Dotted around Taiwan lie the remains of abandoned bunkers originally built to repel an invasion from China, during a period in the nation’s history when it was under martial law and fear of a Chinese attack was a part of daily life.
The threat from China has not gone away, but the aging bunkers are no longer needed for defense purposes.
Today, farmers use the bunkers as storage rooms for tools, while some have become part of parks and others are sought-after spots for photo opportunities by people on Instagram seeking “likes” for their sunset views.
Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
“I find it very bizarre — across Taiwan there are numerous bunkers, a mark of war, but if you ask residents what is it, when was it built and for what purpose, no one knows now,” said Chen Kuo-ming, 49, a military enthusiast who has been searching for and mapping old bunkers since 2002.
Some of the bunkers date back to when Taiwan was a Japanese colony, before and during World War II. They were upgraded when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese Civil War, Chen said.
Clam farmer Ding Long-kai, in his mid-60s, remembers as a child the pillboxes along the beaches of Yunlin County.
“It was restricted to go to the beach and get close to the pillboxes,” Ding said.
As the coastline has changed and maintenance lapsed, many of the old pillboxes are merging back into the sand or being encircled by clam farms.
“I remember seeing slogans such as: ‘Kill the Communists’ and ‘Reclaim the Mainland’ on the pillboxes, but this is the only one left — the rest have been removed by other farmers,” Ding said, pointing to the one remaining pillbox on his clam farm.
Up the coast in Hsinchu, Lin Zi-xing, 72, is trying to protect the bunkers that remain.
It would be a shame to lose this part of Taiwan’s history, Lin said.
He has turned one of the bunkers into a climbing frame for children and another into an exhibition hall for tourists to learn about the history of the area.
“I got into a lot of trouble with the residents because of this, partly because of land issues, but also because it reminds the older generation of war, which no one wants to talk about,” Lin said.
The bunkers also serve as a reminder that tensions between China and Taiwan still exist, Chen said.
“Let’s not forget, Taiwan and China are still in a hostile state,” he said.
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