Tainan is the fourth largest city in the nation of Taiwan. It is also the oldest city, being settled in the early 1600s, and was for a very long time the cultural and political center of Taiwan, a position now held by Taipei. It is located in the southern part of the island, as evidenced by its name, which means "Tai South"
The city of Tainan was where Koxinga, also known as Cheng Gong, arrived in 1662 and defeated the Dutch occupiers of the island of Taiwan. After accomplishing his victory, Cheng Gong established Chinese culture on the island, setting up a Confucian temple and a school system. Tainan would remain the center of Taiwan through the conquest of the island of the Qing. Only in the last 19th century would the commercial and political focus of the island change to Taipei.
Today, Tainan, like most of Taiwan, is a very modern city, with a 7-11 on every corner. It is the fourth largest city in Taiwan, with the city itself having three quarters of a million people, and the surrounding area having many more.
Despite the fact that it has been heavily modernized, Tainan still has its own distinctive culture. Of all Taiwan's cities, Tainan is the slowest paced, and is closer to the original rural rhytms of the island life, a fact that sometimes makes people in the Northern part of the island look at Tainan people as hicks. Most of the people are also native speakers of the Taiwanese dialect, and Tainan is one of the centers of the Taiwanese Independence Movement, a fact helped by the fact that Chen Shuibian was born and attended school here.
Tainan's major problems are much the same as on other parts of the island. Rapid industrial development and population pressures have created a host of environmental problems. Although Tainan is already well integrated into the global technology economy, it is not as well integrated as Taipei, and the people are very interested in learning English, as evidenced by the great amount of English language schools.
Taiwan is considered to be the most free country in Asia, and Tainan, despite having a lot of its 400 year old history intact, has all the conveniences and freedoms that I am used to. It is a very good place to visit.