Sunday, January 30, 2011

Urban population of Taiwan's cities

1/30/2011 Taiwan Explorer
In Taiwan every now and then the government changes the way a province, county or city is administered or defined. Recently (end of 2010) many changes have been made in relation to the most populous cities and counties. The former Taipei County became New Taipei City and instantly became the most populous city in Taiwan, while Taipei has slipped to number four (left is a table found on Wikipedia). Population TaiwanKaohsiung, Taichung and Tainan all became bigger as well, because the former counties were merged with them. However, the way I see a city is very different from the current official definition. My girlfriend and I had a discussion yesterday and we realized that we have different views on the issue. While for me it's unusual to see a city surrounding another city (like in the case of New Taipei and Taipei), for her that's normal. For me, a city needs to have a center, a historic and present identity and a distinct urban area. That's why it's hard for me to understand and see New Taipei City as a city on its own. I see it more as a combination of Taipei's suburbs and some surrounding towns and rural areas.

That's why I took the effort to interpret the data in a different way, in a way we would interpret it in my country. I wanted to know how many people live in the actual urban area and not the whole area of a city defined by the government, which includes small towns and villages and scarcely populated rural areas. This is what I did:

1. TAIPEI 台北市: I merged Taipei City with New Taipei City, but excluded some towns like Sanxia, Yingge, Ruifang, Wanli, Wulai which are not part of Taipei's main urban area. There are plans to merge New Taipei together with Keelung into one big city under the name Taipei by 2014. I counted the population of these New Taipei districts: Banqiao, Danshui, Luzhou, Sanchong, Shulin, Taishan, Tucheng, Wugu, Xindian, Xinzhuang, Xizhi, Yonghe and Zhonghe together with the population of all the districts of Taipei city and got this number: 6.011.435

2. KAOHSIUNG 高雄市: In case of the new bigger Kaohsiung, I only counted the population of the urban area, which includes following central and suburban districts: Daliao, Dashe, Fengshan, Gushan, Lingya, Linyuan, Nanzi, Niaosong, Qiaotou, Qianjin, Qijin, Qianzhen, Renwu, Sanmin, Xiaogang, Xinxing, Yancheng and Zuoying. The population of these districts is 2.209.362

3. TAICHUNG 台中市: The administrative area was also expanded recently and has a much larger population than before. But Taichung's urban area consists of only these districts: West, East, Central, North, South, Beitun, Nantun, Xitun, Dali, Taiping, Tanzi and Wuri. The combined population of these urban districts is 1.618.503

4. TAINAN 台南市: The city was also recently merged with the former Tainan county and the population instantly doubled. However, if we only count the districts in the urban area, such as: Anping, Annan, East, West, South, North and Yonkang, we get the following population: 989.203

5. GREATER TAOYUAN 大桃園市: This city is for me the 5th biggest city in Taiwan. That's because it incorporated some of the neighboring townships such as Luzhu and Guishan. If you see the map, it's obvious that they stick together and form one big city. The combined population of these 3 administered urban areas is: 686.794

6. GREATER CHUNGLI 大中壢市: Chungli City basically sticks together with Pingzhen City (see here). The border of the two separate administrative areas is partly located in the urban area. Since Chungli is bigger in size and population, I would add Pingzhen to Greater Chungli (no offence to the citizens of Pingzhen). By doing that, we would get a completely different number. The population would then be: 577.277

7. GREATER HSINCHU 大新竹市: Hsinchu City together with Zhubei City forms a big urban area and the combined population would be: 556.616

8. KEELUNG 基隆市: The biggest city on Taiwan's northern coast is administered as a provincial city for few decades now, that's why my numbers aren't different from the official numbers: 384.134

Let me stress once again, that this is not about who's wrong or who's right, it's just about definition. I respect the way Taiwanese define their cities, I just wanted to show my European readers comparable numbers. Of course this is purely my own definition of what a city is, where it starts and where it ends. Maybe someone else would include or exclude some of the districts here, but the numbers would not be that different.

This is now how I would define the population of Taiwan's biggest cities (approx.):


Romanized name

Chinese name



Taipei City


6.01 million


Kaohsiung City


2.21 million


Taichung City


1.62 million


Tainan City


0.99 million


Greater Taoyuan City




Greater Chungli City




Greater Hisnchu City




Keelung City



All data retrieved from National Statistics of ROC for 2010.
Related: [My TAIWAN page]