One of the enduring mysteries of abandoned Taiwan is this: why do people leave so much stuff behind when they go? I understand there might not be any descendants or close friends to go through the belongings of the departed—but what about when entire families pick up and move? Sure, leave the junk behind (and there’s lots of that), but what about children’s toys, letters and diaries, old schoolwork, music, book, and movie collections, and photographs? It is almost as if entire families undergo a kind of ritual metamorphosis, pupating within their former domiciles, emerging transformed and casting away the remnants of their former lives, all the miscellaneous detritus and kipple that naturally accumulates in the course of everyday affairs.
This particular ruin can be found in Jīnguāshí 金瓜石 on the grounds of the Gold Museum 金博物館與, an interesting attraction in and of itself. What I find somewhat strange (though by now I’m used to it) is the fact that park officials haven’t lifted a finger to either clean up these old ruins nor bar the public from accessing them. Pictured in this piece is one of several old homes on the mountainside behind several restored Japanese era dormitories. I suppose these particular homes weren’t worth saving.
There wasn’t very much left of this home when I went clambering through the debris. There are bits and pieces still standing, little scraps overhangs providing a modicum of shelter from the elements, but no completely closed rooms. The entire place is in an advanced state of decay brought about by the collapse of the roof at some unknown point in the past.
While perusing a bookshelf somewhat protected from the ravages of the elements I noticed a bunch of books and magazines. Among them were several publications related to personal computers. My mind wandered back to my own youth, a time in which I was mucking about with PC clones likely manufactured in Taiwan. Indeed, there was a time when Taiwan was a world leader in the computing industry. I might have first learned of Taiwan’s existence from my father an old school computer hacker, who regularly lectured me about the nuances of the trade. Never imagined I’d end up here sifting through the wreckage of those times.
I have a kind of internal checklist anytime I am exploring someplace new in Taiwan. Think of it as a kind of scavenger hunt—or abandoned bingo. Usually I find at least a calendar (useful in dating ruins), a broken clock, and photographic negatives—something I have taken special interest in as of late.
One day while processing photos I got curious about whether I could digitally restore negatives that I had casually imaged. The results of my first attempt can be seen here. For this post I had a look at the negatives I captured with my phone but had no luck—the image quality was too poor or the negatives too far gone. Even so, I quite like the results. There is a mystery here, one that will remain. Who were these people? What circumstances conspired to make them leave? And why did they leave so much behind?