Kaohsiung government launches heritage search

By Yang Ching-ching and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wed, Jun 12, 2013 - Page 3

The Greater Kaohsiung Government’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs is inviting local governments and historical organizations to report any properties of potential cultural significance in the city to prevent them from being demolished.

The bureau launched the search for potential heritage sites after a 100-year-old house built from coral stones in Hamasing (哈瑪星) in Gushan District (鼓山) was torn down last month.

Situated on a polder constructed by the Japanese in 1908, Hamasing used to be the transfer station for railway and ocean cargo and had a flourishing fishing industry during the Japanese colonial period.

Its name originated from Hamasen, the Japanese name for the two coastal railways that serviced the area at the time.

Dozens of local historians and cultural activists, including Frenchman Jerome Lanche, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in Taiwan, gathered in front of the house as an excavator hired by the property owner prepared to demolish the property.

Despite its long history, the building was not listed as a culturally significant property and the local government was not entitled to intervene in the demolition.

It was eventually torn down after a three-hour standoff between activists and the property’s owner, who insisted that the building was leveled because “it was damaging the city’s image.”

“In the past, the then-Kaohsiung city and county government followed their own systems for the identification and designation of historic sites. However, the situation is different now and we have been given a chance to re-evaluate all potential heritage sites in the Greater Kaohsiung area,” Bureau of Cultural Affairs Director-General Shih Che (史哲) said.

The bureau said it had notified local governments and various historic organizations of the scheme and welcomed them to submit a list of potential historic sites by next month.

Greater Kaohsiung Living Environment and Culture Association Director-General Hsu Yang-ming (許陽明) said the association joined forces with Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling’s (管碧玲) office in July last year to conduct a comprehensive search for possible cultural heritages in the Hamasing.

“We have recently published our findings and will soon pass the historical backgrounds of the sites we discovered onto the bureau,” Hsu said, urging the bureau to make a concerted effort to safeguard the rare, well-preserved town.