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.
Jukuiju 聚奎居 is an abandoned mansion in Wuri 烏日, Taichung 台中, 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.
This beautiful western-style house is located along a country road in Puxin 埔心, a rural township in the heart of Changhua 彰化, central Taiwan. It was built in 1940 by a man by the name of Huang Yi 黃義, a wealthy employee (presumably an executive) of the Japanese colonial era Taiwan Sugar Company 台糖公司. If this government source is to be believed Huang Yi had five wives who bore him five sons—and some unknown number of daughters. No wonder he needed such a large house!
I moved to Changhua City 彰化市 in November 2014 to see what it’s like living in a traditional town in central Taiwan. I had an interesting time staying in Tainan 台南 for three months earlier that year so I figured why not give Changhua 彰化 a shot for the wintertime? Changhua is nowhere near as lively and interesting as Taiwan’s old southern capital but it is not without charm. Here I have gathered up some of the more representative images I captured during my first two months of residency, mostly of the area immediately to the east of the train station, which also happens to be the oldest part of town. Explanations are given in the caption of each photo, where available.
These photographs were captured on a short two day, three night visit to Singapore in February 2013. I was unable to do more than scratch the surface of this intriguing island city-state on such a brief trip, but I did manage to take a few interesting shots while I was there. Most of my time was spent in Singapore’s historic Chinatown, known in Chinese as Niucheshui 牛車水 (literally “ox-cart water”), but I also ventured into Little India and the Downtown Core.
I was off the main road in Gushan Village 姑山里 in Dashu 大樹, a hilly rural district in Kaohsiung 高雄, when I noticed a row of old buildings next to a small temple. Stopping to investigate, I unslung my camera and snapped a few shots, not quite realizing what I was looking at. My mind was elsewhere—a consequence of two hard days of riding in the tropical summer sun. I was, at the time, heading south to the railway line after making it to Qishan the night before and touring through Meinong 美濃 earlier in the day. Only later, when I went to develop the photos, did I notice the faint traces of the Japanese rising sun flag in the top right corner of the building pictured above. At one point these stone flags must have been painted bright red, a reflection of Japanese imperial interests in Taiwan.
The Liu Family Mansion 劉家古厝 in Minxiong 民雄, Chiayi 嘉義, is one of the most famous ruins in all Taiwan. Situated in the countryside just outside of town, this old Baroque Revival-style red brick building is more informally known as the dreaded Minxiong Ghost House 民雄鬼屋. It was built in 1929 for Liu Rongyu 劉溶裕, a businessman with seven children, and appears to have been abandoned sometime in the early 1950s, not long after the end of Japanese colonial rule.
There are plenty of crummy old apartment blocks in Taiwan, many of them abandoned and left to the elements. I seldom take more than a cursory look any more since they’re so easy to find—just ride or walk around and look for open or broken windows. Most of the time there isn’t much to look at inside and anything valuable or interesting has almost always been removed. Even so, I stopped for a moment to investigate this particular building in Su’ao 蘇澳, a township in Yilan 宜蘭, and was mildly surprised with what I found.
Today I would like to take you inside an abandoned sanheyuan 三合院, a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home. This particular home is in Dacun 大村, a rural township in Changhua 彰化, but it is not unique. The Taiwanese countryside is littered with thousands of these old homes, many of which have fallen into disrepair and abandonment over the years. I have given this place a name but it is merely a description of convenience. Chances are it has no formal name.
One fine morning in February 2014 I decided to go out riding. I had seen photos of a beautiful cliffside temple next to a waterfall in Xindian 新店 and it looked to be within easy reach of my place in Jingmei. I set out for the highway leading to Pinglin, passing through the sprawl of southern Taipei 台北 under the warm winter sun. The roadway began to steepen as I reached the outskirts of the city. Struggling against gravity—but enjoying every minute of it—I ascended into the hills before taking a turn onto Yinhe Road 銀河路 (the literal translation of which is “silver river”, better known to us as the Milky Way).