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Kaohsiung (Chinese:高雄, pinyin: gāo xióng) is the second largest city in Taiwan (population around 1.45m) with eleven districts, and the island's most significant port (the world's third largest container port after Hong Kong and Singapore). Like Taipei, Kaohsiung can refer to either the Kaohsiung City, which is administered directly by the central government of the Republic of China, or Kaohsiung County, which is administered as part of Taiwan Province.

Unlike Taipei, the streets of Kaohsiung are wide and traffic is less congested than in Taipei. However, the air pollution around Kaohsiung is notoriously bad because of the heavy industry in the area. Kaohsiung is the major port through which most of Taiwan's oil is imported which accounts for the large amount of heavy industry.

It is an export processing zone - producing aluminum, wood and paper products, fertilizers, cement, metals, machinery and ships. Its subway system, the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (KMRT), should be running in 2005.

The city grew up from a small village called in the 17th century Dagou (打狗), which was the name of a local tribe or "bamboo forest" in the local tribe's language. The Dutch established a fort there in 1624 but were expelled by the Chinese in 1661. Under Chinese control the area was named Wan-nien-chow in 1664. Following a further name change to Takao in the late 1670s the town grew dramatically with immigrants from mainland China. In 1684 Kaohsiung was renamed Fengshan County (鳳山縣), and considered a part of Taiwan City. Kaohsiung was first opened as a port during the 1680s.

In 1895 Taiwan was ceded to Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Japanese developed Kaohsiung, especially the harbour. Since Dagou (pronounced Takou by Japanese) -- which was usually written in Chinese and Japanese using the characterss "punching dogs" -- is not considered elegant, in 1920, the Japanese changed the last vowel of the name, and it became Takayu (高雄), which is pronounced "Kao-hsiung" in Mandarin Chinese.

Kaohsiung was upgraded to a municipality on July 1, 1979, by Executive Yuan order on November 19, 1978. The famous-in-hindsight Kaohsiung Incident of December 1979 occurred in the city.

The Old City - Qi Jin, Gu Shan, Yen Cheng, Zuo Ying.
Downtown - Xin Xing, Chian Jin and Ling Ya.
The bits no-one visits - San Min, Nan Zi, Qian Zhen and Xiao Gang.

See also: Political divisions of the Republic of China