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The 1891 consular residence has splendid views over the estuary.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > Sights & Attractions

Fort San Domingo

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Built by the Dutch, known by the name given by the Spanish to an earlier structure on this site, and then occupied for over a century by the British, Fort San Domingo (淡水紅毛城) is one of the oldest and prettiest buildings in the Taipei area. Boasting crenelated parapets and 1.9m-thick red-carmine walls, this miniature castle is complemented by a beautiful redbrick two-story residence constructed on British orders in 1891. The latter bears several bricks marked "VR 1891," VR being Queen Victoria.

The Spanish arrived in Danshui in 1629, a few years after they'd established a base in Keelung. In 1644, some years after the VOC had filled the vacuum left when the Spanish left of their own volition, the original stockade was replaced with a far more substantial bastion. Koxinga's successful campaign against the Dutch in the south of the island prompted VOC officials to evacuate Fort San Domingo - or Fort Anthonio as they called it, in honor of Anthonio van Diemen, then viceroy of Batavia.

During the Qing era, the building was sporadically occupied by imperial soldiers. A small wall with four gates was erected around it, but the South Gate is the only part of this addition to survive into the 21st century. When the UK government signed a leasehold agreement with the Qing court in 1867, the fort was overgrown with weeds. The lease (so it's believed; the original document was lost long ago) stipulated that the UK government could hold the fort in perpetuity on the understanding it would be returned to China if no longer needed for diplomatic purposes. A rent of 10 taels of silver (equivalent to 12 Troy ounces) per annum was specified, yet there's confusion if rent was ever paid; certainly no payments were made after Japan took over Taiwan in 1895.

There are displays in both the fort and the residence. Among the items on show in the former are official seals used by the British mission. The safe where sensitive documents were kept and the incinerator in which they were burned remain in their original positions. Downstairs, you'll find a small kitchen where the consulate's Taiwanese employees cooked their own meals, plus four cells in which UK citizens could be held pending trial or deportation. (What Chinese-language history books call 不平等條約 "unequal treaties" gave Western nationals immunity to local laws and courts, but diplomatic representatives were empowered to arrest and punish their compatriots).

After the UK severed diplomatic ties with the ROC in 1972, disposing of the property proved to be a headache for London. One reason was that the UK had failed to register their ownership of the land, so their title was unclear; another was that disposing of their interest in the land by assigning it to a government they no longer recognized was thought to be, in the words of official British documents from that era, "politically unacceptable." By early 1980, "the buildings were in an atrocious state of repair." Later that year, the ROC then acted unilaterally and took control of the site, eventually restoring it and opening it to the public.


From Taipei Main Station, take the MRT's Red Line to its northern terminus, Danshui. At Danshui MRT Station, board the Red 26 bus for a short hop to just outside the fort.

Type: Monument/Building
Costs: free
Location: Taiwan
Street address: 1, Lane 28, Zhongzheng Road, Danshui District, New Taipei City
Nearest public transport: Fort San Domingo bus stop
Opening hours: Daily 9:30am-6pm (closed first Monday each month)
Telephone: +886226282865

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