Dōnggōng Theater 東宮戲院 is located in Dongshi, a Hakka majority township in mountainous central Taichung 台中. Dongshi (or Tungshih in the older Wade–Giles Romanization system) is the gateway to the densely forested interior and was a major center of the lumber industry in Taiwan 台灣 prior to its decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Disaster struck in 1999 with the devastating 921 Earthquake. Dongshi was among the worst hit; over 300 people lost their lives and hundreds of buildings collapsed—but not this grand old theater.
There are elements of the urban landscapes of Taiwan 台灣 that are roughly analogous to living organisms. Individual buildings can be thought of as cells in a reinforced concrete matrix, linked to neighboring buildings by steel rods but otherwise pursuing independent fates. These cells are somewhat like the zooids of colonial jellyfish, physiologically integrated into the superorganism of the surrounding city.
This particular photograph captures an empty cell in the urban matrix of Dongshi, a small township in Taichung 台中. It echoes this similar shot from Pǔlǐ 埔里 that I posted last year. The title is an allusion to a line from Altered States that came to mind while composing this piece:
…then you will propel into the void. You will see a spot. The spot will become a crack. This is the crack between the nothing and out of this nothing will come your unborn soul.
Here it almost appears as if a building is dreaming itself into being.
I woke in a rundown hotel room not far from the train station in Fēngyuán 豐原. Sunlight trickled in through discolored drapes to fill the space with a murky glow. My muscles were knotted and my lower back ached, a consequence of sleeping on the rock-hard mattress and a tough, lumpy pillow after yesterday’s long ride. The passage of night left me feeling a vague sense of unease, almost as if there were something not quite right about the world I returned to. I lingered in bed, letting the moment pass.
Shaking off the discomfort, I gathered up my belongings, packed the panniers on my bicycle, and hauled everything down musty red-carpeted stairs to the lobby below. I passed the key back to the old woman behind the counter and took to the street in search of breakfast. My goals for the day: cycle the Houfeng and Dongfeng bikeways, explore an abandoned theme park in the hills above Taichung City 台中市, and make it to Féngjiǎ Night Market 逢甲夜市 to meet a friend by nightfall.