Xìnglín General Hospital 杏林綜合醫院 is perhaps the most famous ruin in downtown Tainan 台南, Taiwan. It opened for business in 1975 as the largest hospital in the city and catered to the burgeoning middle class during the boom times of the Taiwan Economic Miracle. In 1993 the hospital shut down after being plagued by a number of scandals involving fraudulent records, medical malpractice, and allegations of wrongful death. Ongoing legal battles and fragmented ownership have left the building abandoned and neglected since then.
Much like the so-called Minxiong Ghost House, this hospital is widely considered to be haunted. In fact, it regularly appears on lists of haunted places in Taiwan1 and has been featured on national television (in Chinese but totally worth watching for the hilarious audiovisual effects). It eventually became the subject of a feature-length horror film by the name of Hospital (杏林醫院 in Chinese), released in more than 70 theaters nation-wide on the last day of 2020. This fame and notoriety has made it next to impossible to separate fact from fiction through the smoky lens of machine translation. As such, this entry in my catalog of abandoned places in Taiwan will be rather light on history for a change.
One of the things I love about exploring the many ruins of Taiwan is how untouched most of them appear to be. Urban exploration culture in Taiwan is typically respectful of the state of abandonment and most people seem to abide by the axiom “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”. Not so in this hospital, which has seen countless visitors in the decades since it was abandoned. No doubt teenagers and university students regularly dare one another to enter the “haunted house”, particularly at night, and not all of these missions end well.
I was interested in finding many of the artifacts visible in previously published explorations2, particularly the operating room equipment, but the building has been almost completely cleared out by now. At least I found a tube of the original blackface toothpaste that I have read so much about since arriving in Asia!
One thing I was looking forward to was exploring the morgue in the basement. Here, too, I was disappointed, for the entire place had been completely stripped of equipment, and little of the original ambiance remained. Of course, it wasn’t obvious that it had been emptied out at first, so I experienced a little thrill as I crept along the dark hallways, pointing my torch this way and that. Alas there were no blood-curdling screams, no spooky apparitions. What gives? Maybe I need to return at night.
As you can probably tell I wasn’t a huge fan of this particular exploration—but I wanted to add it to my growing list for the sake of completeness. Consider yourself forewarned: if you’ve heard about the haunted hospital in Tainan and want to check it out for yourself don’t expect too much from the experience. Oh, and watch where you step—evidently a pack of dogs has made their home on the ground floor, and there’s a lot of crap laying around.
Finally, since this is such a famous ruin there are many posts about it—most in Chinese, of course, although some English language blog postings have appeared since I originally published this account (see here for a good example). If you’d like to peruse a few I referenced while writing this post, you can find some here, here, here, here, and here. If nothing else I encourage you to peruse that television news report I referenced earlier; it’s comedy gold!