First and foremost, Cijin Island is not really an island. Secondly, Cijin administers several real islands … but they are located in the South China Sea, well over 1000 km from Cijin’s shores. Weird, no?
Although Cijin is currently completely surrounded by water, thereby fitting the definition of an island, until 1967 the far north part of this strip of land was connected to the city.
Cijin was turned into an island in the late 1960s to create a second entry lane into the Port of Kaohsiung, which for many years was among the largest in Asia and even the world. The Port of Kaohsiung first opened in 1858, but as Taiwan’s post WWII economy boomed in the 1960s, it was decided another entry point was needed and the connection to the mainland was severed, creating an artificial island.
Yanchang District, located just over the Love River and ending at the docks, is Kaohsiung City’s smallest district. Cijin District (Qi-jin/旗津) is the second smallest. Most of the residents living on Cijin are employed in the shipping industry although some do work in the city, commuting via the Cijin-Gushan ferry, or driving under the Cross Harbor Tunnel at the far south of the island.
Visitors frequently take the ferry over to Cijin, a roughly 5-minute ride, and rent bicycles for cycle tours to see various attractions such as a shell museum or wind turbine park. Cijin is also home to an old fort and a museum related to marine exploration. Numerous seafood restaurants on the island are also popular ‘touristy’ eating spots.
Now just because Cijin is the second smallest district in the city doesn’t mean it doesn’t have reach … extremely far reach.
Located in the South China Sea area claimed by about every non-landlocked Asian nation, Taiping Island is one of only three of the Spratly Island archipelago isles controlled by the Republic of China or Taiwan.
Elliptical in shape, Taiping Island is 1.4 km long and less than half a kilometer wide, with about 110 acres of square land in total. It is currently occupied by roughly 600 military personnel including Coast Guard units and support personnel.
Other ROC-controlled and Cijin-administered South China Sea outcroppings include Dongsha Island and the Zhongzhou Reef. Of these, only Dongsha would be large enough to sustain any type of small permanent settlement, although it is not currently inhabited.
During World War II, Taiping Island was invaded by Japan and turned into a submarine base. In 1946, following Japan’s defeat, the then-still Republic of China government in Beijing ordered four warships to secure islands in the South China Sea the ships arrived on December 12, 1946.
The islands had been called a variety of names over their history but Taiping earned its current moniker from the ROC Navy ship that reached it first in 1946; the ROCS Tai-Ping.
The three other ships also bequeathed their names to the islands they arrived at , although of the three, two are now controlled by China while one is occupied by the Philippines.
Dongsha Island, which is also administered by Cijin, is a National Park with a stunning lagoon that could one day perhaps be opened to limited tourism … but likely not until some sort of settlement is reached between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and even tiny oil-rich Brunei over who “owns” the South China Sea.