When I set myself the task of mapping interesting places I'd found in Taiwan, the country began to grow. I realized there was so much I was yet to see, even in the Taipei area. So much, that after months of work, all the places I found in Taichung, Tainan etc, are still waiting to be marked. I even realized that for one reason or another I'd not been to a few of the well known attractions in Taipei. So this led to a visit to Shilin, and among other sites the Chaing Kai Shek Official Shilin Residence, and the Shilin Paper Factory.
The first of these is quite well known, and I hadn't been mostly because I just hadn't been interested. The house itself is an unspectacular 1950's building, and really just interesting for it's famous former resident. I felt I already knew enough about Chaing from the excellent museum in his memorial. The park is pretty and has some diverse plants, but again it's fairly similar to the Botanical Gardens.
What made it a little more interesting was the collection of long abandoned buildings hidden in the forest by the park entrance. I can only guess at what they once were as they are not labelled on any park maps, and a fair bit of effort has gone into hiding them from the well used paths nearby.
Following a little used path up a small hill (toward the memorial pavilion CKS built to honor his mother) these buildings can be accessed easily. Despite there being hundreds of people in the park, and many tour groups, I didn't see a single other person use this path. I think what made me want to write a little more than just a map marker for these structures was less their architecture or history, and more the almost surreal experience of being totally alone, exploring a forgotten place, within meters of hundreds of regular visitors. The contrast of the stillness and heavy air of the buildings, and the sound of noisy families nearby was strangely unsettling. I find I can't quite express it well here, but it was like I'd left the living world for a moment, and could just here it echoing around me like memory.
There are two low concrete buildings from about the 1950's. From the spartan bunkbeds in one they seem like accommodation for soldiers, who would man bunkers on this hill.
The main area is an ensemble of wooden buildings, that appear to have been left for some decades. They are linked across a few levels, and look as if they are Japanese designed. Perhaps they date from the parks use as an 'experimental botanical garden', in the Japanese era. A couple of parts have completely collapsed into a mess of wood and plantlife.
One long mold stained house has a roof covered in ferns (top image), and seems on the verge of falling down. There is not much furniture, or many objects in the buildings, but I believe they could have been either more military living quarters, or perhaps staff housing. It's possible to enter each house, though the one with the fern roof looks as though it's bulging and warped, and I didn't want to risk a collapse. Again this area was more special for the atmosphere than any architectural gems. It's easy to spot the houses from the main path into the park. And easy to go in and around them from the path that heads behind. I ended up so engrossed here that I missed the last opening time of the main CKS house.
Shilin Paper Factory
I thought I would also put up some pictures of another interesting ruin in the Shilin area. I visited the Shilin Paper Factory for the first time a couple of days ago after having noticed it on Google Earth. I didn't know much about it, and was surprised to find such a large complex with a long history. The oldest parts date from 1918, and are covered in a mat of vines with purple flowers. There are also some more recent corrugated metal warehouses with most of their roofs missing.
Sadly the site is guarded by security, who told me I couldn't wander around. It seems the old offices and part of one warehouse have been renovated and hold arts events. It's been done in a quite unique way for most restoration projects, in that it's been left almost exactly as it was found. It's great to see, as often historic renovations here are sanitized and safety-fied to a point where they lose most of their character and atmosphere. You can see some photos here. I'll have to try and visit during an exhibit and update this section. These photos were taken either around the perimeter or just inside the entrance. I'm unsure what the future holds for this place, but it looks like at least the redbrick portions may be saved. It's within easy walking distance of Shilin Night Market.