Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pingtung's Shengli New Village

Within walking distance of Pingtung Train Station there's a cluster of single-storey houses built before and after World War II to house air force personnel. Known to locals as Shengli New Village (勝利新村), the 50-odd buildings here are in varying states of (dis)repair. None are utter wrecks; several need a lot of work, but others have been fully renovated and turned into bistros, coffee shops or art galleries. Some of the businesses, like the one pictured top, play up the air force connection. A few houses are still lived in, presumably by retired military personnel and their spouses. Banyan trees have spread their roots far and wide, and a good number of cats make their home in the neighbourhood. Every house has its own yard – an unimaginable luxury for many Taiwanese.
The building at 61 Zhongshan Road (not the one pictured above) was built in 1937 and housed a Japanese air force captain until the end of World War II. Later, it served as a residence for General Sun Li-jen (孫立人). Sun, famous for his exploits fighting the Japanese in Burma, fell out of grace with Chiang Kai-shek in mid-1955 and then spent decades under virtual house arrest, rather like the better known 'Young Marshal' Zhang Xueliang (張學良). 
The road on the western side of the neighbourhood is Chongqing Road (重慶路), named for the city which served as the temporary capital of Nationalist China during World War II. Qingdao Street (青島街), also named after a major city on the mainland, runs east-west.
As is typical of abandoned buildings in Taiwan, neither proper fences nor security guards prevent you from getting close and sometimes inside. In one room I peered into there was a poster of Tom Cruise starring in Top Gun, indicating it was inhabited in the late 1980s, perhaps more recently. 

Ruined buildings always appeal to me much more than smartly done-up ones; for good images of the latter, see this Chinese-language blog post. The city's bus stations are nearby, so heading back to Taichung or Taipei is straightforward, but if you're in Pingtung with your own car or motorcycle, try to visit Wugou Hakka Community and/or Wanjin Basilica.

1 comment:

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