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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection
No Trespassing

Military

Anything to do with the military: army, navy, whatever. A lot of what you'll find here will have something to do with history.

A Defender of China

We are your friend
An unusual sign in front of a restaurant in northern Hsinchu City.

On the northern edge of Hsinchu City 新竹市, about halfway between Nánliáo Fishing Port 南寮漁港 and the massive Hsinchu Air Base 新竹空軍基地, you’ll find a small restaurant by the name of Old Lù Beef Noodles 老陸牛肉麵. Such a shop might not catch your eye were it not for a curious turquoise signboard perched on an easel out front. Hsinchu 新竹 is home to one of the highest densities of military dependents’ villages in the nation so it comes as no surprise that it would be advertising military village cuisine 眷村美食. What is rather unusual is the hand-painted adaptation of the May 16, 1938, edition of Life Magazine, originally subtitled A Defender of China, appearing here with the messages We are your friend 我們的你們的朋友 and We are fights for freedom 我們是為自由而战 (with that last character a simplified form of 戰). The pot of noodles and chopsticks are a creative addition.

Dadu Plateau Anti-Airborne Fortifications 大肚台地反空降堡

An abandoned fortification on the Dadu Plateau
An abandoned fortification on the edge of the Dadu Plateau in Taichung.

Dàdù Plateau 大肚台地 (also known as Dadu Mountain 大肚山) is a geographic feature of great strategic importance to the defense of central Taiwan 台灣. It overlooks the west coastal plain and occupies high ground on the far edge of the Taichung Basin 台中盆地, home to the majority of the population of Taichung 台中, the third-largest city in the nation (and soon to be the second). The entire length of the plateau is peppered with military facilities from the massive Ching Chuan Kang Air Base 空軍清泉崗基地 in the north to Chénggōng Ridge 成功嶺 down south. In between one will find a number of abandoned or disused bunkers, gun towers, and blockhouses. This post focuses on seven anti-airborne fortifications located in the central part of the plateau starting with the #7 Anti-Airborne Fort 七號反空降堡, my introduction to this group of ruins.

Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 臺中飛行場機槍堡

Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺
A lone Japanese colonial era gun tower on the former site of Shuinan Airport at the edge of urban Taichung.

Not much remains of the former Taichū Aerodrome 臺中飛行場, a Japanese colonial era airbase originally built in 1911 on the northwestern periphery of central Taichung 台中. The airbase saw a lot of action in World War II and several kamikaze units were stationed there in the final months of the war. After the arrival of the KMT it was used as a hub for aviation research and development before entering into civilian use in the 1970s as Shuǐnǎn Airport 水湳機場. In 2004 operations were transferred to the nearby Taichung Airport 台中航空站 and, over the following decade, the former Japanese airbase was completely demolished as part of an ongoing city-wide urban renewal plan. The only building spared was a lone gun tower built in 1940, formally designated a historic site in 2006, and officially known as the Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺中飛行場機槍堡.

Traces of an Army Maintenance Depot

A trace of martial history in Xinyi District
A distinctive logo on the gateway to a former army logistics maintenance depot near Taipei 101.

Xìnyì District 信義區 is now one of the most expensive and upscale parts of Taiwan 台灣 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.

Forlorn Sentinel

Forlorn sentinel
A forlorn sentinel on the Dadu Plateau in Taichung 台中.

Pictured here is an outtake from my post about the anti-airborne fortifications on the Dàdù Plateau 大肚台地 in Taichung 台中 (follow that link for the whole story). In short, this is a KMT authoritarian era military fortification designed to repel a communist invasion that never came. As with all but one of the other six forts in the area it was abandoned at some unknown point in the past. Now it stands silent and forlorn, overlooking the coastal plains and the urban sprawl that surrounds the Port of Taichung 台中港.

Keelung Road Guest House 基隆路招待所

Buried beneath the overgrowth on Keelung Road
Buried beneath the overgrowth on Keelung Road.

Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district there lies an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the endless city. It would be impossible to miss this abandonment, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti lines the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the exact name and history of this ruin but now have a rather strong suspicion that it was once a hāodàisuǒ 招待所 or guest house—hence the unofficial name I have chosen for this piece.

A False Tunnel on the Coastal Plains of Pingtung 嘉和遮體

A tunnel on the coastal plains of Pingtung
A railway tunnel on the coastal plains of Pingtung.

Here is yet another roadside curiosity in the deep south of Taiwan 台灣: a false tunnel on the coastal plains of Fāngshān 枋山, Pingtung 屏東. It doesn’t cut through any mountainside nor is it built to withstand landslides. It’s just an 1,180 meter tunnel that trains pass through for no discernible reason. I first read about this on Michael Turton’s blog and later saw it on my first round-the-island bicycle tour. More recently, which is to say just a few days ago, I took a spin through the southern loop once again, and spent a little extra time examining this concrete oddity in an attempt to divine its purpose.

Xinpi Machine Gun Fort 新埤反空降機槍碉堡

A Japanese era anti-aircraft turret in Xinpi
A Japanese era anti-aircraft turret in Xinpi.

While cycling through Xinpi, an otherwise ordinary expanse of rural Pingtung 屏東, I was surprised to see a sign indicating that there was a “fort” somewhere in the area. I cut loose from the main road I was following and went to go investigate. After following a bend in the river just outside a small settlement I found it: a Japanese anti-aircraft fortification dating back to the late 1930s or early 1940s. I haven’t found a formal name for this fortification so I’m going to call it the Xinpi Machine Gun Tower 新埤反空降機槍碉堡 until I hear of something better.

A Bamboo Tank in Rural Tainan

A bamboo tank in Xinguang Village
A bamboo tank in Xinguang Village, Guanmiao, Tainan.

Taiwan 台灣 is riddled with roadside attractions and folk art projects like this bamboo tank in Xīnguāng Painted Village 新光彩繪村, Tainan 台南. Located in the rolling hills of Guānmiào 關廟 not far from the badlands of southern Taiwan 台灣, this small community of several hundred residents was fading into history until local artists decided to paint folksy murals all over town to attract tourism and revitalize the area around Běiliáo Old Street 北寮老街 (which didn’t seem all that old or noteworthy). The story in some ways parallels that of the Rainbow Village of Taichung 台中 but Xinguang looks more rustic and less fantastical.

Changhua Aerodrome Fortifications 彰化飛行場古砲台

A colonial fortification in rural Changhua

One of my idle pursuits this mild winter has involved documenting all the obscure and unusual stuff I find in my travels around Changhua 彰化. When I go riding I prefer to take winding roads that twist and turn through old villages rather than the newer thoroughfares that directly connect communities in the countryside. Sometimes this pays off—for instance, while exploring some of the side roads on my way to Lukang 鹿港 I found this strange looking building amid the rice fields and rural industrial sprawl.