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An Abandoned House and Community Garden in Hsinchu

A community garden on the urban frontier of Hsinchu. The traditional house behind the garden is abandoned.

Last weekend I visited Hsinchu City 新竹市 and rented a scooter to visit some of the more distant areas from the central train station. Along the way my attention was drawn to this traditional home on the margins of the north side of town. Hsinchu, like most other cities in Taiwan 台灣, is gradually replacing its agricultural frontier with modern subdevelopments, but this home has somehow escaped the wave of demolition that obviously swept through most of the rest of the area. The man in the picture had little to say before returning to his garden. Apparently the abandoned house beyond is a hundred years old—but anything more about its history will remain a mystery for now.

A closer look at the abandoned home. The austere design certainly looks Hakka to me but I’m not enough of an expert to say for sure.

A brief walk around the front of the building revealed that it is indeed abandoned—though there are signs that the area out front is occasionally used as a small woodworking shop. All doors and windows were securely sealed and I did not try to gain access. The structure of the house does not appear to be in bad shape.

A closer look at the inscription over the entrance and the address plate. The laneway listed there no longer exists as the streets around the old house have been completely remade.

These days I have gotten to be fairly good at turning up information about obscure historic buildings in Taiwan but this one has me stumped. Usually I find something by looking up the address or other identifying features but I haven’t assembled anything conclusive this time around. Part of the problem may be that the address on the plate, 東大路二段446巷140弄1號, no longer exists, a consequence of the remaking of the streets in the area. More might be learned from the inscription over the entrance, which reads Qiáozǐ Liánfāng 喬梓聯芳, a passage that I won’t even attempt to translate with my current level of Chinese understanding. A quick search for this phrase reveals some connection with an ancestral shrine for the Xǔ 許 family in Jìnjiāng 晋江, a city in Fujian that was the source of a great many immigrants to Taiwan. This connection, although plausible, is neither strong nor definitive so I won’t speculate any further.

An oblique view of the entrance to the old house. It is now only used for storage.
The dark recesses behind the abandoned home. Previously some kind of storage shed was built here but the roof has caved in.

At any rate, this traditional home on the edge of urban Hsinchu 新竹 makes for a nice backdrop to the community garden out front. I hope the city finds a way to integrate it into whatever the plan is for this rapidly developing area.

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