The "Kaohsiung Zuoying Museum of Military Dependents Village" is about the sad story of the disappearing history and culture of the Taiwanese KMT villages. Whether you’re a foreigner or a local, the museum name  doesn’t sound like a museum you’d like to go visit, does it? and trust me when I say that it was very hard to find as even the nearby locals at the Zuoying’s Lotus Pond area had no idea it even existed.

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Wikipedia has an excellent introduction to the KMT villages story :

A military dependents’ village (Chinese: 眷村; Hanyu Pinyin: juàn cūn) is a community in Taiwan built in the late 1940s and the 1950s whose original purpose was to serve as provisional housing for Nationalist soldiers and their dependents from mainland China after the KMT retreated to Taiwan. They ended up becoming permanent settlements, forming distinct cultures as enclaves of mainlanders in Taiwanese cities. Over the years, many military dependents’ villages have suffered from urban problems such as housing dereliction, abandonment, urban decay, and urban slum.
Typical jumbled appearance of a military dependents’ village

The houses in these villages were often haphazardly and poorly constructed, having been built hastily and with limited funding. The residents had no private land ownership rights for the houses they lived in, as the land was government property.

In the 1990s, the government began an aggressive program of demolishing these villages and replacing them with highrises, giving the residents rights to live in the new apartments. As of late 2006, there are around 170 left out of an original number of 879, and there are efforts to preserve some as historic sites.

Only 170 out of 879 are left and that number is constantly going down. As I have a couple of friends who grew up in those KMT villages, I could sympathize with how they must feel seeing their homes destroyed even if some of them were in bad state.

Let me ask you – When does something turn into history and culture worth preserving and when is it decided that it should be torn down? I’m not sure. If you ask some of the old KMT folks living there, they feel the DPP decision to tear down all those neighborhoods was political.

 

The museum was set up to try and preserve some of that culture. It’s quite small, but there’s still a few things to see and it’s especially interesting if you’re lucky to have an English speaking tour-guide on spot (mostly volunteers).

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Naturally, you could see the spirit of Chiang Kai Shek all over the place. I find it remarkable that the old KMT army folks were that committed to CKS regardless of all that they’ve been through and where they were living, much because of him. Many of them still are.

 

BTW – it’s somewhat ironic that this sign was hanging outside :

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A while back, when I was living in Tainan, John and I caught an already evicted KMT village as it was being destroyed, to give you the feel of the place and the process…

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I also remember visiting one at Kaohsiung that was still alive and kicking back in 2007. I believe all this is gone now and on the way to becoming condensed skyscrapers.

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🙁

I don’t know, I actually liked that local atmosphere. I honestly didn’t see the dangers. Why did this have to be destroyed and the people evicted against their will? Either way, in a few years it will all be gone. To the families that grew up in those places their first homes in Taiwan will be lost for good.



Tags: chiang kai shek; juan cun; Kaohsiung City; kmt; kmt villages; museum; politics; zuoying;


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5 Comments on "Disappearing Taiwanese Juan Cun Culture : Museum of KMT Villages"

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tv
Guest
Nice post, but I think you should try to keep a more neutral view towards what your friends told you about the villages. Political for the DPP to demolish them? Do you know who built and runs those villages? It’s called the “political warfare” arm of the military. Who the heck maintains a political warfare arm for domestic purposes? Juancun were built to purposefully isolate its inhabitants from the Taiwanese population and they were educated and propagandized to feel different from the rest of the population. In fact, many of the kids growing up in juancun’s didn’t even know that… Read more »
MJ Klein
Guest

there is a huge tract of land in Taoyuan (in Bade) where the military village is being torn down so that new housing complexes can be built. the amount of effort and money being spent is staggering.

Echo
Guest
I agree with what tv said below: “Juancun were built to purposefully isolate its inhabitants from the Taiwanese population and they were educated and propagandized to feel different from the rest of the population.” Isolating people into different groups is the easiest way for an authoritarian regime to control people. Only after effective blocking of the communication among groups is the regime able to tell one group one thing and other groups another, and manipulate one group to go against another. This tactic of “divide and conquer” planted the seed of social polarization in the past decades. To many Taiwanese,… Read more »
Guest
Guest
I wanted to visit one in Kaohsiung and I just found out through Google Street view, that it’s been leveled to the ground. This really ANGERS me. Those settlements were a part of Taiwanese history and culture. They had become part of the local art scene. I am extremely disappointed that despite local efforts to save them, they have been destroyed. This is very sad. This would NEVER happened in the U.S. I guess Taiwan has different planning laws. I also think it was politically motivated. Those villages weren’t bothering anyone, and I don’t see why at least some of… Read more »
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