Special municipality (Taiwan)

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Special Municipality
Subdivision types of the Republic of China (2014).svg
Category Unitary state
Location Taiwan
Number 6
Populations 1,884,284 (Tainan) – 3,966,818 (New Taipei)
Areas 1,137.5545 square miles (2,946.253 km2) (Taoyuan) – 104.9425 square miles (271.800 km2) (Kaohsiung)
Government Local government, Central Government
Subdivisions District
This article is part of a series on
Administrative divisions
of Taiwan
  • Provinces (streamlined)
  • Special municipalities
  • Neighborhoods
Historical divisions of
Republic of China (1912–49)
Taiwan (1895–1945)

Special municipalities (Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ti̍t-hat-chhī; literally: "direct-administered cities") are cities in Republic of China that have the rank of province. Along with Taiwan and Fujian provinces, the special municipalities are the highest level classification of administrative divisions in the Republic of China. Currently there are six special municipalities in Taiwan: Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei and Taoyuan.[1]

Position in hierarchy[edit]

Special municipalities are the highest level cities in Taiwan. Some cities of lower levels may also refer to themselves as municipalities.[2] However, they are referenced using the following conventional terms:

Three levels of cities in Taiwan:

  1. Special municipalities (直轄市 zhíxiáshì)
  2. Provincial cities (市 shì or 省轄市 shěngxiáshì)
  3. County-controlled cities (縣轄市 xiànxiáshì)


Mainland Era[edit]

During Republic of China government rule in mainland China, twelve cities were elevated as special municipalities. They were:

No Name Current place No Name Current place No Name Current place
51 Nanking 南京市 Nanjing, Jiangsu 55 Tientsin 天津市 Municipality of Tianjin 59 Hankou 漢口市 Wuhan, Hubei
52 Shanghai 上海市 Municipality of Shanghai 56 Chungking 重慶市 Municipality of Chongqing 60 Canton 廣州市 Guangzhou, Guangdong
53 Peiping 北平市 Municipality of Beijing 57 Dairen 大連市 Dalian, Liaoning 61 Sian 西安市 Xi'an, Shaanxi
54 Tsingtao 青島市 Qingdao, Shandong 58 Harbin 哈爾濱市 Harbin, Heilongjiang 62 Mukden 瀋陽市 Shenyang, Liaoning

The system of top-level municipality were designed in 1927 soon after they were designated as "cities" during the 1920s. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (Chinese: 特別市; pinyin: tèbié shì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (院轄市; yuànxiá shì), by the Central Government. Seoul in South Korea still uses the term special municipality (特別市), pronounced teukbyeolsi (특별시).

Taiwan Era[edit]

Taiwan county becoming a municipality may be called a merger, but it differs from the Western term, consolidated city-county in a number of ways. Unlike the Western model, the smallest units of local administration are left intact, only a portion of the layer in between, specifically, large dominant cities are dissolved. Minor cities are reclassified as wards, and major cities are dissolved leaving behind constituent wards, eliminating a layer of government. This form of urban merger has historical roots in Chinese administration and was also used to merge Tokyo into a metropolis (都), the same character(s) 「六都」 may also be used to refer to the 6 special municipalities of Taiwan in Chinese, although other terminology in Japan differs in both Kanji form and even the English translation of identical Chinese characters differ, depending on which language its translated from.

Six special municipalities in Taiwan were created after the Republic of China government took control following World War II. Taipei was made a Yuan-controlled municipality in 1967; Kaohsiung was elevated in 1979; New Taipei, Taichung and Tainan also elevated to special municipality in 2010; and Taoyuan in 2014. Since 1994, Yuan-controlled municipalities (院轄市 yuànxiáshì) have been officially called special municipality (直轄市 zhíxiáshì, lit. direct-controlled municipalities) to emphasize their autonomy. Besides significant political, economic and cultural development, the ROC law dictates that a municipality must have population of over 1,250,000 people.[3] In terms of actual governance and not simply status, a special municipality has more authority to coordinate, push through, streamline, and plan as compared to the former administrative structure, because the change effectively eliminates a layer of intervening government, and not simply a layer but a powerful large city government is dissolved (with the exception of New Taipei as there was no such core city to dissolve), this particular type of conversion to a 2-layer system takes advantage of small government, elimination of redundant services and jurisdictions, and flat organization without changing the nature of the smallest units of local administration.


In Taiwanese municipalities, the mayor is the highest-ranking official in charge. The mayor is directly elected by the people registered in the municipality for a duration of four years.

Current special municipalities[edit]

Proposals for special municipalities[4][edit]

Changes June 2009
Combined population
Combined area (km²) Map (before) Map (after)
Taipei + New Taipei + KeelungTaipei
(臺北市 + 新北市 + 基隆市 → 臺北市)
6,854,715 2,457.1244 Taiwan ROC political division map Taipei City.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Taipei County.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Keelung City.svg Taiwan ROC political division map Taipei City (propose).svg