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.
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 Caotun 草屯, Taiwan 台灣. 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.
Near the end of my first summer in Taiwan 台灣 I visited Bādǒuzi 八斗子, a rocky headland, coastal park, and major fishing port at the far eastern edge of Zhongzheng District 中正區, Keelung 基隆. 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!
Recently I have gotten somewhat more serious about documenting ghost buildings, 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 Hsinchu City 新竹市. 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.
This rusty iron flower blooms on the doorframe of an abandoned 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 Da'an District 大安區, Taipei 台北. 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 Qing dynasty era 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 rust.
I went out riding the other night, restless with insomnia and hungry for adventure. On impulse I crossed into Neihu District 內湖區 to investigate reports of an abandoned 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.
Kuíxīng Temple 魁星宮 in Tamsui 淡水 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 Taiwan 台灣 venerating Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正, president of the Republic of China until his death in 1975, as a god.
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 Taoyuan City 桃園市. 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, China 中国, 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.
Taitung City 台東市, the administrative capital of Taitung 台東, was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern Taiwan 台灣 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.
Quán’ān Hall 全安堂 is a century-old building on Taiwan Boulevard 臺灣大道 not far from the old train station in Taichung 台中. Built in 1909 with red brick, reinforced concrete, and a Neo-Baroque style commonly attributed to Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo 辰野金吾 (中文), it was a pharmacy for many decades, and more recently a bakery. A few years ago it was rebranded as the Taiwan Sun Cake Museum 台灣太陽餅博物館, which now operates a gift store on the ground floor and, beneath the exposed wooden beams of the restored rooftop on the second level, a cafe, event space, and interactive museum.