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Elementary Islamic Pastiche

An elementary school with unusal Islamic influences
An elementary school with unusual architectural influences in Taichung.

Founded in 1999, Yǒngchūn Elementary School 永春國民小學 is an unusual example of Islamic-influenced architecture in Taichung 台中, Taiwan 台灣. No rules or conventions must be followed here; all cultures are subject to creative reinterpretation in modern construction projects, but it is far more common for Taiwanese to pillage European, American, or surrounding East Asian sources for ideas. In this case I am sure it is no accident that the Taichung Mosque 台中清真寺 is just up the street—but it is, if I am not mistaken, just a regular school, albeit a fantastical one with princes and princesses!

For more photos and information (in Chinese, of course) nothing could be more appropriate than this blog, but if you’re feeling brave you can also wade through the insanity of the school’s official web site.

Shuidui Settlement 水碓聚落

Still here after all these years
Still here after all these years: the remains of a traditional courtyard house in the rural margins of Taichung.

Taichung 台中 is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Běitún 北屯, Nántún 南屯, and Wūrì 烏日. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuǐduì Jùluò 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nántún 南屯 with an ambiguous future.

Maple Community Honest Shop 楓樹社區誠實商店

Taichung Honest Shop 誠實商店
Outside the honest shop in Taichung.

Taichung 台中 is home to an unusual social experiment: the Honest Store 誠實商店 in the Fēngshù Community 楓樹社區 (literally “Maple Community”) of Nántún 南屯, Taiwan 台灣. 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.

A Glimpse Inside the Rainbow Village

Rainbow Village Christmas
Grandpa Rainbow’s home at Christmas time.

Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村 is a small roadside attraction in Taichung 台中. It has enjoyed a fair amount of international exposure through blogs like Atlas Obscura, Oddity Central, and Street Art Utopia, which is understandable given how tremendously photogenic the place is. It’s almost too photogenic, actually—when I dropped by there were swarms of tourists taking photos and I hardly managed more than a single clean shot of my own (hence only having one decent picture to share).