Xīluó 西螺 is a small historic town in rural Yúnlín 雲林, Taiwan. Despite its diminutive size Xiluo was once home to three standalone movie theaters: the eponymous Xiluo Theater 西螺戲院, Yisheng Theater 一生戲院, and Yuandong Theater 遠東戲院 (literally “Far East Theater”), the subject of this brief report. Previously I misidentified Yisheng Theater as Yuandong, something I only realized after visiting a photo exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in 2017. After realizing my mistake I went to some lengths to locate and later visit this theater—which, in hindsight, I’ve passed on several occasions without noticing it down a small side street.
Taichung 台中 is changing fast. The historic downtown area, formerly one of the worst examples of inner city blight in the nation, is presently undergoing a massive urban renewal effort. Some decaying and disused commercial buildings have been restored, many more await their fate, and others have been demolished before I’ve even had a chance to document their interiors. Zhongsen Theater 中森戲院 belongs to this last category: it came down after I shot a preliminary set of photos but before I had a chance to sneak inside. You have to move fast to capture these small histories in their unmaking.
On my way to Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 in Yángméi 楊梅 I noticed something peculiar jutting out of a building high above the street. A closer look revealed this to be a vintage teal shelving unit still attached to the wall, a reminder that someone’s home once stood here. No doubt the building that formerly occupied this space had been demolished as part of a road widening project—proof of which seemed evident in the presence of a sidewalk below my feet, an unusual sight for a small town in rural Taiwan. Thanks to the magic of Google Street View’s history feature I was able to confirm this hunch and even identify the name of the shop out front, Jiafang Restaurant 嘉芳飲食店, which was still there as recently as 2012. These figments of the past, much like the shelf on the wall, remain just out of reach.
Xìnyì District 信義區 is now one of the most expensive and upscale parts of Taiwan but it hasn’t always been that way. Decades ago it was an undesirable area on the edge of the city with a significant military-industrial presence, traces of which still remain if you know where to look. The open expanse of parks and parking lots around the intersection of Xin’an Street 信安街 and Wuxing Street 吳興街 immediately to the west of Taipei Medical University 臺北醫學大學 is one such trace.
All angles aligned to create this sublime scene in the gaps of Xinpu 新埔, a small historic town in Hsinchu 新竹, Taiwan. This ghost building straddled the midpoint of the property line dividing the town in two. To the left are buildings facing north and front onto Chenggong Road 成功路, the traditional old street; to the right are those buildings that face south toward Zhongzheng Road 中正路, the main commercial thoroughfare running through modern Xinpu. From the position of the lower set of postholes—only slightly more than a meter from ground level—I would infer that a small storage shed once stood here, far back from the main road, but that’s only a guess. A quick scan of Google Street View’s history feature reveals that the now-demolished buildings fronting onto the street housed a pharmacy and general store so this hypothesis is at least plausible.
Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村 is widely known as the last walled village of Kowloon 九龍. Located not far from the former location of the infamous Kowloon Walled City 九龍城寨, the village traces its history back to the 1352 founding of its modest Tin Hau Temple 天后宮. It was fortified in 1724 to defend against bandits and pirates but has, in modern times, lost the moat, walls, and watchtowers that once protected residents from harm. As the very last of its kind in the urban heart of Hong Kong 香港 it has become a flashpoint for conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the many activist groups and citizens passionate about preserving what remains of Kowloon’s cultural heritage.
Recently I have undertaken several expeditions to Jianguo Public Market 建國市場 in Taichung 台中, formerly the largest traditional market in Taiwan. As part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the area around Taichung Station 台中車站 the market building is scheduled for demolition in a few months time. Many residents have already been evicted and plenty of businesses have moved to a new market building on the other side of the railway line. I will at some point publish a full post about this doomed relic of the KMT authoritarian era—but for now here’s an abstract shot from within the very heart of the old market building oddly reminiscent of another another famous ruin in Taichung.
Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district there lies an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the endless city. It would be impossible to miss this abandonment, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti gilds the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the formal name of this ruin but now have a rather strong suspicion that it was once an official guest house (haodaisuo 招待所).
Jiangling New Village 江陵新村 was one of more than 800 military dependents’ village in Taiwan before its ultimate destruction in mid-2015. It was formerly located not far from the confluence of Jingmei River 景美溪 and Xindian River 新店溪 just outside Taipei 台北 city limits in the northern part of Xīndiàn 新店. Immediately to the south is an active military base of some kind—and the historic Jingmei Prison can be found on the opposite side of the nearest major intersection.
One of the more peculiar ruins I’ve seen in Taiwan was a building immediately across from the Control Yuan 監察院, one of the five branches of government, on Zhongxiao West Road 忠孝西路. It was inaugurated as the second home of the Taipei City Council 台北市議會 in 1964 after moving from nearby Zhongshan Hall 中山堂. In 1990 the city council relocated to its present base in Xìnyì District 信義區 and the building was converted into a police station before being completely abandoned in 2007. Despite this the building continued to be known as the Second Taipei City Council Building 第二台北市議會大廈.