When I tell Taiwanese people that I live in Nangang, some older people tell me that it is a place full of factories and industry. However Nangang today is a vibrant and modern part of Taipei, full of greenery and advanced architecture. But sadly, there is almost no trace of Nangang’s industrial history anywhere.
Nangang 南港means “South Port” in Chinese. This south port once rested on the southern banks of the Keelung River near what is now the Neihu MRT depot in Nangang District, Taipei. There was a "North Port" on the Keelung river in what is now Xizhi. Nangang was once part of Neihu District before it split in the ROC era. In the earliest times, Nangang was known as an industry hub for coal, brick making, and tea farming. In order to ship goods from Neihu to Nangang rail station, at least two suspension bridges were made across the Keelung River.
Currently two remaining suspension bridge towers next to the Keelung River from the industrial era of Nangang. The best preserved is “五分吊橋” Wufen suspension bridge. According to the signs next to the bridge, it was built in 1918.
This bridge is very large and prominent along the river. It has its own garden and sidewalk around it as well as signs detailing the historical significance of the bridge. I see no reason not to just explain what the signs already say.
I will paraphrase the signs next to Wufen Suspension Bridge :
During the late Qing and Japanese era, brick making was the main industry in Neihu. The soil and clay here was prime for brick making, and many brick kilns sprung up in the area. However in modern times due to pollution, price of land, and other factors the brick making industry has all but disappeared here.
During the Japanese era, there were many coal mines that sprung up in Neihu, mining two major coal veins. After 1950, the coal mining industry could not compete with modern industry and gradually disappeared.
Wufen bridge was the first bridge built across the Keelung river for shipping coal to Nangang train station, where it could then be shipped across all Taiwan. The bridge broke apart in 1969 and was not repaired since. In 2004 the Taipei City government designated it as a historical building, recognizing it as one of the last standing suspension bridges in Taipei and an important structure showing the modernization of the area.
History of Wufen Village: Basically Wufen village changed its name and area through the years and is now part of Donghu village in Neihu District.
Another bridge that many people forget exists further down the river as a monument to Taipei’s past. This bridge is called Nanhu Suspension bridge, “南湖吊橋” and also called “內湖葫蘆洲吊橋” Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge. It sits on the top of an embankment and has no signs or anything to tell us its history. But, the fact that it still stands is a miracle.
This bridge stands directly north of Nangang station, giving a direct path for coal and other good from Neihu. Map:
According to this source, Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge was built in 1930 and was the main connection between what is now Nangang and Neihu. It helped to carry bricks and coal across the river during the height of the brick making era. Now all that remains is one tower, which has been declared a historical monument. But now it seems the only people that care about this historical artifact are a few graffiti artists and the person that cuts the grass.
Another suspension bridge down the river from this era was Changshou Suspension bridge長壽吊橋, which was rebuilt for foot passengers. I will have to cover this in a later blog.
Even though these towers may seem insignificant, they are some of the last historical monuments left in the area. Wufen Suspension bridge is perhaps the best preserved and presented historical monument near Nangang, and is a shining beacon to future historical preservation in Taipei, which is sorely needed.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.