Kaohsiung’s Mingjian New Village survives by opening its doors

TAIPEI (The China Post) – In recent years, Kaohsiung’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs has promoted the “Protection of Military Villages through Residence” project, initially planned for Huangpu New Village in Fengshan and Jianye New Village in Zuoying.

Last June, the Military Dependents’ Village Hostel was opened for public reservations, with official operation planned before the end of the year.

This precedent of operating a national cultural landscape as a hostel allows the public to live in the style of an old military dependents’ village for an in-depth experience of local culture and environments.

The Protection through Residence project allows visitors to live in military villages, with the government providing a maximum of one million dollars in renovation and repair subsidies depending on the size of the apartments.

The contract is valid for 5 years and the repair or maintenance of surrounding environments must be conducted without changing the original structure and style of the buildings.

Candidates for the project must complete the repairs within a year and not engage in commercial activities in the space where they live.

When asked why Jianye New Village has been enlisted into the “Preservation through Residence” project, Deputy-Curator Wang Yufeng of the Kaohsiung Museum of History tells us about the reasons behind it.

“The background can be traced to the distribution of military barracks during the period of Japanese colonization. Zuoying was the southern base of Japan’s navy and when the area was drawn up, the Japanese established navy officer barracks in areas close to the military harbor to solve the housing problems for many officers. The homes were provided to the military officers and thus began the military dependents’ village in Zuoying.”

“The idea behind the projected appeared because the Ministry of National Defense lacked funding, so we returned to the concept that “military dependents’ villages were made as residence, so preserving them naturally required people to live in them.

While the number of households that have moved in is few, this is due to the Bureau of Cultural Affairs’ wishes to execute this project diligently. Citizens who apply are reviewed in 3 stages, whether they truly love military dependents’ villages and whether they are attracted by this type of environment.

 

This allows the “Protection through Residence” project to elevate from a simple solution to re-use spaces to become a different kind of living space that introduces new life energy and creativity.” Deputy Mayor Shizhe explains.

Today, we have invited Weng Guosong, a resident of Jianye New Village and also an artistic creator, to share with us the reason he is participating in the “Protection through Residence” project and his experience of living in a military village.

Weng says, “my family has actually never lived in a military village, but my wife is from a second-generation military family and grew up in such a village. Her father was a soldier, so she holds deep sentiments and memories, which is the reason we wanted to move here.

In the third year of the project, Jianye New Village was included and since we lived nearby, we felt it was a great opportunity. We both quit our full-time jobs and moved in here to manage my personal studio for creating metallic wire sculptures. The environment is perfect for the lifestyle we’re pursuing at this stage.”

Weng’s wife Joanna continued: “Our neighbor, who just moved in, is an old woman who used to live in military villages, so the way we interact is to simply return to how it used to be. Our homes are close, so we help take care of each other; I water her flowers, and I even have a key to their home.

This is a complete departure from my previous life as an office worker where everyone lived in high-rise apartments and it was hard to have true interaction between people, not to mention trying to establish this level of warmth.”

Weng believes that this is how life should be and it has made his creative work more well-rounded and filled with meaning. These are core-level life changes, brought on by his new environment.

He hopes that in the future, more people will move into Jianye New Village to inject more vibrancy and change into this cultural community.

Aside from Jianye and Mingde New Village, Zuoying is close to other cultural tourism sites such as Lotus Pond, Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, Confucius Temple, Banpingshan Natural Park and Taiwan’s first city of stone, the Old City of Fengshan County.

Hopefully, you will have the opportunity to stay here for a few nights once the village hostel is open for business so that you may feel the beauty of these cultural buildings and the marks they have left on history.

Visit Information

Address: Jianye, Mingde New Village, Zuoying District, Kaohsiung City

Farewell 886 – Cultural Park of Taiwan Military Veterans Village Hours: Tuesday to Friday 11:00 – 17:00 (entrance gate closes at 16:30)

Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 10:00 – 18:00 (entrance gate closes at 17:30)

Transportation: Depart from Zuoying Station and take Red 53A on Zhanqian North Road to Mingjianli stop or Red 51A to the Junxiao Rd (Haigong Rd. Intersection) stop, then walk 3-5 minutes to reach destination; you can also walk for 30 minutes to reach destination.

TEL: (07)581-2886 or (07)531-2560 #328

Article by Nora Chang