nanmen is just round the corner from the southwest corner of the square and just over the road from exit 7 of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station.

Dongmen is just north of this big white gate at the western end of Liberty Square:

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Liberty Square, Taipei

Xiaonanmen, like Beimen, has a subway station named after it; the gate’s about 100m west of exit 1 of Xiaonanmen Station. There isn’t much else of interest in the immediate vicinity though, so there’s little reason to head to Xiaonanmen unless (like me) you’re a nerd and want to go see all the gates.

Note that there’s also a subway station called Dongmen Station, but it isn’t very close to the East Gate – it’s actually named for Dongmen Market, which historically was the market beyond the East Gate hence the name (it’s a 15-minute walk from Dongmen Station to the gate).

For more of my Taiwan posts see here, and see my Taiwan guide here. For more detailed info on Taipei’s gates see this great post


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