Taiwan Prefecture or Taiwanfu was a prefecture of Taiwan during the Qing dynasty. The prefecture was established by the Qing dynasty government in 1684, after the island "became an integral part of the Chinese Empire" in 1683. The Taiwan Prefecture Gazetteer (臺灣府志; Taiwan Fu Zhi) documented it as part of Fujian Province. The Taiwan Prefecture Gazetteer was completed by Gao Gonggan in 1695, the 34th year of the reign of the Kangxi Emperor.
When the Qing wrested the island from the control of the Kingdom of Tungning in 1683, Taiwan was made a prefecture under the administration of Fujian Province. The new prefecture consisted of three counties:
- Zhuluo County, the central western plains and the north
- Taiwan County, around the prefectural seat at Taiwan (now Tainan)
- Fengshan County, which took up much of present-day Kaohsiung and Pingtung County
The aboriginal lands on the east coast—known to the Qing as the "Land Behind the Mountains" (後山)—were not controlled at all, although they were vaguely claimed as part of the empire. The seat of government, also known as "Taiwan" or "Taiwanfu" (a contraction of 臺灣府城; Táiwān fǔchéng, "prefectural city of Taiwan"), was located in modern-day Tainan, "which city had been in turn the capital of the Dutch, Koxinga, and the Chinese".
During this period, Taiwan was administered as three counties and two subprefectures.
- Fongshan County: one town, 8 Chinese villages, 73 uncivilized native villages, 8 civilized native villages
- Kagi County: one town, 4 Chinese villages, 22 uncivilized native villages, 8 civilized native villages
- Changhwa County: one town, 16 villages
- Pescadores Subprefecture
- Tamsui Subprefecture: one town, 132 farms, 70 native villages
An administrative change occurred in 1875, when Imperial Commissioner Shen Pao-chen demanded that another prefecture be added in Taiwan to revamp the administrative organization of the northern area of the island. As a result, Taipeh Prefecture was created from part of Taiwan Prefecture.
Fokien-Taiwan Province was established in 1887, consisting of four prefectures: Taipeh, Taiwan, Tainan, and Taitung. Tainan Prefecture was created from part of Taiwan Prefecture. Thus Taiwan Prefecture was reduced to the area of central Taiwan only, composed of the modern-day Miaoli County, Taichung City, Nantou County, Changhua County, and Yunlin County.
The new prefecture was divided into four counties and one subprefecture: Taiwan County, Changhua County, Yunlin County, Miaoli County, and Puli Subprefecture. The new prefecture seat was located at the central city of Toatun (大墩), which was also designated as the site of the new provincial capital, taking its name as Taiwanfu or Taiwan (now Taichung). However, during construction of the new capital, the provincial capital was temporarily relocated to the city of Taipeh (Taipei). One of the administrators of Taiwan Prefecture was Raymund Tu, a native priest of Taiwan.
Four years after development of Toatun began, the seat of Taipeh (Taipei) was officially declared the provincial capital.
In 1895, with the Treaty of Shimonoseki and the successful Japanese invasion of Taiwan, Taiwan Prefecture was abolished. Under Japanese rule, the province was abolished in favor of Japanese-style divisions.
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- Davidson (1903), p. 245: "...the seat of government (which had been formerly at the old town of Taiwan-fu in the south, which city had been in turn the capital of the Dutch, Koxinga, and the Chinese,) was now removed temporarily to the new city of Taipeh, which had been lately in course of construction...In connection with this, it is necessary to go further and explain that it was the intention of the government to build a new capital city in the centre of the island near Changwha. Accordingly, the new city was laid out and the construction of official yamens commenced. The name of the new city became Taiwan-fu, or the capital city of Taiwan (Formosa), and it was also to be the seat of a new prefecture called Taiwan."
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