Keelung in the north of Taiwan is famous for the Miaokou night market (廟口夜市), shaved ice and pineapple cakes from Lee Hu Pastry Shop (李鵠餅店). But if you thought that’s all, then you are wrong. There are places in the city that are less well known and wait to be explored. On the hills around Keelung the remnants of the fortresses from the Opium Wars (mid-19th century), the Sino-French War (1884-1885) and the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) can be found.
The fortresses are classified as class one or national monuments. These are historically important buildings in Taiwan, such as the Fort San Domingo in Tamsui, the city gates in Taipei, or the Confucius temple in Tainan. Because of the highest classification, all fortresses are mostly restored, kept in good condition, and equipped with plenty of information about the history. Interestingly it seems that the fortresses are either unknown or people are just not interested in them, so that these places are nearly empty. Actually not bad, because these fortresses are like quiet islands in the city. Additionally they offer beautiful views over the city of Keelung, the ocean and mountains.
There are six fortresses in Keelung. You can read more about them by clicking on the links.
- Dawulun Fort (大武崙砲臺) in the west
- Baimiweng Fort (白米甕) north-west of the harbor
- Sheliao East Fort (社寮砲臺) on Heping Island
- Gongzi Liao Fort (槓子寮砲臺) in the north-east
- Ershawan Fort (二沙灣砲臺) in the center of Keelung
- Shiquiling Fort (獅球嶺砲臺) in the south
Click here to see a map with the location of the six fortresses in Keelung.
The fortresses were constructed during the Qing dynasty at the end of the 19th century. Their original purpose was to protect Keelung from attacks of the British navy during the Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860). About 24 years later the fortresses played an important role in the protection of the city again. During the Sino-French War (1884-1885) Keelung was attacked by the French navy and then occupied by a 1800 French soldiers.
However, the French were not able to break through the defense lines on the hills around Keelung. After 8 months the French troupes were forced to retreat from Keelung. The last military actions involving the fortresses was in 1895 when the Japanese attacked Keelung. During the Japanese colonial period the fortresses had no military use and were abandoned. After World War II the government of the Republic of China declared the fortresses as historically important and the buildings were restored.
The fortresses are in good condition. Especially the bigger ones are kept nicely and have plenty of information in English. The smaller fortresses are overgrown and visiting them feels a bit like being Indiana Jones searching for a lost treasure. All fortresses are free to access and open year round. The entrance to some of them is not easy to find and a visit can often be combined with a small hike.