Return to Sender

Yesterday I made a brief stop in Wūrì 烏日 to located and document the Japanese colonial era stationmaster residence. A metal fence has been erected outside the residence so I went for a walk around the perimeter to look for another point of entry. Along the way I passed several derelict and abandoned homes of a more recent vintage. These homes were constructed in a more provisional style common to the KMT authoritarian era and were probably built to house railway workers or military veterans and their dependents—but that’s just a guess. Whatever the case, I was momentarily transfixed by the vivid shade of blue on the trimmings of one of these modest homes and lined up a shot of the overstuffed mailbox worth sharing. You may also notice duplicate address plates which reminds me—I’d love to know when various versions of those plates entered into use in different districts.

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Xizhou Telecom Bureau 溪州原電信局

This week I visited the small town of Xīzhōu 溪州 in southern Changhua 彰化 to locate the eponymous Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院. I found no way into the theater but made a serendipitous discovery while walking around the block in search of another access point. Across the street I noticed the utilitarian outline of the former Xizhou Telecom Bureau 溪州原電信局, a modest building that once housed a combined post office and service counter for the state phone company, then known as the Directorate General of Telecommunica­tions (DGT) 交通部電信總局. The sign above the entrance simply reads Dianxinju 電信局, or “telecommunications bureau”, which is all anyone needed to know in those days. Taiwan’s telecom monopoly was broken up in 1996 with the privatization of what became known as Chunghwa Telecom 中華電信. In the absence of any sort of historic information about this obscure abandoned office I’d guess it was built sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

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A Vintage Lilac Mailbox

Last week I went out wandering in West Taichung 台中市西區, ostensibly to check out Zhongxing First Alley 中興一巷 (formally—and awkwardly—known as Fantasy Story 范特喜微創文化), an artsy district built into a row of old homes, when I noticed this unusual mailbox somewhere along Xiangshang North Road 向上北路. The fact that “letters” is written in English is no great surprise—see, for instance, this old letter slot in Taipei 台北—but never before have I seen one in this distinct and alluring shade of lilac.

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A Rusty Old Mailbox in Jingmei

I’ve always been a fan of gritty textures, peeling paint, rusting metal, and the like. Taiwan is a kind of twisted paradise in this regard—there’s so much rundown stuff to explore and capture on film. Case in point: what we have here is an old mailbox emblazoned with the Chinese word for the same: xinxiang 信箱. You may notice, however, that the text reads right-to-left, the more traditional way. It isn’t at all uncommon to walk down a street and see layouts that go in either direction—but you can bet that anything written right-to-left is old (or seeking to evoke a sense of age). I’ve asked many Taiwanese people how they know which direction to read text in and have only heard, at best, vague answers—you’ll just know.

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