Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christmas in Taiwan VIII - The Old British Consulate at Danshui

Apologies for a longish post but then this blog is somewhat of a personal aide memoir. The good news is that this is the last of my Taiwan-specific posts for a while as it's time to go back to work in Shanghai. A trip out toDanshui’s Fort San Domingo (or the Hongmao Castle lit: Red Hair Castle) near Taipei to see the fort and especi ally to see the old British Consulate (left).

First the fort (left) - constructed by the Dutch as Fort Anthonio in 1641, the compound also served as the British Consulate from 1863 – they rented it from the Qing Dynasty. Inside there’s not that much to see and as forts go it’s fairly standard.

Somewhat more elegant is the former BritishConsulate Residence (left) next door. After vacating Fort San Domingo the Brits moved into the Consulate building in 1891. Architecturally it’s pleasant with a verandah style and plenty of airy rooms on two floors. I knew there was a British Consulate in Danshui, as it had been a treaty port, though I didn’t realise that it was occupied by the Brits up until 1971- which accounts for the slightly strange photograph of the Queen in one room (you’d have thought they’d have taken that home with them?).

A few inter esting characters were Consuls in Danshui including EH De Bunsen in 1926 who wrote several scholarly works on Formosa for the Royal Geographic Society in London. English schoolboys will not fail to get a chuckle out of the 1896 Consul, HA Constant Bonar.

However, the most famous Consul was Herbert Allen Giles who was Consul in 1886 after serving at Pagoda Island and Shanghai. He was the son of the noted translator JA Giles. After his diplomatic career Giles became the second professor of Chinese at Cambridge, succeeding Thomas Wade. The two worked closely and developed what every student of Chinese knows only too well – The Wade-Giles system of romanisation of Chinese, the system that preceded the more common pinyin.


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