Mt. Keelung基隆山, Jinguashi金瓜石 POW Camp and Jiufen九份

An Indian Summer (or in Chinese, known as an Autumn Tiger!) ~ Yippee!

Yes, a whole 3 days so far of temps up to 32°C, with blue skies, blue seas and butterflies ~ time to get the sunglasses, sun cream and sun hats back out, YES!

And if there’s one place in Taiwan where a fine day is rare, it’s the N.E coast and the mountains above Keelung.  I was up there 2 months ago to climb Teapot Mountain 茶壺山 and Banpingshan 半平山(check out that blog post here) and at the time, thought that if there’s ever a fine day again, that’s the place to go!

And so it was that today was THE day!  Up early on the first bus to Tamsui, then the MRT to Taipei where there’s a bus that goes straight up to Jinguashi 金瓜石 without having to go via Keelung, which on a Saturday morning is packed out with people and vehicles…

First stop was Keelung Mountain (588m) which kind of separates Jinguashi 金瓜石 and Jiufen 九份 and from the angle I was looking, is said to resemble a pregnant woman lying on her back…. what do you think eh?!

IMG_7027

It’s actually an extinct volcano and takes about 30-40 minutes to go straight up ~ there’s steps all the way, little pavilions to rest in, and of course great views!

Next stop was the town of Jinguashi 金瓜石 itself.  Oh dear, such a tragic history.  Famous for it’s gold and copper mines during the Japanese era (1895-1945) in fact it was THE largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire at the time. The mines are long closed, and the Japanese buildings and mine workings have been converted into a now-famous Gold Museum.  Always full of tourists – which is just as well because otherwise Jinguashi is a very quiet place. I met an old man who told me he was born there in 1925, and apart from a few years serving the Japanese army during World War II, he’s lived there ever since. And he’s losing all his old friends one by one, so it’s a very quiet life.  In fact we walked together down through the old winding streets…

Mining towns nearly always have tragic histories, and this one is exacerbated by the fact that the Japanese used over 1,000 captured Allied soldiers to work in the most dangerous mines – Prisoners of War who lived in the notorious POW camp at Jinguashi, known at the time as Kinkaseki POW Camp.  The introduction on the Taiwan POW website says:

On November 14, 1942 in the village of Jinguashi, located on the northeast coast of Taiwan, 523 allied POWs began what was to be for some a three year ordeal as slaves in the largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire. In all more than 1100 British Commonwealth and Allied prisoners of war slaved in this notorious Japanese POW camp called KINKASEKI from December 1942 to March 1945…..

The POW’s in this camp were forced to slave in the dark depths of a copper mine and were subjected to the most inhumane treatment imaginable. Conditions in the mine and the camp were as bad, if not worse in many cases, than that experienced by the POW’s on the now-famous Railway of Death in Burma and Thailand, which was made popular by the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai”.

It’s well worth reading more on the Taiwan POW website – and note that every Remembrance Sunday they have a Memorial Service there, organised by the Canadian Trade Office.

All that remains of that POW Camp now is an old gate post and part of the original wall, but the camp area is now a Memorial Peace Park, with flowers, explanations, a Memorial Tree, sculptures and a wall with a list of all the names of the POW’s held there…..

Very moving.  Definitely well worth visiting ~ and especially with Remembrance Sunday being this weekend.  Lest we forget indeed.

And so on to Jiufen 九份 , just a mile or so down the road ~ and which is always overrun with zillions of people!  Famous for its gold rush, long over ~ these days it is a major tourist destination – to visit the Old Street, eat and relax and look at the view.  It’s also famous for the location of several famous movies, and now also an arty kind of place. There were visitors from all over Asia – Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, all enjoying themselves – and of course shopping!

Jiufen needs a sunny day ~ and today was it!  And the Jiufen Church ~ what a view!

An amazing day ~ full of history and full of beauty.  Such a beautiful place – but with such a tragic past.  So much to remember this coming Remembrance Day.  This year is also the 70th anniversary of the end of Word War II, and October 25 was the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender in Taiwan.  As Robbie Burns is thought to have written:

‘Man’s inhumanity to man  Makes countless thousands mourn!’

And may God help us ~ to ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’….. (Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12)

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