Archaeology refers to the study of past human social states and events on the land by reconstructing historical material culture. We depend on archaeology to gradually retrieve and reconstruct historical events that don’t exist in books and memories. We believe that the past experiences that the land once held still exist in spaces that haven’t yet been explored. Through the achievements of archaeology, we’ve been successfully constructing stories that have been lost or forgotten by the world.
In April’s Taiwan news, there was an article that impressed me. The Taoyuan Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) construction site excavated the historical remains of the railway built by former Taiwan Governor Liu Ming-chuan during the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty. Liu Ming-chuan (劉銘傳) was the first governor of the Qing Dynasty after Taiwan was established as a province in 1885. During his post, he promoted many modernization measures, one of them being the earliest Taiwan Railway. Other measures included the import of generators and electric lights, setting the telegraph, coal, postal services, and the expansion of administrative divisions. The historical remains of the Liu Mingchuan railway was 500 meters long and 8 meters wide and was paved with cobblestones, which was used to fix the rails. Moreover, after the defeat of the Qing Dynasty in the First Sino-Japanese War and the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan, the Japanese government rerouted the railway in 1895 because of the poor quality and safety concerns of the railway. In addition, the archaeological excavation team found fragments of pottery and jade, proving that there were human activities near the Taoyuan Railway Station 4,500 years ago.
The archaeological excavation team stated that the main goal of archaeological heritage protection is in-situ preservation, but they believe that the decision to keep or leave the Liu Mingchuan railway should be decided by the public rather than a few archaeologists. Furthermore, the Archaeological Society of Taiwan (AST) thinks that the Culture Bureau should give time slots for all people to study the century-old history of Taiwan’s railways. Significantly, since the Cultural Bureau and the Taiwan Railway Bureau are still planning the preservation plan and follow-up discussions, it hasn’t been decided whether the railway will be retained.