South Yuanlin Station 南員林站 is an abandoned Japanese colonial era railway station located not far from the newly reopened Yuanlin Station 員林車站 in the heart of Yuanlin 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化. It opened in 1933 as a small stop on the now-derelict Yuanlin Line 員林線 of the Taiwan Sugar Railways 臺灣糖業鐵路, which formerly ran west for about 9 kilometers across the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 to the Xihu Sugar Factory 溪湖糖廠 in Xihu 溪湖. Apart from facilitating the transport of sugarcane and other cargo this old wooden station also provided passenger service until it was abolished sometime around 1975.
Liáncūn Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓 is a historic building on the rural outskirts of Fengyuan 豐原, Taichung 台中, and one of the last of its kind. Back in the tobacco industry heyday of the 1950s there were more than 100 tobacco barns in this small agricultural community. Almost all the others have been torn down or fallen into grave disrepair over the years but this one remains in surprisingly good condition, a testament to the upkeep of the owners, who still live inside. I haven’t had any luck sourcing credible historic information about this place—it isn’t an officially designated heritage property nor a tourist attraction—but I’d hazard a guess that it is at least 70 years old. I would have asked the old lady in the courtyard but she didn’t seem all that interested in having a chat—though she warmly granted permission to shoot these photographs when I asked permission.
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.
In late November of last year I was riding through southern Changhua 彰化 on my way to Beidou 北斗 when I noticed an unusually old building at the side of the highway. With a little research I puzzled out this is the obscure Bāfēn Catholic Church 八分天主堂, a parish dating back to 1906 and located in Méizhōu Village 梅州里 on the western outskirts of Tianzhong 田中. I haven’t found any primary source material establishing its age—but the style of the church reminds me of Zhongshan Hall 中山堂 (originally Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂) in neighbouring Ershui 二水, originally built during the Japanese colonial era in 1930. At a glance I would guess it was built sometime between 1940 and 1960.
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.
Today I breezed through southern Taichung 台中 on my way to the high-speed rail station and parts beyond. Along the way I made a brief stop in Wuri 烏日 to follow up on a lead I uncovered while researching my much longer feature about the historic Japanese colonial era Wuri Police Station. Apart from the police station there are two other officially designated historic sites in the district (with nearby Jukuiju Mansion almost certain to become the fourth in the near future). One of these is the former Stationmaster Residence 站長宿舍 next to Wuri Station 烏日車站, pictured here. Despite its status as a heritage property the city has done nothing to restore it and little to maintain the old residence. About all they’ve done in recent years is put up metal fencing sturdy enough to prevent the intrusion of mildly curious explorers such as myself.
In the absence of a more thorough history that’s about all I have to say about this find. For a few more photos of this old ruin have a look at this blog from 2013. Finally, for those of you uncertain who or what a stationmaster is, Wikipedia has you covered.
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.
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.
Jīshàn Gatehouse 積善樓 (Mandarin pinyin: Jīshànlóu; sometimes Chishan or Chijhan) is a minor historic building not far from Taiyuan Station 太原車站 in Beitun 北屯, Taichung 台中. Originally this site was occupied by the residences of the Lài 賴 family, immigrants from Zhangzhou, China 中国, who made their home here in 1897. Decades later they funded the construction of this unusual gatehouse on the recommendation of a fēngshuǐ 風水 master; the name of the building literally translates to “accumulate goodness”. The design and some of the materials are Chinese but the structure also shows western influences and craftsmanship as filtered through Japan 日本. Five banyan trees surrounding the gate are the only other legacy of the homes that once existed here. Nowadays the area is a city park.
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.