Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院

The entrance to a vintage theater in the sleepy hamlet of Xizhou.

Some people are into urban exploration for the optics—they love visiting the most visually-impressive places and taking cool photos—but I’m just as interested in documenting history and solving puzzles. Animated by curiosity, I have become proficient in navigating the Chinese language web in search of leads. Not all of these turn out to be something interesting but I enjoy those rare days where I set out into the countryside and see how many candidate sites I can knock off my list. This is what originally brought me to the gates of the humble Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院 in the small town of Xīzhōu 溪州, Changhua 彰化.

A closer look at the tile-encrusted ticket booth. This was obviously constructed later than the original date of the theater’s founding.

In November of 2016 I went for a scooter trip around southern Changhua 彰化, primarily to revisit Běidǒu 北斗, a vital center of trade and commerce in the late Qing dynasty era. After touring that old town I forged on to Xīzhōu 溪州, a little down the road to the southwest, to scope out a few leads, this theater among them. I hadn’t been able to figure out the exact location through Google Maps in advance but knew it was somewhere on the west side of town. That turned out to be enough of a clue for me to locate the ruins of Xizhou Theater not long after the search began.

Both sets of theater doors were locked tight but there obviously isn’t much left of the body of the theater itself.
The notice board to the left of the ticket booth indicates this theater spent its last years hosting somewhat more salacious forms of entertainment.

Ordinarily I would go take a closer look but my presence aroused so much attention on the small street the theater is located that I declined to jump the fence out front and take a closer look. From the street it appeared as if little remains of the interior anyhow—broken timber from the original roofing is piled up against the door and sunlight is seeping through—but I hoped to return some day. As chance would have it I found another opportunity to visit Xizhou about six months later—and since I already knew the location I drove up and hopped over the gate before anyone noticed the presence of a foreigner in their midst. It is from this second visit that the majority of these photos were captured.

An oblique look at the rounded ticket booth at Xizhou Theater, just about the only part of the building that remains intact.

Unsurprisingly there is little written about this small town theater on the web. I only found two mentions of the place, both of them on Taiwanese tourism blogs: here and here. One of these links mentions that the theater was built for workers at Xizhou Sugar Factory 溪州糖廠. This sugar factory dates back to 1909 and was in continuous operation until sometime in the 1970s or so (which would give a proximate cause for abandonment). Initially I guessed the theater might have been built in the 1940s or 1950s during the peak of the sugar boom but according to academic sources I uncovered while rewriting this post it dates back to 1928. There’s a very good chance the original theater was heavily renovated during the post-war period.

A parting glance at Xizhou Theater.

In any case, the nearby sugar factory lay idle for decades before it was eventually converted into a public park. The rise and fall of the sugar industry probably explains much of the history of Xizhou—as well as this obscure little theater. And that’s what’s fun about this whole “urban exploration” hobby: everything is connected in some fashion and it’s endlessly interesting to attempt to connect the dots.

Taiwan Summer Road Trip 2017 台灣中南部機車旅行

Throughout the summer of 2017 I undertook a series of scooter trips around central and southern Taiwan, eventually visiting Nántóu 南投, Changhua 彰化, Yúnlín 雲林, Tainan 台南, and Kaohsiung 高雄 before returning to Taichung 台中. I had no specific objective apart from visiting more places I had encountered in ongoing research and stopping to check out anything interesting along the way.

  1. Taiwan Summer Road Trip 2017: Taichung to Nantou
  2. Dongping Tobacco Barn 東平菸樓
  3. Puli Tuberculosis Sanatorium 埔里肺結核療養所
  4. Kezikeng New Community 柯子坑新社區
  5. Nanyun Gas Station 南雲加油站
  6. Jiuqiong Village Tobacco Barn 九芎村菸樓
  7. Yixin Vocational High School 益新工商職業學校
  8. Postcards From Ershui 二水明信片
  9. Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂
  10. Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院
  11. Xiluo Bridge 西螺大橋
  12. Postcards From Xiluo 西螺明信片
  13. Xiluo Yisheng Theater 西螺一生戲院
  14. Beigang Theater 北港劇場
  15. Liujiao Brick Kiln 六腳磚窯
  16. Shuangxikou Brick Kiln 雙溪口磚窯
  17. Hsin Kang Theater 新港戲院
  18. Dalin Xinxing Theater 大林新興戲院
  19. Lingxiao Temple 凌霄殿

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