Taiwan armed forces museum

Before I came to Asia, I did some research on some of the possible destinations.  During the course of that, I came across this recruitment ad for the Taiwanese military:

Holy Transformers Batman!

We all know that military recruitment ads are full of propoganda and emotionally charged messages, but this one was (literally) out of this world.  If Taiwan has this level of technology, I know where I want to be!

Of course, I had to find out more about the Taiwanese military, and maybe how to get a ride in one of those transformers.  And, I also wanted to see how the Taiwanese forces evolved to such a high level of awesomeness.  A natural place to start seemed to be the Taiwan armed forces museum.

Few things about Taiwan:

  1. After WW II.  The communists took over the mainland, and the nationalists came to Taiwan.  Currently, Taiwan (ROC – republic of China) considers itself to be the REAL China.  The posers across the Taiwan strait are the communist rebels who have illegally taken over the motherland.
  2. China has missiles and armaments continuously pointed at Taiwan, an ongoing threat of invasion.
  3. The Taiwanese forces’ main reason of existense is to defend against a possible Chinese invasion.
  4. Up to now, Taiwanese males were required to serve in the forces for a year.  That is now being relaxed.  As of 2014, males will only have to serve in a 4 month bootcamp.
  5. There are no transformers in the Taiwanese forces.

The armed forces museum was originally founded in 1961.  It has 3 floors with a total of 5 main showrooms highlighting different facets of Taiwan’s forces.  All the writing is in Mandarin, but you can get a listening device from the front desk (by handing over a driving license or ARC), or use your internet accesible smartphone to get brief audio lessons on each exhibit in English.  In addition, there are big cards with descriptions of each room in English, Japanese and another language – I’ve forgotten which.  Photography is permitted, but no flashes.

Although there is some English, I would recommend visiting this place with someone who knows Mandarin if you want to get the whole experience.  I got a barebones understanding of what was going on, but definitely missed out on a lot of detail.

Room 1

Mostly about the formation of the corps.  This room goes through the early history of the forces – unification of fighting arms to defeat warlords and consolidate China.  If you can read Mandarin, there is probably a lot of interesting information here.  The English descriptions were quite brief.

Room 2

This room is all about the “8 year war of resistance/time of tribulation” against Japan.  During this time, the Chinese soldiers were fighting to overthrow Japanese rule.  There are some interesting exhibits here:

The Chinese soldiers were severely ill equipped wearing straw sandals and slippers to fight, instead of boots.  This is kind of strange because even though they only wore sandals, it seems they had access to guns:

But, it was not the gun wielding troops that struck fear into the hearts of the Japanese – no sir!  It was the broadsword squadron:

How cool is that??  Soldiers wielding broadswords!!  I think if I was faced with broadsword carrying troops, I’d pee my pants a little.

There are descriptions of the the battles and all sorts of other details that I couldn’t read.  The room ends with the surrender of Japan to the alllies (end of WW II) and the end of the China-Japan conflict.  It’s kind of funny to note that the descriptions were very favourable to the fighting prowess and indomitable spirit of the Chinese, while merely hinting at western involvement.  One would think that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were minor incidents in the whole conflict – it was the continuous Chinese insurrection that finally caused Japan to capitulate.

Japan’s surrender (apparently to the Chinese) is symbolized by this sword:

It’s called the “Sword of Surrender”.  Japanese General Okamura Yasuji handed it over to formalize Japan’s surrender and withdrawal from China.

Room 3

This room is devoted to the time after WW II.  It was during this period that the communists and nationalists started fighting each other.  Once the Japanese left, the 2 factions started vying for power.  This led the country into civil war.  The nationalist forces were defeated and retreated to Taiwan, ceding control of the mainland to the reds.

The literature that I read protrayed the communists as rebels (which I guess they were) and downplayed the loss of the mainland.  There is more emphasis on the defense of Taiwan – “smashing the enemy” and “annihilating the communist army”.  Naturally, the Taiwanese are painted as glorious heroes fighting against the evil tide of communism.  I understand military blustering, and I really like Taiwan, but it’s obvious who lost the battle.  The skewed presentation of events made me chuckle.

Room 4

Room 4 is a big room from the starship Enterprise. arms display consisting of weapons used by the Taiwanese military over the years:

Besides the artillery and rifles, some of the more interesting items include a sword display,

a curved barrel rifle,

and some unique looking pistols.

This area even has an electronic shooting range for the kids, both big and little:

Room 5

Finally, this is a display room of the current capability of the Taiwanese forces.  There is an artillery simulator with a mock up of a howitzer, and a model of a fighter plane here.  There is also a display of the shells used by armoured vehicles.

It was an interesting visit, but would have been more so if I could decipher more of the information presented.  I plan to visit again when my Mandarin has improved to see what I missed.

To get to the Taiwan armed forces museum take the MRT to Xiaonanmen Station.  Leave through exit 1 and walk straight to the lights.  This should be Yanping Road.  Turn right on Yanping, walk to the next set of lights, turn left, and the museum is on your right.

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