One of the most extraordinary attractions in Taiwan is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum—and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions. After signing in with the guard at the gate I had free run of the place—and as you can see from some of the following photos, nobody minded me getting shockingly close to moving trains as the mechanics went about their daily routines.
Khoo Tsu-song Old House 許梓桑古厝 is a scenic historic site atop a modest hill near Miaokou Night Market 廟口夜市 in Keelung 基隆. Built in 1931 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, it is structured somewhat like a traditional Taiwanese three-sided courtyard home with some Western influences and building materials. Formally named Qingyu Hall 慶餘堂, it was the residence of Khoo Tsu-song (1874–1945), an important figure in local politics and civic affairs during the Japanese colonial era. His name is rendered here in romanized Taiwanese Hokkien, in keeping with the conventions adopted by the Keelung cultural bureau.
It never ceases to amaze me what can be learned from keenly observing the streets of Taiwan and following up with a little research online. I only spent one full day in Taitung City 台東市 at the tail end of a bicycle trip down south this June but managed to chance across a number of interesting sights in that time, this historic building among them.
Located at 143 Zhongzheng Road 中正路, this is the Taitung Branch 台東分社 of the Chinese Association 中華會館, originally built in 1927 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule. A plaque out front features historic information in English (shocking in this part of the country) as well as a direct translation of the name, “Taitung Chunghua Hostel”, but it was more of a clubhouse or assembly hall, not a place to secure lodging for the night. Interestingly, the proper Chinese name is the same one used by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of America. Have a look…
West Market 西市場 is a historical site in downtown Tainan 台南 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.
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 瑞芳, 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 嘉義市. The incoming KMT government went to great lengths to expunge the island of Japanese influences.
A month ago I embarked upon a day trip to Zuoying 左營 to check out the famous temples and pagodas of Lotus Pond 蓮池潭, one of the main tourist attractions of greater Kaohsiung 高雄. Afterwards I wandered over to have a look at the old city of Zuoying 左營舊城, originally built in 1722 by the ruling Qing Dynasty in response to the many uprisings that regularly plagued Taiwan Prefecture 臺灣府.
Dananmen 大南門, also known as Ningnanmen 寧南門, is one of two great gates remaining in Tainan 台南, the most historic city in Taiwan. Built in 1725, it has been renovated several times but maintains its classical charm. Nowadays it can be found in a gorgeous park just south of the Confucius Temple on Nanmen Road 大南路. The gate itself is surrounded by a secondary fortification, a barbican or wengcheng 瓮城, which provides additional defensive capabilities. As usual, Tainan City Guide has an excellent write-up about this historic landmark.…
The Red Hair Well 紅毛井 (pinyin: Hongmaojing) in Changhua City 彰化市 is another curious footnote. Located behind the Changhua Arts Museum at the foot of Baguashan, this well supposedly dates back to the mid-1600s, in the midst of the Dutch colonial era. The Dutch sunk this well to provide for soldiers and missionaries passing through the area but never actually controlled this land. The name derives from âng-mo, which is literally “red hair” in Hokkien or Taiwanese, an obvious visual contrast to the black hair of Chinese people.
One of my idle pursuits this mild winter has involved documenting all the obscure and unusual stuff I find in my travels around Changhua 彰化. 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 鹿港 I found this strange looking building amid the rice fields and rural industrial sprawl.