Elementary Islamic Pastiche

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 , . 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.

Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場

Fenyuan’s abandoned town hall from Japanese times.

Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場 is another example of neglected architecture in . Built in 1935, this modest building was the administrative center of the village of , located on the eastern edge of 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.

Brutalist Parkade

Just a parking garage.

Cǎoxiédūn Public Parkade 草鞋墩公有立體停車場 is an intimidating structure looming over one of the main commercial shopping streets in , . I was there in search of an abandoned theater but was immediately impressed with the strikingly brutalist design of this multi-storey car park. It is merely a place to park so there’s little more to say, though it would seem that it was recently derelict. Probably the only other tidbit of information worth conveying is that “Caoxiedun” refers to the original name of the town. You can be sure the first settlers never imagined this monument to honest architecture standing in their newly sown fields.

Postcards From Badouzi 八斗子

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Sundown over Badouzi, a peninsula on the eastern periphery of , .

Near the end of my first summer in I visited Bādǒuzi 八斗子, a rocky headland, coastal park, and major fishing port at the far eastern edge of , . I went there on impulse, not knowing what to expect, just to see what was out there. Google Maps and Taiwan’s excellent public transit system make random explorations like this almost effortless: pick a point of interest and follow the directions—the digital equivalent of throwing a dart at a map. This post features a selection of retouched photos from this expedition alongside the sort of explanatory text I wouldn’t have been able to write back in 2013. Fair warning for arachnophobes: this post contains several gratuitous photos of giant spiders and other creepy crawlies!

Tiny Spaces

An old building transformed into a couple of parking spaces near the Hsinchu State Office.

Recently I have gotten somewhat more serious about documenting , the faint traces of structures that once were. I found this particular example on Rén’ài Street 仁愛街 not far from the Hsinchu State Office 新竹州廳 (sometimes called the Hsinchu Municipal Government Hall) in . Google Street View reveals that this tiny space has been used for parking since at least 2009—but at some point someone must have made a life here in the spaces between.

In Rust We Trust

Blooming in neglect.

This rusty iron flower blooms on the doorframe of an building at the edge of an unusually dilapidated community hidden in the streets opposite Jiànguó Holiday Flower Market 建國假日花市 and just behind Shin Yi Market 信義市場 in , . I never would have found the place had Taiwan Reporter not pointed it out to me; it isn’t visible from any major road and one would assume there were nothing more than boring residential high-rises back there. Much to my surprise there’s what appears to be a temple in the midst of a labyrinth of crooked laneways and old homes. I hope to write it up in a future post—but in the meantime, trust in .

Dark Night at Grace Hill 麗庭莊園

The ominous outline of the wedding chapel at night.

I went out riding the other night, restless with insomnia and hungry for adventure. On impulse I crossed into to investigate reports of an wedding chapel formally known as Grace Hill 麗庭莊園 (pinyin: Lìtíng Zhuāngyuán). In the depths of the witching hour I arrived to find an entire complex of buildings cast in shadows. Mosquitos stirred from the foul ponds on the property and pricked my flesh as I surveyed this nocturnal landscape.

The Divine Dictator

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A statue of Chiang Kai-shek as god inside a small temple in Tamsui.

Kuíxīng Temple 魁星宮 in is nominally dedicated to the eponymous Kuíxīng 魁星, god of examinations and one of the Five Wénchāng 五文昌, a group of deities representative of classical Chinese culture. He typically takes the form of a man balanced on one foot with a writing brush in one hand, his body twisted in a pose suggestive of the strokes of Chinese calligraphy. But you didn’t come here to read about Kuixing—this temple is notable for being one of only a handful of sites in venerating Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正, president of the Republic of China until his death in 1975, as a god.

Lost In The Dragon

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Lost in the ceiling of a temple in Taoyuan.

Pictured here is the opulent ceiling above the main altar to Guān Yǔ 關羽, commonly known as Guān Gōng 關公 (Lord Guan), inside the Guāndì Temple 關帝廟 in . Despite the impressive artwork the temple itself is quite modest in size and breadth, a legacy of its original use as an ancestral shrine for the Xú 徐 clan from Nánjìng 南靖 in Fujian, , built in 1841. This recessed ceiling is not nearly as old, however—it almost certainly dates back to the most recent renovation in 1996. For more information about this temple try this blog or Facebook page.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City

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The view looking northwest from Carp Mountain, Taitung City, across the alluvial plains toward the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

, the administrative capital of , was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern in the summer of 2015. Previously I shared words and photos from every day on the road so this post will act as something of an epilogue. Start at the beginning or read the last chapter to get up to speed—or treat this as a singular post about some of what I saw in an extra day of exploration around the most remote major city on the Taiwanese mainland.