Keelung Ghost House 基隆鬼屋, formally the Línkāiqún Mansion 林開群洋樓 (and sometimes Keelung Lin Residence 基隆林宅), is one of the most famous ruins in Taiwan 台灣. Much like Minxiong Ghost House 民雄鬼屋 and Xinglin General Hospital 杏林綜合醫院, it commonly appears on lists of the most haunted places on the island. This ghostly reputation makes it difficult to separate credible information from the many tall tales that are told, particularly through the dark glass of machine translation.
From what I gather it was built in the 1930s by the wealthy Lin family who resided there for many years. In the 1950s at least part of it was turned into a business by the name of Majestic Bar 美琪酒吧 that catered to American soldiers1. It is at this point in history that the ghost story begins. The usual tale involves a pregnant local woman scorned by her American lover who sets the bar on fire, injuring or even killing dozens trapped inside. Naturally there are accounts of seeing strange lights at night, spectral figures with charred faces in the broken windows, and all the other trappings of ghost stories worldwide.
Whatever the case, the building was later abandoned and now looks completely out of place on a block of more modern buildings. Given the prime location — at the foot of the harbour almost at the very center of downtown — it is natural to speculate about why the owners wouldn’t redevelop it. My guess is that the building is now owned by a sizable number of descendants of the original owner who can’t agree on what to do with the place (a common story explaining Japanese colonial era ruins all over Taiwan — see Jukuiju for another great example of this).
You may notice that I’ve not posted more than a single image. The reason for this is simple: I haven’t yet found a way inside. This is highly unusual for ruins in Taiwan, almost all of which are accessible to those who look closely, but it’s also located on one of the busiest street corners in the city. Perhaps another time — and until then, this postcard.
There should be some photos of this place around somewhere but I haven’t found any great ones yet. This post contains one image of the old house in the early 1960s; have a look at photo 19. The mansion also appears in The Sand Pebbles, a 1966 movie partly set in Keelung; see this still. ↩
Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場 is another entry in my catalog of obscure Japanese colonial era architecture in Taiwan 台灣. Built in 1935, this modest building was the administrative center of the sleepy township of Fēnyuán 芬園 on the eastern edge of Changhua 彰化. It survived the war and remained in use until 1994 when a newer town hall was built down the street. Art deco flourishes and a peculiar angular logo give this building a distinctive look. Nowadays it isn’t used for anything nor does it look like any effort has been undertaken to preserve the building. Street food vendors look to have been storing carts and supplies along the side.
This post (in Chinese) contains a lot of interesting details about the building. For another look at Japanese colonial architecture in Fenyuan cruise on over to my post about Yumei Hall 玉美堂.
Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 is a manmade lake in Zuǒyíng 左營, Kaohsiung 高雄, widely known for its quirky assortment of pagodas, pavilions, and temples. Earlier this year I made a short stop at Lotus Pond on the way to the old walled city of Zuoying a little further south. I like exploring temples in Taiwan 台灣 but was mildly concerned Lotus Pond would be a bit too touristy for my liking. Turns out I had nothing to worry about — and my brief tour of the southwest side of the lake was memorable and fun.
I finally got around to visiting Sun Moon Lake 日月潭, the largest lake in Taiwan 台灣1 and one of its most popular tourist attractions. Previously I knew it only by reputation as a scenic spot overrun by Chinese tourists. Now having seen it first-hand I can attest to the accuracy of that description — but I’d also add flashy temples and aboriginal-themed street food to the list. I enjoyed what food and tea I sampled and didn’t mind the Monday afternoon traffic so much, though the tour buses certainly pile up on the many turns as the highway winds around the lake.
Tussling with Chinese tourists was actually sort of fun. I stopped at an apparently famous tea egg vendor by the lakeside and was amused to see the stereotypes in action. There was no line, there was an unruly mob. I threw myself into the mosh pit, endured a whole lot of shoving and a few flying elbows, and emerged victorious with tea eggs in hand. Let’s just say that mobbing counters cuts both ways — and I’m bigger than them. Outta the way, grandma! Nobody takes it personally, either. Evidently it’s just how things are done over in whatever part of China they came from.
After the tea egg brawl I wandered down to the pier to take a totally standard shot of the setting sun over the lake. Since I’m in the business of sharing what amounts to postcards on this blog I figured I may as well add this one to the collection. As for Sun Moon Lake, well — there are more interesting things to do in this part of Taiwan 台灣 but it’s certainly not a bad place (on a Monday).
Recently I posted my full exploration of the Qiaoyou Building 喬友大廈, a towering ruin in the heart of Changhua City 彰化市. It was a big building and I ended up capturing many more photographs than I ended up sharing there. Here, in this post, I’d like to share a few more photos I captured in black and white. I have also included a couple of images demonstrating how I digitally restore photographic negatives I find in the ruins (a technique discussed in more detail here). If you’re curious about this building be sure to see the original post.
One of the more imaginative interpretations of the unresolved political status of Taiwan 台灣 is that it remains an American territory. The argument for this position is rather arcane, requiring one to ignore the last half century of history and focus almost entirely on the ambiguous minutiae of post-war agreements like the Treaty of San Francisco. Proponents of this idea suggest that American hegemony (whether in the form of statehood or some other arrangement) would inhibit China from annexing Taiwan as well as provide international recognition and representation for the Taiwanese people. Detractors are skeptical, to say the least, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s a fringe movement unlikely to gain mainstream traction in Taiwan 台灣 or the United States.
Twice this year I have observed a motorcade flying — among others — American flags on the streets of Taipei 台北. The first time around I incorrectly identified this group as the 51 Club, an American statehood movement founded in 1994 that might be defunct by now (read more about this group here). Today I managed to snap a somewhat better photo, enabling me to identify the group as the Taiwan Civil Government 台灣民政府 (they’ve also got an English homepage). It seems they’ve been quite active since 2009, launching legal challengesin American courts. If you’re curious you can read much more about this group on Wikipedia in Chinese.
Today I noticed this abandoned house without a roof sandwiched between two occupied buildings on the slopes of Zhongshan Village 中山里 in Keelung 基隆. This hillside village is a labyrinth of interconnected ramps and staircases reminiscent of Jiǔfèn 九份 without all the tea houses and tourists. In fact, there is hardly any reason for an outsider to wander through — were it not for the presence of Jìngyīn Temple 淨因寺… but that’s a story for another day. Every time I return I feel more confident in calling this place a city of darkness.
Yùměi Hall 玉美堂, also known as known as Hóng Family Mansion 洪氏洋樓, is located in Jiālǎo Village 茄荖村, a small settlement on the eastern edge of Fēnyuán 芬園 in Changhua 彰化, Taiwan 台灣. Built in the late 1920s when the village was administered as part of Cǎotún 草屯 in Nántóu 南投, it is one of only a handful of “Western-style” country manors built in central Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (see my post about Jùkuíjū 聚奎居 for another great example).
A couple of days ago I mounted my fifth expedition to the ruins of the Thirteen Levels 十三層遺址, formally known as the Shuǐnǎndòng Smelter 水湳洞精鍊廠 in Ruifeng on the outskirts of Keelung 基隆. Pictured here are the ruins of a massive mining operation with Jīlóng Mountain 基隆山 and the hillside community of Shuǐnǎndòng 水湳洞 in the background. The building to the left contains offices and a laboratory of some kind, likely for testing the material quality of whatever had reached this stage of processing. If I am not mistaken the structures in the foreground allow for that same material to be loaded into carts below for transportation downslope.
By the way, the name of this piece is an oblique reference to the Dark Mountain Project, which aims to confront the reality of “an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling”. Exploring ruins on the scale of the Thirteen Levels is a poignant reminder of the impermanence of human civilization. One reason I am so fascinated by such places is that they provide a glimpse of what the world might look like after we’re gone.