Jiufen, City of Sadness

Jiufen in the mist
Jiufen in the mist and the rain.

Jiǔfèn 九份 is one of the most nostalgic of the old towns in Taiwan. Although I enjoy the hustle and bustle of Jiufen Old Street 九份老街 I like to break away from the endless busloads of tourists and lose myself in the labyrinthine laneways that line the mountainside. The rest of the town usually feels empty and almost lifeless, as if it were frozen in time.

I always wonder what life would have been like before the decline and recent revival. How did people go about their daily affairs in such a place? With all the residents now engaged in the business of tourism it is difficult to imagine. I have never once seen anyone walking home with groceries or hanging out with their neighbours. Jiufen doesn’t really feel like a living place—it feels like a rundown museum with an extremely interesting gift shop.

This particular photograph was captured yesterday on a brief stopover to this city of sadness. It was a rainy, misty day, accentuating the mournful romanticism of the old town. And the streets—they were not completely empty for a change. One lone resident was walking in the rain, going about his inscrutable business, soon out of sight.