Wanhua 萬華

History of Wanhua

Brief history of Wanhua, Taipei: 

The history of the district of Wanhua spans over three centuries. It was said that without Wanhua, today’s Taipei would not even exist. The district’s name originates from the Mandarin pronunciation of the Japanese kanji (a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters), which is pronounced Bangka. Looking back through the history of Taiwan’s annexation, when the Japanese had ruled in Taiwan between 1895 and 1945, they had changed the name to Manka, which refers to a small boat or canoe. The name Manka or Monga as pronounced by the local natives in Taiwan that had lived in the area centuries ago, had finally established its name as Wanhua, as pronounced and written in Chinese (萬華區).

Long before, Wanhua was known as a small port along the Tamsui River, hence, its notable advantage was found in part of its proximity to the Tamsui River, which provided a crucial transportation role, like that of our modern freeways that help us in transporting things into and out of the area for us today. Wanhua was also known as the liveliest commercial hub of the entire Taipei basin during the early Qing (Ching) Dynasty, especially during the long and prosperous reign of Emperor Qianlong (Chien-Lung) from 1736 to 1795. During this period of time, the Wanhua area was densely populated with many settlers from the southern Fukien province who had crossed the Taiwan Strait to establish commercial businesses in the area. As the basin of Taipei had continued to develop, an increasing number of Han Chinese settlers had begun to migrate to Taiwan from the southern Fukien province, as well as from the nearby eastern Guangdong provinces of China. Moreover, as more and more settlers from southern Fujian’s Quanzhou and Zhangzhou regions had begun to settle in Wanhua, they had greatly desired for a place where they could pray for safety, peace of mind, and the strength to start a new life in Taiwan. Early in Emperor Qianlong’s reign in 1738, several elaborate temples were built in this area. By 1938, about half of the 70 temples and places of worship that have been documented in Taipei were situated in Wanhua.

Currently, Wanhua remains to be the centre of Taiwan’s celebrations of the Chinese Lantern Festival, and a place where both its traditional and modern city life coexists. The Chinese Lantern Festival has always been viewed in Wanhua’s Longshan Temple, Chin Shan Kong and Ching Shui Miao, which have a long history of being the best places to experience the Chinese Lantern Festival during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday season in late January or early February. Undoubtedly, the district of Wanhua is a special place that consists of significant historical sites such the Memorial Hall of the Republic of China’s founder, Sun Yat-Sen, as well as a place that holds the first Presbyterian church (later, the childhood home of President Ma Ying-jeou) that was established by legendary Canadian missionary, Dr. George Leslie Mackay, in 1879. Wanhua’s historical aspects are contrasted with its undisputed capital of Taiwan’s youth counter-culture, which can be found in the Ximending area.