The Hsin Tien (新店) River in Wanhua during the 1800s
I was digging around in the British Consular reports for information on Li Chunshung (李春生), the 19th century (1838-1924) Taiwanese comprador who worked with John Dodd to export oolong tea out of, I think, Danshui. Together, they put Formosan tea on the map. I haven't come up with much, but I did stumble across this 1881 account of Banka, the Shapichu (Shapaochu) aboriginal word meaning "place where canoes meet," from which Monga (Wanhua 萬華) gets its name. I call my blog "Wanhua Taiwan" so I want to throw it up. The following was submitted by Thomas Watters, the British Consul in Danshui at the time:
I have the honour to submit an Intelligence Report for the period from August 6th up to this date [November 9, 1881].
1. Political Summary. On the 12th September the Governor of Fuhkien, the well known Chen Yu-ying arrived at Kelung on a tour of inspection. It seems that by an Imperial decree the coast defenses of this island have been put under his sole control. Before crossing over he sent three officials on ahead to herald his arrival and collect information...
One of the first acts of the Governor was to inspect the Kelung Fort. This he condemned as worse than useless, and he gave orders for the immediate construction of certain outworks for the fort. He did not visit the Government Coal mine, but it is supposed that one of his subordinates went to it in disguise and made numerous inquires. From Kelung the Governor went to Banka [Monga AKA Wanhua] where, it is said he made strict investigation [used as a non-count noun, I guess] into the state of public business in each yamen. On the 15th he visited this place [Danshui], and minutely inspected the now-abandoned Camp behind the Consulate and the site for the proposed new fort. This fort is to be built on the north bank and near the mouth of the [Danshui] river... From Banka he went to Hsin-chu where he beheaded one man and from that he went to Changhua where he beheaded another...
While at Banka the Governor gave orders for the erection of a bridge over the Ya-chia [大甲溪] river. This is said to be an enormous undertaking. The Ya-chia river runs into the sea about 30 miles, I am told, south of Tamsui, at the place where Hsin-chu Hsien borders on Chuan-hua Hsien. During the rainy season it is a vast torrent rushing with irresistible force and carrying with it large quantities of earth and stone. All the Hsien in the North of the island are to contribute men and money and the Governor assigned three months as the limit within which the bridge is to be constructed. But he afterwards extended the limit when he found what difficulties were in the way of the undertaking. The construction of the bridge will cost the people an immense amount of money, and those who know the nature of the river say that the bridge cannot last long. The Governor has given orders to have the bed of the torrent deepened and stone embankments made.
The report veers off now:
The relations between the Chinese and aborigines have been very bad lately. The savages are much exasperated at the inroads which are made on their territory by Chinese woodcutters. Some of these latter were last week engaged in felling a tree when savages attacked them and killed two. This occurred within two days' journey from Tamsui.
An English engineer named Malsch is at present engaged in making experiments at the Petroleum wells in the interior. He is employed, I believe, by the Chinese Merchants Co., but I have not heard whether his operations have been successful. The savages in the neighbourhood of the wells are said to be in almost open warfare with the Chinese...
Watters comes back to Banka at the end, under the heading of General:
On the morning of the 25th September  we had a very sharp shock from an earthquake which lasted a few seconds. It caused much damage among the Chinese houses at Banka, but it only shook the foreign houses. It is said to have been the greatest earthquake experienced here since 1864.
There are loose ends here. First off, was the bridge over the Ya-chia River (大甲溪) ever built? "But he afterwards extended the limit." I'm not aware of any bridges spanning Banka's waterways until the Japanese era. As far as I know, the first was Firefly Bridge (螢橋) http://ow.ly/8f1CE, which went up in the early 20th century, so I'm guessing a few more limits were extended and then he quietly stopped with the extensions. Although many great public works were imagined at the end of the 19th century, nothing really got built or established until the Japanese took over in 1895. The Ching (清朝) was not only incompetent but also despised by the locals (aborigines and Chinese alike). Neither group wanted to assist the mandarins and the planners they occasionally brought in. They just wanted them to go away. Watters touches on the mood with the murders of the woodcutters and resistance to the petroleum wells.
Were any of the rivers or harbors dredged by the Ching? Again, I know this was a point of focus during the Japanese era. The Ching however let the harbor in Tainan silt up. That's one of the reasons the capital was shifted north toward the end of the 1880s. Ships and boats could no longer navigate the southern port. I've never heard about any important pre-Japanese dredge projects up north either. Banka (Wanhua 萬華), once the third most important dock in Taiwan, fell out of favor in the 19th century because it became so silted vessels could not move up the Danshui River to its shores. When the Sino-French War broke out in 1884, the Ching actually dumped junk in the mouth to impede warships.
I don't mean to completely rag on the Ching. It seems this fellow Chen Yu-ying had some progressive ideas when he wasn't lopping off heads. The resources, will and vision simply could not at the end of the day been there because the poor fellow was in the employ of the Ching Dynasty (清朝), recognized as a laughingstock by this time in every manner and way.