December 20, 2011

0078 TAIWAN (Fujian) – Tunnels for ships and cleavers made from bomb shells

Whatever you say, is quite unusual that of the first 50 collectors with whom I swapped, two to be born on the same day as me. That means 4%. A huge percentage. When I found that the 13th postcrosser assigned to me (Mia, from Taiwan) has as the date of birth August 8, I was wincing. After a few days, wanting to thank Sigga, from Iceland, from the postcards send it to me, my eyes have fallen upon her date of birth: August 8. "The owls are not what they seem", I said to myself, and I created a new label on the blog: "Received from those born on August 8". Until now the label contains four postcards (of 103 received, ie about ... 4%), but I'm sure that their number will increase quickly.

Frankly, I didn't know that Taiwan (Republic of China) owning islands located so close to the mainland China (People's Republic of China) as Kinmen, a small Archipelago situated just 2 km from Xiamen. This position has made that along (almost) the whole history Kinmen to be the refuge of undesirables on the continent, be they simple peasants or kings, usually Chinese Han.

During the Sung Dynasty (1068-1085), the archipelago was included in the map of Chinese territory, and remained so until today, except for a brief period (1937-1945), when it was occupied by Japan. In 1949, the Nationalist troops  retreated from mainland China to Taiwan, Penghu and Kinmen. Thus, Kinmen became an outpost in the defense of Republic of China, being endowed with formidable defense installations. Între 1950 şi 1979 (when PRC and United States established diplomatic relations) Kinmen was regularly shelled, with an increase in intensity during the First and the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. In later years, live shells were replaced with propaganda sheets.  

It seems to me very interesting that starting to the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Kinmen has become famous for its production of cleavers, made from around those 450,000 shells fired by PRC at the islands. A blacksmith in Quemoy generally produces 60 cleavers from one bombshell and tourists often purchase Kinmen knives as souvenirs together with other local products.

As the island was returned to the civilian government in the mid-1990s and direct travel between mainland China and Kinmen was opened in 2001, it became gradually a tourist destination, being recognized as a national park, with war relic as the main attraction.  

One of the sites that attract tourists is the Zhaishan Tunnel (build between 1961 and 1966), located to the southeast of Gugang Lake, in an area where the southern coastline juts out. The tunnel stretch over a distance of 101m, with a width of 6m and height of about 3.5m. Inside are seven rooms that served as barracks. A unique feature of these tunnels is the A-shaped waterways. These waterways have a length of 357m, a width of about 11.5m and a height of about 8m, and were used to conceal small naval vessels.

A review of military facilities showed that the Zhaishan Tunnel often suffered from accumulation of sand and that there was not enough manpower or money to maintain the tunnels.  Thus, the tunnels were closed and abandoned by the military in 1986. Since 1997 responsibility for maintenance of the Zhaishan Tunnel was turned over to the Kinmen National Park Headquarters.

As proof that things have radically changed, in October 2010 five noted Taiwanese musicians staged a concert in this tunnel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Kuningtou.

It seems that the stamp is part of a series called Pets, issued on March 8, 2006. Apart from the stamp on the postcard, Himalayan (NT$15), I have found on the Internet only another 3 cats, Siamese (NT$10), Abyssinian (NT$15), and Persian (NT$32).

sender: Mia (direct swap)

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