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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Wufeng Minsheng Clinic 霧峰民生診所

The entrance to the abandoned clinic. It looks like a group from the local university has written up their own schedule on the board outside.

On the way back from the 921 Earthquake Museum 九二一地震教育園區 in early 2014 I noticed an abandoned building at the side of the highway in rural Wùfēng 霧峰. Stopping to investigate, at first I assumed it must have once operated as a bǔxíbān 補習班, or cram school, a common feature of the social landscape here in Taiwan 台灣, but that initial hypothesis turned out to be completely wrong. Years later it was brought to my attention that this was originally Mínshēng Clinic 霧峰民生診所, the office of a country doctor by the name of Lín Péngfēi 林鵬飛. He passed away several years ago leading to the abandonment of the clinic but more recently it was purchased by local farmers and completely renovated and has reopened asa small museum and community center, the Wufeng Minsheng Story House 霧峰民生故事館.

A rack with wishes, illegible writing, a hand-painted QR code, and a gecko. Yeah.

Part of why I got this one wrong has to do with conflicting signals at the site. Near the entrance I found a wooden rack with several wishes hanging from it. These racks are a common sight in temples and certain tourist attractions so I have no idea what it was doing here. One of the wishes is dated 2013 so my guess is that the rack was dumped here sometime after the abandonment—but I could be wrong about that. As for the hand-painted QR code, don’t ask me. I tried cleaning it up and submitting it to various online QR code readers but came up empty. Is this where wishes go to die?

The fetid canal out back. What an awful stench!
The stone stairwell leading up to the second floor. I have never seen a design like it anywhere in Taiwan.

Inside the building was mostly empty. It looked like it had been abandoned for a very long time judging by the amount of dust around—though not every area was equally dusty. Upstairs the landing was filled with trash. Someone dumped a lot of garbage here, which isn’t hugely uncommon in residential abandonments. Thankfully not much of the garbage was organic. Mostly it was old clothes and junk that nobody would want.

The second floor is littered with garbage.

Often when I explore abandoned buildings in Taiwan I see almost no evidence of anyone having been there in years. I have more recently learned that this is something of an illusion; Taiwan has a thriving urban exploration subculture but people are generally very good about leaving no trace. Not so in this case, as the clinic had been used by students from the nearby Asia University 亞洲大學 for a school project.

Water flowing down from the rooftop has created a stream of life running down the wall on this second storey balcony.

Evidence of this school project could still be found in one of the small rooms on the second floor. Here someone had posted up many small photos on the decaying old walls, all of which can be seen here. Taking a closer look it was obvious all these photos had been shot within and around the abandoned building. This was puzzling to me at the time. Were the students using the place as a club house, a place to shoot photos for commencement and graduation?

One of the rooms had photographs on the wall. The picture is of a bunch of university students on the roof of this very building.
Little pieces of other peoples lives.
A university student art project of some kind. Those photos, if you look closely, were taken after the building was abandoned.
Creeping through the hallways on the second floor.

As I crept through the hallways on the second floor I formulated several hypotheses about what the building might have been used for. When I entered the room with all the green chairs I figured it must have been a cram school at one point. Why else would all these seats with desks be laying about? I saw no sign of chalkboards or anything else that would indicate a buxiban. With no better idea, and having found no information about the place online while conducting research after the fact, I originally posted this piece as Wufeng Cram School 霧峰補習班. Now I recognize these “classrooms” for what they really are: waiting rooms!

A waiting room on the second floor. The chairs are a lovely shade of green.
A star-powered helmet laying on the floor of the waiting room. It made me think of a certain video game.
From the back of the waiting room. The wallpaper is peeling away from the concrete walls beneath.
Up the narrow stairway to the rooftop.

Next to the waiting room I unlatched a narrow wooden door and went up a stairway leading up to the rooftop. Leaf litter deposited at the foot of the stairwell suggested no one had been up here in quite some time. Wary of whatever earthquake damage this building must have sustained I stepped lightly while ascending to the third floor rooftop balcony.

On the rooftop at the abandoned clinic.

The rooftop provided a good view of the surrounding countryside. Behind the clinic you can see the treetops of a kumquat orchard. Out front, across the highway, rice paddies stretch to one of rural Taiwan’s many vertical villages.

A view of the surrounding countryside in Wufeng.

Back on the main floor there wasn’t too much more to see. The decrepit kitchen was choked with cobwebs and another waiting room held nothing more interesting than the first. Now that I know this place was a clinic I wonder if I might have missed something critical during my only visit—but this place had been picked clean for the most part. With nothing more to see I hit the road again. The sky was looking ominous and I had no interest in getting caught in a torrential downpour so far from shelter.

Down in the kitchen on the main floor.
Another room in the abandoned clinic.
I like to take photographs of peeling paint.
Several benches outside the main entrance had been painted with old American style comic book art.

Now that I know what this place really was (thanks to a tip from Chia Wei Lin) I have been able to fill in some of the details. The clinic was built in 1952 and likely abandoned sometime after the doctor retired in 1990. As previously surmised the class project occurred in 2013, not long before I showed up to take a look around. Anyhow, it’s nice to be able to revise old posts like this when new information comes to light. Now we know: it was a medical clinic opened by a well-respected local doctor—and, after renovation, a local museum.

6 Comments

  1. Great job on the photos, I really enjoyed reading this article. Must have been eerie visiting a place that was once full of life, now reduced to empty rooms and dust.. I also found the university photo collage rather interesting, perhaps it was some kind of restoration project? or maybe an art studio?

  2. Thanks! And that’s what I figured—that it is some kind of art project—but some Taiwanese people commenting on this story suggest it has something to do with commencement.

  3. Enjoying your explorations especially because I would’ve been creeped out in person. So it’s nice to be able to satisfy my curiosity through your words and lenses.

  4. I go by that area all the time. May I inquire if there is an address or any local landmarks nearby that would make it easier to find?

  5. Just curious, how much time do you spend in a place like this until you figure you explored sufficiently?

    1. Klaus: It really depends… but I tend not to be as thorough as I am when writing them up. Usually it’s enough for me to take a look around, capture a few shots, look inside a few musty drawers and move on. I tend to return the more interesting ruins I chance upon.

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