Tamsui Township (Taiwanese: Tām-súi-tìn/Tām-chúi-tìn) is a sea-side town in Taipei County, Taiwan. It is named after the Tamsui River whose name means "Freshwater". The town is also popular as a site for viewing the sun setting into the Taiwan Strait. There are three universities in this small town (population 130 105): Aletheia University, Tamkang University, and St. John's University.
Originally settled by the Ketagalan aborigines, the location was called "Hoba", meaning "stream's mouth". "Hoba" was loaned into Taiwanese as Hō·-bóe (滬尾). Historical records may refer to the place as "Hobe".
The Spanish arrived in the 17th century and called this place "Casidor" and the Tamsui river "Kimalon". In the fall of 1629, the Spanish established the first major non-aboriginal settlement comprising the town and mission of Santo Domingo. The Spanish occupied northern Taiwan for the purpose of securing Spanish interests in the Philippines against the Dutch, the British, and the Portuguese, as well as for facilitating trade with China and Japan.
In 1641, the Spanish were expelled from Taiwan by the Dutch. The Spanish had already abandoned their settlement in Tamsui in 1638 and the Dutch built a new fort which they named Fort Anthonio (after the Governor-General of the Dutch East India Company Anthonio van Diemen). It is today known as Hong Mao Cheng (ch: 紅毛城, literally, the Fortress of the Red-haired ones) and is the main building of the Fort San Domingo museum complex. In addition to "pacifying" the aboriginal tribes in the area, the Dutch also encouraged the immigration and settlement of the area by Han Chinese, as well as expanding the production and trade of sulfur, animal skins, and other indigenous resources.
Because of its proximity to mainland China, as well as its location in a natural harbor, Tamsui quickly became a major fishing and trade port. The Qing naval patrol also established an outpost in Tamsui in 1808. In 1862, the Qing government opened Tamsui to foreign trade under the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin, exporting tea, camphor, sulfur, coal, opium, and dyes. By the mid-19th century Tamsui had become the largest port in Taiwan, boasting a sizable foreign population as well as a British consulate at Hong Mao Cheng.
Canadian medical doctor and missionary George Leslie Mackay arrived in Tamsui on March 9, 1872, proceeding to establish Taiwan's first hospitals in Western medicine and formal educational facilities, including Oxford College (now part of Aletheia University), the oldest higher-education institution in Taiwan by some measure.
By the time Taiwan was ceded to Japan following the end of the Sino-Japanese War, Tamsui's position as a seaport was beginning to wane due to the accumulation of sediments in the Tamsui River. By the 20th century, most of Tamsui's port operations had moved to Keelung, and the local economy had switched primarily to agriculture. However, public infrastructure construction projects by the Japanese led to Tamsui's rise as a local administrative and cultural center.
Following the end of World War II, Tamsui reverted to being a small fishing town. With the expansion of nearby Taipei City, Tamsui slowly became a center for tourism along Taiwan's northwest coast. In the last ten years, the city has become popular as a suburb of Taipei in the local real estate market.
Following the completion of the Taipei Rapid Transit System's Danshui Line, the town has experienced a sharp increase in tourist traffic, reflected in the completion of several riverside parks, the growth of open-air markets specializing in traditional handicrafts, the construction of a fisherman's wharf, and the increase in passenger ferries traversing across and along the river.