Sat, Jun 09, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Lighthouses open to public to mark end of an epoch

Staff writer, with CNA

Twelve out of the 34 lighthouses on Taiwan proper and its outlying islands, are to be opened for public visits on June 30, as the end of an era in lighthouse management draws to a close.

The Ministry of Finance’s Directorate-General of Customs (DGOC) supervises the nation’s border facilities and opens several lighthouses for public visits every year to mark Tax Day and introduce people to Taiwan’s lighthouse culture, said Hung Kuo-ching (洪國清), head of the Department of Maritime Affairs.

This year will be a little different, however, because it will be the last time people can see the lighthouses carrying the DGOC sign, Hung said.

“The lighthouse management system, which has existed for more than 140 years, will soon become history,” Hung said, explaining that lighthouse facilities have been managed by customs authorities since Englishman Robert Hart took over as Inspector General of Customs in China during the Qing Dynasty in 1863.

Hart pushed to build lighthouses and other facilities to improve maritime safety.

Customs authorities have been responsible for Taiwan’s lighthouses since that era, even as governments have changed, but the Ministry of Transportation and Communications will take over the duties on Jan. 1, next year.

Hung described by his colleagues as a lighthouse encyclopedia, said the Yuwen Island Lighthouse in Penghu, built in the 18th century, is the oldest lighthouse in Taiwan and has been designated as a historic monument. The Fangyuan Lighthouse, built in 1983, is the newest of the 12 lighthouses to be featured on June 30, the official said.

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