Taipei (台北 or 臺北; Táiběi) is the national capital of Taiwan. It is in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming Mountains and the Central Mountains. It is, with 2.6 million inhabitants, the fourth largest administrative area of Taiwan, after New Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. However, the Greater Taipei metropolitan area, which encompasses the central Taipei City along with the surrounding New Taipei City and Keelung, represents the largest urban cluster in Taiwan with nearly 7 million people. Taipei serves as the island's financial, cultural and governmental centre.
In 1884, the Qing dynasty governor of Taiwan, Liu Mingchuan, decided to move the prefecture capital to Taipei, and with the construction of government offices and the influx of civil servants, Taipei's days as a sleepy market town were over. Taipei remained the provincial capital when Taiwan was granted provincial status in 1885. As Taipei is in the north of Taiwan (the closest area to Japan), the city continued to thrive when Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895. However, as Japan was in the throes of a 'modernize-come-what-may' period, little regard was paid to Taipei's traditional Chinese-style architecture and many of the old buildings, including the city walls, were demolished. On the other hand, several European-style buildings were constructed by the Japanese rulers - the Presidential Palace and National Taiwan University being among the most famous. The city's architecture, however, suffered another major onslaught when the KMT government arrived from mainland China in 1945.