The British Consulate at Takow – Kaohsiung City, Taiwan - Atlas Obscura

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The British Consulate at Takow

This historic 19th-century building was the center of British trade and diplomacy in Taiwan. 

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When the Qing Dynasty’s defeat in the Second Opium War forced it to open up numerous ports to Western trade, including several in Taiwan, the British quickly established a consulate to protect their interests on the island. Initially established in Taiwan Prefecture (now Tainan) in 1861 under vice-consul Robert Swinhoe, in 1865 the British Consulate was moved south to Takao, modern-day Kaohsiung. Forced to operate without a building, the consulate was first headquartered on a ship in Takao Port, later leasing a house. The consulate building was not completed until 14 years later, in 1879.

Britain maintained its commercial interests on the island through the consulate even once Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, when the Qing Dynasty lost the Sino-Japanese War. However, the consulate was closed in 1910 and the Japanese government took control of it in 1925. After 1945, the building operated under Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government as a meteorological observatory before being abandoned nearly two decades later.

These days, the building has been restored and acts as a museum. There are two buildings: the consular residence and the consulate proper. Those who enter at the consular residence entrance can admire the full-sized dioramas of daily life. A British woman steps from a sedan chair carried by Chinese laborers; a British doctor inspects a Chinese worker’s eyes; Qing and British officials converse while workers stack crates of goods.

Behind the consular residence, visitors can admire several preserved bunkers dating from the Japanese colonial period, before taking a steep stone stairway to the Consulate itself. On the stairway, one can find replicas of the boundary steles for Taiwan Customs, marking the point where Chinese territory became British.

The consulate building has an elegant veranda and arcade that visitors can walk along; inside are several museum exhibits, a gift shop, and a tea room that serves British-style afternoon tea. Explore the grounds, admire the distinctive British colonial-style architecture, and imagine what life must have been like for the British and Chinese who lived and worked here.

Know Before You Go

The consulate is open Thursday through Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cost for general admission is 99 NTD.

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June 14, 2024

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