New Taipei City enlists locals to re-enact historic battle


TAIPEI–An outdoor battle recreation featuring a historic skirmish between Taiwan and France more than a century ago took place at the site of the former battlefield Saturday in New Taipei City, captivating an audience of 5,000.

“The Legend of the Sino-French War in Tamsui” is adapted from the “Battle of Hobe,” which took place in northern Taiwan during the Sino-French War between 1884 and 1885.

The battle was triggered by a French invasion of Keelung, which forced the Qing army (depolyed in Taiwan) of the time to retreat to Tamsui, further up the coast, where it regrouped and fought off the French.

Held in a park in Tamsui, the performance represented a re-enactment of a rare victory in the battle against the French would-be colonialists. The hard-won success came from strong resistance by the Qing troops and local residents.

Another special feature of the show is that the cast of 250 performers was mostly composed of ordinary people of different ages and from all walks of life, said Leonson Ng, director of the re-enactment.

“Most of the non-professional performers are Tamsui residents,” Ng said before the show, adding that having them tell the story made the performance more touching.

The historical production, now in its third year, is the highlight of the New Taipei City Tamsui International Environmental Arts Festival.

Unlike previous shows, this year’s play added more emotion to the plot and incorporated special sound and lighting effects to simulate a real-time battlefield, the director said.

The stunning feel kept the audience on the edge of their seats during the 80-minute extravaganza of drama, dance and music, which concluded with the actors circling the stage in a celebration of peace.

The performance also involved at least a couple of foreign nationals.

“I just really enjoy the opportunity to act,” said a Canadian who played the leader of the invading French forces and identified himself only as “Paul.”

What he likes about the play is that although it is about war, Taiwan learned a lesson from it, said Paul, a missionary who has lived in Tamsui for more than 20 years.

“Taiwan’s been a very peaceful country for so many years,” Paul added.

A second showing of the production was set to take place Sunday evening at the same venue.