Scattered across Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen County are memorials, museums and repurposed tunnels and fortifications spotlighting its unique military history.
For decades, Kinmen was on the front lines of cross-strait tensions. Located just a couple of kilometers from China’s Fujian province at its closest point, the archipelago was the site of several major historical clashes, including the 1949 Battle of Guningtou and the Artillery Bombardment of Aug. 23, 1958.
Martial law was lifted in Kinmen in 1992—five years after Taiwan proper—and administration transferred to the local government. This was followed three years later by the establishment of Kinmen National Park. Covering about a quarter of the county’s 152 square kilometer land area, it is the only national park in Taiwan focused primarily on the preservation of historical and military sites.
“KMNP examines fortifications and other facilities handed over by the Ministry of National Defense and identifies, preserves and repurposes those deemed historically or architecturally significant,” said Chen Lung-sheng, a senior guide in the Interpretation and Education Section of KMNP Headquarters.
A total of 13 fortifications have been repurposed in Kinmen to date. The latest, opened to the public Jan. 18, is a warship-shaped structure on the northeastern coast of the main island.
Another refurbished facility on the northwestern side of Kinmen features murals on the Battle of Guningtou, a decisive engagement in which ROC (Taiwan) forces drove back invading troops. Outside, on the wind-battered sandy beach where the battle occurred 70 years ago, are rows of decommissioned anti-landing spikes.
Relics of this engagement are also on show at the nearby Guningtou War Museum. It is one of three such institutions in the county dedicated to exploring Kinmen’s military history. The others, Huchingtou War Museum and the Aug. 23 Artillery Battle Museum, focus on military clashes on Little Kinmen, an islet to the northwest of the main island, and the 44-day artillery exchange in 1958, respectively.
The county’s signature repurposed military installation is Zhaishan Tunnel. Constructed in the 1960s, the 357-meter supply facility was opened to the public in 1998. Since 2009, it has hosted the annual Kinmen Tunnel Music Festival, with about 1,400 tickets sold for the weekend of shows last year.
According to Chen, the repurposed sites, memorials and educational attractions offer essential insights into the county’s development. “The military facilities and war museums are important reminders of the crucial role Kinmen plays in ensuring Taiwan’s future.”
Soprano Mewas Lin performs in the former military supply facility Zhaishan during the 2018 Kinmen Tunnel Music Festival (Credit: Taiwan Today/KMNP Headquarters)