Not long after moving to the capital of Changhua 彰化 in 2014 I published a collection of photographs entitled Postcards from Changhua City. All of the photos in that post were shot in my first few months of residency but I ended up staying for half a year. In that time I gathered more than enough material for a sequel while making my daily rounds. Although long overdue this second collection is now complete so here it is: more photos from my time in Changhua City 彰化市, a historic town in central Taiwan 台灣.
Despite living in Changhua City 彰化市 for half a year I never paid much attention to the clothing store across the street from the historic Confucius Temple 彰化孔子廟. At that time my Chinese abilities were even more rudimentary than they are now and I did not know very much about what kinds of buildings to watch for while navigating the variegated urban landscapes of Taiwan 台灣. Only after my awakening at Datong Theater 大同戲院 in Taitung City 台東市 did I begin to map out the rise and fall of Taiwanese cinema. Since then I have mapped the locations of more than a hundred vintage theaters and documented many of their fates. Most end up abandoned or destroyed—but Yíngōng Theater 銀宮戲院 earned a new lease on life after it was purchased by NET, a Taiwanese fashion retailer.
Last winter I stayed in an apartment near the train station in Changhua City 彰化市 for about six months. This post is all about that apartment: why I decided to move there, how I found the place, what it cost, what the amenities were like, and so on. I am sharing this information mainly for other non-Taiwanese and nomadic types interested in exiting the Taipei 台北 bubble without necessarily speaking a lot of (or any) Chinese or even knowing much about Taiwan 台灣. This isn’t meant to be an endorsement of living in such a place, it’s simply a straight-forward account of what it was like. But first of all, why move south? And why Changhua 彰化 of all places?
One of the most unique attractions in Taiwan 台灣 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.
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 台灣. 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).
Recently I posted my full exploration of the Qiaoyou Building 喬友大廈, a towering ruin in the heart of Changhua City 彰化市. It was a big building and I ended up capturing many more photographs than I ended up sharing there. Here, in this post, I’d like to share a few more photos I captured in black and white. I have also included a couple of images demonstrating how I digitally restore photographic negatives I find in the ruins (a technique discussed in more detail here). If you’re curious about this building be sure to see the original post.
One day this winter I went out riding around the base of Bāguàshān 八卦山 in Changhua City 彰化市 in search of the Red Hair Well. Along the way I noticed a small cluster of old Japanese-style houses next to the hillside. Apparently these were once dormitories for teachers at the nearby school. Behind them I noticed an unusual building against the back of the hillside. The facade was obviously from the Japanese colonial era and, actually, the design of the building reminded me a lot of Gāobīngé 高賓閣, a famous old Art Deco restaurant not far from the train station. What was this place?
I have been living next to the magnificent ruins of the Qiáoyǒu Building 喬友大廈 in Changhua City 彰化市 for the last several months. Not a day goes by where I’m not walking or riding by this hulking derelict, looking up and wondering about what I might find inside. I had some general idea, of course, as I already recognized the building for what it was: one of many shopping and entertainment complexes built in central Taiwan 台灣 during the economic boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s1. Most of these former showcase properties have been abandoned in the decades since, usually due to some combination of mismanagement, declining fortunes, and fire damage.
My last night in Changhua City 彰化市 was surprisingly eventful thanks to a fortunate accident of timing. Earlier in the day I had noticed an unusual uptick in the amount of activity on the streets while cycling around. Banquet tents had been setup on major thoroughfares, police were standing at major intersections, scooters flying yellow banners were buzzing around like angry hornets, and the air was filled with a palpable sense of expectation and excitement. After an early supper next to a coffee shop I often work at I approached to one of the staff (who speaks passable English) and asked, “What’s going on?” Their answer, “It’s the…” Trailing off, hands aflutter, obviously searching for the right word—and then: “Mazu!” Oh, of course it would be Mazu!
Another day, another historical footnote. This time it’s Red Hair Well 紅毛井 (Mandarin pinyin: Hóngmáojǐng), an old Dutch colonial era well located behind the Changhua Arts Museum at the foot of Baguashan in Changhua City 彰化市. The well is centuries old, having been dug sometime in the mid-1600s for Dutch soldiers and missionaries passing through the area. The curious name derives from the local word for the Dutch, ang mo, which is literally “red hair” in Taiwanese, an obvious visual contrast to the black hair of Chinese people.