Sat, Jul 31, 2010 - Page 16 News List

Kinmen comes out fighting

The battle-scarred island has been transformed over the past decade by a project that turns once dilapidated communities into oases of cultural tourism

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER


When Chinese communist troops landed at Guningtou (古寧頭), Kinmen, on Oct. 25, 1949, they seized Beishan House (北山古洋樓) and turned it into a command post from where they planned to take the rest of the island. After three days of heavy fighting, the Nationalist army gained the upper hand and drove the invaders out.

With its bullet-riddled walls and crumbling roof, Beishan House is a powerful reminder of Kinmen’s militarized past. Beishan (北山), where the building is located, however, offers a glimpse of the island’s future.

The village, and several others at locations across Kinmen, have been renovated as part of a project begun 10 years ago by Kinmen National Park (金門國家公園) that restores once dilapidated communities — some dating back several centuries — to their original appearance.

After Kinmen National Park authorities finish renovating a traditional Fujian-style or Western-style house, they lease it out as a guesthouse business (for a comprehensive list of these guesthouses, as well as detailed maps of the villages where they are located, go to

It’s a novel idea. Tourists aren’t just visitors to these single- and multi-clan villages, but residents — if only for a few days. And the villages are ideally situated as jumping off points to uncover Kinmen’s other riches, such as its stunningly beautiful beaches, teeming wildlife, and for military buffs, the remnants of war.

Among the villages I visited during a three-day trip last week, Zhushan (珠山), Oucuo (歐厝) and Shuitou (水頭) highlight Kinmen’s potential to become an oasis of cultural tourism — though a few problems are yet to be rectified.

The villages are easy to navigate. Following geomantic practices, they were built with a pond and public courtyard in the center around which the village, with narrow alleys branching off from tiled streets, was constructed.

Getting there

» Uni Air (立榮航空), Mandarin Airlines (華信航空) and TransAsia Airways (復興航空) operate flights from Taipei’s Songshan Airport. One-way fares average NT$2,000

Scooter and bicycle rentals

» Kinmen National Park (金門國家公園) provides bicycle rentals free of charge at nine locations throughout Kinmen. Pick up a map at the airport for more details

» There are many shops in Jincheng (金城) offering scooters for rent. A 125cc scooter costs about NT$400 per day

Island tours

» Kinmen National Park (金門國家公園) offers a variety of bus tours of the main island, which range from NT$200 to NT$350. Tickets are available at the main bus terminal in Jincheng. Call 082-332-814 for more information

Where to stay

» Lexis Inn (來喜樓): Recently renovated house in Zhushan (珠山).

Rates range from NT$1,200 to NT$1,400 per night. On the Net:

» Zhushan Laoye Guesthouse (珠山老爺): Recently renovated traditional Fujian-style guesthouse in Zhushan. Rates range from NT$1,000 to NT$1,600 per night. On the Net:

» Piano Piano B&B (慢漫民宿): Upmarket guesthouse located in Zhushan. Rates range from NT$2,000 to NT$3,000 per night. On the Net:

» Shuitiaogetou Guesthouse (水調歌頭): Upmarket guesthouse located in Shuitou (水頭). Rates range from NT$1,200 to NT$1,600 per night. On the Net:

» For a comprehensive list (including detailed maps) of Kinmen’s guesthouses, go to: (Chinese only)

What to take

» SPF30 sunscreen and mosquito repellent. If you plan on riding a scooter or a bike around the island, be sure to wear a long-sleeve shirt to prevent sunburn

Signs in English and Chinese located next to the ponds explain each village’s points of interest. Small signs in Chinese detail the provenance of a temple or the lineage of an ancestral hall, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the family or families behind a particular community’s development.

My temporary abode, located in Zhushan, was a clean though somewhat spartan room in Lexis Inn (來喜樓), a two-story, Western-style house built in 1928 by Xue Yong-nan (薛永南), a Chinese merchant who earned his fortune in the Philippines. Neglected during the Martial Law era, it was renovated to its former glory in 2001 and opened as a guesthouse three months ago by a retired academic from Taipei.

The Lexis Inn’s architectural flourishes combine Chinese and Western aesthetics. An enclosed stone courtyard at ground level rises up to a wide balcony on the second floor, its stone balustrade punctuated by brick columns. Slouched in a chair, the symphonic roar of cicadas all around, it is an ideal place to plan a day’s journey or enjoy the panoramic view of the pond below and the terra-cotta roofs in the distance.

A few kilometers northeast of Zhushan, the thick walls enclosing Oucuo remind visitors that before the Chinese Civil War Kinmen was no stranger to external threats, including bandits and pirates. Inside is a cluster of two-chamber houses with broad swallowtail roofs, intricate wall carvings of animals and glazed tiles depicting colorful tableaus of Chinese deities.

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