Fort San Domingo

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Fort Anthonio
Part of Museum Fort San Domingo
Tamsui District, New Taipei City, Taiwan
Official consulate fort santo domingo.jpg
Fort Anthonio. Part of Museum Fort San Domingo
Type Castle-like fort
Site history
Built 1644
Built by Spanish conquistadores (Demolished Structure) / Dutch East India Company (Extant Structure)
In use 1644–1868
Materials Stone and bricks
External images
Aerial photograph of Fort San Domingo
The rectangle-form architecture in the front is the main castle of Fort San Domingo, while the two-stories building after is the official residence of former Britain embassy.
Taiwan Historical-Site Stamp: Fort San Domingo
The 5-dollar stamp produced by the government of Taiwan in 1985.
Taiwanese Commemorative Coins of 2010
The sculpture in the back of 100 dollar is the main architecture of Fort San Domingo
Fort San Domingo
Traditional Chinese 紅毛
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 聖多明哥城

The Fort San Domingo was originally a wooden fort built by the Spanish in 1629 at Tamsui District, New Taipei, Taiwan. It was originally built in 1628 by the Spanish, who were the governor of northern Taiwan during the era, and was named as "Fort San Domingo". However, the architecture was then destroyed by the Spanish after losing the war to the Dutch in 1642. After the war, in 1644, The Dutch had managed to rebuild the castle in the original site, and had renamed the castle as "Fort Antonio". Since the Dutch were called "Red Haired People" by the Han immigrants during the time, the fort was then nicknamed as "Fort Red Hair".(Chinese: 紅毛城; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Âng-mn̂g-siâⁿ; literally: "ang mo fort").[1]

In 1724, the Qing Government had repaired the fort, and had managed to build four more gates in the outsided-castle of the fort. The Britain government had rented the fort as the embassy of Britain after 1867, and had built a new architecture nearby as the official residence of the embassy. The fort was briefly occupied by the Japanese Government during the time of the Pacific War, but was returned to Great Britain after the war.

After the war, though official diplomatic relation between Republic of China(Taiwan) and the Great Britain had been terminated in 1950, the site had been continuously used as a unofficial embassy of England until 1972. The fort then was temporarily managed by Australia and the United States of America, before the fort was returned to the government of Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1980. Since then, the fort was opened for tourists and archaeologists, and was viewed as the National Historical Site of the country.

The site of Fort Dan Domingo includes the main castle of the fort, the former English embassy, and the south gate built during Qing dynasty. Among the architectures, the main castle is one of the oldest architecture in the whole island, and there were four cannons placed in the front of the castle, which could be traced back to Jiaqing era. (Jiaqing is Era name of the Jiaqing Emperor of Qing dynasty in China) The former English embassy is in the east side of the main castle, and is a two-story English-style building. The south gate is the only Chinese style architecture among all the buildings, and is made from Guangin Stone.

It is located near Hobe Fort, which was built during Qing rule.[2]


Spanish Era[edit]

After the Spanish established a permanent colony at San Salvador (Palm Island; modern-day Hoping Island), they proceeded in 1629 to occupy Tamsui, "which even at this early period was frequented by many Chinese merchants, who came from Fokien to barter with the Formosa natives."[3] On a night in 1636, a group of local people, angered by the taxes that the Spanish governor had imposed, successfully attacked the fort and demolished it.[4] In 1637, the Spanish rebuilt the fort using stone and raised the walls' height to twenty feet or more. A church was also built on a hill, and the locals helped to make a road to it from the fort. "Peter Nuits the Dutch Governor of Formosa, reported these facts to his home authorities and exposed in an interesting report the injury that the Spaniards were doing to Dutch trade and the necessity of sending an expedition to drive them away."

After a failed first attempt in 1641, the Dutch made a second expedition on 3 August 1642: "the Dutch appeared off Tamsui with a comparatively powerful squadron of four frigates, a large cutter, nine small vessels, besides several transports..."[5] After the Dutch mounted artillery at an elevation commanding the fort, they succeeded in taking the fort on 24 August. The Dutch also expelled the Spaniards from nearby Keelung. The Spanish fort in Tamsui had by then already been razed by the Spanish themselves. It is also claimed that no traces remain of the forts on Palm Island, as they were destroyed by Zheng Jing, son of Koxinga.[3]

Dutch era[edit]

The ancient map drawn by the Dutch in 1654, the sharp-top castle within it is the Fort San Antonio
The ancient map drawn by the Dutch in 1654, the sharp-top castle within it is the Fort San Antonio

The Dutch then became the "undisputed masters of Formosa", and built a new fort on the site with the intention to maintain the trade of sulfur and deer skin, while also deploying vessels in the Tamsui River to protect the trading zone. The fort was named as Fort Antonio, with the name of Governors-General of the Dutch East Indies, Anthony van Diemen, during the time.[6]:35

In 1644, they replaced it with the structure still standing today, also called Fort Antonio. The "Old Dutch Fort" made of brick and stone has been described as "impregnable against any engines of war that those early days could produce."[7]

The locals called the Dutch "the red-haired people", which led to the compound's Hokkien name (Chinese: 紅毛城; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Âng-mn̂g-siâⁿ; literally: "ang mo fort").[1]

Map of the Spanish fort at Tamsui, later in hands of the VOC

Chinese era[edit]

From 1683 to 1867 the Qing Dynasty Chinese government controlled the fort and during this time (1724) built a stone wall with four gates around it, of which only one, the main gate, survives.

Fort. Fort San Domingo (now functions as a museum.

Following the Second Opium War, in 1868 the British took over the fort, made it their trade consulate, and painted it red (it was previously white). The fort was struck during the 1884 French bombardment of the Battle of Tamsui but suffered no damage.[7] The linguist Herbert Allen Giles resided in the fort from 1885 to 1888 and completed some of his work on the Wade-Giles system of romanization of Standard Chinese there. Next to the fort the British built their consular residence in 1891.

The Fort is adjacent to Aletheia University, which traces its origins back to 1872 when the Reverend Dr. George Leslie Mackay, a Canadian Presbyterian, established a mission and then a medical service and a school.

Modern era[edit]

The consulate closed during World War II and reopened after the end of the war. The Republic of China (ROC) government retrieved the land from the British in 1980,[8] several years after the United Kingdom broke off diplomatic relations with the ROC in 1972. The ROC government has classified the Fort a grade one listed historical site and it is now a museum with the interior recreated from photographs. It was reopened after refurbishment in 2005. Now referred to as the Former British Consular Residence, it is a popular tourist attraction.

Tourist information[edit]

The Former British Consular Residence is an elegant Victorian house fused with some Chinese elements. Also, this location provides a beautiful outlook on Guanyin Mountain and the Tamsui River.

The fort is open to the public Tuesday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm. There is an $80NTD charge for admission, with some exceptions.


The fort is accessible within walking distance North West from Tamsui Station of the Taipei Metro.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Governor-General of Taiwan (1931–1932). "âng-mn̂g-siâⁿ (紅毛城)". In Ogawa Naoyoshi. 臺日大辭典 [Taiwanese-Japanese Dictionary] (in Japanese and Hokkien). 1. Taihoku: 同府 [Dōfu]. p. 94. OCLC 25747241. .
  2. ^ Shan, Shelley (19 Sep 2016). "'Old Dutch Fort' in Tamsui reopens after repairs". Taipei Times. p. 3. 
  3. ^ a b Davidson (1903), p. 20.
  4. ^ Tamsui Map+Guide 2011. Tamsui Historical Museum. 
  5. ^ Davidson (1903), p. 22.
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference Walter was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ a b Davidson (1903), p. 23.
  8. ^ "Fort Santo Domingo, Tamsui, Formosa (Taiwan): decommissioning as British consulate - a Freedom of Information request to Foreign and Commonwealth Office". 22 July 2008. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 25°10′30″N 121°25′59″E / 25.175°N 121.433°E / 25.175; 121.433