The remaining walls of the old Taipei prison, built during the Japanese colonial rule, stand witness to the nation’s penal history.
Located in the city’s Daan District (大安), the ruins of the walls were once part of a prison built in the early 1900s by the Japanese in response to anti-Japanese uprisings around the island.
Large prisons were erected in Taipei and Tainan. The stones used to build the walls came mainly from Taipei’s old city walls, which were torn down by the Japanese at around the same time.
Chu Yi-fang (朱義方), a resident near the old prison site, said that when he was young, village elders often warned the children to stay away from two locations in their community: One was Wude Hall, where the Japanese used to practice martial arts, and the other was the old Taipei prison.
Chu remembered the chilling atmosphere near the prison and hearing rumors about ghosts when he was a child.
Prisoners used to be executed in the prison courtyard and their families would claim their corpses at the gate.
Liao Tien-ting (廖添丁), a legendary thief who was portrayed as an anti-Japanese hero, and Lo Fu-hsing (羅福星), an anti-Japanese leader, are both said to have been executed in the prison, along with captured airmen from the Allied forces during World War II.
In 2009, a plaque was erected on the wall of the old prison to commemorate the executed airmen, among them 14 US citizens who were executed on June 19, 1945 — 58 days before the end of the war.
After the war, the Republic of China government continued using the prison until 1963. The remains of the prison walls were designated a historic site by the city in 1998.