Located in Kaohsiung’s FengShan district, HuangPu New Village is a military dependents’ village that was built towards the end of the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan. After the end of the war it was handed over to the Kuomintang military and is now regarded as ‘Taiwan’s first military dependent’s village’. While the village has significant cultural and historical value, the way in which the village will be preserved is still unclear.
There are a series of villages around the edge of the HuangPu Military academy, though I spent most of my time in HuangPu Third Village and HuangPu New Village.
The villages aren’t completely enclosed, but large sections are walled off which gives the impression of a walled community. Particularly the section that faces the military academy, where there’s a tall wall that seems at least 10ft.
HuangPu Third Village was very quiet and there wasn’t much sign of inhabitance, apart from the odd car and some clothes drying. From what I understand most of the people who live there are old and retired, and this seemed to be confirmed when I saw an old man taking a stroll with who I assumed was his son and carer.
I walked towards the edge of the village when a man came out of his house. We chatted for a while about the area and he told me that the housing in this village was provided for teachers of the primary school, which is located at the boundary of the village. He was a nice gentleman whose appearance (combat fatigues and a long beard) at first made me think he was retired military. I asked him if he was. He replied not, and said he was looking after his mother in the house as his father had passed away. He said that the village was being torn down soon, though I didn’t quiz him more on the subject. I asked if I could take his picture, and he obliged.
I mentioned that I don’t see many Taiwanese with beards, and that I had been growing my beard for four months. He laughed and said his beard was over three years now. I promised to print out the photograph of him and bring it back. I then moved on to HuangPu New Village.
Before visiting a place I usually check it on Google maps first, and HuangPu New Village seemed normal enough. I had no idea that when I arrived I would find the shell of a village. Immediately I noticed that lots of houses were empty. It’s actually quite eerie, and it feels like some kind of mass exodus happened. On the remains of one wall still hung a bathroom cabinet, with the toothbrush still lying there.
In one of the first streets there was a man looking after some dogs out of one of the houses. It wasn’t clear if he was living there, but a suit jacket hung in the front yard, along with tools and what appeared to be woodwork projects. I stood at the gate and took a photo of the puppy who was hanging around.
Some of the abandoned houses were open, so I went inside to see. I could feel the Japanese influence, the houses were small with big windows and raised floors. Most places seemed to have main house with a small courtyard and then a second smaller building at the back with more rooms and a bathroom.
I met a young guy in the middle of the village brushing outside his house, I think he was a police officer. He explained the that the second row of streets in the village was being demolished, but the first row was being saved. That definitely seemed to be the case as many of the second row of streets were barricaded off.
After returning home I did some research and found out that the future of this area has been in jeopardy for a while. Demolition was originally planned for 2013, though the same year HaungPu New Village was given status as an area of cultural importance and so would be preserved.
The way in which the area will be preserved still seems unclear. The government appears to be now running a program to bring new life to area by encouraging people to move back to HuangPu, provided they are willing to maintain their property and the spirit of the area. From what I gather the government is trying to create a cultural centre similar to the Pier 2 Art District, but without a specific focus on art. In late 2014 it was also announced that a museum is being planned for the area. For the meantime, though, it looks like the cats are running HuangPu.
Further reading on Huangpu: