Special municipality (Taiwan)

Special Municipality
Category Unitary state
Location Taiwan
Number 6
Populations 1,884,284 (Tainan) – 3,966,818 (New Taipei)
Areas 1,137.5545 square miles (2,946.253 km2) (Taoyuan) – 104.9425 square miles (271.800 km2) (Kaohsiung)
Government Local government, Central Government
Subdivisions District
This article is part of a series on
Administrative divisions
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Historical divisions of
Republic of China (1912–49)
Taiwan (1895–1945)

Special municipalities (Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ti̍t-hat-chhī; literally: "direct-administered cities") are cities in Republic of China that have the rank of province. Along with Taiwan and Fujian provinces, the special municipalities are the highest level classification of administrative divisions in the Republic of China. Currently there are six special municipalities in Taiwan: Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei and Taoyuan.[1]

Position in hierarchy

Special municipalities are the highest level cities in Taiwan. Some cities of lower levels may also refer to themselves as municipalities.[2] However, they are referenced using the following conventional terms:

Three levels of cities in Taiwan:

  1. Special municipalities (直轄市 zhíxiáshì)
  2. Provincial cities (市 shì or 省轄市 shěngxiáshì)
  3. County-controlled cities (縣轄市 xiànxiáshì)


Mainland Era

During Republic of China government rule in mainland China, twelve cities were elevated as special municipalities. They were:

NoNameCurrent place NoNameCurrent place NoNameCurrent place
51Nanking南京市Nanjing, Jiangsu 55Tientsin天津市Municipality of Tianjin 59Hankou漢口市Wuhan, Hubei
52Shanghai上海市Municipality of Shanghai 56Chungking重慶市Municipality of Chongqing 60Canton廣州市Guangzhou, Guangdong
53Peiping北平市Municipality of Beijing 57Dairen大連市Dalian, Liaoning 61Sian西安市Xi'an, Shaanxi
54Tsingtao青島市Qingdao, Shandong 58Harbin哈爾濱市Harbin, Heilongjiang 62Mukden瀋陽市Shenyang, Liaoning

The system of top-level municipality were designed in 1927 soon after they were designated as "cities" during the 1920s. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (Chinese: 特別市; pinyin: tèbié shì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (院轄市; yuànxiá shì), by the Central Government. Seoul in South Korea still uses the term special municipality (特別市), pronounced teukbyeolsi (특별시).

Taiwan Era

Taiwan county becoming a municipality may be called a merger, but it differs from the Western term, consolidated city-county in a number of ways. Unlike the Western model, the smallest units of local administration are left intact, only a portion of the layer in between, specifically, large dominant cities are dissolved. Minor cities are reclassified as wards, and major cities are dissolved leaving behind constituent wards, eliminating a layer of government. This form of urban merger has historical roots in Chinese administration and was also used to merge Tokyo into a metropolis (都), the same character(s) 「六都」 may also be used to refer to the 6 special municipalities of Taiwan in Chinese, although other terminology in Japan differs in both Kanji form and even the English translation of identical Chinese characters differ, depending on which language its translated from.

Six special municipalities in Taiwan were created after the Republic of China government took control following World War II. Taipei was made a Yuan-controlled municipality in 1967; Kaohsiung was elevated in 1979; New Taipei, Taichung and Tainan also elevated to special municipality in 2010; and Taoyuan in 2014. Since 1994, Yuan-controlled municipalities (院轄市 yuànxiáshì) have been officially called special municipality (直轄市 zhíxiáshì, lit. direct-controlled municipalities) to emphasize their autonomy. Besides significant political, economic and cultural development, the ROC law dictates that a municipality must have population of over 1,250,000 people.[3] In terms of actual governance and not simply status, a special municipality has more authority to coordinate, push through, streamline, and plan as compared to the former administrative structure, because the change effectively eliminates a layer of intervening government, and not simply a layer but a powerful large city government is dissolved (with the exception of New Taipei as there was no such core city to dissolve), this particular type of conversion to a 2-layer system takes advantage of small government, elimination of redundant services and jurisdictions, and flat organization without changing the nature of the smallest units of local administration.


In Taiwanese municipalities, the mayor is the highest-ranking official in charge. The mayor is directly elected by the people registered in the municipality for a duration of four years.

Current special municipalities

Taiwanese Hokkien
PopulationArea (km²)Date of
Origin CountyMayor
Kaohsiung 高雄市 Gāoxióng Shì Ko-hiông-chhī Kô-hiùng-sṳ 2,779,790 2,946.2527 July 1, 1979 Kaohsiung County Kiku Chen (Chen Chu)
New Taipei 新北市 Xīnběi Shì Sin-pak-chhī Sîn-pet-sṳ 3,955,7772,052.5667 Dec. 25, 2010 Taipei County Eric Chu (Chu Li-luan)
Taichung 臺中市 Táizhōng Shì Tâi-tiong-chhī Thòi-chûng-sṳ 2,702,920 2,214.8968 Dec. 25, 2010 Taichung County Lin Chia-lung
Tainan 臺南市 Táinán Shì Tâi-lâm-chhī Thòi-nàm-sṳ 1,883,251 2,191.6531 Dec. 25, 2010 Tainan County William Lai (Lai Ching-te)
Taipei 臺北市 Táiběi Shì Tâi-pak-chhī Thòi-pet-sṳ 2,688,140 271.7997 July 1, 1967 Taipei County Ko Wen-je
Taoyuan 桃園市 Táoyuán Shì Thô-hng-chhī Thò-yèn-sṳ 2,092,977 1,220.9540 Dec. 25, 2014 Taoyuan County Cheng Wen-tsan

Proposals for special municipalities[4]

Changes June 2009
Combined population
Combined area (km²) Map (before) Map (after)
Taipei + New Taipei + KeelungTaipei
(臺北市 + 新北市 + 基隆市 → 臺北市)
6,854,715 2,457.1244


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