Zicheng Theater 自成大戲院 is a derelict cinema located in Baozhong, a rural township on the coastal plains of Yunlin 雲林, Taiwan. After opening in 1966 this theater drew enormous crowds from the surrounding districts, particularly in its early years of operation, when it was customary for movie stars to appear on stage to promote new films. Business began to decline with the closure of the nearby sugar factory and the widespread adoption of home television in the late 1970s, ultimately leading to the final screening sometime around 1985. Since then the theater has remained idle, slowly decaying with the passage of years, its fading fortunes mirroring those of the surrounding settlement.
Jianxin Theater 建新大戲院 is located in Yuanshulin 員樹林, a suburban area on the western outskirts of Daxi 大溪 in Taoyuan 桃園, Taiwan. Business records indicate an inception date of 1977, but not much is known about this theater apart from that. The last recorded transaction in 2000 sets an upper bound on when it was operating, but likely went out of business in the early 1990s, when most of the rest of Taiwan’s cinema industry collapsed. It now enjoys a second life as a parking garage for the nearby factories and residences.
Beigou Forbidden City 北溝故宮 is an obscure historic site hidden in the hills of Wufeng 霧峰, Taichung 台中. From 1949 to 1965 it was the provisional base of operations for the team of archivists, curators, scholars, and technicians overseeing the subset of the Palace Museum collection sent for safekeeping to Taiwan by the Kuomintang (KMT) in the later stages of the Chinese Civil War. Nowadays this collection is managed and displayed by the National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院 (or simply Gugong 故宮 for short), situated in Taipei 台北, and almost nothing remains of the facilities in Wufeng. The one exception is an underground vault constructed in 1953.
Jinxing Theater 金星大戲院 is located in the small town of Zhiben 知本 on the southern outskirts of Taitung City 台東市, Taitung 台東, in southeastern Taiwan. Zhiben is home to the Katipul group 卡地布部落 of the Puyuma people 卑南族, one of Taiwan’s recognized Indigenous groups, but this theater was constructed in 1967 to cater to the many KMT veterans who settled here after the completion of the Central Cross-Island Highway 中部橫貫公路. Named after Venus (literally “Golden Star” in Chinese), it went out of business shortly after it was sold to a lumber company in 1980 and has been abandoned ever since.
Yuanlin 員林 is a modest settlement of approximately 125,000 residents located on the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 in eastern Changhua 彰化, Taiwan. It was formerly the most populous urban township in the nation, but Yuanlin was upgraded to a county-controlled city in 2015, second only to the administrative capital, Changhua City 彰化市. Considerable work has been done in recent years to improve the urban environment of Yuanlin, and it feels like one of the few places between Taichung 台中 and Tainan 台南 that isn’t falling into disrepair and emptying out. That being said, urban decay remains widespread in Yuanlin, and there are many interesting ruins worth exploring before they disappear. For students of city planning and development this compact city also has quite a lot to offer—and in this post I aim to introduce some of its more intriguing features, mainly drawing upon photographs from 2013 to 2015, when I was spending significant amounts of time in the area.
I chanced upon the ruins of the RSEA Marble Factory 榮民大理石工廠 while riding around the industrial park on the north side of Hualien City 花蓮市 sometime in early 2017. It wasn’t immediately obvious what this derelict factory produced so I decided to stop and take a closer look. Although much of this sprawling site had already been cleared, a few half-demolished buildings remained. In one of these I found a pallet full of product samples and several references to marble, answering the first of many questions on my mind. But there’s always more to examine if you’re curious, so let’s dig into the archives and see what can be learned about this abandoned industrial site in Hualien 花蓮, Taiwan.
Emerald Bay (Feicuiwan 翡翠灣) is a forlorn stretch of sandy coastline in Wanli 萬里, a rural district of 22,000 residents situated on the rugged northeastern coast of Taiwan. It is widely known for its many derelict resorts, most famously the so-called Wanli UFO Village 萬里飛碟屋, which is what initially drew me here in 2013. I returned a year later and noticed a dilapidated structure further along the beach, an ugly institutional building similar in appearance to a Taiwanese police station of the 1980s. A closer inspection revealed an interior cluttered with intriguing clues—abandoned artifacts and decaying documents, enough to conclusively identify this neglected ruin. This was formally known as the Yeliu Signal Station 野柳信號臺, an outpost responsible for monitoring maritime traffic in the shipping lanes and designated anchorages just west of the Port of Keelung 基隆港.
Day three of cycling down the Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 began with a hearty Taiwanese breakfast not far from the train station in Fenglin 鳳林, Hualien 花蓮. I was still recovering from a brush with heatstroke (a story documented in the previous entry in this series) so a traditional breakfast of danbing 蛋餅 (pan-fried egg rolls) and sweet black tea really hit the spot. A glance at the weather forecast indicated another full day of sunny skies and 35°C temperatures on the road—and even fewer opportunities for air-conditioned rest stops. I wasn’t too worried though; my loosely-planned itinerary of former Shinto shrines, industrial ruins, and other historic sites didn’t look all that challenging. Ultimately I ended up putting 60 kilometers of valley behind me, ending the day in Yuli 玉里.
My second day of riding Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 was not everything I hoped it would be. I didn’t manage a proper night’s rest due to a malfunctioning air condition and woke up feeling weak and dehydrated. With temperatures hitting 35°C on the road, and with fewer convenience store stops along the way, it turned out to be the most difficult day of riding on this particular trip back in May 2018. I originally planned to detour into the mountains to visit the village of Tongmen 銅門 and cruise around Carp Lake 鯉魚潭 on my way south. Instead I elected to head straight down Provincial Highway 9 through Ji’an 吉安 and Shoufeng 壽豐 into Fenglin 鳳林 to make up for lost time. Although I didn’t see nearly as much as planned I am glad to have an excuse to return to this part of Taiwan.
Zhonghua Theater 中華大戲院 is an impressive KMT authoritarian era ruin in Guanshan 關山, a small town of approximately 8,800 in the idyllic Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 of Taiwan. With seating for 1,200 patrons it was the largest theater in Taitung 台東 when it opened in 1965, and it soon earned the title “northern tyrant” (beibatian 北霸天) for dominating the cinema industry at this end of the county. What explains the existence of such a huge theater in this remote, sparsely populated place? As with the more modest and folksy Wuzhou Theater 五洲戲院 in neighbouring Chishang 池上, an examination of regional socioeconomic history provides answers.