Yuanlin Credit Union 員林信用合作社 was a small town bank from Yuánlín 員林, Taiwan, that went out of business at the turn of the century. It originated with a Japanese colonial era credit union founded in 1914 and based out of a long-vanished red brick building directly across from Yuanlin Station 員林車站, a plot of land now occupied by the doomed Golden Empire Building 黃金帝國大樓. In the post-war chaos the original credit union was renamed and reorganized several times, eventually giving birth to the credit union that constructed this particular branch, possibly in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
The Taiwanese banking sector, dominated by state-owned banks, underwent liberalization and deregulation in the late 1980s and early 1990s1. Consumer confidence began to ebb, however, and a series of widely publicized bank runs in 1995 and 1996 prompted government intervention. Although Taiwan weathered the 1997 Asian financial crisis dozens of small banks and agricultural cooperatives were in serious trouble by the end of the decade, Yuanlin Credit Union among them.
A financial reform task force formed in the late 1990s to deal with the problem. The government adopted a policy of arranging mergers between failing institutions and healthier organizations ready for expansion. This brings us to Sunny Bank 陽信商業銀行, which was originally founded in 1957 as the Yangmingshan Credit Union and reorganized into a commercial bank in 1997. Sunny Bank acquired Yuanlin Credit Union in 2001 and either closed and sold or completely rebranded its remaining branches2. This particular branch continued to operated for several years but was eventually closed at an unknown date, almost certainly whenever the newer Sunny Bank branch opened closer to the train station.
Without business records or other details to examine I’m left guessing about the date of construction. Based solely on its authoritarian modernist style I would estimate this was built in the early 1970s, but there is considerable margin for error. Whatever the case, the building was stripped of anything worth salvaging at some point—hence all the wiring shown in several of these photos.
These photos date back to 2016 and I haven’t returned to check up on the status of the building since then. Yuanlin is changing fast so there’s a good chance this old bank might be gone by now3. For more from Yuanlin check out this extensive post about what you’ll find around town!
- If you’re interested in a detailed history, check out The Development of Banking in Taiwan: the Historical Impact on Future Challenges by Lawrence L.C. Lee, published in 1998. ↩
- According to Wikipedia the bank had a head office and four branches in Yuanlin proper: Zhōngzhèng Branch 中正分社 (almost certainly right in front of the train station), Huáchéng Branch 華成分社 (likely near the market of the same name on the north side of town), Jǔguāng Branch 莒光分社 (along the road of the same name on the west side of town), and Nánmén Branch 南門分社, which might be the one featured in this article (if it was not, in fact, the head office). If I’m not mistaken the bank also had branches in nearby Yongjing and Shètóu 社頭 around when it was dissolved in 2001. ↩
- But this isn’t the only old bank in Yuanlin worth a look—not far from the station you’ll find a former branch of the Taiwan Cooperative Bank 合作金庫銀行 converted into a restaurant, Pizza Factory 披薩工廠. ↩