Today I wondered down along Bei-an Rd. It wasn’t an intentional thing for me to end up at the Martyr’s Shrine. I was just out cruising the back alleys of Da-Zhi looking at doors and old crap–half wondering how Pao-gao does it, but mostly just trying to stray somewhere.
In my wonderings, I ended up at this clutch of freestanding very western style houses, 4 or 5. I’m talking houses with chimneys. It was a kind of large area, way too big for Da-zhi and the rapidly developing changes that are taking place in that landscape. The airwaves were clustered with the sounds of jackhammers and loud workers’ radios. I could here at least three stations firing off at once – one DPP political, one with Japanese karaoke and one playing, ‘Nobody’. It was prime military land being developed into the latest tech park with modern Chinese buildings and architecture for the next century or two.
The places were large Western style mansions nestled amongst all this and each buttressed by a slum for old soldiers. Dormitory buildings – petite slums jammed packed with lost souls, their progeny, and some also-run gangster types. They were tiny alleyways with abandoned attempts at something better, but the sheer dilapidation, saddened me. I knew I was standing in a place about to be dissolved by pragmatism, expediency, and progress. What of their stories? Who was the fastest runner? Who made his way between the enemy lines, strafed a bunch of commos and made it back alive? Where are their officers now? Is anybody still loyal and to what?
Then I ventured 200 meters or so to the Martyr’s Shrine and jostled with the Mainlanders and Japanese for a picture or two of immobile soldiers, stony steadfast men, guarding all that we know to be good – sacrifice, commitment, loyalty, and faith. If you were billing it, you’d call it: “The Saddest Show on Earth’.
It’s worth the time to wonder through a bit of Taiwan’s history and see it while you can. It’s raw.