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FYI SOUTH Magazine, May 2003. VOL.3 ISSUE 5

Cover Story:


By David Oakley

     The Love River is often considered the soul of Kaohsiung City, and the painstakingly slow efforts to clean up this waterway can be seen as recognition of its importance. A ramble along the river's banks, from Kaohsiung Harbor all the way up to the headwaters, highlights the role the river has played in the city's development, and reveals some lesser-known aspects of Kaohsiung's history.

     Starting from near the river mouth, one can head inland along the pleasantly-shaded west bank promenade, with its coffee shops, bars and fine large trees, past the Municipal Film Archives and YenCheng Junior High School. During the Vietnam War, the old Grand Hotel and US Officers' Club were sited on what is now the school¡¦s campus.

     Beyond the school, the promenade opens up onto RenAi Park. This patch of green replaced a charming Chinese-style park destroyed when the YenCheng Underground Shopping Mall burnt out beneath it.

     Government money has been lavished on the banks of the river hereabouts; as a result, the area is very pleasant. Here one can admire JungJeng Bridge. To fully appreciate the beauty of this structure, look at its underside.

     But what of the water that flows in the river? Strolling on past the old red-light district of Fubei, and over the ChiShian Bridge, the answer becomes clearer.

    Wedged between ChiShian Junior High School and the Carrefour Hypermarket is a massive floodgate. The floodgate isolates the lower stretch of the Love River, in effect making it part of the harbor waters.

     Wastewater held back by the floodgate is pumped off to a sewage treatment center on ChiJin Island, then discharged into the Taiwan Strait. However, during the summer when it rains heavily, the barriers and pumping stations are sometimes overwhelmed. City officials are forced to open the gate and release polluted water into the lower Love River.

     The barrier beside Carrefour blocks one of the most historic branches of the Love River. Today named the No. 2 Canal, older residents know it as the TaKang Creek. This is where Qing Dynasty junks moored during trade with the TaKangPu neighborhood. The historical and economic importance of this area is reflected by the Sanfengkung Temple, the dry foods market, and the proximity of Kaohsiung Train Station.

     Under the opposite bank, and just below the new JianGuo Bridge, is the mouth of the HouBi Channel. Nowadays an insignificant covered ditch, this channel was originally the second mouth of the Love River.

    When the Japanese developed YenCheng, this waterway served as a tidally flushing drain. Its course may be tracked between LaiNan Street and ChiShian Road. Directly above this concreted-over stream are markets which offer an incredible variety of very Taiwanese specialties and delicacies.

     Above JianGuo Bridge the river passes two old industrial sites. On the right is the old Tan Eng Brickworks with its soaring twin chimneys dating back to 1913. On the left is the GuShan Canal, which leads under the railway lines to the now-silent cement works that fed off the limestone of Ape Hill until a few years ago.

     The river used to be navigable up to about Wenzao Usuline College of Languages. In Japanese times huge wooden barges were poled upriver to be laden with the red soil of FuTingChin. This soil was used to produce the water-resistant cement needed to develop Kaohsiung Harbor.

     Just below the ChihPing Barrier, which blocks the main waterway, is a little park where locals bring their caged birds to sing. This gently arcing section of the river strikes visitors as having great potential. However, the old LungShui dock--where ferry passengers would disembark en route to the old county capital in what is now TzuoYing--is today a dusty site awaiting redevelopment.

     Above LungShui, a second harbor used to exist near the BoAi Road Bridge, within SanMin No.1 Park. The authorities are currently reconstructing the cycle paths that run on both sides of the river for several kilometers.

    This harbor¡¦s name was Mullet Harbor, since fish used to spawn here at the limit of the tidal reach. Mullet can no longer reach this point, but sometimes they can be seen trying to run up the river as far as the barrier.

     Identifying the source of the river is not easy. The river was first developed as a canal to drain off several large wetland areas, so that settlers could grow rice and other crops. The highest of these wetlands is in PaKuaLiao, a village lying just inside Kaohsiung County. This area is considered the source of the river, although with the construction of a canal linking the area with the Kaoping River, that is perhaps no longer true.

     Some of the original wetlands still exist, albeit massively degraded. Others have morphed into recreational bodies of water, such as Lotus Lake and ChengChing Lake.

     NeiWeiPei, a large pond until the 1940s, was filled in during the 1960s. With the virtual disappearance of the sugar and woodworking industries, the city government seized the opportunity to develop the area. The Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts has been built here surrounded by a park carefully planned to reflect its wetland past.

     Instead of run-off from farmers¡¦ fields, run-off from household drains and septic tanks now flows into the river. This is why cleaning up the river is a such a difficult undertaking.

     Chinese and English-language information about the Love River can be found at www.loveriver.info


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