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Uncovering Old Taipei’s Irrigation Network

A model of the Liukung irrigation canals at the exhibition
To educate residents about the city’s irrigation development, the Taipei City Archives is currently displaying “Irrigation Development of Taipei During Qing Dynasty” Exhibition at the Discovery Center of Taipei. This exhibition will last until July 31. For younger generations of Taipei residents, few realize that there is a large irrigation network lying beneath the city. This system exists under major streets like Anhe Road and Dinghao Plaza. In addition, the channels carrying sewage near Wenchang Street and the Taipei Veterans General Hospital used to be branch channels of the Liukung and Chi-sing irrigation networks. However, the shift in Taipei’s population and development made the irrigation network obsolete. When roads replaced rivers and storefronts replaced farmlands, these canals became no more than a page of history in the city’s development. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DOCA) Commissioner Sebastian Liao remarked that this year marks the 301 birthday of the architect of this network. Kuo Si-liu, the builder of the irrigation system, began his project in 1740. However, the process encountered many problems and he faced obstacles from the indigenous tribes when he attempted to tap into the source of Xindian River. Fortunately, he resolved the problem with the aboriginals peacefully by taking a tribal princess as his wife. DOCA hopes that this exhibition will remind local residents about the source of their water supply. In addition, the goal is to educate people on the importance of ecological preservation and the value of history. The recent success of the Korean experience in harnessing Cheonggyecheon River has convinced Taipei residents that the same thing could be done here. Dr. Ma Yi-gong, a member of the city’s Historical Sites Commission, pointed out that Taipei should revive the Liukung irrigation canals. Her proposal to bring back the network has received much support from residents. The city is now evaluating the possibility of reviving the irrigation system with cross city-county cooperation for future projects.