Lighthouses in Taiwan (台灣的燈塔)

Lighthouses are set along magical promontories at lands' end, ... places to enjoy a bit of solitude, breathe deep and clear out some of the cobwebs.

Beware: Island Ahead - Taiwan's Lighthouses

When junks (highly maneuverable, shallow-draft ships) still carried most of East Asia's sea commerce, there was little need for permanent navigational beacons. Pirates and difficult handling in rough water tended to restrict travel to daylight hours and good weather. When needed, bonfires could be lit on hilltops to guide wayward vessels home after nightfall.

However, from the early 19th century onward, a fast growing intercontinental trade carried aboard purpose-built clippers redefined maritime shipping needs. A permanent network of lighthouses was necessary to ensure the safety of these new ships, which were often at sea for days or weeks at a time. To the modest beacons already marking the entrances of early trade outposts like Manila and Batavia (Jakarta), western business interests gradually added permanent lighthouses in Hawaii (1840), Singapore (1851), Sakhalin (1860), China (1865), and Japan (1866). By the turn of the 20th century, lighthouses watched over all major trading ports as well as many of the region's navigational hazards.

The "frontier" flavor of the pre-1895 Formosa trade meant that Taiwan's earliest lighthouses were installed to warn ships away from coastal danger rather than guide them to safe anchorage. Shipwrecks along Taiwan's southernmost peninsula, which saw survivors lose their lives to indigenous tribesmen or get roughed up by Chinese, inflamed international public opinion and spurred policymakers in Japan and the United States during the mid-19th century to toy with thoughts of occupying Taiwan's eastern seaboard (based on the argument that failure to bring eastern Taiwan to heel placed the region beyond Qing sovereignty and, in the logic of 19th century Great Powers, into a power vacuum). In the end, belated Qing attention to the island, a Civil War in the United States, and alarm amongst European imperialists (who viewed such an occupation as the beginning of a free-for-all grab for territory that could quickly engulf all of China) conspired to keep Taiwan Chinese, for the moment.

The Qing built and garrisoned the island's first lighthouse on the hazardous southern cape at Eluanbi (Erluanbi, 鵝鸞鼻) in 1882. The northeast coast got its first lighthouse in 1896 high above Bitoujiao's (鼻頭角) jagged shoreline, some 50km southeast of Keelung. The Japanese built Keelung's first lighthouse in 1899 along the harbor's northwestern entrance to support early modernization efforts.

In addition to those at Bitoujiao and Keelung, lighthouses of historical and scenic interest in northern Taiwan include Sandiaojiao (Punto San Diego - 三貂角, built in 1931) and Fuguijiao (Eerste Hoeck - 富貴角 built in 1896), as well as an ascetic beacon on the scenically interesting Yeliu Peninsula (Punto Diablo - 野柳), built in 1967. Agincourt is northern Taiwan's most visually impressive and least accessible lighthouse. Raised in 1906, the Victorian structure rises 26 meters above Pengjia (Pengchiayu, 彭佳嶼), a windswept volcanic islet of 114 hectares situated 56km northeast of Keelung.


MJ Klein said...

great article Jeff. i really like lighthouses, and i need to take a look at the ones we have in Taiwan. thanks.

Jeff Miller ... (米傑富) said...

Hi MJ,

Thanks for the encouragement and positive comments. Much appreciated! Sorry I wasn't able to join you and Mike a couple weekends ago. Hopefully next time!

MJ Klein said...

Jeff, i know you're busy but would you consider putting together a tour of some of the more readily accessible lighthouses? is that even possible? btw, the map isn't displaying.

thanks Jeff.