- Heavily influenced by both Chinese and Western traditions, Taipei is a multicultural city that prides itself on its openness.
- ‘Design thinking’ is at the centre of the city’s urban planning and strategies for citizen participation.
- A new Taipei Music Centre opened in October 2018 in the Nankang area; one of the two music centres commissioned by the Ministry of Culture. It is the first multi-function pop music and culture park in Taiwan.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 272 sq. km
- Total population: 2,683,257
Taipei is the centre of cultural and creative life in Taiwan. First settled by the Taiwanese aboriginal peoples, then by the Han Chinese in the early 18th century, it has long been a city where different cultures meet. Taipei became a provincial capital in the late 19th century, then later the capital of Taiwan, after the island was ceded to the Japanese in 1895. Japanese rule during World War Two led to significant urban development despite wartime damage to the city. Many major buildings in the city date back to this era, including the National Taiwan Museum. After the war, Taiwan came under the control of the Chinese Nationalists, and in 1949 Taipei became the provisional capital of the Republic of China. US economic aid and an export focused economy led to rapid industrial development during the 1950s and 1960s. The 1980s and 1990s saw the dismantling of many World War Two structures in Taipei, and a renewed focus on Taiwan’s native language and culture, as well as the growth of a large independent music scene in the city alongside the Taiwanese pro-democracy movement. Taiwan also became known as a world leading exporter of electronics and consumer goods, and for its financial district in Taipei. The 508 metre high Taipei 101 building was opened in 2004, and was then the world’s tallest inhabited building.
Modern Taipei blends Chinese and Western traditions, and continues to be influenced by Japan and South East Asia, particularly as a result of recent immigration. Taiwanese aboriginal people represent 2.3% of the island’s population and their cultural traditions are increasingly being highlighted. The City aims to take advantage of its Chinese and Western links, and good infrastructure, to develop international tourism. All the country’s large cultural organisations, and just under one third of its cultural and creative industry organisations, are based in Taipei. Its National Palace Museum is known for one of the best collections of Chinese art and antiquities in the world. Many of its nearly 700,000 items were moved to Taiwan for safekeeping during the Chinese Civil War. Other important cultural institutions include the National Museum of History, the Taiwan Museum, the National Theatre and Concert Hall, City Stage, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines. The city is also home to over a thousand registered performing arts groups, and its independent music scene continues to thrive. The City is keen to nurture existing and emerging creative talent, with the recent opening of two new major performing arts venues and four new arts schools. Meanwhile, Taipei is establishing itself as a centre for forward looking design. In 2016 it was named the World Design Capital, with the intention of putting ‘design thinking’ – the physical transformation of Taipei through socially useful design – at the heart of its urban planning.
Taipei’s cultural priorities and challenges centre around affordability, as well as an ageing and growing population. There is a strong entrepreneurial spirit among the city’s young people, but high rents and a limited amount of space available for start-ups and other creative organisations can be barriers to cultural production. Despite programmes such as the recent Art Space, aimed at addressing this, there is still a need for further intervention to ensure Taipei retains room for art and creativity. The renovation of old houses into art spaces has become popular with young creatives and contributed to urban renewal. However, an increase in land and house taxes during 2017 has also created a significant financial burden for these renovators, which the City is in the process of responding to.
A tight public budget means that important projects have partly relied upon large private funders, leading to some concerns about the commercialisation of culture. In response, the City leadership has increasingly recognised the worth of less institutional cultural spaces, such as independent bookshops and live music venues. The City is also developing a number of programmes to increase cultural participation. Initiatives such as ‘Citizen Café’ and ‘Idea Taipei’ are designed to involve the public in the early stages of policy development.