Chaozhou Jiukuaicuo Catholic Church 潮州九塊厝天主堂

A rusty cross over an abandoned Catholic church on the plains of Pingtung 屏東.

While I was out riding in southern Taiwan last year I chanced upon an abandoned church by the roadside in a small village outside of Cháozhōu 潮州, Pingtung 屏東. I only spent about ten minutes there and didn’t shoot many photos but have since realized that the story to tell is interesting enough to devote a full post to it. The formal name of this place is Jiǔkuàicuò Catholic Church 九塊厝天主堂, though this is commonly prefixed with Cháozhōu 潮州 to distinguish it from the many other villages with the same name in Taiwan 台灣. Details are scant but I should be able to provide a broad overview of how this church came to be here—and why it was left to the elements.

The abandoned church from the roadside. Some effort has been made to wall it off but the passage of years has worn out one section.

Most Taiwanese follow a syncretic blend of Buddhism, Taoist, and Chinese folk religion so you might be wondering what a Catholic church is doing out there on the plains of Pingtung 屏東. As it so happens the majority of Taiwanese aborigines identify as Christian, largely the result of missionary work in the late 19th century. From what little I’ve been able to find about this particular church it was likely built for a small congregation of plains aborigines (píngpǔzú 平埔族 in Chinese) from the Makatao 馬卡道 tribe. This same tribe gave their name to Kaohsiung 高雄, originally known as Tá-káu 打狗 in Taiwanese Hokkien, from an aboriginal word for “bamboo forest”. Over the centuries the Makatao were forced eastward to the foothills of the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 through conflict with Chinese settlers.

The courtyard in front of the old church is totally overgrown. Here you can see the unusual architecture of the church: blocky and functional but also appealing to the eye in some ways.
Beneath the awning at the abandoned Catholic church in rural Chaozhou.
Shadows and the light.
A first quick look inside.

From this post it sounds as if the church arranged for members of the Makatao tribe to migrate to this village to work in the nearby sugarcane fields. Whether this occurred before or after the war isn’t clear—but the church building itself looks to be constructed in a post-war style. Taiwan’s sugar industry was a huge boon to the economy in the Japanese colonial era and, after the disruption of the war and reorganization under the KMT, production levels peaked in the mid-1970s. By the mid-1980s the industry was in steep decline and chances are the sugar fields in the area were put to other uses and the Makatao probably moved on to nearby Wanluan (for more on that follow these links here, here, and here). The details are hazy but from Google Street View you can tell this church was long-abandoned by 2009.

Inside the abandoned Catholic church on the southern outskirts of Chaozhou.
One last look at the abandoned Catholic church from the back of the courtyard at sunset.

This small church in Cháozhōu 潮州 is one of several built for aboriginal workers in Pingtung 屏東. From that same post I found out about several more: Yùhuán Church 新埤玉環天主堂 in Xinpi, Yánbù Church 東港鹽埔天主堂 in Xinyuan (not Dōnggǎng 東港 as the name implies, though it is nearby), and Xīnzhōng Church 萬丹新鐘天主堂 in Wandan. All of these look abandoned from a quick look on Google Street View. I suppose I’ll have to check those out too if I return to Pingtung 屏東 with wheels and some spare time!

This series chronicles a multi-day bicycle trip around the deep south of Taiwan 台灣, specifically from Tainan 台南 to Taitung in June 2015. Along the way I visited many places in Kaohsiung 高雄 and especially Pingtung 屏東. A lot of what I saw and experienced hasn't been written about in English very much so I've taken some extra time to provide background information to better contextualize what's in the many photographs in this series. Altogether this is a complete trip journal clocking in at around 20,000 words from start to finish!

  1. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City
  2. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City
  3. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao
  4. Chaozhou Liu House 潮州劉厝
  5. Chaozhou Jiukuaicuo Catholic Church 潮州九塊厝天主堂
  6. Xinpi Machine Gun Fort 新埤反空降機槍碉堡
  7. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Fangliao to Manzhou
  8. Fangliao Factory 枋寮工廠
  9. Jiahe Railway Tunnel 嘉和遮體
  10. Tsai Ing-wen Old House 蔡英文古厝
  11. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Manzhou to Dawu
  12. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Dawu to Taitung City
  13. Dawu Theater 大武戲院
  14. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City
  15. Taitung Chinese Association 台東中華會館
  16. Datong Theater 大同戲院
  17. Fuyou Building 富有大樓

3 Comments

  1. I read your blog and it’s wonderful for others to know about Taiwan. I wish I knew this earlier when I was studying in Taiwan and maybe we could meet.

  2. You can call me Michael. Here is what GOD told me. (Matthew 8:11-12) There are two kingdoms; GOD’s Kingdom, and Satan’s kingdom such as America. This land was stolen by bloodshed and deception. They have a false Trinity of Executive, Legislative and Judicial. These are as the three bands that the Chaldeans formed in the book of Job, and took everything. (Job 1:17) The churches are so blind that Jesus is no longer their Shepherd, the military and police are. Police and military are not even a tiny bit acceptable to GOD, no matter what anyone says. That is the Devil and Satan, and anyone who follows or agrees with them is a goat. The flag being in churches is a sin. When we see that one third of the Angels were cast out of heaven, one third of the world’s population claim to be Christian, and this of the Christians who even so much as honor the governments of these people will be cast out with them. They are so blind that they think the Devil is a real angel of light. Satan transformed himself into an Angel of light and put his flag in the churches. When Jesus enters a church, they don’t recognize his real voice for they are not his sheep, they became the Bride of the military. In the beginning here were two sons. One son said give me my honor and I will force them to return. Those who followed the armed forces and those who honored the metal of honor fell with them. The leaders of the world that GOD accepts are those who do not become goats by following them. They live by the sword, and they die by the sword, and that is their end. GOD bless all products on Earth that open their eyes and see this. There is no; “but this or but that, or but not all of them are bad, or but we need some of them.” They claim separation of Church and state. If you educate on Jesus in schools, you get fired. GOD has been taken out of the pledge of allegiance. And do we pledge allegiance to a flag or to GOD with Jesus? Some people say; “both.” There is not both, and I don’t cover my heart and pledge to a piece of Satan’s cloth. There is no argument; there is no reasoning against this fact. We cannot serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) (Luke 16:13) They are the goats, and we are not to follow them or we are goats. I speak of anyone who wears a badge. GOD says they are all cast out, and not one is acceptable to ME. Pure love casts out all ungodliness, that all may be turned from their mistakes. I love you. GOD bless you.

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