Not much remains of the former Taichu Aerodrome 臺中飛行場, a Japanese colonial era airbase originally built in 1911 on the northwestern periphery of central Taichung 台中. The airbase saw a lot of action in World War II and several kamikaze units were stationed there in the final months of the war. After the arrival of the KMT it was used as a hub for aviation research and development before entering into civilian use in the 1970s as Shuinan Airport 水湳機場. In 2004 operations were transferred to the nearby Taichung Airport 台中航空站 and, over the following decade, the former Japanese airbase was completely demolished as part of an ongoing city-wide urban renewal plan. The only building spared was a lone gun tower built in 1940, formally designated a historic site in 2006, and officially known as the Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺中飛行場機槍堡.
Jishan Gatehouse 積善樓 (Mandarin pinyin: Jishanlou; sometimes Chishan or Chijhan) is a minor historic building not far from Taiyuan Station 太原車站 in Beitun 北屯, Taichung 台中. Originally this site was occupied by the residences of the Lai 賴 family, immigrants from Zhangzhou, China, who made their home here in 1897. Decades later they funded the construction of this unusual gatehouse on the recommendation of a fengshui 風水 master; the name of the building literally translates to “accumulate goodness”. The design and some of the materials are Chinese but the structure also shows western influences and craftsmanship as filtered through Japan 日本. Five banyan trees surrounding the gate are the only other legacy of the homes that once existed here. Nowadays the area is a city park.
I chanced upon Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂 while out for a bicycle ride around Taoyuan 桃園 in late October 2015. That morning I set out from my place in Zhongli 中壢 to see more of the countryside and eventually pay a visit to Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 in western Yangmei 楊梅. Along the way I made a brief diversion into Xinwu 新屋 to see whatever might be found there—and this cluster of historic Hakka homes were my reward.
Last February I went on a productive day trip around Taichung 台中 without any particular destination in mind. After visiting an abandoned anti-airborne fortification on Dadushan and the eerie Wansheng Zizhu Monastery I breezed through Shalu 沙鹿 on the way to Wuqi Old Street 梧棲老街. While making a pitstop at a 7-Eleven on the side of the highway I noticed what looked like an old Qing dynasty building building obscured by some foliage and went to take a quick peek. Traditional courtyard homes, or sanheyuan 三合院, are an ubiquitous feature of rural Taiwan and yet another thing I regularly document wherever I go—and this one is unusually striking with its red brick archway.
Despite living in Changhua City 彰化市 for half a year I never paid much attention to the clothing store across the street from the historic Confucius Temple 彰化孔子廟. At that time my Chinese abilities were rudimentary and I wasn’t really aware of what kinds of buildings to watch for while navigating the variegated urban landscapes of Taiwan. Only after encountering Datong Theater 大同戲院 in Taitung City 台東市 did I become fascinated by the rise and fall of Taiwanese cinema. Since then I have mapped the locations of more than a hundred vintage theaters and documented many of their fates. Most end up abandoned or destroyed—but Yingong Theater 銀宮戲院 earned a new lease on life after it was purchased by NET, a Taiwanese fashion retailer.
Hengwen Temple 衡文宮 is located on the south side of Yuanlin 員林, a mid-sized city in Changhua 彰化, Taiwan. Completed in 1976, this temple is mainly notable for its 72 foot-tall statue of Xuan Wu 玄武, literally “Dark Warrior”, alternately known as Xuan Di 玄帝 (“Dark Deity”) or Xuantian Shangdi 玄天上帝 (“Dark Heavenly Deity”) among many other names. The statue itself is a hollow structure containing several additional floors filled with murals depicting the origins of Xuan Wu as well as various small shrines. A similarly oversized statue of Xuan Wu can be seen on the famous Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 in Zuoying 左營, Kaohsiung 高雄, and there’s probably several more scattered around Taiwan, but this one is apparently the largest of its kind. Such claims are often difficult to verify as pretty much any temple with a big statue is likely to say the same thing.
Xinyi District 信義區 is now one of the most expensive and upscale parts of Taiwan but it hasn’t always been that way. Decades ago it was an undesirable area on the edge of the city with a significant military-industrial presence, traces of which still remain if you know where to look. The open expanse of parks and parking lots around the intersection of Xin’an Street 信安街 and Wuxing Street 吳興街 immediately to the west of Taipei Medical University 臺北醫學大學 is one such trace.
Recently I visited Xinpu 新埔, a small Hakka town in the hills of Hsinchu 新竹, Taiwan, alongside fellow photographer and blogger Josh Ellis. I was curious to confirm reports of a historic theater along the former Entertainment Street 娛樂街 but the location in my notes was occupied by a construction site. Forging on, we continued down the road and were soon rewarded by the sight of something that I wasn’t expecting: Xinxing Theater 新興戲院. In hindsight it wouldn’t be an “entertainment street” without more than one cinema, would it?
Taichung Shark Cemetery 台中鯊魚墳場 (pinyin: Shayu Fenchang) is an unlikely roadside attraction near Donghai University 東海大學 in Xitun 西屯, Taichung 台中. There is no great mystery here—a nearby restaurant and banquet hall by the name of Tong Hai Fish Village 東海漁村 dumped a bunch of junk in this farmer’s field sometime prior to 2009 and since then it has become a popular place for young Taiwanese to visit and take photos. Just have a look at the unofficial Facebook page or the relevant Instagram hashtag and location feeds for plenty of examples.
Built in 1887, Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院 is one of dozens of Qing dynasty era schools of classical studies in Taiwan. Located in Dadu 大肚, a small town in southwestern Taichung 台中, it provides a window into a time when scholarship was more closely interwoven with spirituality. Apart from classrooms and areas for quiet study the academy also has an altar to the Five Wenchang 五文昌: Kui Xing 魁星, Zhu Xi 朱熹, Guan Yu 關羽, Lu Dongbin 呂洞賓, and, of course, Wenchang 文昌 himself. Collectively these Taoist gods represent classical Chinese culture and several are commonly venerated by students prior to writing exams. Structurally the academy follows a plan similar to a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home or sanheyuan with the addition of a large gatehouse and pavilion.