Eternal Golden Castle
A Brief History
Welcome to the Eternal Golden Castel. The fortress was the brainchild of Shen Baozhen, a Ching Dynasty official. He commissioned a French architect to design a modern-era fortress to protect against the growing threat of the Japanese.
These men were pioneers, adventurers, explorers, and exploiters. They were also seekers of wealth, fortune, and power and the aim of The Eternal Golden Castle was to protect that colonial expansion and those new found riches from others seeking to do the same.
Why Tainan? The ancient capital of Taiwan, Tainan was seen as the gateway to a land full of potential. For centuries, it has been a stepping-stone to the great landmass of Asia and her Sino cousins. It is a strategic spot. The French, Spanish, Dutch, British, Japanese, and Germans all recognized this. Those empire builders needed a foothold in Asia. Taiwan was a choice spot along with Hong Kong and Macau.
The Japanese also occupied Taiwan starting in the late 19th century. With Taiwan secured as part of the empire, their attention turned to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 – 1905. The Japanese sold the cannons and the Eternal Golden Castle became a castle without weaponry. It was abandoned and left to weeds and the ever encroaching, encircling roots of the banyan trees. Where the Japanese never got a foothold, the banyans infiltrated silently, inexorably and live there to this day.
Now that we know about the background, let’s take a closer look, shall we?
We first come to the bridge. Originally there was a wooden bridge here, which could be raised or lowered as desired. Over time, and as the castle fell into disrepair, the bridge was attacked by woodworm and eventually needed to be replaced. A cement bridge was constructed by the Japanese and is still in use today. It is from this spot that tourists can go either directly into the castle, or hire a boat to take a ride around the moat.
And speaking of the moat, it was built around the castle to wait for reinforcements or fight to the last man in case the Japanese managed to get a foothold on the mainland. It was never tested.
The Arched Gate
Just over the moat is the arched gateway. It’s made of red bricks, and the only entrance to the castle. It’s also a wind tunnel, and it’s surprisingly cool even during the summer months. Now, it is a place where tourists await the right moment, when not too many people are gathered there, to take photos, selfies, or group pictures.
It’s testament to good design and excellent building that the structure has withstood countless earthquakes and typhoons.
The Soldiers’ Drill and Exercise Field
After the Arched Gate we immediately enter the Soldiers’ Drill and Exercise Field. Hold the image of this main courtyard in front of you, and close your eyes for a moment, can you imagine the troops practicing drills and marches under the searing sun, or the smell of freshly made bread coming from the granary that was located just below the courtyard?
Open your eyes. It’s a peaceful place now. Indeed today it feels more like a park. But a hundred years or more previous to these times, the place where you stand now was a place where young men were ready to lay down their lives to protect their land.
The castle only experienced two minor military incidents.
The first was when cannons were fired to ward off the French during the Sino-French war of 1884, which was ironic, considering a Frenchman had been the architect of the castle. The second occurred 11 years later to warn the Japanese not to try their luck. Taiwan was ceded to the Japanese the same year, but no blood was shed in the castle or in Tainan. It is important to note that the Chinese did not go to war. They chose another path. They instead chose to cede land to the saber-rattling aggressors: the Japanese, British, Portuguese, and others who came knocking on their doors.
The Armstrong Canons
Let’s walk up the steps to the defensive walls. It’s an odd feeling to think that in 1876 this was the site of the most modern defensive fort in Taiwan – equipped with British-made “Armstrong” cannons, 5 eighty-ton, 4 forty-ton, and 4 twenty-pound guns. How the world’s militaries have modernized and shaped this world is astounding! Now we have drone attacks, ICBMs, and exocet missiles.
The Eternal Golden Castle Park
From our vantage point up here, you can see the Eternal Golden Castle Park. This is the largest park in Tainan and surrounds the castle on all sides and is a first-class historical relic. There are plenty of places in the shade of the numerous varieties of trees to sit and enjoy a picnic. There is also a kiddies’ play area where your children can be let loose to expend some of their energy. There are bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways. Signs warn visitors of snakes, but there haven’t been any biting incidents in recent years, probably because the castle is buzzing with people much of the time.
Back to the moat? The Swan Boat Ride awaits you.
After spending some time walking around, let’ s head back to the moat. The Swan Boat Ride awaits you. There’s no swimming around the moat, but you can hire swan shaped pedal boats to take a leisurely trip around the castle: leisurely if you are not the one pedaling! Bring an extra t-shirt if you are! The boats are covered, so you’ll be protected from the sun, but the summer heat will test your endurance. It’s actually quite good fun. If you want to take the kids, that’s okay too. There are fish, jellyfish, and beautiful black swans in the area. It’s a great day away from the city! We hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of the Eternal Golden Castle.
Last place on the tour may be the Deyang Ship
If you have some more time, be sure to walk around the park. You can also visit the Deyang Ship, which is moored just west of the Eternal Castle. Now used as an exhibition ship, it was a part of the U.S. Navy and was used in battles in the wars in Vietnam and Korea. In 1977, it arrived in Taiwan, and served its host country for 28 years. It is free to enter and gives a glimpse into the tight quarters, men living cheek by jowl, in which operations were conducted.
No.3, Guangzhou Rd., Anping Dist., Tainan City