Ershawan Fort (aka Ershawan battery or Tenable Gate of the Sea 海門天險), is a Qing Dynasty era fort that once guarded Keelung Harbor among a network of other forts. For a brief time was taken over by the French during the Sino-French War. Now it stands as a wonderfully preserved monument to the past, with great views of Keelung Harbor.
Ershawan Fort started as a seaside fortification in 1840 as a response to the First Opium War. During the war, a British ship called the Nerbudda fired on the fort, destroying one of the soldier dorm rooms. The ship later bottomed out on a coral reef and the sailors were imprisoned.
In August of 1884, 5 French ships under direction of general S. N. J. Lespes attacked the forts at Keelung, attacking from the side. Because the cannons in Ershawan Fort could not rotate, they were useless against the ships. Most of the canons and gunpowder were destroyed or exploded. The next day the French Forces invaded Keelung with a force of about 500 men. They made a cemetery nearby for their men, which was later moved to Ershawan Fort were it still remains to this day.
After the war, in an effort to protect the coal reserves near Keelung from the French, the then Imperial Inspector on Military Affairs Liu Mingchuan decided to improve fortifications in Keelung by relocating the Ershawan fortress to the nearby hillside. The new fortress was built in western style with the help of German technicians. The new fortress was completed in 1888 and included two 6 inch Armstrong guns and one 8 inch Armstrong gun. Liu Mingchuan also installed new revolving bases for the cannons, and created a camp below with the "Tenable Gate of the Sea."
After the Japanese took Taiwan, the fort was barely used and fell into decay.
The fort was declared a national historic monument in 1997.
The fort and pathways were further restored in 2018.
Now it is a popular attraction in the area especially because of the great view of Keelung Harbor that can be seen from the fort.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From central Keelung, take Shoushan Road up the hill on the east part of the city and the fort is at the very top of the hill. There is limited free parking near the top.
By Bus: There is no direct way to get there by bus, but you can take the 204 bus from Keelung Station to Keeling Stadium station and then walk up the hill about 1 KM to the fort. I think you can reach the fort from the harbor side, but I'm not sure where the entrance to the trail is.
Please see below:
I have been to Ershawan twice believe it or not. The first time it was raining and windy and the trail to the fort was closed! So of course I had to come back.
See above for a video of the fort for a better look of the surrounding area.
Or you can check out our 360 degree shperical photo above.
On the way up to Ershawan Fort, you will come across many retired military related machines and weapons.
Like this giant propeller.
Or this rocket.
Or this ROC Jet.
Or this turret.
At the top of a hill is a large park which is a nice place to relax.
At the edge of the park you will find a trail that leads to the fort. When I first visited in 2018, the trail to the fort was under construction and fenced up. So we followed an alternated trail.
We followed the trail to the remnants of some other fortifications, which I thought were Dutch but now I am not so sure where they came from.
Anyway, the trail should not be under construction when you go.
"The history of Ershawan fortress can be traced back to 1840 during the Qing-British Opium War. At that time, the defense of Keelung had been moved from Sheliaodao to Ershawan and Sanshawan. Yao Ying, a Taiwanese commander and administrator, and Dahungga, a Taiwanese commander, were ordered to build eight fortresses near today's Fuxing Hall and Sansha. Durin the Qing-French War, the French fleet encroached and the fortress was destroyed by French naval guns. The French army landed to march into Taipei City. The first battle of the Qing-French War highlighted the strategic importance of Keelung's coastal defense and Taiwan. After the founding of Taiwan Province, Governor Liu Mingchuan hired German technician Boans to plan and design Western-style fortresses, including Ershwan fortress. The old Shawan Fort was built on the seashore with weak firepower and close range. The new Ershawan Fort was moved to the height of the hillside. It was built in 1886 and successfully deployed three new Armstrong guns purchased through Jardine Matheson (two 6 inch and one 8 inch), and completed in 1889. Among them, there are one 6-inch gun on the north side of the fort, facing the inner waters of Keelung Port; and two cannon bases, with the right fort equipped with 8-inch guns, the main fort, facing the primary entrance of Bachimen fishing port on the right side of Keelung."
"Built in 1886, equipeed with cannons in 1888, completed in 1889; Taiwan governer Liu Mingchuan built, designed by German Baons.
Type/Feature: Western-style fort built in the late Qing Dynasty equipeed with three Armstrong breech guns (two 6-inch and one 8-inch).
The history of Ershawan fortress can be traced back to 1840 during the Qing-British Opium War. At that time, the defense of Keelung had been moved from Sheliaodao to Ershawan and Sanshawan. Yaoying, a Taiwanese commander and administrator, and Dahungga, a Taiwanese commander, were ordered to build eight fortresses near today's Fuxing Hall and Sansha. Durin the Qing-French War, the French fleet encroached and the fortress was destroyed by French naval guns. The French army landed to march into Taipei City."
Explanation of the restoration work completed in 2018.
The main part of the fort at the top of the hill.
8 inch gun pointing down.
View of Keelung Harbor from the top of the fort.
"Keelung Harbor Layout"
"At the end of the Qing dynasty, the fortress at Ershawan, Dingshihge, and Xiandong formed a perfect firewall of defense. They worked together to defend Keelung Harbor."
There you go, two other forts you can visit!
View ot the left of Keelung Harbor.
View toward the center of the harbor.
View to the right.
View of the smaller canon on display.
Made in Guangxu 2nd year (1877).
View inside the old barracks.
Another even smaller cannon.
View of the harbor with the canon.
”With an inner diameter of 1.2m, and an outer diameter of 1.8m, the interior wall of the well was built with stones of random sizes. It was the main water source of the fort. According to the setting location of the well, it is assumed that the well's main function was not to provide drinking water, but to serve the military purpose of cooling down the cannons.
View inside the well.
Another view from inside the fort.
View down the stairs to the camp.
Tenable Gate of the Sea 海門天險 which stands in front of the lower camp.
One of the ancient camp sites.
Walls of the camp.
Steps leading up to the Tenable Gate of the Sea 海門天險.
View from the top of the gate.
View from the gate looking back at the camp.
Looking at the top of the gate.
The old holes for the wooden gate.
From the gate the trail goes deeper into the forest but I am not sure where.
Another view of the old camp.
"The military camp is located on the Ershawan Heights, where the Ershawan army stationed. At present, the military barracks have been destroyed, leaving only the outer camp wall. The camp wall is stacked up in herringbone pattern and neatly and firmly stacked up in a simple yet strong structure."
View of the camp to the left.
Another view of the fort with crane in the background.
View of the herringbone wall.
"During the reign on Empower Guangxu, mostly soldiers from mainland China garrisoned in Taiwan. They were mostly buried here after death. They used to inscribe the name, place of origin, year of death, and name of the battalion, squad, and sentry etc. with their knives and swords."
View of the cemetery. Someone left there keys here a long time ago. It is typical in Taiwan to place lost keys in easy to find places in place the person that lost them comes back looking for them.
View of the Tenable Gate of the Sea 海門天險 by drone.
Another drone shot of the fort.
Someone else was flying their drone at the same time as me and messing up my signal.
As mentioned earlier, there are about four or so other forts in Keelung that you can go check out.
Also you should check out Miaokou Night Market, one of the most popular night markets in northern Taiwan.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more of our blogs on northern Taiwan to come.
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.