Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Few Posts on Keelung II – The Cimetière Française de Kilung

One of the more interesting sites in Keelung is the Cimetière Française de Kilung. The French cemetery is a reminder of the Sino-French War of 1884 to 1885 (see my other posts on this war as related to Danshui) located on a plot hemmed in by apartment buildings near the ruins of the old Ershawan Fort.

Actually this is not the original French cemetery, which was moved from a seaside location in 1909. It is reasonably well maintained though, unlike the foreigners’ cemetery in Danshui, the site has not been designated a national relic, though is open to the public. Two obelisks stand at opposite ends of the plot - one in French is dedicated to soldiers and sailors; the other, in both French and Chinese, is dedicated to officers as well. Ranks and officers kept apart in death too it seems!

The total number of French soldiers and sailors buried in Keelung is unknown, though the most common figure cited in 600 French officers, soldiers, and sailors. Approximately 120 of them were killed in battle, while 150 died later of their wounds. The majority succumbed to malaria, cholera, dysentery, or other maladies. More than a fifth of the French force never returned home.

The French cemetery is the subject of a book by Christophe Rouil titled Formosa: Some Nearly-Forgotten Battles, (or at least Formose, des Batailles Presque Oubliées – I’m not sure if there’s an English version or not) which took the author a year and a half to research and write. Rouil notes that after World War II the cemetery fell into disrepair. In 1947, M. Bayens, a French diplomat based in Shanghai, reported to his superiors that the graveyard was in a terrible state. Rather than wait for instructions from Paris, he spent around US$100 of his own money (which was later reimbursed by France's foreign ministry) to have the cemetery fixed up.

To get there just follow the harbour road around the port past the hilly park that houses the Ershawan Fort and you’ll find it on the left hand side.

A Few Posts on Keelung I - The Keelung Harbour Integrated Administration Building

A Few Posts on Keelung III – The Monument to Prince Kitashirakawa

A Few Posts on Keelung VI - Ershawan Fort


davidwilmshurst@yahoo.com said...

Someone else who's interested in the Sino-French War, I see! I've done an English translation of Rouil's book, and am still waiting for it to be published. I'm also putting the finishing touches to complete history of the war. I'm the author of all the English Wikipedia articles on the subject. Can I use your photo of the French tombstone at Keelung for an illustration to the Wikipedia articles 'Keelung campaign' and 'Pescadores campaign'?

Paul French said...

sure- take what you like

As it happens I'm in Taiwan for the summer and planning another trip to Keelung some time in the next few weeks.

Steven Crook said...

Mr French,

I'd also like to use one of your photos for my upcoming cell-phone travel app. Would that be acceptable? I would credit you, naturally.


Steven Crook
author, Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide

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