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Shuijiaoshe Park

Shuijiaoshe belongs to the Yingqiu dune complex geographically in a low-lying area off what used to be the Taiwan Prefecture’s Great Southern Gate. A famous part of Shuijiaoshe is Mt. Guizi, previously named Mt. Quidou, but commonly referred to as Mt. Bijia, literally meaning “brush rack” due to its three-peaked silhouette that resembles the Chinese stationery item. During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Navy built an officers’ club in Shuijiaoshe, along with dormitories (for servicemen and their families) in the Mt. Guizi area north of its Tainan airbase. Overtaken by the Chinese Nationalist air force, those dormitories had been largely demolished by 2009 in an urban rezoning plan, before being converted into Shuijiaoshe Cultural Park under the slogan “A Creative Hangout Epitomizing the History of Tainan’s Military Communities.”

Occupying Public Land No. 61 in South District, the cultural park project puts Shuijiaoshe into its historical context with hands-on exhibits organized to evoke the unique heritage of military dependents’ clusters. A few lower-ranking Nationalist officers’ dorms are faithfully preserved on the Park premises, emitting an amazing chemistry between the “old air force” personnel and their gregarious lifestyle, against a scenic mountain-and-eco-pond backdrop for visitors to simultaneously enjoy nature’s two elements and leisure activities, while delving into war veterans’ ethos at the same time.

With Zhikai Elementary School to its south and bordering on Nanmen Road, Public Land No. 61 was the site of Zhikai New Village, a Ministry of National Defense-owned housing project launched in the 1950s to accommodate an influx of Nationalist troops and their families. As part of the City Government’s rezoning effort, the land was re-designated as a public amenities area where the 1st-phase project of Shuijiaoshe Cultural Park was completed and unveiled today in a ceremony that also featured insightful, local NGO-organized exhibitions on the Thunder Tigers, an aerobatics team of national air force based in Shuijiaoshe. Flanked by Commercial Area No. 63 on its northern side and a heritage spot and Commercial Area No. 64 on its western side, the cultural park resulted from a NT$10 million-odd City Government initiative that engaged local intellectuals, historians and the Zhikai New Village Community Association. It is an incredibly scenic spot for those interested in recreation or the culture of military communities.

On behalf of former Shuijiaoshe inhabitants, Major General Xiong Hou-ji, who served as the commander of the 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing, attended the Park opening ceremony to thank the City Government, under the leadership of Mayor Lai Ching-te, for preserving the memories shared by so many fellow servicemen of his. “It’s a great pleasure to live in Tainan City,” he said effusively.

The Tainan Public Works Bureau gave this 2.2-hectare Park a total makeover through restoration efforts, enhanced with additional hiking trails and plants. Among others, the fully preserved Mt. Guizi was a highlight of the Park’s opening ceremony. Now, Mt. Guizi is blanketed with grasses and vines as well as pink blossoms, which is simply breathtaking. Made up of sand dunes, Mt. Guizi is both the only remaining hill and, as Qing dynasty literature suggests, the highest point in Tainan. As a matter of fact, there were pagodas and footpaths in Mt. Guizi overlooking the whole of Tainan back in the Qing dynasty, while the Thunder Tigers’ dorms clung to either side of the hill decades later, said Zhu Rong-mei, executive director of the Shuijiaoshe Cultural Society.

Shuijiaoshe Park is exquisitely engineered to showcase relics of a bygone military community besides ecological attractions (aged longan, mango and mahogany groves, and a banyan tree house comparable to the one in Anping, etc.) with the aim of adding a green touch to the South District, while in the meantime turning Tainan into a low-carbon, energy-efficient city.