A memorial park commemorating the approximately 1,500 people who died in 1949 when the steamer Taiping sank while crossing the Taiwan Strait from China opened yesterday, becoming the first public memorial for the incident.
The park, established by the Keelung City Government and the Ministry of National Defense, is the first memorial to the deceased passengers outside of ministry property, officials said.
A memorial was in 1951 erected on the beach next to Keelung Harbor, but after the waters nearby were filled in, the memorial fell within military property. Taiwanese were required to apply for permission to visit and Chinese were prohibited from entering.
Photo: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times
Families of the deceased 10 years ago began calling on the government to move the memorial outside of military property.
“Our longing to grieve outside of the barracks has finally been realized; my father can look down on the park from heaven,” said Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄), grandson of Wang Tong (王通), one of the deceased.
Chang came to the park from Shanghai, bringing paper flowers and old family photographs to place at the memorial.
The Taiping was near the Zhoushan Peninsula in China’s Zhejiang Province on the night of Jan. 27, 1949, when it collided with a smaller cargo vessel. The steamer’s lights were off, as there was a curfew in place given the communist advancement.
Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) at a community event to gather public feedback in January last year promised the surviving family members that she would have the barracks’ surrounding fence pulled back to bring the memorial outside of military property.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) then gathered officials from the ministry, the Maritime and Port Bureau, and the city government to discuss the issue. The ministry agreed to release a portion of its property, and the city built a small park around the memorial for NT$3 million (US$103,089).
Visitors yesterday wrote messages to the deceased on blocks of wood that were then tied to a metal fence.
“Dad, we are all grown up now, please put your mind at ease,” one visitor wrote.
“We have been apart 70 years now. I hope you can visit me in my dreams and guide my thoughts,” another wrote.
“When the veil came off the memorial, I was beside myself. I did not know if I should feel happy or sad,” Chang said, adding that to pay his respects before, he had to apply to the military and remain outside the fence.
Cheng thanked everyone for their hard work and cooperation, saying that the joys and sorrows of the loss of loved ones and symbolic reunions with them are manifest in the park.
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