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An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Yangliufeng Mansion 楊柳風燒酒全故宅

An abandoned mansion in back alley Changhua City.

During the Japanese colonial era the liquor trade in Taiwan 台灣—along with tobacco, camphor, and several other goods—was tightly controlled by a government agency, the Monopoly Bureau. Alcohol was sold exclusively through a network of authorized distributors, many of whom were local Taiwanese who evidently became quite wealthy, as this crumbling yet majestic ruin in the back alleys of Changhua City 彰化市 would suggest. Located along a small laneway just off Mínshēng Road 民生路, this two-story brick mansion was formerly the residence of the local liquor monopoly distributor.

There isn’t very much room to capture the scale of the place.

Exploring old homes in Taiwan always involves a degree of mystery, particularly as my Chinese language skills are somewhat limited to transcription and machine translation. The inscription over the entrance reads Yángliǔfēng 楊柳風, which might be poetry (“wind in the willows” is what Google tells me) but is more likely to be the family name of the former residents as Yáng 楊 also appears in stylized form on the top of the front of the building. In media it is more often referred to as (the former residence of) Shāojiǔquán 燒酒全故宅. Prior to its recent appearance in the news (see the update at the bottom of the post) this Chinese language blog entry was my only source of information about this place.

This appears to have been the main entrance. It opens into a corridor that leads straight through to the back of the building with windows and doors on either side.
The first sight that will greet you upon entering the building.
This part of the roof is coming apart at the edges. It is possible to gain access to a small part of the second floor but I wouldn’t recommend it.
There is something beautiful about the colour of light shining through the leaves outside.
This bathroom in the far corner of the building has been colonized by some of the many plants growing on the walls outside.

Beyond the facade the conditions of the interior are completely decrepit. It is possible to climb to the second floor along a rickety old staircase but there’s nothing to see up there—the roof has caved in. Rotting wood lays strewn about and mosquitos pour out of every nook and crevice lusting after human blood. This place has the appearance of a home that has been abandoned for decades.

There is a thick layer of dust everywhere.
An abandoned flag of the Republic of China.
Peering through a locked door.
An ancient artifact.
I always look for calendars whenever I explore abandoned buildings in Taiwan. The remnants of this one date back to 1977, long before I was born.

Only about half of the interior is open to exploration. Most of the west side of the building has collapsed inward, covering whatever artifacts may have remained in a pile of wooden debris and rubble. Brambles, vines, and stunted trees grow out of this abscess: new life in the ruins of old.

An eerie room in the heart of the old mansion with several portraits solemnly overlooking the emptiness.

I have learned to read between the lines when exploring colonial era residences in Taiwan, many of which were abandoned early into the many years of KMT authoritarian rule. You have to stop and ask: how would you expect KMT officials to treat locals who prospered under the Japanese? As with Jùkuíjū 聚奎居, another colonial era residence in central Taiwan, the owners of this mansion likely suffered hard times under the new regime1.

A forest is growing out of the back of the mansion where the upper levels and the rooftop caved in long ago.
The back door of the mansion.
From within to without.
Most of the back of the mansion is still standing.
One last look: the mansion from near the entrance to the alleyway.

Every crumbling ruin in Taiwan 台灣 has a story to tell. I feel as if I have only scratched the surface of this particular abandonment—the consequence of a dearth of quality information online. The memory of this home will fade, its physical structure will decay, and one day it will be no more.

Yangliufeng in July 2016. The old colonial mansion remains mostly intact but the outer buildings and what looks to be part of the kitchen are gone.

Update: I revisited this mansion in July 2016 and was dismayed to find that part of the building has already been destroyed. Public outcry put a halt to the demolition and there is talk of designating the mansion as a heritage property, but nothing is certain. I also found a video walkthrough of the building posted on YouTube for anyone curious to see more of the place.


  1. The bloody 228 Incident was a direct result of the enforcement of the monopoly system (which was not abolished until 2002). Incidentally, Taiwan Beer 台灣啤酒 is still manufactured by the corporate successor to the state-run monopoly. 

2 Comments

  1. As I mentioned on twitter, this looks like it might have been the family altar room. Someone was a devoted Buddhist.

    The long six-character phrases all begin with 南無 (namo), meaning “I take refuge in.” You might recognize this from the familiar phrase “namo amitofu,” which means “I take refuge in Amitabha Buddha.”

    In this case, from left to right, we have:
    Namo Zhiming Bodhisattva
    Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva [aka Avalokitêśvara [Guanyin], the bodhisattva of compassion]
    Namo Amitabha Buddha
    Namo Dashizhi Boddhisattva [aka Mahāsthāmaprāpta, the bodhisattva of wisdom.]
    Namo Lihuan Bodhisattva

    I don’t know who Zhiming and Lihuan are, but the middle three figures are believed to escort the souls of Amitabha Buddha devotees to rebirth in the Pure Land at the moment of their deaths.

    Around the woman’s photo is a poem of four lines with five characters per line.
    A quick and dirty translation:
    The way of the bodhisattva of the six paramitas [which are charity, keeping the commandments, patience under insult, zeal, meditation, and wisdom]
    How easy it is to speak of them.
    The accumulation of many lives and many worlds
    In this life, the good root has succeeded.

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