Taipei, the capital of the Republic of China, was once the location of a beautiful lake. Prehistoric Taipei was still surrounded by its beautiful mountains, but the city was under water. About 6,000 years ago the basin finally dried out and the area would be settled by Pingpu, or 'plains aboriginals'. Their descendants are still around today. However, once the Han Chinese discovered Taipei, they were forced into the mountains and renamed 'mountain people'. As more settlers came from China's east coast, more "discoverers" followed them: the Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish. In 1709 the Qing court, fearing European saturation, reversed a Ming decree forbidding settlement on Taiwan and allowed Chinese from Fujian province to claim some land. The communities that these early Fukkienese set up became trading ports for tea and camphor and laid the groundwork for more Chinese emigration. By 1882, those ports' economic assistance helped turn Taipei into an established city, necessitating a city wall. The wall wasn't much of a deterrent however, when the Japanese took the city in 1895.
From 1895 to 1945, Taipei was the administrative center for Japanese rule. Despite Japan's harsh rule, it left Taipei with good infrastructure and the buildings from that era are some of the most highly prized in the area. In 1949 the city came under control of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces and the city grew to its present size.
Today Taipei is the cultural, political, and economic center of Taiwan. What was once a sporadically designed, architecture-less city has transformed into an incredibly modern, dynamic, and livable city. Taipei also has more sister cities than any other metropolis in the world - somewhere around 50. The city is very easy to get around with its grid plan and Taipei Metro (MRT) with all stop names in Chinese and English. Every MRT stop also has a map with nearby attractions and all streets labeled. Great transportation and friendly people make Taipei a great city to sightsee and explore.