After searching through the historic buildings in Nangang I became aware of a certain mine in the mountains. This mine is only one of hundreds of abandoned coal mines in Taiwan, as the coal mining industry has essentially been shut down. From what I have found, coal mines have not been covered extensively in the blogsphere. Some notable English blogs on the subject are from the blog Over the City, featuring two blogs about coal mines, here and here.
However, the best blog about coal mines is by Taiwanese Blogger Willy Chang, the Shepherd's Wolf.
History of Coal Mining in Taiwan:
Before I show you my adventure, I’d like to give a background of the coal mining industry in Taiwan. If you aren’t interested, you can just skip this section.
Coal mining in Taiwan started during the Dutch rule, starting in Keelung and Tamsui. The Dutch started mines there, but didn’t have sufficient transportation infrastructure to move large amounts of coal. The Koxinga era didn’t see much coal mining.
After the Qing dynasty took back Taiwan following Koxinga and his son’s death, the government strictly banned mining of any kind in order to restrict the people from hiding in the mountains and starting rebellions. Despite this, coal was still mined and sold in on the black market in Taiwan.
During and after the Opium wars, many English and Americans scouted Taiwan for possible coal deposits. In 1864, despite the ban on coal mining, there was at least 4315 tons of coal exported out of Taiwan.
Pressure from western countries to open ports in Asia that had water and coal available to power steam ships forced the Qing government to finally allow legal coal mining in 1870.
After the ban was lifted, the size of coal mining operations was still very small. In 1874, due to Japanese influence, Liu Mingchuan convinced Beijing to allow advanced mining machinery in Taiwan, starting in Baodouzi, Keelung, and new mines were started under government control. During this time, many miners died due to poor and unsanitary working conditions and the fact that the government officials running the mines were inexperienced and did not run effective operations. During this time, infrastructure and railways were lacking in Taiwan, halting transportation of coal. By 1892 after the Sino-French war, government owned mines were closed and the industry became privatized. In 1895, Taiwan produced more than 10,000 tons of coal. By this time, Liu Mingchuan had constructed the Keelung-Xinxhu railway, helping alleviate the coal transportation problem.
In 1895 Japan took control of Taiwan and Penghu as a result of the Sino-Japanese war, and began to survey the forests and geography to maximize capitalist gains for the empire. Coal would be an important part in industrializing the Empire, as it was the major fuel source at the time. In 1896 Japan opened the coal mining industry to the public, and the next year the price of coal doubled, as demand increased. But as local know how and technology was lacking, imported coal from Japan was actually cheaper than producing it in Taiwan.
However in 1906 the coal industry in Taiwan gradually improved. New mining machinery moved to Tianliao, Keelung to support Japan’s Naval fleet. Sugar factories in southern Taiwan also needed a constant supply of coal.
During the First World War, the Empire of Japan became an important supplier of coal to western countries fighting in the war, and Taiwan’s coal exports gradually increased. In 1917-1918, Japan opened 194 new coal mines in Taiwan. They also built the Pingxi Railway which became the most productive site for coal mining, in its heyday producing 220,000 tons of coal per year. (The Taiwan coal mine museum now lays here, along withHoutong cat village). However, after World War I ended, the demand for coal declined, many mines closed, and there was widespread overproduction. But as industrialization continued in Taiwan, so did the demand for coal. To keep production going constantly, Japan provided subsidies to coal mines.
At the start of the second Sino-Japanese war, demand for coal rose dramatically, as did the price of coal. But also due to losses of manpower during the war, coal production saw a huge drop.
In 1945 Japan lost the war and Taiwan and Penghu were given back to China. Not long after this, the remaining government owned mines were transformed into the Taiwan mining company, but by then mining had all but stopped. However by 1949 after the KMT retreated to Taiwan, Taiwan became an important economic partner with America, and coal production began to soar to 1,650,000 tons of coal in 1951, mainly to fuel Taiwan’s coal power plants and other large industries. With economic support from the USA, new mines started opening. In 1960 Taiwan produced 4 million tons of coal.
Due to demand and the free market, coal mines gradually started closing and production went down, until by 1964 Taiwan produced only 2.8 million tons of coal. In 1969 Taiwan Power started using gas power plants which were cheaper than coal, lowering demand. By 1977 Taiwan had produced only 2 million tons of coal. During this time, Taiwan also improved safety regulations for coal mines, but accidents still kept happening, forcing the government to close quite a few mines. Here is a list of mining incidents in Taiwan.
The lone survivor of one1984 mining incident that killed 93 people survived by cannibalism and drinking pee over a period of 90 hours inside the mine. He later said that if he had to do it all over again, he would still have eaten his coworkers.
Local coal soon became more costly to mine than just importing it. In the year 2000, Sanxia’s Lifeng Mine shut down operations, and Taiwan’s mining company closed, and thus all coal mining in Taiwan effectively stopped.
History of Xinfeng Coal Mine:
Xinfeng Mine Ltd. officially opened in 1965, shut down operations in 1984, and was liquidated in 2008. This I found by searching the government’s website.
For further information, I rely on Willy Chang’s blog, the most complete source about Taiwan coal mines that is easily accessible on the web. He has access to numerous Chinese print source materials, so I trust that his facts our correct. His blog has over 270 posts on Taiwan coal mines. If you don’t mind reading a bit of Chinese, you should go check out his blog:
The first mine at the site was called Yuanfa Coal mine, and then it changed its name to Fuyuan Coal Mine, before becoming Xinfeng mine. The mine itself started in 1951 and ran for 34 years, and a total of 223,718 tons of coal were mined during its lifetime, for an average of 6,579 tons per year.
The first time I came here, I didn’t find any trail leading up to the mine, so I gave up. After reading Willy’s blog again, I found that you have to walk through the Wang family’s house to get to the mine. The family owns the land the the mine now rests. I asked permission from a young man working there if I could go see the mine, and he said it was fine.
I got lost the first time, going straight when I should have taken a right. The mine is down in the ravine, and is pretty easy to find. I was surprised to find though that the mine had become much more overgrown than Willy’s last visit in 2012.
After crossing the small stream, the first the I came across was the mine itself. You can see that the top of the mine, the bricks that once held the name of the mine itself, have been knocked down and have fallen to the cave entrance. I don't know if it was vandals or what, but it doesn't seem likely that the bricks just fell down on their own.
Inside the tunnel, it was dark, but clean. The insides looked pretty intact.
Here is a video of my original walk to the mine, as well as waling in the mine tunnel:
I tried to go deeper into the tunnel but chickened out. I was afraid of dropping my only light source, my iPhone, into the water, so I turned back.
The next place I found was the electrical control house.
Everything had been torn out of the electrical control room.
Someone forgot their shirt on the window.
Fallen electric pole.
Behind the electrical control house is the mine office building, which is exactly the same as when Willy went there in 2012, just there is a lot more vegetation.
Yes, it was raining. But that never stops a good urban explorer!
An abandoned desk surrounded by fallen roof panels.
Broken roof. I’m not sure if this building ever had complete walls.
Crates of forgotten booze.
Rusted natural gas can.
Records that probably can still be played.
A table cloth and bun steamer lost in the dirt.
Toothpaste. I think.
A pile of abandoned mining helmets.
Forgotten fridge and fan.
Really old bottle of Apple Cidra. And a flip-flop.
Basket of empty booze.
TV taken in by nature.
Kitchen and helmet rooms.
Office and rock retention wall.
Saying goodbye to Xinfeng mine. I had to snap that branch in half to get a decent photo. So much for leaving no trace.
On the way home, I caught this view next to Academia Sinica Road.
Exploring this place was fun, and I was glad that the owners of the property were so willing to let me in. Taiwan is full of these abandoned mines, many of which are slowly being swallowed by the jungle and forgotten, with no one to care about their historic meaning or their whereabouts. I’m glad that we can help document these decaying monuments and help the English community around the world learn a little bit more about Taiwan’s past and present.
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A few months ago we wrote a blog about the Songshan Sanatorium Superintendent’s Dormitory, a Japanese era building that is one of the best preserved in Taipei, which is sitting and rotting while the Taipei government figures out funding for its renovation. We were interested to find the actual sanatorium itself, and if it even still existed. It was not easy to find or easy to get to, but we did eventually find it…at least the part of it that is still standing.
I would love to tell everyone where it is, but as it lays on private and protected property; we will not disclose the explicit location. With the help of clues from other blogs and historical photos, we found it abandoned on private property that has 24/7 surveillance.
We did not find a single English article on this building, except in statistical research of the hospital facilities at the time. The building itself is not mentioned as a historical building registry of Taipei.
The original Japanese style, two-storey, wooden Sanatorium was constructed in 1915 during the Japanese colonial period of Taiwan. Here is a picture of the original wooden Sanatorium (on the left), and the existing concrete extension: Also, here is a photo of the staff in front of the wooden Sanatorium during the Japanese colonial period. A Japanese Physician was assigned as superintendent, and his dormitory was built nearby (松山療養所所長宿舍）, which is now the best preserved and most well-known building connected to the Sanatorium.
The Sanatorium’s main purpose was to treat mentally disabled patients, and later was turned into a center to cure tuberculosis. It has had multiple names through the ages, beginning with松山錫口養生院 (Songshan Xikou Health Hospital), and then changed to 松山療養所 (Songshan Sanatorium) in 1925. When the ROC took control, its changed name was changed again to 台灣省立松山療養院, (Taiwan Provincial Songshan Sanatorium) in 1946, with the first superintendent being Yang TianMu (楊添木). It was also known as (or part of it was) 治肺結核療養所 (Tuberculosis Treatment Sanatorium). Here are a few historical photos of the original wooden sanatorium, with surrounding fields, hills, and lakes. Lakes surrounded the area around what is now the Sanitorium. Nowadays those lakes are mostly filled in, with Nangang Park and an Army base taking their place. There is still one lake left that is much smaller now due to silting.
The original Japanese style wooden Sanatorium building sat on the west side of a prominent hill that at the time. The building had 29 beds in 1915, then the capacity expanded to 72 in 1933.
The cement building that remains was built in the 30s or 40s, probably around the time the Sanatorium’s capacity was expanded. Here is a video that shows changes to the Sanatorium overtime:
From old maps I can tell that the original wooden building was torn down by 1972 in favor of a new cement building, probably for the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Another brick building behind the current cement structure was built around 1965. At the same time, a group of Japanese era buildings below the hill were also torn down to build what is now the administrative buildings for the Ministry of Health and Welfare. By 2014 another historical building that sat in front of the now cement Sanatorium was torn down and the whole place was turned into a parking lot. All the buildings on the lot seemed to be abandoned when I was there. I assume that the whole plot of land now serves as a parking lot for the employees that work at the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The intricate and beautiful two storey Japanese era wooden Sanatorium was torn down around 1972, so all that is left to photograph is the concrete expansion to the Sanatorium.
I visited the existing building at night, avoiding most of the employees that park there during the day time. The whole building is completely boarded up with sheet metal, with no way to peek inside.
There is also a lock and wooden boards blocking the main entrance. That car was driving away as I took this shot. Did he see me? Of course not, I was wearing my invisibility cloak.
On the entrance is spray painted "please do not park at the entrance," I guess they come in and out of it often? Perhaps it is used as a storage shed.
Again, all windows are completely shielded shut.
That car in the corner seemed to be abandoned as well.
There is an address plate still on the outer wall of the Sanatorium. You can see the Taipei 101 from the top of the hill. I’m sure in its time the surrounding lakes, mountains, and Taipei in the distance must have been a beautiful sight for all the patients in the Sanatorium
I ended my tour with a peek into the abandoned building behind the Sanatorium, the one that was built in about 1965. Perhaps this is what the innards of the Sanatorium look like? Probably not, but we may never know. I am not sure the significance of this building, but maybe I will visit again during the daytime when I can take some decent photos.
As with the Sanatorium Superintendent’s Dormitory, I think Taipei City and the Ministry of Health and Welfare want to keep this building hidden and secret. If this building were considered a historical building, then they would be forced to renovate and be burdened with pulling money out of their budget to fix up the place. I’m surprised that the building has not been knocked over earlier to make more room for parking space.
We apologize that we have given so little information about the Sanatorium, but there are very limited resources. We’ll be sure to update this blog we learn of anything further.
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After the ROC took control of Taiwan in 1945, the government designated Taipei's Nangang (南港） as an industrial district. At this time, the brick making and coal mining industries were starting to wind down, and other industries such as chemical plants, tire factories, fertilizer, and others were taking off. A forest of Smokestacks covered the area, and and because of this Nangang was known as Black Town “黑鄉.” For a view of what the old Nangang looked like, click here.
Songshan Brick Factory Smokestack 松山磚廠烟囪
Of the many smokestacks that once covered Nangang, only 3 remain standing, and there is another which is highly damaged. The first smokestack I will talk about is not very well known at all. In fact I only found one blog that mentions it, calling it "南港繁華的磚廠遺址," and there is also a facebook page that someone created for it, which has a pretty good history of the place. This factory is still in use as a banana field/garage.
曾經覆蓋南港的煙囪中，只剩下3個，還有一被破損的煙囪。 我會說的第一個煙囪根本不是很有名。 其實我只找到一個提到它的部落格，稱它為“南港繁華的磚廠遺址”，還有人為它創建的Facebook頁面，這個頁面有很好的地方歷史。 這家工廠目前有香蕉場/車庫的作用。
To paraphrase from the Facebook page, the kiln was one of many brick kilns in the surrounding neighborhoods. After the tea industry began to decline in Nangang, brick making became the mainstay for the area. Clay was harvested from what is now Songshan station, which was ideal for brick making. There were smokestacks pretty much everywhere (making for terrible air quality), and pretty everyone that lived at what is now the border between Nangang an Songshan was involved in the brick making process in some way. There were roughly 50 workers at each brick kiln, earning roughly 200 NT a day. At the time, the brick kiln had the most advanced technology available and could produce 18,000-20,000 bricks a day! The quality was especially fine at the Bagua kiln (across the street from this one, now destroyed). The bricks from that kiln were crack resistant, and some were used in what is now the presidential office building in Taipei.
從Facebook的頁面來解釋，這個窯是周圍社區的眾多磚窯之一。 南港茶業開始衰落後，製磚成為該地區的中流砥柱。 從現在的松山車站收穫粘土，這是製磚的理想選擇。 幾乎到處都是煙囪（造成可怕的空氣質量），而那些生活在南港和松山之間邊界的每一個人，都以某種方式參與了製磚的過程。 每座磚窯大約有50名工人，每天能掙大約200新台幣。 當時，磚窯擁有最先進的技術，每天可以生產1.8萬到2萬塊磚！ 八卦窯的質量特別好（與現在的馬街隔街相望）。 那個窯裡的磚頭是抗裂的，有的被用在現在的台北總統辦公樓裡。
As environmental regulations tightened and demand for bricks decreased, the factory decided to shut down in 1971. After that, the kiln went back to nature, and the owner filled the kiln in with garbage and rubble. The Taipei City government wanted to make the brick kiln into a historical building, but the owner of the kiln did not want to. To escape the city's grasp, he even destroyed the Bagua kiln across the street. In the end the owner got away with it because he owned the property.
隨著環保法規的緊縮和對磚塊的需求下降，工廠決定在1971年關閉。之後，窯爐回歸自然，窯主用垃圾和瓦礫填滿了窯爐。 台北市政府想把磚窯變成一座歷史悠久的建築，但窯主並不想。 為了逃離城市，他甚至摧毀了馬路對面的八卦窯。 所有者最終因為擁有這個財產而逃走了。
This place was actually so hard to find that I came across it by accident having nothing to go on but a picture from the former blog. The smokestack itself is not that prominent either because it is hid in the middle of a bunch of buildings.
Do you see the brick kiln? Look again.
This historic brick kiln is now hidden on the side of a busy road and is now covered in bushes. If you didn't know what you were looking for, it could easily be mistaken as a brick wall or a mound of dirt.
After discovering the brick factory, I decided to investigate the smokestack first.
In order to get to the base, I had to walk behind some houses in the alley behind the smokestack. I found much garbage. I think this has something to do with the recycling plant next door.
為了到達烟囪，我不得不走在煙囪後面胡同後面的一些房屋後面。 我發現很多垃圾。 我認為這與隔壁的回收工廠有關。
And there it is, the smokestack base in all its glory. Obviously completely out of use.
Someone had made the old brick factory into their own private garage/storage.
If you look closely you can see the opening to the brick kiln, and apparently it has been filled in with rubble. I then began to investigate the brick kiln itself.
From the road, I climbed on top of the brick kiln to the banana field above. You would never notice you're on a brick kiln except for the square holes in the ground.
I then decided to get a view of the smokestack from the other side.
From this angle, I could see no opening at the bottom of the smokestack, which I thought was interesting.
After I went home, I searched the factory using some old maps on the Center for GIS research on the Acadamia Cinica website. Here is a video compiling areal photos of the brick kiln over time:
You may notice that there were once two brick kilns and smokestacks next to each other. The brick kiln on the left of the image, Bagua Kiln, has been torn down by the owner, apparently to not have to deal with the property becoming a historical building. All that remains now is an asphalt lot (pictured below). However next to the asphalt lot is a historical residence (dating back to the Bagua kiln) that is still lived in today.
你可能會注意到有兩座磚窯和煙囪相鄰。 圖像左側的磚窯八卦窯已被業主拆除，顯然不需要處理該物業成為歷史建築。 現在剩下的就是一個瀝青堆（如下圖）。 然而，旁邊的瀝青地段是一個歷史悠久的住宅（可追溯到八卦窯），現在仍然住在這裡。
So basically, the owner is a selfish guy who would rather tear down his historical property making it worthless, than preserving for the city and its citizens to enjoy. The lot now just sits there, not even as a parking lot, just an empty asphalt lot.
Nangang Tire Factory Smokestack 南港輪胎公司煙囪
By the 1950s after coal mining and the brick industry had begun to slow down, Nangang was designated as an industrial district for tires, fertilizer, flower, chemicals, and other industries. Taiwan’s first tire factory, the old Nangang tire factory built in 1959 (which is now an empty lot between Civic Blvd. and Nangang Road) used to have very prominent smokestack that was later designated as a historical building, but was torn down recently.
In its prime, the tire factory was the economic center of Nangang. All that remains of the factory and smokestack now is a small stub in the ground part of an empty lot. There are still many tire stores, bus depots, car repair shops, car rental shops, car sales outlets, as well as driver’s education courses in Nangang. These remnants from an older time seem now to clash with the modern developments in Nangang.
輪胎廠在巔峰時期是南港的經濟中心。 現在工廠和煙囪裡剩下的只剩下一小塊土地的一小部分了。 南崗還有很多輪胎店，汽車站，汽車修理店，汽車出租店，汽車銷售點以及駕訓班。 這些舊時代的殘餘現在似乎與南港的現代事態發展相衝突。
Areal view of the destroyed smokestack.
The entire factory has been leveled into a brown lot, apparently to make way for a shopping mall that so no signs of construction.
The fence around the lot blew down after a typhoon one day, giving us a rare glimpse inside (faint rainbow in the background).
After visiting the tire factory plot and taking pictures, I noticed that the original smokestack rested in the center of the the lot, not on the side where it rests today. Proof of this can be found in historical aerial photos:
The Nangang Tire Factory Smokestack was listed as a historical building at one time, so it is surprising that is was torn down, and then moved. I am guessing the only reason that one small part of the smokestack still exists on the property is because it was listed as a historical building, so they couldn't destroy "all" of it, or something. I don't know.
南港輪胎廠煙囪一度被列為歷史建築，被拆遷後感到驚訝。 我猜測，房子裡一小撮煙囪依然存在的唯一原因，是因為它被列為歷史建築，所以它們不能摧毀它的“全部”，或者什麼東西。 我不知道。
Liberty Factory Smokestack in Nangang 利百代南港工廠烟囪
The third smokestack I will discuss in Nangang is the Liberty Factory smokestack, which sits in the middle of the Liberty stationary factory. This smokestack is not very obvious to the average passerby, and is not open to the public.
Liberty is a popular stationary brand in Taiwan, and their Nangang factory hires quite a few employees. I'm not saying that I actually investigated this smokestack, but there may have been a time when the security guard was on his dinner break and perhaps I got a peek inside. I did not take any photographs, but I could see that the smokestack is still connected to the stationary factory. Whether it is still in use or not I do not know, but I doubt that it is.
利百代是台灣頗受歡迎的固定品牌，南港工廠聘用了不少員工。 我並不是說我調查過這個煙囪，但是可能有一段時間，當保安人員在他的晚餐休息時間，也許我在裡面窺視。 我沒有拍攝任何照片，但我可以看到煙囪仍然連接到固定工廠。 不管它是否還在使用我都不知道，但是我懷疑它是不是。
The entrance to the factory. Perhaps you have seen their products before?
Jaguar Land Rover Smokestack 路虎和捷豹車煙囪
The fourth smokestack in Nangang is perhaps the hardest to find. It lies in the guarded parking lot behnd the Jaguar and Land Rover car dealerships on Nangang Road, very much not open to the public. Seeing as there are guards there 24/7 with no breaks protecting the vehicles in the overflow parking lot, I have no further information regarding this smokestack.
南港的第四個煙囪也許是最難找到的。 在南港路的捷豹和路虎汽車經銷店裡，有一個守衛的停車場，非常不開放。 看到那裡有警衛24/7沒有休息地保護在溢出停車場車輛，我沒有關於這煙囪進一步的信息。
Model Smokestack Preservation: Huashan 1914 Creative Park Smokestack
The next smokestack I will discuss is actually in Zhongzheng District, Taipei, but it is a great example of how Nangang should be preserving its past. Huashan 1914 Park in Taipei was originally a wine factory, built in 1914 (as its name suggests). The smokestack itself was built in1931 and was used to fuel the heat needed for the distillery. In the late 90's, early 2000's, a few artists discovered the well-preserved abandoned spaces that the distillery provided and started to hold private performances there. Later the place became more and more popular, and eventually the government decided to turn the place into a creative park.
我將要討論的下一個煙囪實際上是在台北中正區，但它是南港如何保存過去的一個很好的例子。 華山1914文化創意產業園區是一座建於1914年的酒廠（顧名思義）。 煙囪本身建於1931年，用於燃燒酒廠所需的熱量。 九十年代末，二十年代初，一些藝術家發現了酒廠提供的保存完好的廢棄空間，並開始在那裡舉辦私人表演。 後來這個地方越來越受歡迎，最終政府決定把這個地方變成一個創意園。
The smokestack sits on the west side of the park, with no signs or explanations to tell you what its purpose was.
Fuel loading door. 燃料裝載門。
Gauges and pipes perhaps connecting to the distillery.
Huashan park might do a better job at preserving the surrounding buildings than the actual smokestack, but it is still leaps and bound ahead of all efforts in Nangang.
Although technological innovation and new development projects are exciting (such as the new exhibition centers, City Link, CTBC building, and music hall), I feel that Nangang is neglecting its rich historic past. Many historic buildings are sitting in decay without a way for the public to appreciate them. Other historic sites, such as the Nangang tire factory smokestack have been completely demolished. I hope that in the future Nangang can continue to develop, but not wipe out its own past in the process. The scattered and scarce historical sites that still remain in Nangang should be protected, refurbished, and opened for future generations to enjoy. The District should take Huashan Creative park as an example, and use these historic sites for the public's value and well being, and not let them sit in decay, or worse, destroy them.
雖然技術創新和新開發項目令人興奮（如新展覽中心，城市連接，CTBC大廈，音樂廳），但我覺得南港忽略了其悠久的歷史。 許多歷史悠久的建築正在衰敗中，沒有一種方法讓公眾去欣賞它們。 南港輪胎廠煙囪等其他歷史遺跡已全部拆除。 我希望今後的南鋼能夠繼續發展，而不是在這個過程中抹去自己的過去。 仍然留在南崗的零星稀缺的歷史遺跡應該得到保護，翻新，開放供後人享用。 該區應以華山創意園為例，將這些歷史遺跡用於公眾的價值和福祉，不要讓它們坐在頹廢中，或者更糟糕的是摧毀它們。
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According to Taiwan’s National Cultural Heritage Database Management System, Nangang district in Taipei only has 5 registered historical buildings. The most recent of these is the Que Family Ancestral House “闕家祖厝”, also known as Decheng Residence “德成居.” This house was added to Taiwan’s list of historical buildings in May of 2017, much to the chagrin of the houses’ current owner, causing a dispute between the family and the Ministry of Culture, which I discuss further in this post.
This building, which comprises of a Sanheyuan (Three sided courtyard) and one side having a second storey watch tower, was built in 1924 by the Que Family who had emigrated from Quanzhou, Fujian, China. The house is built in Southern Min red brick style, with imported materials from Fujian. The roof was originally made of grass, then later replaced by modern materials. When first built, it stood in front of a small pond and was surrounded by cattle pasture, which was considered very good fengshui. After Academia Road was build in front of it, its fengshui was thus cut off, and has fallen into decay ever since (supposedly). It is an example of some of the best architecture and artistry of the Japanese era in Taiwan.
Members of the Que family have been very influential in the leadership and development of the Nangang-Xizhi area, especially in coal mining and brick making. Que Shankeng (闕山坑) was the first democratically elected leader of Nangang Town in 1946 during the ROC era. The Que family has many members that have since participated in politics. Currently there are huge numbers of Que family descendants in Nangang, Xizhi, and Neihu. Some elementary schools in Nangang used to have over 20 students in one class named Que. Now the family is very wealthy and has built two ancestor halls to worship their forebears, one in Xizhi being14 stories high.
Controversy and Drama over Que Family Ancestral House:
The current owner of the plot of land that the house stands on is not happy that his property has been changed into a historical building by the city government. Originally the owner claimed that his land was appraised at 500 million TWD, but now that the house has been classified as a historical building, it is only worth 50 million TWD. The family also claimed that the government is encroaching on the family’s livelihood by diminishing the value of the property, by protecting a “dilapidated house” that has ”no value,” even though they still live in the house!
However, another government official disagreed with the 50 million NTD assessment, stating that the current property with a historical building on it can still build a 7 or 8 storey apartment building, and the surrounding land is still very valuable. However, as you can see by the map below (which can be found for freeon the government's website), the land plots surrounding the house circle around like rings of an onion, so it might be hard to organize a build among remaining property owners, and I assume this has stopped them in the past. The family currently owns plots 176-2、177、178、178-3、179、179-1、180、180-1、181、185、and 186 in the map below.
My Visit There:
The Que ancestral house is located at No. 120, Academia Rd Sec 1, Nangang District, Taipei City (臺北市南港區研究院路1段120號). This structure is not far from the MRT Nangang Exhibition Center station. Map:
My first reaction to coming here was: wow people actually still live here!
You can see the words "德嚴居" Deyan Residence still visible above the door. This part of the house contains two storeys.
There is some beautiful jade ventilation near the apex of each residence. The roof has been remade into tin on the bottom floors. The second storey of the Deyan Residence was used as a watchtower and armory (a place to safe-keep guns) to protect against thieves.
Old mixed with modern appliances and poorly placed electric wires.
To the left is another house that is connected. All of these places are very much lived in by people.
As I was taking this picture a lady walked up behind me and ignored that I was there. I would have investigated the place further if this was not someone's personal residence. In the center is one of the Que ancestral halls in Nangang, which I am sure many Que family member come to worship. Notice the missing roof on the left; I think this came off during the last typhoon because it was there in earlier photos that I have seen. I don't know what kind of rot and other damage is going in there. I was thinking, if you live here how hard would it be to put some more plastic roofing on the precious ancestral hall?
Random shed in front of the building that looks like it was built from garbage. Again, this is built on land that is supposedly worth 500 million NTD.
Another side of the house that looks very unkept. Although to be fair these weeds had been mowed down the last time I passed by.
This part of the house has a tin roof as well as sliding glass windows installed. The original roof on the house was made of cogongrass, but because it was too hard to maintain, eventually the family installed more modern tile roofing, and now simply tin roofing.
One last view of the Que family ancestral home: one can see colorful dragon and animal designs on the roof of the second floor still intact, made from colored ceramics. Also the wooden doors above look pristine (wooden doors are also used in the ancestral hall). I give credit to the Que family for keeping the house in as good condition as it is, but weeds growing on your roof is not going to win you any prizes from the homeowners association.
Our Opinion on the Controversy:
In my opinion, the current Que descendants that own the land around the house can't entirely blame the government for any loss of value for their land. I mean, you own a house that you and your kids have never paid rent on. Where is your salary going if you have been living here free your whole life? You had almost 100 years to fix up and replace this house, but you let it sit there and decay. You live there every day, but you don’t do much of anything to maintain the appearance of the house and let weeds grow everywhere. You had all the time in the world to convert this precious edifice into modern apartment buildings but you didn’t. You also don’t appreciate the work of your forefathers who have created one of the most beautiful buildings of its time in the area, and say it has no value. If I were your ancestors, I wouldn’t be happy about that, and I especially wouldn't be happy that you still haven't fixed the roof on my ancestor hall.
That being said, the government is also pretty lame for all of the sudden making this a historical building without the family’s permission. Seeing that the family is still living in the house, making it a historical building does basically nothing for the general public at large. Its still private property. If the family would have agreed to it, then perhaps they would also agree to let the public freely enjoy this historical edifice as well.
It will be interesting to see what happens to this house in the coming months and years. Though the family says they want the sell the property or build new apartment buildings on it, I don’t think that will happen as they have not done anything thus far in 93 years of the house's existence, and also the housing market recently has slowed down considerably in Taipei.
For now the house has been declared a historical building, and the family will have to decide how they are going to deal with that classification going forward. Thank for joining me on this journey. Please leave your comments below, and don’t forget to like and share!
Nangang, the district in Taipei where I live and work, has a rich history that includes being a center for industry and transportation. However many of Nangang do historical buildings have been destroyed or sit in decay out of view of the general public, mostly due to greedy bureaucrats. One such building that lays hidden in Nangang from the Japanese era called “松山療養所長宿舍” which I have translated as “The Songshan Sanatorium Superintendent’s Dormitory.”
Built in 1925, this dormitory was made for the Japanese doctor that watched over the mental hospital nearby. Made a historical building in 2006, the government later said it required 20,000,000 NT to restore the building and open it to the public. It is planned to be reopened as an “Art Therapy” center for children with special needs, where they can learn to paint, draw, and perform. Here is a depiction of what the building is supposed to look like when finished.
Originally this building was under supervision of the Ministry of Culture, but then the government decided to hand it over to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, who did not want to take on such an expensive project. The Ministry of Culture promised to give funds to help the project, but it has not happened. Supposedly the Ministry of Culture was supposed to pass on funds to the Ministry of Health and Welfare this year, but it seems everyone is dragging their feet.
Below is a historical time travel I have created using maps from here:
Besides climbing over the low brick wall, one can squeeze through an opening between a tree behind someone's private parking space. I was carrying a baby on the front of me so I imagine any fat person could slip through just fine.
Walking around the back of the building, one can see collapsed brick wall and rubble everywhere. This brick wall has collapsed recently because I have seen it standing in other people's blogs.
Behind the dormitory is garden, and a red tin house construction that has been added on recently for cleaning purposes I assume. The entire house is very much securely locked, so even the most skilled ninja will have trouble getting in.
That is a new deadbolt. The person that "regularly cleans" the place surely comes in through here. There is no other entrance into the building that hasn't been boarded off.
There are a few storage shed type constructions around the dormitory. I assume that perhaps their purpose was to store wood or coal fuel.
There is quite a large sinkhole in the ground here, I imagine this is one of the reasons why restoring this place would be so expensive.
View from inside the front yard shed. I'm not sure what the metal object in the far right corner is. Perhaps a well. Also I am not sure what the red wooden object is in the background, and why it is not stored in the house.
You will notice that the windows protrude out of the house. This is to protect the rooms from rain. Also the cement foundation with airways is supposed to protect the house from pests such as termites, although I imagine they now spray the house for bugs.
At this point I had given up on getting inside the house, but I found that there was still a way to get pictures of the inside.
This is the best I can give you for the house's interior. There is wood everything, and it all looks in somewhat decent shape. Although I think they should fire whoever they hired to "regularly" clean this place.
I took off my my loyal steed, which I left unlocked because this is Taiwan, and thus concluded my exploration of the place.
Some work has been done to preserve this building, but now it simply sits in southwestern Nangang, boarded up, empty, and rotting. Although this building is kept in somewhat good condition and is cleaned regularly, it seems a great pity that more has not been done to preserve it for the public to enjoy. It is now in a political tennis court where different government agencies to not want to pay for its repair. As Mayor Ke said, having a historical building placed under your bureau is like getting a fine; you have to pay for the repairs. Now everyone wants to pass this “fine” around. So I guess the general feeling in the government is to ignore history and culture and do not spend money to restore these burdensome "fines" at all costs. It’s a sad mindset that has all but destroyed most of Nangang’s history.
This building is one of the few well preserved Japanese wooden buildings in Taipei. It should be preserved for the public to enjoy, and the Taipei city government should be ashamed for greedily hoarding funds and putting it its renovation for so long.
The location of the actual Sanatorium itself not well documented and currently lies on protected private property. It too is boarded up, but unlike the dormitory it is hidden away, forgotten, and thus has not been made a historical building. For more info please send me a message. If I have time I might make a follow up blog on it.
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When I tell Taiwanese people that I live in Nangang, some older people tell me that it is a place full of factories and industry. However Nangang today is a vibrant and modern part of Taipei, full of greenery and advanced architecture. But sadly, there is almost no trace of Nangang’s industrial history anywhere.
Nangang 南港means “South Port” in Chinese. This south port once rested on the southern banks of the Keelung River near what is now the Neihu MRT depot in Nangang District, Taipei. There was a "North Port" on the Keelung river in what is now Xizhi. Nangang was once part of Neihu District before it split in the ROC era. In the earliest times, Nangang was known as an industry hub for coal, brick making, and tea farming. In order to ship goods from Neihu to Nangang rail station, at least two suspension bridges were made across the Keelung River.
Currently two remaining suspension bridge towers next to the Keelung River from the industrial era of Nangang. The best preserved is “五分吊橋” Wufen suspension bridge. According to the signs next to the bridge, it was built in 1918.
This bridge is very large and prominent along the river. It has its own garden and sidewalk around it as well as signs detailing the historical significance of the bridge. I see no reason not to just explain what the signs already say.
I will paraphrase the signs next to Wufen Suspension Bridge :
During the late Qing and Japanese era, brick making was the main industry in Neihu. The soil and clay here was prime for brick making, and many brick kilns sprung up in the area. However in modern times due to pollution, price of land, and other factors the brick making industry has all but disappeared here.
During the Japanese era, there were many coal mines that sprung up in Neihu, mining two major coal veins. After 1950, the coal mining industry could not compete with modern industry and gradually disappeared.
Wufen bridge was the first bridge built across the Keelung river for shipping coal to Nangang train station, where it could then be shipped across all Taiwan. The bridge broke apart in 1969 and was not repaired since. In 2004 the Taipei City government designated it as a historical building, recognizing it as one of the last standing suspension bridges in Taipei and an important structure showing the modernization of the area.
History of Wufen Village: Basically Wufen village changed its name and area through the years and is now part of Donghu village in Neihu District.
Another bridge that many people forget exists further down the river as a monument to Taipei’s past. This bridge is called Nanhu Suspension bridge, “南湖吊橋” and also called “內湖葫蘆洲吊橋” Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge. It sits on the top of an embankment and has no signs or anything to tell us its history. But, the fact that it still stands is a miracle.
This bridge stands directly north of Nangang station, giving a direct path for coal and other good from Neihu. Map:
According to this source, Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge was built in 1930 and was the main connection between what is now Nangang and Neihu. It helped to carry bricks and coal across the river during the height of the brick making era. Now all that remains is one tower, which has been declared a historical monument. But now it seems the only people that care about this historical artifact are a few graffiti artists and the person that cuts the grass.
Another suspension bridge down the river from this era was Changshou Suspension bridge長壽吊橋, which was rebuilt for foot passengers. I will have to cover this in a later blog.
Even though these towers may seem insignificant, they are some of the last historical monuments left in the area. Wufen Suspension bridge is perhaps the best preserved and presented historical monument near Nangang, and is a shining beacon to future historical preservation in Taipei, which is sorely needed.
On the border of Nangang and Xizhi there lies a row of 3 caves with 6 openings, on Minquan Street Sec. 1 (民權街一段) near the intersection with Datong Road (大同路). It is a place that many never notice, but yet pass by every day.
Having passed by these tunnels many times, my interest was piqued. I had no idea what they were, or how far they went into the mountain. I thought that perhaps they could be abandoned military bunkers or tunnels. I have searched online, but I still cannot find anything about them. So I assume I am the first person to blog about them in English or Chinese.
I have posted the video here so that you can experience the whole cave in its entirety, and hopefully you will not feel the need to come here yourself.
At the 6 entrances to the tunnels there are piles of leaves. Inside every cave there is trash everywhere. But not just any trash: recyclables.
Also there was a mattress and chairs in a few of them, so I assume someone lived here at one point, if not still to this day. At best I can guess this was a trash collector’s hovel.
This place was dirty, wet, and smelly. Also, there is nothing really special worth seeing. I would not recommend coming here.
Just so you know, trash collecting and recycling is a popular occupation for many in Taiwan that don’t have another source of income. They sort through other’s trash to find things that are recyclable and then sell them to recycling plants for a few bucks. I have a feeling that many of them live in abandoned houses, and I am sure that one of them lived in this cave. I am not sure how they would have liked me traipsing around their house. But then again I am not sure if someone actually lives there at all.
If you want to go there and see the caves for yourself (although I think you probably shouldn't after reading this), here is a map:
If you know anything about these caves or have anything else to add, please comment, below.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.