The massive ruins of the Yǔtián Automotive Factory 羽田汽車工廠 are located on the Dayeh University campus in Dàcūn 大村, Changhua 彰化. There are four main buildings, each approximately 360 meters in length and 90 meters across for an estimated total of 32,500 square meters apiece. Outside of the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park 彰化濱海工業區 in Lukang 鹿港 (which opened in 1995) these buildings are probably the largest in the county—and the entire complex is readily visible from space.
To trace the history of these immense structures we must return to the mid-1960s and the founding of Yutian Machinery Co. Ltd. 羽田機械, initially a small producer of motorcycle parts and supplies. Their business grew and in 1976 they signed a deal to produce several of the the Peugeot line of automobiles. The first cars rolled off the assembly line in 1979.
According to this timeline of the Taiwanese automotive industry Yutian expanded operations in the 1980s and began production of a number of Daihatsu automobiles. Business was booming and the company went public in 1988, raising billions of NT, but—in a story that will surprise nobody familiar with how big business works in Taiwan—something sinister was lurking beneath the surface.
Meanwhile, in 1990, the parent company founded Dayeh Institute Group 大葉集團, a “German style” polytechnic college located immediately adjacent to the automotive plant. After rapid expansion and accreditation this was renamed Dayeh University 大葉大學, which occupies the site to this day. (It was actually a student at the university who first led me to the site.)
Sometime between 1990 and 1995 the automotive plant was decommissioned and vehicle assembly presumably moved elsewhere (a detail I have not been able to divine). In 1995 the company unexpectedly fell apart due to tax evasion and embezzlement of funds. News reports suggest the general manager had been siphoning off assets in the years leading up to the scandal, leaving nothing to pay the overdue tax bill when the government finally came around to collect. Soon the factory and its contents were auctioned off by the courts. Since then not much has been done with the empty shells of the buildings themselves.
When I first set foot inside these buildings I was completely in awe. The scale of the place cannot be reproduced in photographs—you really have to go there yourself to appreciate how vast and empty these buildings are. The far end of each building doesn’t stretch to the horizon but it certainly feels that way. Hearing the wind blow through the broken rooftop is quite an experience as you walk the length of each building. There are bigger ruins in Taiwan but none more empty and serene that I have found.
One of the more captivating aspects of urban exploration is the sense of mystery that surrounds every new find. What was this place? What was its purpose? Why was it abandoned? Answers to these questions have been revealed here—but at the time of exploration I was still in the dark. It was a factory, sure enough, but what did it produce? The motivational posters at the southern end of the outermost building provided the answer—automobiles—and with a bit of sleuthing around the internet has provided the rest.
This might not be the most inspiring or interesting of the industrial ruins of Taiwan to explore but it’s still worth a visit if you’re in the area. Access is not at all difficult, nor are there many dangers to watch out for. More photographs are available on Flickr. The plant has also been written up here.