Tainan West Market 台南西市場

Old Ximen Market in Tainan

West Market 西市場 is a historical site in downtown Tainan dating back to the earliest years of the Japanese colonial era. The first market building at this location was constructed in 1905, back when it fronted onto the milkfish farms of the Taijiang Lagoon 台江內海. It suffered extensive damage when a catastrophic typhoon struck Tainan in August 1911. An expanded L-shaped structure was built in 1912, making it the largest market in southern Taiwan, but this was damaged by another typhoon in 1920, leading to another round of reconstruction, the results of which are still standing today. The old marketplace remains a hub of commercial activity in this part of the city—but many of its stalls were neglected or abandoned by the mid-2010s, when many of the photos in this article were captured. Presently the old market enjoys heritage status—and an extensive restoration effort was completed in 2020, transforming it into a bright and airy space.

Xinpi Machine Gun Fort 新埤反空降機槍碉堡

Sunset in a Japanese fortification in Xinpi

While cycling through Xinpi, an otherwise ordinary expanse of rural Pingtung, I was surprised to see a sign indicating that there was a “fort” somewhere in the area. I cut loose from the main road I was following and went to go investigate. After following a bend in the river just outside a small settlement I found it: a Japanese anti-aircraft fortification dating back to the late 1930s or early 1940s. I haven’t found a formal name for this fortification so I’m going to call it the Xinpi Machine Gun Tower 新埤反空降機槍碉堡 until I hear of something better.

Chaozhou Liu House 潮州劉厝

Liu House in rural Chaozhou

I noticed this old-fashioned western-style mansion on the outskirts of Chaozhou in Pingtung while cycling through the deep south of Taiwan in 2015. In a sea of ugly metal shacks and bland concrete apartment blocks it is a rare pleasure to encounter a building like this one. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to learn something of the history of such places. Usually with some knowledge of the local area and the family name on the facade I can piece something together from blogs and government records—but this time I’m stumped, and I’m not the only one. Just about all that is known for certain is the name, Liu House 劉厝, which came up in some real estate records. Based on my growing familiarity with Japanese colonial era architecture I would guess this mansion dates back to the 1930s or so.

Keelung Ghost House 基隆鬼屋

Keelung Ghost House 基隆鬼屋

Keelung Ghost House 基隆鬼屋, formally the Linkaiqun Mansion 林開群洋樓 (and sometimes Keelung Lin Residence 基隆林宅), is one of the most famous ruins in Taiwan. Much like Minxiong Ghost House 民雄鬼屋 and Xinglin General Hospital 杏林綜合醫院, it commonly appears on lists of the most haunted places on the island. This ghostly reputation makes it difficult to separate credible information from the many tall tales that are told, particularly through the dark glass of machine translation.

Ogon Shrine 黄金神社

Ogon Shrine foundation

The Ogon Shrine 黄金神社 (also known as the Gold Temple) is an abandoned Shinto shrine in the mountains above Jinguashi 金瓜石, an old gold mining town in Ruifang, Taiwan. Built in 1933 by the Nippon Mining Company while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, it was mostly destroyed in the post-war era by vandals. Even so, it’s in better shape than almost every other Shinto shrine in Taiwan apart from the Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine 桃園忠烈祠 and Kagi Shrine 嘉義神社 in Chiayi City. The incoming KMT government went to great lengths to expunge the island of Japanese influences.

Yumei Hall 玉美堂

Hong Family Mansion 洪氏洋樓

Yumei Hall 玉美堂, also known as known as Hong Family Mansion 洪氏洋樓, is located in Jialao Village 茄荖村, a small settlement on the eastern edge of Fenyuan in Changhua, Taiwan. Built in the late 1920s when the village was administered as part of Caotun in Nantou, it is one of only a handful of “Western-style” country manors built in central Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (see my post about Jukuiju 聚奎居 for another great example).

Changhua Aerodrome Fortifications 彰化飛行場古砲台

Fragmented history

One of my idle pursuits this mild winter has involved documenting all the obscure and unusual stuff I find in my travels around Changhua. When I go riding I prefer to take winding roads that twist and turn through old villages rather than the newer thoroughfares that directly connect communities in the countryside. Sometimes this pays off—for instance, while exploring some of the side roads on my way to Lukang I found this strange looking building amid the rice fields and rural industrial sprawl.

Yangliufeng Mansion 楊柳風燒酒全故宅

A merchant’s home

During the Japanese colonial era the liquor trade in Taiwan—along with tobacco, camphor, and several other goods—was tightly controlled by a government agency, the Monopoly Bureau. Alcohol was sold exclusively through a network of authorized distributors, many of whom were local Taiwanese who evidently became quite wealthy, as this crumbling yet majestic ruin in the back alleys of Changhua City would suggest. Located along a small laneway just off Minsheng Road 民生路, this two-story brick mansion was formerly the residence of the local liquor monopoly distributor.

Jukuiju 聚奎居

Jukuiju, an abandoned mansion in Taichung

Jukuiju 聚奎居 is an abandoned mansion in Wuri, Taichung, built in 1920 by Chen Shaozong 陳紹宗, a wealthy businessman and landowner. The architecture is a combination of the traditional Taiwanese sanheyuan 三合院 (a U-shaped building with three parts surrounding a central courtyard) and the Baroque Revival style of the Japanese colonial era. It is located on the rundown, industrial margins of the city, along an otherwise unremarkable lane next to a military base, looking completely out of place in space and time.