A one-time military brothel on Kinmen Island is set to welcome guests of a different kind after Taiwanese tourist operators re-opened it as a museum.
The brothel, which has been given the euphemistic name “Special Tea House Museum” by the organizers, was originally established to entertain officers and soldiers stationed on the fortified island just off the Chinese coast.
“The purpose of the museum is to give visitors a rough idea about the background of the so-called ‘Military Paradises’ and what their function was,” said Hsu Ying-fan (許瀛方) of the Kinmen National Park.
The museum features photos and posters from the brothel’s busy heyday, and displays examples of the tickets the soldiers had to buy before lining up to wait their turn.
At the height of the Cold War in Asia, about 100,000 soldiers were stationed on Kinmen, with 11 officially sanctioned brothels catering for their needs.
The military at the time defended the licensed parlors by saying that local Kinmen women would not be safe from harassment unless special attention was paid to the requirements of the isolated, all-male garrison.
The last brothel was shut down in 1990, mainly after criticism from local women’s groups.
As the anticipated threat of a Chinese attack has lessened, -Kinmen’s garrison has been reduced sharply.
The island is now attempting to become a tourist destination, with a focus on visitors from China, which is only a few kilometers away.
Despite perceived improvement of cross-strait ties after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists, tensions remain and the most prominent symbol of the lingering hostility is the more than 1,600 Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER