Kinmen 金門縣 AKA Quemoy is a set of islands just off the coast of China. However, it is part of Taiwan. Well, it’s actually part of the Republic of China. The reasons why are too long to write here but you can Google and find out.
Because of all that Kinmen has a long, rich, and at times odd history. This has made Kinmen while a small set of islands a super interesting place. Not quite China, not quite Taiwan, and because of martial law and a still-ongoing civil war kinda stuck in time.
Most villages and towns in Kinmen have Western Houses 洋樓. In the mid to late 1800s, many people left Kinmen for Southeast Asia 南洋 to make their fortune. Even though they left their home they never forgot Kinmen. Many of the people who made a fortune in distant lands would use their money to build a mansion in their hometowns. Chen Qingji was one such person and this is his 陳清吉洋樓.
Mr. Chen was born in Bishan 碧山, a small village in Kinmen. After working in a nearby town he went to Singapore to work. He made his fortune running a trading company 和通商號 there. He returned for a short time in 1928 and entrusted his cousin with the construction of his house. The house was completed in 1931.
It seems that the cousin lived in the house until 1949 when it was “handed over” to the retreating KMT forces to be used as a place for training. In the early 1990s, the military left the building and it mostly sat idle.
It was cleaned and fixed up and used as a filming location for the Taiwanese movie Paradise in Service 軍中樂園. A movie set in the 1960s about Taiwanese soldiers stationed in Kinmen. The house was the setting for a 831 Special Tea (military brothel) House. You can see the house in some of the scenes in this trailer.
It was designated a historical site in 2005. It is kept open for people to walk around and admire. It’s an old house so if you go be careful and of course take nothing but photos.
A view of the outside.
Let’s go to the second floor.
Lots of amazing tiles and fish to check out.
Also in Bishan is the Chen Dexing Western House 陳德幸洋樓. Well, what’s left of it. Luckily what’s left is still quite amazing. Mr. Chen 陳德幸 also went to Singapore to make his fortune. He returned in 1926 to construct this house. When the Japanese army occupied Kinmen Mr. Chen left for safer parts of China. Not sure what happened to the house after that.
Also in Bishan is Ruiyu Elementary School 睿友學校. Another Kinmenese working in Southeast Asia Chen Ruiyou 陳睿友 entrusted Chen Dexing with money to build and operate the school. It was built in 1936 and students from the surrounding areas could attend for free. There were going to be more facilities built but World War 2 got in the way. It continued as a school after the war until 1958. After that, it was a community office for a few years. After that, it sat idle and unused. In the late 2000s renovations started and it was opened in 2012 as a small museum.
It’s pretty easy to find these places. Just put them into Google Maps and Go! Remember when you go into the houses be careful and be careful not to break or steal anything. So if you are in Kinmen swing by Bishan 碧山 and say Hi!