South Taiwan's Industrial Heritage
Text & photos by Steven Crook Translated by Annie Liu
On an island where there are more factories than parks, movie theaters and museums combined, it seems strange that industrial heritage is being preserved and celebrated. Yet this is what's happening: Mines and breweries in North Taiwan, and sugar refineries and waterworks in the south, are being turned into tourist attractions.
Many of these places date from Japan's 1895-1945 occupation of Taiwan. Goto Shinpei, a leading official in the Japanese colonial administration at the beginning of the 20th century, said major public buildings in Taiwan should be "soldiers in civilian clothes." He thought that large edifices would overawe the local population, and impress upon them Japan's might and wisdom.
The Old Tainan Watercourse is a good example. This disused filtration and pumping station beside the Zengwun River in Tainan County is a splendid complex of baroque-style buildings filled with perfectly preserved old machinery. Unfortunately, it's not usually open to the public.
The sugar refineries at Ciaotou, just north of Kaohsiung City, Cishan (on the road to Meinong), and Suantou in Chiayi County are open to visitors. The 106-year-old Ciaotou Sugar Refinery will soon be a stop on the KMRT red line. Controversially some of the buildings were demolished to make way for the KMRT station, but easier access should lead to a greater appreciation of what experts regard as the finest of Taiwan's sugar refineries.
The Hakka town of Meinong is hardly industrialized, but it has hundreds of old tobacco-drying barns, and a small power station that's typical of Japanese “built-to-last” architecture. The barns are distinctive two-story structures; some are concrete, many are brick or wattle-and-daub. Jhumen Power Plant is outside