A Lantern Trio in Hsinchu County

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Three oblong lanterns in a temple in Xinpu.

Apart from ghost buildings and abandoned theaters I also visited a number of temples while wandering around last week. I found these three lanterns hanging inside Guǎnghé Temple 廣和宮 and was struck by the stylish and confident brushstrokes for Hsinchu County 新竹縣 (pinyin: Xīnzhú Xiàn). Whether these lanterns were painted by hand or produced in a factory is unclear to my inexpert eyes; only in some small aspects do the characters appear to differ. Whatever the case, I was charmed by this display of hometown pride in small town .

A Gem of a Storefront in Hsinchu

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A classy storefront in Hsinchu not far from the train station.

This storefront immediately caught my eye when I arrived in a few hours ago. Both the facade and the lettering are unusually classy, showing a vintage style of design not commonly seen here in . This is a jewelry shop, as the clever use of characters would suggest, and its formal name is Xīnfǔ Zhūbǎo 鑫府珠寶. The first character, xīn 鑫, is known as a sāndiézì 三叠字, or triplet character, and is composed of three instances of jīn 金, which means gold. Whoever designed the lettering obviously had some fun integrating a sparkling jewel into the two characters on either side of the shop’s name!

Archaic squid soup in Sanhe Night Market

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A famous squid soup vendor in Sanhe Night Market.

I was wandering through Sānhé Night Market 三和夜市 on the first day of the new year when this small shop caught my eye. The formal name of the place is Céngjì Huāzhīgēng 曾記花枝羹 and, as the last three characters would suggest, they specialize in squid thick soup, a popular Taiwanese snack. The highly stylized characters on the signboard look something like seal script 篆書 to my inexpert eyes—with the last character, “gēng 羹”, swapped for the more traditional “焿”. Don’t ask me to make sense of that first character, mind you—it is enough to know that “huā 花” means flower.

Of course, this famous eatery in has been written up countless times by Taiwanese bloggers, for example here, here, here, and here. Although my understanding of Chinese is still rudimentary at best I did not notice anyone taking any particular interest in the creative use of characters on the sign. I might be the only person to blog about this shop with far more interest in its typography than its taste!

Album Art: Orobas

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Orobas is the first exclusive release on Techgnosis Records, a new label I am collaborating on with Ben Rama, for whom I completed several album artwork projects in the past; see The Invisible Kingdom and Live In Montreal. To capture the magic and mystery of the music I used a haunting photo of a suspension bridge in the fog that I shot in , , a couple of years ago. This same photo previously appeared on this very blog as Into The Unknown; follow the link for more information (and the opportunity to purchase a framed print if you’re into that sort of thing).

Make A Cute Face

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A cute character on the door of an old house in back alley Changhua City.

I noticed this cute character on the door of an old home in back alley while on my way to a cafe today. I didn’t recognize it at first, though I assumed it was fú 福, which means fortune or good luck. With a bit of research I discovered that I was right—this is an old school variant with a new school twist. Decorating your home with red couplets and characters is a Lunar New Year tradition—and the holidays are only a few days away.

Still in Hollywood

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A derelict sign outside an abandoned KTV in Yuanlin.

Businesses in close but their signs often remain, littering the urban landscape with small reminders of what once was. This particular sign hangs over a parking lot next to a grocery store on the eastern side of in . It marks the entrance to an old, abandoned KTV by the name of Hǎoláiwù 好萊塢, better known as Hollywood.

A Surreal Reminder in Ximending

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An ugly sign in Taipei’s youth shopping district.

A surreal sight: walking through at night I spy one of my old Truetype fonts used on a sign. I released a dozen free fonts back when I was a teenager, all horribly designed with no regard for kerning or even complete character sets. No experienced graphic designer would ever consider using them, much less putting them up in lights in a busy shopping district! What a strange reminder of far away and long ago.