Going through the great era redefining cultural preservation in Taiwanese villages

TAIPEI (The China Post) – The cultural preservation of military dependents’ villages has become one of the most important issues debated in Taiwan. Their presence has been an important highlight of life and culture, which in turn, is based on differences in education, growth and the period during which he or she was born.

When talking about culture in military dependents’ villages, we must begin with its historical background and context. The most direct reason for the formation of the military dependents’ village, in addition to the civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party in 1949, was when nearly two million soldiers and civilians entered Taiwan together with the National Government.

More importantly, they were the products – the large-scale ethnic migration – of the cold war between the East and the West. Thus, the government had to build villages for these troops and their families based on their military groupings, occupation and other characteristics.

These also included citizens of honor and their families and their construction of large-scale illegal settlements.

Subsequently, with the failure in the counterattack towards mainland China, the military dependents’ villages started to decline. The military and the civilians also began to look for their own livelihoods.

In 1996, the government demolished and reconstructed a large number of these old villages through the “Act Governing the Reconstruction of Old Villages for Military Personnel.”

Citizens also began clamoring for their preservation and to date, there are 886 preserved military dependents’ villages in the whole of Taiwan.

In addition to being an indispensable asset in Taiwan’s history and culture, the culture of the village has also strongly influenced Taiwan’s cultural development, as well as its people’s daily lives, education and entertainment.

Our popular national dishes such as the Xiaolongbao, steamed buns, dumplings, soy milk, fried dough sticks, beef burritos, chives pockets, pan-fried stuffed buns, scallion cakes, beef noodles and so on, are all the products of those early years, when there was a grave scarcity of resources and people had to create dishes that could easily satisfy their hunger.

Among these, the famous Sichuan beef noodles, which most people believed to have originated from Sichuan, was actually created by the cooks stationed in the southern air force base when the National Government moved to Taiwan. Most of the cooks came from Sichuan and because of their nostalgia for their hometowns, they added spices such as bean paste, star anise and pepper to become the popular Sichuan braised beef noodles.

The dish later evolved and has taken on the different regional flavors of Taiwan – braised, stewed, thin meat, thick meat – not only does it represent Taiwan’s outside influence and multicultural eating style, but it has also become one of the symbols of the history of ethnic integration

This is the value of the preservation movement towards the military dependents’ villages.

Through the various details of life, we can continuously reflect on how to reconstruct our own cultural identity, strengthen the importance and significance of Taiwan in Taiwanese history and even in world history.

And whether we can fill this evident gap in society through cultural preservation campaigns from all walks of life and activities actually promoted and implemented is something that both the government and civil society are thinking about.

This would also benefit the internationalization of Taiwanese culture and the promotion of its tourism.

This topic reports on Taipei’s Forty-Four South Village, Taoyuan’s Mazu New Village, Taichung’s Rainbow Village, Kaohsiung’s Jianye and Mingde New Villages.

It has conducted interviews with these four cities’ cultural directors, ethnic minority households as well as cultural and historical workers to discuss the cultural preservation and the unique development of military dependents’ villages in Taiwan.