Kaohsiung yesterday and today 昨天今天的高雄
Taiwan has had quite a turbulent past in a relatively short period of time, starting from the Dutch and Spanish invasion in the 1620’s, to Qing Dynasty and Japanese rule, to modern day debate over its independence status or not. During my recent trip to Kaohsiung, I’ve discovered quite a lot about this city and the country in general. That is why the Chinese has a saying “it is better to walk 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books”.
Kaohsiung is located at the south west of Taiwan along the coast, so most places we went to was centered around the coastline. Our first stop was Cijin. It used to be a peninsula until the government decided to develop a second port in 1967, thereby severing it from the mainland and making it a 11km long 20m wide island. In 1720, the Qing Empire built a fort on the island, followed by a lighthouse a century later. In both cases, British engineers were involved in the planning, a sign of Britain’s early relationship with the region. Unfortunately, during our visit the lighthouse was closed due to trees being uprooted by the typhoon the previous month. In typical Taiwanese bureaucracy mentality, instead of clearing the damage promptly and making it safe for visitors the authorities decided to close the site all together. Eventually, we lingered around the fort for a while, embracing the early autumn ocean breeze whilst waiting for the sunset. Yes, again 🙂 !
高雄位於台灣西南沿海，這次我們主要去的地方都是沿著海岸線。旗津是我們的第一站。它曾經是一個半島，直到1967年政府決定開發第二個港口，就把它跟本島截斷，從而變成為一個11公里長20米寬的窄長小島。早在1720年，清政府已在島上興建了一座炮臺，一百多年後再興建一座燈塔。英國工程師都有參與這兩項工程的規劃，可見英國很早已跟這地方有很密切的關係。可惜我們到訪那天，燈塔並沒有開放，因為樹木被之前一個月的颱風吹至連根拔起，造成危險。在典型的台灣官僚作風下，當局不是立即清理現場，反而是決定關閉場地讓到訪客人失望而回。結果，我們在炮臺周圍待了一會兒，享受後海洋吹來的初秋微風，等待日落。對呀，我們又看日落 🙂 !
Before we left Cijin, we stopped by a temple that is over 330 years old, the Tinhou Gong. In typical Taiwanese fashion, the temple has been blinged up, I’m told this makes it less boring and attracts more worshippers.
Being a Brit at heart, my visit to Kaohsiung would not be complete unless I visited the first British Consulate established in Taiwan. In the early days, Kaohsiung was known as Takow which is believed to originate from the aboriginals who lived there. In Chinese, Takow means “beat the dog” so many Chinese find it rather amusing as to why you beat up a dog at the British Consulate!
Taiwan has a strong preservation culture both in terms of buildings and history. Kaohsiung in particular has a lot that it feels needs to be remembered, for example the 228 incident. In a nutshell this was an uprise against the corrupted government that resulted in tens of thousands of people across Taiwan being killed. In early March 1947 there was a round of brutal killings in Kaohsiung resulting in many deaths, to date this still leaves a bitter and deep scar for many locals. This was a taboo subject in Taiwan for many years until the government apologized for their actions in 1995. The Kaohsiung 228 Monument commemorates those who lost their lives during the incident.
Our coffee stop during our trip was in a building that used to be an exclusive Japanese restaurant with Geisha performance back in the 1920s. A few years ago, the building was nearly knocked down by the government until a group of locals stepped in to save it. Outside the café hangs another piece of Takow’s history. After the 228 incident, Taiwan entered a long period of White Terror (martial law). The gentlemen on the left in the photo was one of the many who were executed during this period. The photo was donated by his granddaughter, but nobody knows who the other people in the photo are, who was standing in the centre, and why he/she was torn out…
Whilst this wasn’t intended to be an educational trip, I was very glad to learn more about the history of this city. I felt that Kaohsiung embraces its history in an impartial manner and it doesn’t distort history to make itself a martyr or victim. It remembers the history, but doesn’t hold on to the past. Instead, it moves forward to develop itself into the second largest city in Taiwan today.