The Qiānyuè Building 千越大樓 is one of the most recognizable ruins in central Taiwan. Located only a short distance from Taichung Station 台中車站, it is impossible to miss if you bother to look up at some point while walking deeper into the city. This mixed-use commercial and residential high-rise was originally built in the 1970s and, thanks to its location at the very heart of the famous Taichung Electronics Street 台中電子街商圈, reached its apex during the consumer electronics boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
By the turn of the millennium the city’s center of gravity moved westward to new developments in Xītún 西屯 and the Qianyue Building slipped into terminal decline along with much of the rest of Central Taichung. Like most other mixed-use commercial buildings in Taiwan this one was home to a variety of restaurants, cram schools (Chinese: bǔxíbān 補習班), nightclubs, karaoke joints, and so on, in addition to the eponymous Qianyue Department Store 千越百貨. Many of these businesses would have closed while others changed owners and went downmarket as decay set in. The final nail in the coffin was a devastating fire that broke out in the seventh floor dance club in 2005. Nowadays this ruined landmark has become a symbol for what is widely considered to be one of the most run-down parts of urban Taiwan. (Not that this should dissuade you from visiting. The worst parts of Taiwan are still way safer than an average American city!)
Perhaps due to its ease of access, central location, and distinctive look the Qianyue Building is regularly used for photo shoots of all kinds. I have made many trips to the building over the last several years and often bump into small groups of Taiwanese satisfying their curiosity or deeply engaged in setting up a photo shoot (check out these geotagged photos on Facebook for some examples). There is no barrier to entry and nobody working at the many businesses that still ring the base of the building seem to care who goes inside.
Given that the Qianyue Building is one of the most popular and well-explored ruins in the nation I won’t be going into my usual level of detail in this post. The entire building has been picked clean and thoroughly trashed so there wouldn’t be too much to say anyhow. In this case I’m going to let the pictures (and the accompanying captions) tell most of the story.
The layout of the Qianyue Building is somewhat confusing at first. There are actually two structures on site: a big building fronting onto the main street and a smaller one about half the size of the first that backs onto the electronics shopping street. Both buildings are connected with a series of bridges and stairways. Several small, traditional restaurants cling to life on the ground floor and a handful of more specialized shops haunt the second and third levels. Most of the rest of the building lies in ruin with one notable exception: the fifth floor has been converted into apartments, most of which still seem to be occupied. Look at the photos in this post and think about that for a moment. This building is home for about a dozen people! (And don’t get too close—a rather startling alarm will sound if you take a wrong turn on the residential level.)
The higher levels of the main building are the most interesting part of the entire complex. Here you will find the ruins of the pubs, nightclubs, and karaoke bars that used to attract revelers from all around the city in more prosperous times. As business began to falter at least one of these nightclubs turned into a hangout for migrant workers from Southeast Asia much like you’ll find today in the neighbouring First Square 第一廣場. It is here that the fire broke out in 2005, though little evidence of this remains. Perhaps it wasn’t a very serious blaze?
The most distinctive feature of the Qianyue Building is undoubtedly the round UFO-like tower on the rooftop that was once home to a KTV with a 360 degree view of the city. This tower isn’t particularly safe—you’ll notice several gaping holes in the floor of the upper levels—nor is the adjoining bathroom, which is also a regular fixture of photo shoots in the building. Watch your step when exploring this area!
So there you have it: one of Taiwan’s most popular ruins, now available as part of my ongoing series of posts about the nation’s many abandonments. If you enjoyed this post I strongly recommend checking out the Qiáoyǒu Building 喬友大廈, a similar (but far less known) building in nearby Changhua City 彰化市. Finally, for more about the Qianyue Building from the Taiwanese blogosphere try here, here, here, here, and here.