Recently I added yet another theater to my growing catalogue of old school cinemas in Taiwan 台灣: the derelict Dōng’ān Grand Theater 東安大戲院 in East Tainan 台南市東區. This theater opened in 1969 and closed its doors not long after the turn of the millennium, another victim of changing consumer habits. I wasn’t able to find a way inside this theater so this post only features a handful of exterior shots and some links I chanced upon after conducting preliminary research.
Today I went to investigate reports of an abandoned building on the edge of Xīméndīng 西門町, a busy commercial district in central Taipei 台北. It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhōngwài Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yángyáng Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of Taiwan 台灣 it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.
Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場 is another example of neglected Japanese colonial era architecture in Taiwan 台灣. Built in 1935, this modest building was the administrative center of the village of Fenyuan 芬園, located on the eastern edge of Changhua 彰化 back when it was part of Taichū Prefecture 臺中州. It survived the war and remained in use until 1994 when a newer town hall was built down the street. Art Deco flourishes and the rust-colored emblem over the entrance give Fenyuan’s old town hall a distinctive look. Nowadays it is derelict—but it seems likely that it will be restored and opened to the public some day.
Beidou 北斗 is home to the historic Far East Theater 遠東戲院 (pinyin: Yuǎndōng), originally built in 1955. Like most vintage theaters in Taiwan 台灣 it struggled through the home video era and eventually shut down in the late 1990s. Unlike many other cinemas of its generation it does not appear to have been subdivided into smaller theaters prior to going out of business. It was, however, converted for use as a karaoke bar or gambling den at some point, judging by what I observed during a recent visit. Nowadays the interior is used for nothing more than storage, particularly for a restaurant that has since colonized the area adjacent to the former ticket booth and entrance.
Dōnggōng Theater 東宮戲院 is located in Dongshi, a Hakka majority township in mountainous central Taichung 台中. Dongshi (or Tungshih in the older Wade–Giles Romanization system) is the gateway to the densely forested interior and was a major center of the lumber industry in Taiwan 台灣 prior to its decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Disaster struck in 1999 with the devastating 921 Earthquake. Dongshi was among the worst hit; over 300 people lost their lives and hundreds of buildings collapsed—but not this grand old theater.
Some people are into urban exploration for the optics—they love visiting the most visually-impressive places and taking cool photos—but I’m more interested in solving puzzles and documenting history. Animated by curiosity, I have become proficient in navigating the Chinese language web in search of leads. Not all of these turn out to be something interesting but I enjoy those rare days where I set out into the countryside and see how many sites I can knock off my list.
Yesterday I went for a scooter trip around southern Changhua 彰化, primarily to give some love to Beidou 北斗, a vital center of trade and commerce in the late Qing dynasty era. Seeing as how Xizhou 溪州 is just next door I opted to drive over and check out two points on my map, one of which was highly speculative, in that I had recorded no address for it. I only knew there was a vintage theater somewhere on the west side of town—and in short order arrived at the entrance to the humble Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院.
Among the many disused and abandoned movie theaters of Zhongli 中壢 is a massive entertainment complex home to twin cinemas: Qīnqīn Grand Theater 親親大戲院 and Láilái Grand Theater 來來大戲院. Located immediately across from the former Sogo department store in the heart of downtown, it remains unexplored insofar as I know. Several businesses still operate out of the ground floor of this hulking ruin and they don’t take kindly to strangers mucking about in search of an entrance to the upper levels.
Featured here are a handful of photos and some notes from an incomplete exploration of the Changhua Railway Village 彰化台鐵宿舍村 (pinyin: Táitiě Sùshè Cūn) just across the street from the amazing Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫 in Changhua City 彰化市. While living there in the winter of 2014–2015 I made several lazy attempts to gain access to the more interesting and historic parts of the old village without success (mainly due to all the wild dogs around). The only part of the village I was able to explore were some of the newer KMT authoritarian era residential buildings on the edge of the block—which have much less aesthetic and historic value. That being said, since I’ve recently been filling in some archival content from my time in Changhua’s capital I decided to share these photos as well. This is not a full exploration by any means—so if I ever get around to seeing the rest of the old village I’ll be sure to update this post.
Dàshùn General Hospital 大順綜合醫院 is a hulking ruin on the outskirts of Chaozhou 潮州 in Taiwan 台灣. Abandoned almost a decade ago, it was not in business for very long before it closed due to corruption and mismanagement. There appears to be an ugly coda as well, for it was later the subject of an investment scam (see also: PTT).
Huáguó Theater 華國戲院 is one of hundreds of abandoned theaters scattered around Taiwan 台灣. Located in Puli 埔里, a town of approximately 80,000 in the heart of Nantou 南投, this particular theater was likely built in the late 1950s. If this post by Wáng Hénglù 王亨祿 is any guide the single screen theater was operated by a couple with the family name Zhōu 周 and specialized in showing western films before its inevitable demise.