Recently I went riding up Jiànnán Street (劍南街), a scenic mountain road connecting Zhongshan and Shilin. Along the way I noticed many bunkers and sentry posts, remnants of a time when this entire mountainside was under military control and strictly off-limits to civilians. One bunker in particular struck me as particularly pleasing, for it was little more than a door in the forest, a dark promise surrounded by a vivid shade of green. For reference, this place is located on the eastern flank of the modest Wénjiānshān (文間山), and for more about the area you can consult Chinese language blogs here and here.…
Xinyi is now one of the most expensive and upscale parts of Taiwan but it hasn’t always been that way. Decades ago it was an undesirable area on the edge of the city with a significant military-industrial presence, traces of which still remain if you know where to look. The open expanse of parks and parking lots around the intersection of Xìn’ān Street (信安街) and Wúxìng Street (吳興街) immediately to the west of Taipei Medical University (臺北醫學大學) is one such trace.
Taichung is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Beitun, Nantun, and Wuri. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuǐduì Jùluò 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nantun with an ambiguous future.
Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村 is widely known as the last walled village of Kowloon. Located not far from the former location of the infamous Kowloon Walled City 九龍城寨, the village traces its history back to the 1352 founding of its modest Tin Hau Temple 天后宮. It was fortified in 1724 to defend against bandits and pirates but has, in modern times, lost the moat, walls, and watchtowers that once protected residents from harm. As the very last of its kind in the urban heart of Hong Kong it has become a flashpoint for conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the many activist groups and citizens passionate about preserving what remains of Kowloon’s cultural heritage.
Not much remains of the old Taipei Prison (台北刑務所) except the walls along the north and south sides of the prison grounds. Originally known as Taihoku Prison (after the Japanese name for Taipei), it was built in 1904 to incarcerate a burgeoning population of political dissidents, revolutionaries, and activists resisting Japanese colonial rule, though the authorities also imprisoned common criminals here as well. It was also the scene of the needless execution of 14 American soldiers a mere 58 days before the end of World War II. The KMT continued to operate the prison into the bleak years of the White Terror (白色恐怖) before razing it to the ground in 1963.