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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Guānmiào 關廟 is a small town in southern Tainan 台南 famous for its noodles and the large temples at the western and eastern ends of town.

Guanmiao Shanxi Temple 關廟山西宮

Exploring the upper levels of Shanxi temple in Guanmiao
The upper levels of Shanxi Temple at the western entrance to Guanmiao.

Shānxī Temple 山西宮 (often romanized as “Shansi Temple”) is a large historic temple in Guānmiào 關廟, a small town in southeastern Tainan 台南, dating back to the early 18th century, back when Taiwan 台灣 was under Qing Dynasty rule. It has been expanded and renovated many times over the years, most recently in the 1970s, to the point where I noticed few traces of antiquity on two trips to the temple over the last couple of years.

Guanmiao Zhongyang Theater 關廟中央戲院

An abandoned cinema in Guanmiao
An abandoned cinema in Guanmiao, Tainan.

Decades ago Taiwan 台灣 was home to more than 800 movie theaters. Nowadays there are approximately 150, most of them large-scale, modern multiplexes, with only a handful of vintage cinemas like Chin Men Theater 全美戲院 still in business. With more than 500 closures it should come as no surprise that abandoned cinemas are readily found in most urban centers across the nation.

I spotted this particular cinema, Zhōngyāng Theater 中央戲院, in Guānmiào 關廟, a small town in eastern Tainan 台南. It reminded me a lot of the old theater I found near my home in Wénshān District 文山區 not long after moving there. The design is more or less the same: metal-shuttered market shops on the ground floor and theaters on the second and third. I went to take a closer look but found that the dark, musty corridors of the old building were still occupied by old people (squatters, homeless, or merely the unfortunate, I don’t know). Not wanting to disturb anyone with my curiosity (and given that I had a schedule to keep) I did not investigate any further. If you’re curious, I found a video tour of the old theater online (in Chinese, of course).

A Bamboo Tank in Rural Tainan

A bamboo tank in Xinguang Village
A bamboo tank in Xinguang Village, Guanmiao, Tainan.

Taiwan 台灣 is riddled with roadside attractions and folk art projects like this bamboo tank in Xīnguāng Painted Village 新光彩繪村, Tainan 台南. Located in the rolling hills of Guānmiào 關廟 not far from the badlands of southern Taiwan 台灣, this small community of several hundred residents was fading into history until local artists decided to paint folksy murals all over town to attract tourism and revitalize the area around Běiliáo Old Street 北寮老街 (which didn’t seem all that old or noteworthy). The story in some ways parallels that of the Rainbow Village of Taichung 台中 but Xinguang looks more rustic and less fantastical.