Jinguashi Old House 金瓜石老屋

A ruined home in Jinguashi, Taiwan
A ruined home in Jinguashi, Taiwan.

One of the enduring mysteries of abandoned Taiwan is this: why do people leave so much stuff behind when they go? I understand there might not be any descendants or close friends to go through the belongings of the departed—but what about when entire families pick up and move? Sure, leave the junk behind (and there’s lots of that), but what about children’s toys, letters and diaries, old schoolwork, music, book, and movie collections, and photographs? It is almost as if entire families undergo a kind of ritual metamorphosis, pupating within their former domiciles, emerging transformed and casting away the remnants of their former lives, all the miscellaneous detritus and kipple that naturally accumulates in the course of everyday affairs.

This particular ruin can be found on the grounds of the Jīnguāshí 金瓜石 Gold Museum 金博物館與, an interesting attraction in and of itself. What I find somewhat strange (though by now I’m used to it) is the fact that park officials haven’t lifted a finger to either clean up these old ruins nor bar the public from accessing them. Pictured in this piece is one of several old homes on the mountainside behind several restored Japanese era dormitories. I suppose these particular homes weren’t worth saving.

The ruins of an abandoned home in Jinguashi
Sifting through the wreckage.
A broken clock is still right twice a day
A broken clock is still right twice a day.
The wreckage of other people’s lives
Not much left of this place.

There wasn’t very much left of this home when I went clambering through the debris. There are bits and pieces still standing, little scraps overhangs providing a modicum of shelter from the elements, but no completely closed rooms. The entire place is in an advanced state of decay brought about by the collapse of the roof at some unknown point in the past.

Leaving it all behind
This might have once been the living room.
Color party
Random debris.
Try walking in my shoes
Just stepping out.
Schoolwork in limbo
Schoolwork in limbo.
A kitchen in the jungle
A jungle kitchen.
Retro computing manual in abandoned Taiwan
A retro computing manual.
Taiwanese computer magazines from the 1990s
Old school computer magazines.
Taiwanese fashion magazines from the 1980s
1980s fashion magazines from Taiwan.

While perusing a bookshelf somewhat protected from the ravages of the elements I noticed a bunch of books and magazines. Among them were several publications related to personal computers. My mind wandered back to my own youth, a time in which I was mucking about with PC clones likely manufactured in Taiwan. Indeed, there was a time when Taiwan was a world leader in the computing industry. I might have first learned of Taiwan’s existence from my father an old school computer hacker, who regularly lectured me about the nuances of the trade. Never imagined I’d end up here sifting through the wreckage of those times.

Completely collapsed
A complete collapse.
Abandoned television
Abandoned TV.
Derelict fan
A derelict fan.

I have a kind of internal checklist anytime I am exploring someplace new in Taiwan. Think of it as a kind of scavenger hunt—or abandoned bingo. Usually I find at least a calendar (useful in dating ruins), a broken clock, and photographic negatives—something I have taken special interest in as of late.

Found negatives in a home in Jinguashi
Found negatives.
Year of the horse
Year of the horse.
We have explosive
We have explosive.
Found negatives in Jinguashi (processed)
No one here but us ghosts.

One day while processing photos I got curious about whether I could digitally restore negatives that I had casually imaged. The results of my first attempt can be seen here. For this post I had a look at the negatives I captured with my phone but had no luck—the image quality was too poor or the negatives too far gone. Even so, I quite like the results. There is a mystery here, one that will remain. Who were these people? What circumstances conspired to make them leave? And why did they leave so much behind?