Around Back at a Tobacco Barn in Taiping District

Dongping Tobacco Barn 東平菸樓

Only traces remain of the tobacco cultivation and manufacturing industry in Taichung 台中, Taiwan. For the better part of a century tobacco was cultivated across wide swathes of the Taichung Basin 台中盆地, cured on location, sold at regional marketplaces, and shipped to factories for further processing into cigarettes and other tobacco products. Taiwan’s accession to the WTO in 2002 marked the end of domestic tobacco production but the industry was already in steep decline, a consequence of globalization and the end of the government monopoly system in preceding decades. Several buildings related to Taichung’s tobacco industry have earned heritage status in recent years—but this decaying tobacco barn hidden down an laneway in Tàipíng 太平, a suburban district on the eastern side of the burgeoning metropolis, is not among them.

An old tobacco barn hidden down a small laneway in eastern Taichung.
Around back at the old tobacco barn off Dongping Road. The rooftop has collapsed on the far side.
Little effort has been spared to protect this relic from the elements.
Facing the ruins of an old tobacco barn just off Dongping Road.
The old tobacco barn is still used for storage. There’s even a car parked under the awning on the far side.

Tobacco barns once numbered in the hundreds in the Taichung Basin. Just about any family in the tobacco cultivation business built one on location, often as an extension of their existing residence, in order to cure tobacco before sending it to market. This particular tobacco barn is located only a short distance from the Taiping Tobacco Market 太平買菸場, recently declared a historic property and presently undergoing restoration. From there tobacco would have been shipped to one of several factories around the country—although in this case we can be reasonably sure the destination would have been the Taichung Tobacco Factory 台中菸葉廠, originally built during the Japanase colonial era in Dàlǐ 大里, another suburban district to the south of Tàipíng 太平, and still in business processing imported tobacco.

The gateway to the curing chamber. Ordinarily this would be a heavier door to keep the heat trapped inside. This might have been a late addition.
Light seeps into the curing chamber. The walls are lined with wooden shelves that would have accommodated the poles from which the tobacco was hanged to cure.
The second chamber is not as structurally intact as the first. Notice the round structure at the base of the wall; perhaps this is the conduit that would have conveyed heat from the furnace.
The inside of the curing chamber is filled with suggestive clues. Was that little window used to observe the curing process?

I outlined much of the process of curing tobacco in my post about the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓, the only officially protected tobacco barn in Taichung and also my introduction to learning about the tobacco industry in central Taiwan. In short, each curing chamber is filled with tobacco leaves draped from bamboo rods and then heated from below, usually by a wood-fired stove, for about a week to ready them for human consumption. The ventilation flaps at the top of the curing chamber, distinctive features of Taiwanese tobacco barns in particular, allow for additional temperature control. This particular barn has been retrofitted with more modern equipment including a machine that might have replaced the old-fashioned curing chambers entirely.

A closer look at some of the original construction material.
Ladders and storage rooms.
A late addition to the tobacco barn.
Late into the afternoon at the Dongping Tobacco Barn.

Hunting for tobacco barns has become another idle pursuit while travelling around Taiwan but I doubt I ever would have found this one without reading this excellent post describing several former barns around Taichung. Even with the information provided by that blogger I still had to stop and ask a woman working in an orchard for some help with directions. It isn’t visible from the main street and Google Street View isn’t of any assistance as the laneway has no coverage. I would say there’s a very good chance this building will be torn down at some point—and much of it has already collapsed. Personally I think this barn would be a good candidate for protection and restoration given its proximity to the Taiping Tobacco Market, but it is surrounded by light industry and warehouse lots that are not at all attractive to navigate.

Hazy clouds and waning light signal the end of another day on the road.

Apart from related sites already mentioned in the text I should also highlight the Liancun Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓, the most well-preserved such building I’ve visited in Taichung. It remains a private residence with no historic status nor public access but it’s in great condition and looks quite interesting from the street. Finally, you may enjoy this nostalgic tour of Taiping (in Chinese, of course), which highlights several other remnants of pastoral life here on the leading edge of Taichung’s urban sprawl.

Taiwan Summer Road Trip 2017 台灣中南部機車旅行

Throughout the summer of 2017 I undertook a series of scooter trips around central and southern Taiwan, eventually visiting Nántóu 南投, Changhua 彰化, Yúnlín 雲林, Tainan 台南, and Kaohsiung 高雄 before returning to Taichung 台中. I had no specific objective apart from visiting more places I had encountered in ongoing research and stopping to check out anything interesting along the way.

  1. Taiwan Summer Road Trip 2017: Taichung to Nantou
  2. Dongping Tobacco Barn 東平菸樓
  3. Puli Tuberculosis Sanatorium 埔里肺結核療養所
  4. Kezikeng New Community 柯子坑新社區
  5. Nanyun Gas Station 南雲加油站
  6. Jiuqiong Village Tobacco Barn 九芎村菸樓
  7. Yixin Vocational High School 益新工商職業學校
  8. Postcards From Ershui 二水明信片
  9. Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂
  10. Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院
  11. Xiluo Bridge 西螺大橋
  12. Postcards From Xiluo 西螺明信片
  13. Xiluo Yisheng Theater 西螺一生戲院
  14. Beigang Theater 北港劇場
  15. Liujiao Brick Kiln 六腳磚窯
  16. Shuangxikou Brick Kiln 雙溪口磚窯
  17. Hsin Kang Theater 新港戲院
  18. Dalin Xinxing Theater 大林新興戲院
  19. Lingxiao Temple 凌霄殿

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