Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology (aka the 13th Site Museum of Archaeology) is a museum in Bali District of New Taipei featuring archaeological exhibits on Taiwan's history and prehistory, as well as international archaeological exhibitions. Here is one of the best places in Taiwan to see clearly what Taiwan was like in prehistoric times.
The name Shihsanhang comes from 13 shops located near a now defunct harbor near the site during the late 1800s and early 1900s, which is also a nickname of the area. This name may also be borrowed from the thirteen factories in Canton at the time, or may have been borrowed from the pronunciation of the place from indigenous peoples living there.
The Museum here came about starting in 1990 when the government planned to build a sewage treatment plant on the current site of the museum. However, as they excavated the ground, they discovered a prehistoric village called the Shihsanhang site. Scientists in the area called for the preservation of the site which garnered public support. Later the site was converted into a museum to display the artifacts that were discovered.
The museum was completed in 2003 after 5 years of construction and a total cost of NT 380 million. It was the first City-built archaeology museum in Taiwan.
International exhibitions began at the museum in 2017.
9:30 AM - 5 PM daily, closed the first Monday of each month
80 NT per person
How long does it take to see everything?
About 2 Hours
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 15 to Bali, then take a right on Shihsanhang Road.
By Bus: Take the Shuttle bus Red No. 13 from Bali Old Street or Guandu MRT station (about 20 minutes).
By Bicycle: Take the MRT to Tamsui, the take the ferry to Bali Old Street. From there you can rent a bicycle and ride 2KM over to the museum.
Please see below:
I have been to Shisanhang Archaeology Museum twice, and I have enjoyed going both times. I was originally an archaeology major in college, and I took a few archaeology and anthropology classes. However I decided it was not a good career so I changed majors (I changed major about four times from archaeology to film to environmental science to Chinese. Thanks to summer classes I still graduated in three years.). It's still an interesting topic to me and I enjoy learning about ancient cultures.
Lot's of people bike here from Bali Wharf. I have only ever come by scooter or car. There are lots of other places to see around as you can see from this map.
No drone flying or gambling allowed here!
Map of the museum and surrounding parks.
Right next to the museum itself is an extension with some Tao canoes. For our full blog on Orchid Island and the Tao culture, click here.
View of the back of the museum.
"Shihsanhang Archaeological Site"
"The Shihsanhang archaeological site is located on the coastal plain in the Tamsui estuary near Dinggu village in Bali district of New Taipei City. It was discovered on Novermber 26, 1957 by Professor Lin Chao-chin from the Department of Geology of National Taiwan University, The importance of the site was confirmed after three escalations between 1959 and 1963. From 1990 to 1992, five rescue excavations were conducted as the construction of the Bali sewage treatment plant began. On November 17, 2017, the Shihsanhang site was designated a "National Archaeological Site" by the Ministry of Culture based oin Article 111 of the amended Cultural Heritage Preservation Act.
There are two cultural layers at the Shihsanhang site: the prehistoric Shihsandhang cultural layer and the Han cultural layer of modern histrionic times. A few artifacts dated to the Yuanshan cultural period have also been unearthed. The Shihsnahang site is one of the earlier cultures known to use metal, as well as the eponymous site of the Shihsanhang culture. C14 dating shows that the Shihsanhang site was first settled around 2000 BP and continued to develop until 350 BP with the period between 1500-1000 BP witnessing the peak of human activities at the site. Many artifices and features have been discovered at Shihsanhang. Reddish-brown shards with geometric patterns constituent that majority of the ceramics, while the most unique artifacts are the Anthropomorphic Jar and the Pot with Engravings. The furnace, iron tools, and the large quantity of slag are the hallmarks of the Shihsanhang archaeological site, as they indicate the ability of the Shihsanhang people to make iron tools. Therefore, Shihsanhang is a very important metal age site and has great significance for archaeological research in Taiwan."
Explanation of the building design, which is meant to represent the ocean, boats, and mountains.
The day we went there was an Indonesian cultural exhibition.
If you look at the steps here, you can see a Chinese boat mural. Fujianese settlers would have used boats like these to cross the Taiwan strait.
80 NT per person is an okay, but admission is free for New Taipei residents.
View of the front entrance.
To the left is an ocean themed tunnel, with just murals on the wall.
Here you can have a free virtual reality tour of Taiwan's oceans. We didn't stick around for that.
Here is a large prehistoiuc buffalo skull found in the Taiwan strait. There is all kind of good stuff laying at the bottom of the Taiwan strait, which was once dry land 10,000 years ago.
Photos of more undersea discoveries.
Also at the main level is an exhibit showing the Shihsangang site's artifacts in layers of soil.
Explanation of the four different layers: the top layer is the current day, the second layer is the Qing Dynasty and Japanese Era, the third layer is the Shihsanhang site, the fourth layer has no signs of human activity.
A 3D representation of archaeologists excavating the Shihsanhang site. These are not real people.
Another view of the fake excavation.
Major events at the Shihsanhang site, including the discovery and preservation.
When we went, there was an exhibition of maritime trade in Taiwan on the second floor, that lasted for two months. I'm not sure what it has changed to now, but I'm sure its different.
The area here is wide open and looks like it can change easily.
Here is some Hualien Jade, the main focus of the exhibit.
Jade mines and workshops were set up in Taiwan, and were traded around the island.
Jade was also traded all around southeast Asia 4,000 years ago, which shows Southeast Asian cultures were interconnected dating back then.
Ancient Jade Rings on display.
More Jade and other artifacts.
Pottery that appeared later.
More pottery artifacts that were traded.
A map of ancient trade routes for Jade, pottery, and deer fur.
Ancient indigenous people also traded sika deer skins which were mainly traded to Japan.
The Sika Deer live under 300 meters above sea level. Their wild population was decimated in 1968, but captive populations have been reintroduced at Kenting National Park, and now about 1000 wild deer live there.
Tools used for excavation.
A children DIY excavation pit.
People checking out the geological part of the exhibit.
There is a cool sand exhibit that uses a projector to change the color of the sand according to its height.
Core samples near Shihsanhang.
Fujianese settlements in the 1800s.
Different indigenous cultures in Taiwan.
Miniature showing how the people of Shihsandhang made iron, which they used very early on compared to other cultures.
They also made gold plated ornaments.
They also traded for some bronze Chinese artifacts and coins.
The Indonesian exhibition was kind of small and basically just had some masks and paintings.
View of the natural gas plant next door.
On the fourth floor is a sky-walk that is reminisce of Star Wars, and kind of scary.
Two stories below is the excavation exhibition.
View to the south with the thousands of useless steps on top of the museum. I don't know if they use it as a stadium sometimes or what.
View of Taipei Harbor in the background.
View to the northwest, you can see a tower which burns natural gas off intermittently.
View to the east of the museum. There is a giant two walled staircase here which is pretty much there for aesthetics.
View to the southeast. There is lots of green space around.
Random health examination display.
Explaination of Tapenkeng Culture, which pre-dated Shihsanhang Culture.
View on the rooftop looking at the sea.
Looking at the tower and sky-walk from on top of the roof.
That's it for the museum. If you have time, you should definitely check out Bali Old Street nearby. For our full blog on Bali Old Street, click here.
For our full guide on the best things to see and do in the Tamsui Area, click here.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working 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.