News ID: 276087
Published: 0744 GMT October 30, 2020

Taiwan blacksmith turns artillery shells into knives

Taiwan blacksmith turns artillery shells into knives
Taiwanese blacksmith Wu Tseng-dong lives on Kinmen island, just two miles from Mainland China, and forges kitchen knives from artillery shells once fired at his home.

In a contemporary twist on beating swords into plowshares, Taiwanese blacksmith Wu Tseng-dong has forged a career fashioning kitchen knives from Chinese artillery shells once fired at his home.

Known locally as "Maestro Wu", his workshop on the island of Kinmen — which lies just two miles from the Chinese mainland — is a vivid reminder of the threat of war continually hanging over Taiwan, according to AFP.

Beijing views the self-ruled democracy as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Like many of the older generations living on Kinmen, Wu grew up under bombardment.

Even after China's civil war ended in 1949, leaving Mao Zedong's Communists in charge of the mainland and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists in Taiwan, the island continued to be shelled by communist forces.

Wu was born shortly before the worst bombardment in 1958, when nearly half a million shells were fired at Kinmen and other nearby islets over a 44-day period, killing 618 and injuring more than 2,600.

The shells were still falling as late as the 1970s, though by then they were packed with propaganda leaflets rather than explosives.

Wu has vivid childhood memories of hiding in air-raid shelters with his family at night while scavenging metal fragments by day for scrap.

"I remember the fear we felt at night," he told AFP. "Shelling may look exciting in the movies the more intense it gets, but in reality it's very dangerous."

"We tried to pick as many shells as we could, even climbing the trees to get them, in order to exchange them for little prizes. It was fun for our childhood even though we feared the air raids," he added.

A third-generation blacksmith, Wu learnt how to mould metal as a young boy.

Wu followed his father, who first started turning shells into knives when some Taiwanese soldiers stationed in Kinmen began asking for custom orders.

Most of Wu's knives are made from the cases of the propaganda shells, which are better preserved as they did not explode on impact. In the last three decades he estimates he has bashed out around 400,000 such knives.

The old shells are stacked high in Wu's workshop, which has become something of a draw for tourists. Visitors excitedly snap pictures as Wu methodically sculpts a glowing hunk of metal into a cleaver.

In recent years — at least until the coronavirus pandemic shut borders — Kinmen had become a popular destination for mainland Chinese tourists.

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