Xīluó 西螺 is a small historic town in rural Yúnlín 雲林, Taiwan 台灣. 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 Yuǎndōng 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.
Nányún Gas Station 南雲加油站 is one of hundreds of abandoned gas stations found all around Taiwan 台灣. Located on a section of Provincial Highway 3 in Yúnlín 雲林 known as Línshān Highway 林山公路 (for it connects Línnèi 林內 with Zhushan in neighboring Nantou), it was affiliated with CPC Corporation 台灣中油 (中文), a state-owned enterprise that controls or supplies 80% of gas stations in the nation, and was probably abandoned more than a decade ago.
Yìxīn Vocational High School 益新工商職業學校 is a relatively obscure but not entirely unknown ruin in central Taiwan 台灣. Located along the main road running through Línnèi 林內, Yúnlín 雲林, it seems to have been abandoned in the aftermath of the devastating 921 Earthquake, nearly two decades ago. Many schools were destroyed in the quake and scores more were condemned (most famously an entire university campus in Dongshi) but whether this particular school suffered the same fate isn’t certain.
Xīluó 西螺 is a small historic town on the left bank of the Zhuóshuǐ River 濁水溪 in Yúnlín 雲林. It emerged as an important center of trade in central Taiwan 台灣 during the Qing dynasty era and continued to prosper into the early 20th century under Japanese colonial rule. Disaster struck in 1935 when the devastating Hsinchu-Taichung Earthquake ripped through north-central Taiwan, reducing much of Xiluo to rubble. Colonial authorities and the local gentry worked together to rebuild, taking the opportunity to completely remodel the main commercial thoroughfares with an intriguing blend of influences from Baroque Revival, Art Deco, and Modern architecture. A short stroll down Yánpíng Old Street 延平老街 reveals that many of these unique shophouses and commercial buildings remain standing today.
Beigang Theater 北港劇場 in Běigǎng 北港, Yúnlín 雲林, is among the finest and most well-preserved of Taiwan’s remaining Japanese colonial era theaters. Built in 1937 with investment from a local businessman by the name of Tsai Yu-Hu 蔡裕斛 (whose old house is also worth a look), this three storey theater featured a revolving stage, seating for 800 guests, and simple western-style facade with a trace of the Baroque Revival architecture popular at the time. It was not only a cinema—Taiwanese opera, glove puppet shows, musical concerts, wedding banquets, and other events were also held inside. The theater went out of business in 1988 and was converted for use as a department store and restaurant for some time thereafter. Nowadays it is apparently still in use as a pool hall and, inexplicably, a kidney dialysis center, but I saw no evidence of this when I visited in the summer of 2017.
Xiluo Bridge 西螺大橋 (also Hsilo or Siluo Bridge; 中文) spans the mighty Zhuóshuǐ River 濁水溪, the unofficial boundary between north and south Taiwan 台灣, and connects the counties of Changhua 彰化 and Yúnlín 雲林. Construction began in the late 1930s under Japanese colonial rule but came to a halt after the attack on Pearl Harbor as the allotted steel was needed for the war effort.
What little remains of the historic tobacco industry in central Taiwan 台灣 is disappearing fast. Tobacco cultivation was big business for much of the 20th century but went into sharp decline in the 1980s and essentially ended with globalization and Taiwan’s accession to the WTO. Robust preservation efforts in south and east Taiwan ensure something of this industry will remain for future generations but the situation in the former tobacco cultivation areas of Taichung 台中, Changhua 彰化, and Yúnlín 雲林 is far more ambiguous, and documentation of what cultural assets remain is sparse or nonexistent. For this reason I’ve made an effort to record tobacco barns anytime I encounter them in my travels—as I did while driving through Jiǔqiōng Village 九芎村 on the south side of Línnèi 林內 in Yúnlín 雲林 earlier this summer.
Xīluó 西螺 is justifiably famous for its eponymous Japanese colonial era theater, located close to the architectural wonders of Yánpíng Old Street 延平老街, but this small town on the south bank of the sluggish Zhuóshuǐ River 濁水溪 was once home to two more theaters. Almost no mention of these other theaters can be found except in this news report about a local painter—but while browsing around satellite view on Google Maps I managed to locate Yīshēng Theater 一生戲院 (literally “Lifetime Theater”).
Taiping Old Street 太平老街 is an unusually long stretch of Japanese colonial era shophouses in central Dǒuliù 斗六, the administrative seat of Yúnlín 雲林, Taiwan 台灣. Located not far from the train station, this old street is remarkable for its length (600 meters long), consistent architectural style (almost entirely Baroque Revival), and relatively good state of preservation. Despite this, it is not a huge attraction, which is just as well if you’re not a big fan of mass tourism in Taiwan 台灣.
Several months ago I explored yet another abandoned entertainment complex in central Taiwan 台灣, this time in Dǒuliù 斗六, the administrative seat of Yúnlín 雲林. Check out the full exploration here; this post contains only the results of post-processing some photographic negatives I found on a moldy mattress in an apartment on one of the higher floors. The results are not so interesting this time around but I still enjoy the process of discovery and the aesthetic of decaying, water-damaged negatives like these.