4/25/2007

Treasure Hill, Squatters' Colony, Taipei



I ride past Treasure Hill on my bike my bike sometimes. It's in Southeastern Taipei, near the Danshui River that divides Taipei and Yonghe.

When Chiang Kai-shek fled China in 1949, he brought with him two million refugees, many of whom were soldiers. Needless to say, housing was an issue. Some of the more resourceful engineered home invasions around the island. Their descendants still live in these homes. Chiang's pay policy for soldiers was based on a 30/70 principle. 30% came in hard cash. For the other 70%, KMT soldiers were expected to forage (rob the locals). Others took over schools and hospitals, where they burnt banisters, desks and books for heat. Most however squatted wherever they could.

Treasure Hill has been around for 60 years. At one time, it was a machine gun embankment to "protect" Southeastern Taipei from surprise attacks by the Communists. The soldiers who manned the guns settled in behind. Today, the guns are gone, but a hundred or so old KMT soldiers and kin are still living in the colony. Every now and then, there is talk of reviving the spot. For example, Ma Ing-jiou, Taipei's last mayor, talked of turning it into an Artists' Market in 2004. The press came (including the NY Times), the place was splashed with a new coat of paint and lit up with lights. Speeches were given. Politicians smiled and shook the vets hands for photo-ops.

Today, most of the Ma hoopla has fizzled out. The old soldiers come and go. Sometimes they pop their heads out of the windows for a look. Life has returned to normal.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

These guys are more marginalized than ever. That's why the politicians have given up. Remember in 2004, when Lien Chan and James Soong were running adverts: "Don't you wish your father could pop over to China for lunch?" Most voters couldn't imagine why their pops would want to go there, or didn't see it as an issue to vote on. Sentimentality about China is meaningless to Chinese today, just like this lost colony.

Patrick Cowsill said...

There are these little "lost colonies" all over Taipei. There's one down the street from my place. It sticks out a bit; it's drab and boxy in a jumble of more upscale apartments. There's a fence around it, with a little communal area for old KMT soldiers to sit around, smoke and wax sentimental about the "mainland". They're easy to recognize, as they're old but speak Mandarin (which is accented). There's a police station right across the street. I'll take some pics and throw them up on my blog.