Eyes of the Brick Kiln

Liujiao Brick Kiln 六腳磚窯

Liùjiǎo Brick Kiln 六腳磚窯 was an unexpected discovery while riding from Beigang to Puzi earlier this summer. The chimney is plainly visible from the roadside and the crumbling bulk of the kiln can be discerned in a gap between the row of houses out front. Stopping to take a closer look I went around (and through) the old kiln to document what remains. Liujiao is a rather obscure part of rural Chiayi so I’ve not found any mention of this place online apart from this brief post. Whereas several kilns in various other parts of Taiwan are being preserved this obscure ruin is almost certainly never going to be the object of a conservation effort.

The Crumbling Ruins of a Brick Kiln in Liujiao
The crumbling ruins of an old brick kiln in rural Chiayi County.
Eyes of the Brick Kiln
Every chamber is connected to the next.

Without any credible information online I have no idea how old this kiln might be. After some research I’ve established this kind of brick kiln is generally known as a climbing kiln (dēngyáo 登窯), ladder kiln (jiētīyáo 階梯窯), or eye kiln (mùzǐyáo 目仔窯). Climbing kilns are generally built on a slope and, if I’m not mistaken, a ladder kiln is just another name for climbing kiln. Since this kiln is built on more or less flat land—this being part of the broad expanse of the Chianan Plain 嘉南平原—I surmise that “eye kiln” would be the most accurate description. It is very similar in design to the more well-known Yilan Brick Kiln 宜蘭磚窯 (中文), which was built in 1930. Hoffmann kilns, typified by this example from Changhua, were more common in the KMT authoritarian era, but any estimate of age would be pure guesswork on my part.

A Climbing Brick Kiln in Chiayi
Much of the old kiln is totally overgrown.

Escaping the fierce tropical sun for a moment I stepped inside a few chambers for a quick look around. The most immediate thing I noticed—after the rapacity of the mosquitoes concealed within—was the row of holes at ground level in each chamber. Presumably these provided ventilation so hot air could flow from once chamber to the next. I’m still somewhat unclear on the operation of the kiln but I believe each entrance is sealed during regular operation—and hot gas flows from the tail end of the kiln toward the chimney, heating all the bricks along the way.

A Kiln Chamber Broken Open
Many of the chambers have collapsed, exposing the interior to the elements.
Inside the Liujiao Brick Kiln 1
Notice the holes at ground level? Probably ventilation.
Inside the Liujiao Brick Kiln 2
Local residents use many chambers for storage.
A Brick Kiln in the Backyard
Imagine growing up with a brick kiln in your backyard!

Apart from the somewhat modern row of houses out front there wasn’t too much more to see apart from a dry pond near the chimney. Most brick kilns are built near a supply of water but I’m not entirely sure where the clay would have come from; it’s a very small pond. Amusingly enough, the kiln is used for storage by some residents. Imagine growing up with this crumbling ruin in your backyard—and almost nothing but idyllic rice paddies all around.

Liujiao Brick Kiln Chimney
Smoke stack on the horizon. It’s the tallest thing around and quite hard to miss.

After returning from my trip I attempted to find out more about this kiln but came up mostly empty. I did, however, read about another kiln in the area—the Shuāngxīkǒu Brick Kiln 雙溪口磚窯 in neighboring Puzi. It is almost identical to this kiln with some small differences I mention in my full post about it. As for conservation status, there’s almost no chance this old kiln in Liujiao will be restored. Not everything is special enough to preserve in anything other than photographs.

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