The city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan is better known for its busy port than its tourist attractions. However, it does offer many ancient and historical landmarks that deserve international recognition as important and engaging tourist destinations. Ranked by many as one of Kaohsiung’s top attractions is the British Consulate of Takao. (Takao or Takau is Kaohsiung’s old name.)
Built in 1865, the old British Consulate was the first western-style building that was constructed in Taiwan. Architecture of this two-storey building followed that of late Renaissance style, which made use of many arches. Today, the Taiwanese Ministry of the Interior regards this historic landmark as a Second Class Historic Site. Because of its scenic location at the peak of Shaochuantou in Gushan District, it now serves as a cozy cafe and tourist attraction overlooking Sizihwan Bay and the bustling Kaohsiung Port.
Next to the capital city of Taipei, Kaohsiung is clearly Taiwan’s most productive city. Millions of cargo shipments from around the world enter its port yearly. This all-important and very strategically located port was opened in 1860, based on orders following the Treaty of Peking. Taiwan was then called “Formosa”. By this time, European countries were in control of pretty much the whole of Asia. Britain was the largest empire and it was the first western country to put up a consulate in Formosa. The first British vice-consul was Robert Swinhoe, and he was first stationed in Tamsui. The consulate then moved to Takao in 1864, while the building itself was constructed in 1865. The building materials came all the way from Xiamen in mainland China. In 1867, Swinhoe became the first Consul General in Formosa until he retired in 1873.
The Japanese arrived in 1895 and took control of the British Consulate in 1909. It was closed the next year, and only reopened in 1931 after it was converted into an Ocean Observatory by the Japanese viceroy. It was left untouched and unscathed during World War II, and was converted again into a Weather Bureau Observatory in 1945 after Japan lost the war and Taiwan was returned to China. For 41 years, this historic landmark functioned as a weather bureau station.
In 1987, it was declared as a Second Class Historic Site; just a year after Professor Li Chien Lang restored the old building as a museum for historic documents and cultural artifacts. In 2003, the old consulate building underwent restoration and was placed under the care of the newly-created Cultural Bureau of Kaohsiung. In 2005, a record number of 400,000 visitors paid it a visit, which allowed this historic building to receive the prestigious Yuan-Yeh Award. Only a year after that, it was noted that more and more cultural and national activities were being held here. Over 100 events in 2006, including the National Oil Painting Competition and National Photography Competition. In 2007, visitors from the United Nations Observatory Group and the Democratic Pacific Union arrived. It was also in this year when the surrounding area of the British Consulate at Takao was restored, along with a total of 312 oil paintings.