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The principal city in the north, Taipei was designated a 'special municipality' in July 1967, thus acquiring the same status as a province and its mayor the same rank as a provincial governor.
The area of the city has expanded to four times its original size, making it the fastest-growing city in Asia.
The city center contains the National Museum of History, the Taipei Folk Art Museum, the Taiwan Provincial Museum and Chung Cheng (Chiang Kai-shek) Memorial Hall, which is a fine example of classical Chinese architecture. The magnificent main entrance is more than 30m (100ft) high. One of Taipei's new attractions is a tour of the Fu Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy where traditional Chinese opera and acrobatic performers are trained and where they stage shows. Also new to Taipei is the City of Cathay, a replica of an ancient Chinese town which is located within the Chinese Culture and Movie Center.
The Lungshan (Dragon Mountain) Temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and was built in 1740. The temple, one of more than 5000 temples and shrines in the country, is regarded as the island's finest example of temple architecture.
Among other outstanding buildings of classical Chinese architecture in Taipei are the Martyrs' Shrine, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the Chungsham Building in the Yangmingshan district of the metropolis, 40 minutes' drive from the center of Taipei, where the National Palace Museum can also be found; it houses the world's largest and most priceless collection of Chinese art treasures (over 6000 items). Yangmingshan National Park is famous for its cherry and azalea trees, and attracts thousands of visitors at blossom time.
Beyond the Capital
Keelung has an imposing hilltop statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The northeast coastal road offers a spectacular drive, passing the foothills of the Central Mountain Range and overlooking the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The traveller will pass through many small villages, the lifestyles of which have changed little with the advent of high technology. Other outstanding attractions of the area include Yehliu, noted for its fantastic rock formations (Queen's Head); Green Bay and Chinshan beaches, with full beach resort facilities; Shihmen Dam; and Wulai, a mountain resort south of Taipei. Wulai is the site of a hilltop park and of a village inhabited by aboriginals who, besides making and selling artifacts, give song and dance performances for tourists. The Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, also with unusual rock formations, is not only good for swimming, diving, surfing, water-skiing and camping, but also the best place for seashore fishing and rock climbing. Window on China at Lungtan, 53km (33 miles) southwest of Taipei, contains reproductions on a scale of 1:25 of historical and other notable Chinese sites.
The center of the island has the most varied landscape. The east-west cross-island highway passes through spectacular mountain passes, most notably the Taroko Gorge, a ravine with towering cliffs shot through with extensive marble deposits. Lishan, located 1945m (6381ft) up on Pear Mountain, is a popular mountain resort. Other popular sights in the mountains include the Sun Moon Lake, the Chitou Forest recreation area, Yu Shan (Jade Mountain), and the alpine railway to Alishan.
Throughout the central area, there are numerous temples. The region's main towns are Taichung, one of the largest ports on the island, and Hualien in the east.
Kenting National Park is a popular forest recreation area boasting fine beaches, coral lakes, a bird sanctuary and, more recently, facilities for watersports and golf, all set amidst tropical coastal forest. Kaohsiung is the main industrial center and has the island's only other main airport, besides Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek. Tainan, the oldest city on the island, is known as the 'City of 100 Temples'; there are in fact 220, amongst them some of the best examples of Confucian temple architecture on the island.
Lanyu (Orchid Island), one of the smaller islands off the southeast coast, is the home of the aboriginal Yami, one of the world's last surviving hunter-gatherer tribes. Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung is the site of the Spring and Autumn pavilions and of the Dragon and Tiger pagodas.