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Schools

A Curious Character

The rundown facade of the Mingzhi Building
The rundown facade of the Mingzhi Building in Taichung.

Yesterday while breezing through Taichung 台中 I snapped this photograph of the Míngzhì Building 朙志樓, a rundown residential complex for teachers at the school of the same name. At the time I was perplexed by the first character—an ancient variant of the standard Míng 明 (“bright”) commonly seen in place names around Taiwan 台灣—and it turns out I’m not the only one! A quick search revealed an entire Taiwanese news segment on the character, in no small part because of the colloquial usage of the character Jiǒng 囧, commonly used to signify embarrassment (for what I hope are obvious reasons), not unlike saying “oops” in English. From what I gather most Taiwanese would see this and think it were some kind of prank!

Apart from the novelty of the unusual character I was also charmed by the use of spiral motifs in the architecture of the building. This obviously dates back to the KMT authoritarian era. Maybe next time I’ll take a closer look…

Elementary Islamic Pastiche

An elementary school with unusal Islamic influences
An elementary school with unusual architectural influences in Taichung.

Founded in 1999, Yǒngchūn Elementary School 永春國民小學 is an unusual example of Islamic-influenced architecture in Taichung 台中, Taiwan 台灣. No rules or conventions must be followed here; all cultures are subject to creative reinterpretation in modern construction projects, but it is far more common for Taiwanese to pillage European, American, or surrounding East Asian sources for ideas. In this case I am sure it is no accident that the Taichung Mosque 台中清真寺 is just up the street—but it is, if I am not mistaken, just a regular school, albeit a fantastical one with princes and princesses!

For more photos and information (in Chinese, of course) nothing could be more appropriate than this blog, but if you’re feeling brave you can also wade through the insanity of the school’s official web site.

Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院

Exterior view of Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院
Exterior view of Huangxi Academy in Dadu 大肚, Taichung 台中.

Built in 1887, Huángxī Academy 磺溪書院 is one of dozens of Qing dynasty era schools of classical studies in Taiwan 台灣. Located in Dadu 大肚, a small town in southwestern Taichung 台中, it provides a window into a time when scholarship was more closely interwoven with spirituality. Apart from classrooms and areas for quiet study the academy also has an altar to the Five Wénchāng 五文昌: Kuí Xīng 魁星, Zhū Xī 朱熹, Guān Yǔ 關羽, Lǚ Dòngbīn 呂洞賓, and, of course, Wénchāng 文昌 himself. Collectively these Taoist gods represent classical Chinese culture and several are commonly venerated by students prior to writing exams. Structurally the academy follows a plan similar to a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home or sanheyuan with the addition of a large gatehouse and pavilion.

Daodong Academy 道東書院

Daodong Academy, Hemei
In the forecourt of Daodong Academy 道東書院, Hemei 和美, founded in 1857.

Dàodōng Academy 道東書院 is one of many Qing dynasty era academies scattered across central and southern Taiwan 台灣. Located in Hemei 和美 in Changhua 彰化, it was built in 1857, the 7th year of the Xianfeng Emperor 咸豐帝 (清咸豐七年), and operated as a private school devoted to classic Chinese literature, philosophy, and ethics, among other subjects. Commonly known to locals as Wéncí 文祠 or Wénmiào 文廟, or “temple of literature”, the academy also venerates Song dynasty scholar Zhū Xī 朱熹 and Kuí Xīng 奎星, the god of examinations.

School’s out forever

An abandoned school in Tainan
An abandoned school in East District, Tainan.

This is an abandoned school at the eastern terminus of Qingnian Road 青年路 in Tainan 台南. I can tell many people have been inside this ruin as graffiti—a rarity in Taiwanese abandonments—is visible from the street. I don’t have much more to say about this photo for a change—I’m posting it simply because I appreciate the brutal concrete inelegance of it all. No more teachers, no more books!