Tamsui had some of the earliest cultural development in Northern Taiwan, and is an enchanting “riverside hill town.” Since prehistoric times, Taiwan's indigenous peoples, Chinese, Spanish, Dutch, and Japanese have lived, spread their religion, and engaged in in trade here, which has given the town a unique cultural ambiance, and it preserves numerous historic sites and ancient relics.
Over the course of centuries, the Pingpu indigenous tribes, who were the heirs of the prehistoric Dabenkeng and Shisanhang cultures, lived here and crossed the Tamsui River on bamboo rafts.
1700年代（康熙晚年） 番社采風圖 渡溪 描繪平埔族人浮水推筏的情景。（中研院史語所版權）
During the 1700's (late Kangxi period), this genre painting of Taiwan's aboriginal people—Crossing the River—portrays Pingpu indigenous people pushing a bamboo raft through the water. (copyright by the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)
From 1600 to 1650, the Spanish and then the Dutch successively occupied Tamsui, which they used as a trading post, and established Fort Antonio (today’s Fort San Domingo) on a hill on the north side of the mouth of the Tamsui River.
In 1654, the Dutch drew this "map of Tamsui, its surrounding villages, and Jilong Island," which shows Fort Antonio (today’s Fort San Domingo)
The Dutch and Chinese immigrants brought oxen and ox carts to Taiwan for use in farming. Ox carts were perhaps the earliest means of land transportation in Taiwan, but did not appear in the Tamsui area until lat-er.
One of the board-wheel ox carts used in Taiwan during early times.
1704年 康熙臺灣輿圖 北部地區 圖中可見當時淡水地區尚無使用牛車。（故宮版權）
The 1704 Kangxi Taiwan Map–northern Taiwan This map shows that ox carts were not yet in use in the Tamsui ar-ea at that time. (copyright by the National Palace Museum)
During the 1680's, the Qing Dynasty established in Taiwan: one prefectural capital: Taiwan Fu, and three counties: Taiwan County, Fengshan County, and Juluo County; Tamsui was part of Juluo County.
1860—After being defeated by joint Anglo-French forces, the Qing government was forced to sign the Trea-ty of Tientsin, which made Tamsui an open trading port, and made Bali a trading wharf. A customs house was established at Tamsui, but because of the shallow water, lack of hinterland, and exposure to the strong northeast wind at Bali, the center of port operations gradually shifted to Tamsui. Afterwards, trading vessels frequently called at Tamsui, and a cluster of funding trading companies and missionaries formed. As a result, Tamsui became the largest commercial center and entrepot in northern Taiwan, and served as a gateway for the entry of Western culture into Taiwan.
Rev. George Leslie Mackay settled in Tamsui in 1872, and used it as a base for missionary, medical, and educa-tional activities.
During the 1890's, after the Sino-French War of 1885, the Qing government began active efforts to devel-opment Taiwan, and Provincial Governor Liu Ming-chuan embarked on the construction of a railway in northern Taiwan. This railway was the direct predecessor of the northern section of today's West Coast railway line.
In 1895, Japanese colonial direction map showing the Tamsui River basin, the early Taipei area, and "Liu Ming-chuan's railway" (copyright by the Taiwan Ancient Map Field Photograph Workshop)
The years around 1900 were the busiest time for the port of Tamsui, but the increasingly severe silting of the harbor, plus the beginning of the development of the port of Keelung in 1899, caused Tamsui's port to fall into decline.
Tamsui harbor during the late 19th century
Junks tied up along the waterfront near today's Gongming Street during the Japanese colonial period (copyright by DigitalArchives.tw)
1920—The Japanese government established Balizhuang in Bali, and established counties under Taihoku Prefecture, with Tamsui, Sanzhi, and Shimen Yijie Sanzhuang all being made subordinate to Tamsui Coun-ty.
1922—The first automobiles are used in the Tamsui area; 1933—The first government-run business ser-vice begins between Tamsui and Taipei.
The heavyweight Taiwanese painter Tan Ting-pho visited the Tamsui area frequently between 1934 and 1936 to sketch and paint, and produced numerous sketches and ten or more large and small oil paintings of the area. These works portray the natural and human beauty of Tamsui.
Tan Ting-pho's "Tamsui Scenery
From the Japanese colonial period to the 1970's, ferry boats provided the main form of transportation be-tween the banks of the Tamsui River.
Ferry boat on the Tamsui River during the 1970's (copyright by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts)
1983—Completion of the Guandu Bridge
In 1976, in order to promote transportation and development in northern Taiwan, the Taiwan Provincial Highway Bureau (today's Directorate General of Highways, MOTC) began planning a bridge that would fa-cilitate transportation and also meet defense needs in the Bali-Guandu area. Work began in 1980, and the bridge was completed and opened to traffic in 1983. The bridge is roughly 10km from the mouth of the Tamsui River. Until the Danjiang Bridge is completed, it will remain the bridge over the Tamsui River clos-est to its mouth at the sea.
關渡大橋與捷運淡水線列車（Eshium拍攝、CC BY-SA 3.0、https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%97%9C%E6%B8%A1%E5%A4%A7%E6%A9%8B）
The newly completed Guandu Bridge and the Taipei-Tamsui train (copyright by firstname.lastname@example.org)