During the Japanese colonial era the liquor trade in Taiwan—along with tobacco, camphor, and several other goods—was tightly controlled by a government agency, the Monopoly Bureau. Alcohol was sold exclusively through a network of authorized distributors, many of whom were local Taiwanese who evidently became quite wealthy, as this crumbling yet majestic ruin in the back alleys of Changhua City 彰化市 would suggest. Located along a small laneway just off Mínshēng Road 民生路, this two-story brick mansion was formerly the residence of the local liquor monopoly distributor.
Exploring old homes in Taiwan always involves a degree of mystery, particularly as my Chinese language skills are somewhat limited to transcription and machine translation. The inscription over the entrance reads Yángliǔfēng 楊柳風, which might be poetry (“wind in the willows” is what Google tells me) but is more likely to be the family name of the former residents as Yáng 楊 also appears in stylized form on the top of the front of the building. In media it is more often referred to as (the former residence of) Shāojiǔquán 燒酒全故宅. Prior to its recent appearance in the news (see the update at the bottom of the post) this Chinese language blog entry was my only source of information about this place.
Beyond the facade the conditions of the interior are completely decrepit. It is possible to climb to the second floor along a rickety old staircase but there’s nothing to see up there—the roof has caved in. Rotting wood lays strewn about and mosquitos pour out of every nook and crevice lusting after human blood. This place has the appearance of a home that has been abandoned for decades.
Only about half of the interior is open to exploration. Most of the west side of the building has collapsed inward, covering whatever artifacts may have remained in a pile of wooden debris and rubble. Brambles, vines, and stunted trees grow out of this abscess: new life in the ruins of old.
I have learned to read between the lines when exploring colonial era residences in Taiwan, many of which were abandoned early into the many years of KMT authoritarian rule. You have to stop and ask: how would you expect KMT officials to treat locals who prospered under the Japanese? As with Jùkuíjū 聚奎居, another colonial era residence in central Taiwan, the owners of this mansion likely suffered hard times under the new regime1.
Every crumbling ruin in Taiwan has a story to tell. I feel as if I have only scratched the surface of this particular abandonment—the consequence of a dearth of quality information online. The memory of this home will fade, its physical structure will decay, and one day it will be no more.
Update: I revisited this mansion in July 2016 and was dismayed to find that part of the building has already been destroyed. Public outcry put a halt to the demolition and there is talk of designating the mansion as a heritage property, but nothing is certain. I also found a video walkthrough of the building posted on YouTube for anyone curious to see more of the place.