Neiwan Hexing Station 內灣合興車站

Last week I went out with a friend to explore rural Hsinchu 新竹. After checking out a cable car tower in Guānxi 關西 we slipped over the township line to Héngshān 橫山 to make a brief pitstop at Hexing Station 合興車站, the only wooden train station on the newly reopened Neiwan Line 內灣線. Inside the station house we discovered this wall of vintage clocks, obviously somewhat contrived but every bit as photogenic as intended. Although this station (and the rest of the railway line) was built in the 1950s, after the Japanese colonial period, many of these mechanical wind-up clocks bear Japanese names like Gifutokei, Aichi, and, of course, Seiko.

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Taitung Chinese Association 台東中華會館

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 at the photos on Wikipedia and you’ll see the same characters—as well as the Republic of China flag flying overhead at their historic headquarters in San Francisco!

Presumably the Taitung Chinese Association served a similar purpose to its contemporaries in America, namely to advocate for ethnic Chinese (中華人) living outside of China, which was in the 1920s nominally controlled by the Republic of China 中華民國 (in a twist of fate, now the rulers of modern-day Taiwan). Concurrent with the full-scale invasion of China in 1937 the Japanese authorities launched the Kominka Movement 皇民化運動 (literally “to make people become subjects of the emperor”), a policy of cultural assimilation designed to assist the growing war effort. As such, the Chinese Association was evicted from the building and outlawed in 1938.

From 1938 until the end of the war the building was occupied by a chapter of the Xinmin Society 新民會 (also referred to in English as the New People or People’s Rejuvenation Society), a pro-Japanese organization based in Beijing. This organization was disbanded after the Japanese defeat and the building fell into disuse after a half-hearted attempt to repurpose it for use by another civic group. Finally, after decades of neglect, it was restored to its current condition for Retrocession Day in 1986. Apparently this is the only Chinese Association building remaining in Taiwan, for what it’s worth!

So there you have it, another historical footnote previously undocumented in English, insofar as I am aware. Of course, more information is available in Chinese here, and here.

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Chaozhou Liu House 潮州劉厝

I noticed this old-fashioned western-style mansion on the outskirts of Cháozhōu 潮州 in Pingtung 屏東 while cycling through the deep south of Taiwan in 2015. In a sea of ugly metal shacks and bland concrete apartment blocks it is a rare pleasure to encounter a building like this one. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to learn something of the history of such places. Usually with some knowledge of the local area and the family name on the facade I can piece something together from blogs and government records—but this time I’m stumped, and I’m not the only one. Just about all that is known for certain is the name, Liu House 劉厝, which came up in some real estate records. Based on my growing familiarity with Japanese colonial era architecture I would guess this mansion dates back to the 1930s or so.

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Yumei Hall 玉美堂

Yumei Hall 玉美堂, also known as known as Hong Family Mansion 洪氏洋樓, is located in Jialao Village 茄荖村, a small settlement on the eastern edge of Fēnyuán 芬園 in Changhua 彰化, Taiwan. Built in the late 1920s when the village was administered as part of Cǎotún 草屯 in Nántóu 南投, it is one of only a handful of “Western-style” country manors built in central Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (see my post about Jukuiju 聚奎居 for another great example).

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Nishinari and The Way Things Ought To Be

Nishinari is widely reputed to be the most run-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous part of Ōsaka 大阪—and about as close to a slum as you are likely to find anywhere in Japan 日本. This may explain the preponderance of cheap backpacker accommodation in Shinimamiya, the area just south of Shinsekai 新世界 (literally “New World”), where I stayed for a single night last May before returning to Taiwan. Although I only had a few hours to work with I couldn’t resist wandering around Nishinari to see just how bad it was. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the Downtown Eastside, the festering carbuncle of Vancouver, which I had wandered through on many occasions.

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Jukuiju Mansion 聚奎居

Jukuiju 聚奎居 is an abandoned mansion in Wūrì 烏日, Taichung 台中, built in 1920 by a wealthy businessman and landowner by the name of Chen Shaozong 陳紹宗. The architecture is a combination of the traditional Taiwanese sanheyuan 三合院 (an inverted 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 margins of the city along an otherwise unremarkable lane in a poor, industrial part of town next to a military base, looking completely out of place in space and time.

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Postcards From Beigang 北港明信片

Běigǎng 北港 is a historic town on the riverside border between Yúnlín 雲林 and Chiayi 嘉義 in southern Taiwan. I made a brief, unplanned stopover in Beigang while riding north to Changhua 彰化 in the summer of 2014. I was only vaguely aware of Beigang’s existence, having at some point read something about Chaotian Temple 朝天宫, one of Taiwan’s most famous Mazu 媽祖 temples, but I had a hunch that there might be more to see—and I was right! If you enjoy visiting traditional towns with a lot of history then Beigang should definitely be on your list.

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Huang Sanyuan Residence 黃三元故居

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!

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A Traditional Home in Dacun 大村三合院

Today I would like to take you inside an abandoned sanheyuan 三合院, a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home. This particular home is in Dàcūn 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.

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