Kinmen 823 Artillery Battle Museum (823 砲戰戰史館) is named after the heavy artillery shelling campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Army on 23rd August 1958. Attempting to drive Taiwanese troops out of Kinmen, the Chinese artillery stationed at Fujian started firing across the straits. The mindless bombardments rocked Kinmen for the next 44 days with over 474,910 shells fired. A record high for such intensified shelling to a land area of only 148 km square.
On average, 4 artillery shells landed for every metre square unit of land causing deaths and heavy destruction to properties. It was some of the darkest days in Kinmen history.
Taiwanese troops dug in and responded with their own bombardment. The crisis raised international concern, fearing escalation from battle to a full-fledged war. The confrontation only ended briefly when China declared a ceasefire. But resumed firing when United States’ warships were dispatched to defend Kinmen.
Through the US diplomatic intervention, the oddest agreement was accepted by both Chinese and Taiwanese sides. China will only bombard Kinmen on odd-numbered days while Taiwan fired theirs on even-numbered days and Sunday being the holiday. HUH?? What the heck? What crap arrangement is THAT?? Still, this oddball thingy went on for 20 years until a diplomatic relationship between China and the US was established in 1979.
Despite years of shelling, the Chinese troops failed to pound Kinmen into submission.
Kinmen 823 Artillery Battle Museum
I cannot imagine living under circumstances where the sky literally rained bombs. In fact, the war museum is situated where the highest numbers of artillery shells landed during the merciless bombing. Completed in 1988 which also happens to be the 30th anniversary of the 823 Artillery War.
Around 500 Taiwanese soldiers were killed during the confrontation and their names are honoured on the 2 plaques flanking the entrance of 823 Artillery Battle Museum. The museum looks solemn with white walls, red pillars and green roof tiles.
In it, scaled models of destroyed villages show the magnitude of the bombing. Historical documents like charts, photographs, relics, and scaled models are on display.
Seeing the amount of destruction made me sad. I feel for those who went through this ordeal of watching homes being burnt down to the ground. Whichever side wins in a war, the people always lose…how true.
Some of the artillery shells in Kinmen which landed during the confrontation.
An abundance amount of shells were scattered all over Kinmen after the war has ended. Some creativity and industriousness locals decided to use the metal shells casing and made them into steel knives.
These in-demand Kinmen Knives are one of the famous souvenirs of Kinmen. I didn’t get one as I am uncertain whether Singapore customs will accept it as a souvenir. Dang.
Mashan Observation Station
My visit to Mashan Observation Station (馬山觀測所) is rather memorable. This legendary military outpost situated at the island’s northeast tip is the closest point to mainland China. The distance separating the two countries is a mere 2,100 meters or 1,800 meters during low tides. For comparison, the Causeway between Singapore and Malaysia is around 1,000 meters. One famous person who supposedly swam across from Mashan to China side is none other than the former chief economist of World Bank – Justin Lin Yifu.
Taiwan has declared the ex ROC army captain a fugitive, with an outstanding warrant for his arrest. This fellow is either full of gut or he was very certain that soldiers will not shoot upon spotting him in the water. What kind of odds would that be during those periods of high tension?
Mind the mines!
Right next to the entrance of Mashan Observation Station, there is a footpath leading to the brilliant looking sandy beach and sea. Nice! Just when we were getting excited, we spotted this sign…gosh!
The area is looming with danger with uncleared landmines still buried somewhere… Our uncle reminded us not to step out of the beaten path while mentioning the ongoing demining effort carried out by the military.
Extensive minefields along Kinmen coastlines were planted in the 1950s and 1960s when the two countries were at war. The explosive remnants of the past are very real – there were unfortunate cases of Kinmanese losing their limbs because of the mines.
Landmine is obviously one of the reasons why swimming is strictly prohibited around Kinmen coastal area even after being named as a National Park. Another reason is perhaps the concrete beach obstacles preventing the Chinese troops from landing still stand proudly at Mashan coastlines.
So near yet so far at Mashan
While walking along the shady path to Mashan observation station, we came across Mashan broadcasting station but the door is shut. The broadcasting station was deployed as a psychological warfare weapon during the period of elevated tension, soldiers will shout propaganda messages with the aid of loudspeakers.
The late Theresa Teng (鄧麗君) had been here to lend her voice before too. The Chinese folks had a saying of 白天聽老鄧，晚上聽小鄧, which meant ‘Listening to Deng Xiaoping in the day and Theresa Teng in the night’. That goes to show the songstress’ popularity.
The awe-inspiring 還我河山 next to the tunnel’s entrance.
The moment we stepped into the military tunnel, the chilling cold air makes it creepy and eerie. We followed the long and narrow trench to the observation station.
Inside the bunker-looking station, there are three pairs of strategically positioned high-powered binoculars. Through the lenses, the daily life of China Jiaoyu Islet fishing villages on the opposite shore can be seen clearly.
Almost felt like a peeping tom while operating the binoculars. The humidity in the station/ tunnel kinda ushered us out quickly for better air.