Village 44

Village in Xinyi

When the Nationalist army decamped to Taiwan in 1949, one million soldiers (and in time their families) had to be rehoused. Thus arose a military-dependents villages, which were once scattered across Taiwan. Village 44, in the shadow of Taipei 101, was Taipei's first.

There isn't a lot to see here: a few old buildings and sometimes a photographic display in the main hall, but it is a pleasant parklike setting where you can sit and contemplate the tides of history.

Inside the village is an excellent cafe/art centre called Good Cho's.

For decades these military-dependents villages formed their own highly organised social systems, based on a shared embrace of anticommunist beliefs, a desire to retake the mainland, and also fear of the local Taiwanese. (One of Taiwan's biggest criminal gangs, in fact, was first hatched by young men from these villages, who organised themselves for protection.) As time went on, however, and as many of the soldiers retired and entered civilian life (and also married Taiwanese women), relationships between the ethnic groups mellowed.

Rarely well built, the villages naturally succumbed to the wrecking ball as Taipei and other cities developed. These days, however, there is a recognition that they form an important part of Taiwan's modern history and a few have been preserved as heritage sites. Treasure Hill is probably the most famous.