Zhongyuan Theater 中源大戲院

Zhongyuan Theater 中源大戲院 is a second-run theater located in the heart of Zhongyuan Night Market 中原夜市 in Zhōnglì 中壢, Taiwan. Zhongyuan Theater is ideally located next to the university of the same name amidst a huge population of budget-conscious students—which may explain why it remains in business unlike hundreds of other old theaters that have fallen into ruin in recent years, victims of changing consumer habits and strong competition from more modern multiplexes. Zhongyuan is also one of the very last theaters in the nation where you will find hand-painted movie posters hanging outside, a nostalgic practice more widely associated with Chin Men Theater 全美戲院 down in Tainan 台南.

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Vintage Scooter Style in Monga

I was wandering the streets of Monga 艋舺 not far from Wanhua Station 萬華車站 when I noticed this row of vintage scooters parked along a sidewalk. They reminded me of droids from Star Wars, particularly the one on the far right (and not only because the new film is in theaters soon). It isn’t uncommon to see such old scooters kicking around Taiwan but seldom can you find so many in one place. I suppose this must be a used scooter dealership?

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Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫

One of the most extraordinary attractions in Taiwan is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum, and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions. After signing in with the guard at the gate I had free run of the place—and as you can see from some of the following photos, nobody minded me getting dangerously close to moving trains as the mechanics went about their daily routines.

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Maple Community Honest Shop 楓樹社區誠實商店

Taichung 台中 is home to an unusual social experiment: the Honest Store 誠實商店 in the Fengshu Community 楓樹社區 (literally “Maple Community”) of Nántún 南屯, Taiwan. According to roundTAIWANround (through which I discovered the place) it was once a general store of the traditional variety that you’ll still find scattered around the countryside and in older neighbourhoods. Such shops have been fading into history for years, unable to compete with the modern chains that have become symbols of Taiwan’s culture of convenience. The shop would have shut down had the owner not experimented with a new model: locally-sourced goods, financial transparency, and no paid staff, relying on the honesty of its patrons to stay in business.

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Bespectacled

I found this vintage optometry kit inside a small museum attached to the Changhua Christian Hospital 彰化基督教醫院 (中文) in Changhua City 彰化市 while I was living there last winter. Originally founded in 1896, the hospital was the first of its kind in central Taiwan. Its history is inexorably linked with Dr. David Landsborough 蘭大衛, a Christian missionary doctor profiled at length in this in-depth article (see also here and here).

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Neiwan Hexing Station 內灣合興車站

Last week I went out with a friend to explore rural Hsinchu 新竹. After checking out a cable car tower in Guānxi 關西 we slipped over the township line to Héngshān 橫山 to make a brief pitstop at Hexing Station 合興車站, the only wooden train station on the newly reopened Neiwan Line 內灣線. Inside the station house we discovered this wall of vintage clocks, obviously somewhat contrived but every bit as photogenic as intended. Although this station (and the rest of the railway line) was built in the 1950s, after the Japanese colonial period, many of these mechanical wind-up clocks bear Japanese names like Gifutokei, Aichi, and, of course, Seiko.

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Taitung Chinese Association 台東中華會館

It never ceases to amaze me what can be learned from keenly observing the streets of Taiwan and following up with a little research online. I only spent one full day in Taitung City 台東市 at the tail end of a bicycle trip down south this June but managed to chance across a number of interesting sights in that time, this historic building among them.

Located at 143 Zhongzheng Road 中正路, this is the Taitung Branch 台東分社 of the Chinese Association 中華會館, originally built in 1927 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule. A plaque out front features historic information in English (shocking in this part of the country) as well as a direct translation of the name, “Taitung Chunghua Hostel”, but it was more of a clubhouse or assembly hall, not a place to secure lodging for the night. Interestingly, the proper Chinese name is the same one used by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of America. Have a look at the photos on Wikipedia and you’ll see the same characters—as well as the Republic of China flag flying overhead at their historic headquarters in San Francisco!

Presumably the Taitung Chinese Association served a similar purpose to its contemporaries in America, namely to advocate for ethnic Chinese (中華人) living outside of China, which was in the 1920s nominally controlled by the Republic of China 中華民國 (in a twist of fate, now the rulers of modern-day Taiwan). Concurrent with the full-scale invasion of China in 1937 the Japanese authorities launched the Kominka Movement 皇民化運動 (literally “to make people become subjects of the emperor”), a policy of cultural assimilation designed to assist the growing war effort. As such, the Chinese Association was evicted from the building and outlawed in 1938.

From 1938 until the end of the war the building was occupied by a chapter of the Xinmin Society 新民會 (also referred to in English as the New People or People’s Rejuvenation Society), a pro-Japanese organization based in Beijing. This organization was disbanded after the Japanese defeat and the building fell into disuse after a half-hearted attempt to repurpose it for use by another civic group. Finally, after decades of neglect, it was restored to its current condition for Retrocession Day in 1986. Apparently this is the only Chinese Association building remaining in Taiwan, for what it’s worth!

So there you have it, another historical footnote previously undocumented in English, insofar as I am aware. Of course, more information is available in Chinese here, and here.

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Chaozhou Liu House 潮州劉厝

I noticed this old-fashioned western-style mansion on the outskirts of Cháozhōu 潮州 in Pingtung 屏東 while cycling through the deep south of Taiwan in 2015. In a sea of ugly metal shacks and bland concrete apartment blocks it is a rare pleasure to encounter a building like this one. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to learn something of the history of such places. Usually with some knowledge of the local area and the family name on the facade I can piece something together from blogs and government records—but this time I’m stumped, and I’m not the only one. Just about all that is known for certain is the name, Liu House 劉厝, which came up in some real estate records. Based on my growing familiarity with Japanese colonial era architecture I would guess this mansion dates back to the 1930s or so.

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Yumei Hall 玉美堂

Yumei Hall 玉美堂, also known as known as Hong Family Mansion 洪氏洋樓, is located in Jialao Village 茄荖村, a small settlement on the eastern edge of Fēnyuán 芬園 in Changhua 彰化, Taiwan. Built in the late 1920s when the village was administered as part of Cǎotún 草屯 in Nántóu 南投, it is one of only a handful of “Western-style” country manors built in central Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (see my post about Jukuiju 聚奎居 for another great example).

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Nishinari and The Way Things Ought To Be

Nishinari is widely reputed to be the most run-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous part of Ōsaka 大阪—and about as close to a slum as you are likely to find anywhere in Japan 日本. This may explain the preponderance of cheap backpacker accommodation in Shinimamiya, the area just south of Shinsekai 新世界 (literally “New World”), where I stayed for a single night last May before returning to Taiwan. Although I only had a few hours to work with I couldn’t resist wandering around Nishinari to see just how bad it was. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the Downtown Eastside, the festering carbuncle of Vancouver, which I had wandered through on many occasions.

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