What do fallen empires leave behind?
The Keelung remains from previous empires that can be found around town are astonishing.
In a scene of the movie “The Life of Brian”, a zealot asked an assembled group of other zealots: “What have the Romans given us?”
The round answers in turn: “The aqueduct?” “And the sanitation.” Et cetera.
Finally, the zealot again asks: “Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a freshwater system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us ?!”
In this way this sketch makes blind nationalism sound ridiculous. It leaves the viewer questioning: Yes, why are there such anti-imperialist movements, when empires bring so much good?
I would like to ask you: What do fallen empires leave behind?
In the imperial capitals, they leave architectural monuments of their wealth, culture and splendor, but what about outside the capitals? What do empires leave behind in the exploited provinces?
In Britain, the Hadrian’s Wall, as well as various military camps, are the legacies of the Roman Empire. In Germany, the Holy Roman Empire left behind numerous castles spread across the country. At the former northern borders of the great Chinese empire, we find the Great Wall.
There is a good reason why we mainly find fortifications in the provinces. Empires deprive the provinces of capital in order to consume it in the metropolitan regions and immortalize their own power in metropolitan culture and monuments. But every empire is based on military power. They use it primarily to maintain control in the provinces, both against its internal and external enemies.
Remains of the Japanese Empire in Keelung
It is not surprising that many monuments to the military power of the previous empires remain in Taiwan. One of those empires was the Japanese Empire, which counted Taiwan among its colonies from 1895 to 1945.
Here, the remnants of the Japanese military in Keelung remains long after the use for them is no longer. This is because Keelung was one of Taiwan’s two most important port s in the Japanese colonial period and they secured it particularly well. There are numerous Japanese fortresses in Keelung, two of which are Baimiweng Fort on the western side of the port of Keelung and the Sheliao East Fort on the eastern side.
The Baimiweng Fort is the smallest of the four forts of Keelung. It originally served as an artillery battery during the Spanish and Dutch colonial periods. It is also referred to as the “Dutch Fort”. Its present appearance dates from the Japanese colonial period when it was rebuilt in 1904. Although military equipment can no longer be found there today, the accessible and typical 20th-century fortification architecture (observation stands, powder magazines, etc.), provide a great backdrop for small “time travels”. For this reason, it is a popular backdrop for Taiwanese television and film productions.
The Sheliao East Fort is located on Heping island north of Keelung. Since 1626, it existed under both Spanish and Dutch control. Japanese rulers restored it several times, most recently in 1924. The fort is largely overgrown with tropical vegetation and has an atmosphere that is reminiscent of artifacts in the jungles of Mesoamerica. Although the architecture is of course much more modern. When you come to the top you can enjoy a captivating view over the sea and coast of Keelung.
If you would like to know more about the history of Keelung and the legacies of the many different colonial rulers in this city, then why not just visit the city and our website keelung-for-a-walk.com .