Shanjia

A little like the Dapinglin Riverlands post I wrote last year this is a fairly aimless wander through a nice but admittedly not spectacular place. One location led to another and I just felt like recording the whole trip. Shanjia is a small village between Shulin and Taoyuan. I’d noticed the Japanese era train station and a few red-brick houses from the train and was intrigued enough to stop off.

Earlier in the morning I had run an exam in Taoyuan. The work is easy and they pay for travel so I use these jobs to explore areas outside of Taipei. Heading back to the station I stopped by two large colonial era warehouses next to the railway.

One is still in use but the other is an empty ruin with holes in the roof.

I got on the local train to Shanjia, thinking I’d jump off, have a quick look around the old station, and then head back to Taipei.

This was the day after very heavy rain and flash flooding had hit much of northern Taiwan washing away cars and scooters in Keelung and Danshui. There’re a few videos around Youtube. I hadn’t realized the rain would become as heavy this day too. Several times, starting from disembarkation at Shanjia, I was stuck in torrential rain.

The old wood and stone railway station dates from 1931 and has been nicely restored. There are a few models and videos inside but it’s really a ten minute or so distraction. Next to the main station building there was another small hut. Inside there was a coal truck and this map on the wall.

I hadn’t realized Shanjia was a mining town. From my other posts you can tell I have some interest in Taiwan’s old mines. Fortunately I can read enough Chinese and I found two mine tunnels on the map.

In a break in the rain I went south a little around the main part of the town. There wasn’t much of interest here bar some long ruined and overgrown sanheyuan. It’s seems like it’s a very sleepy but well-off town where most people commute to Taoyuan or Taipei for work.

Heading under the railway bridge I made for the furthest mine. I passed some pretty hillside village streets and an out of place luxury building on the way.

Shanjia is out of the way enough to still have a lot of traditional houses.

I also passed by a strange abandoned white building that I decided I would check out once some people had moved on. The mine entrance itself was quite scenic. Small streams cascaded around it and some koi carp lazily floated in a pool.

The entrance on a dry day

The restored electricity building

This mine apparently had a difficult history. Many of the people running it eventually declared bankruptcy after repeated setbacks like flooding. Despite this the mine is over a century old and operated for a long time. Some coal carts were parked in the entrance but the whole area was flooded. In the darkness I could make out a metal grill blocking further access to the tunnel and some jumbled up coal carts. On my return visit the ground was dry and the grill open, but the mine tunnel drops off sharply and is totally flooded.

The carts on dry ground and the flooded deeper tunnel section.

I retreated to a small earth god temple and waited out a heavier downpour.

On the way back I headed into the white building.

It was open at the ground floor. The white section is only the front third of the building. The rest has been left in its original state. It looks like a rapidly deteriorating 1940’s or 50’s institutional building. I’m not totally sure what this building was used for. I haven’t found anything in Chinese online about it, even in posts about Shanjia mines. The large open rooms and general style of the building suggest it was a public facility of some sort.

Perhaps it was a school or a clinic. The tilework and bathrooms reminded me of the clinic buildings at Losheng and I expect it had something to do with the mine nearby.

Institutional tiling in the dark interior

As I made my way through the ruins the thunderstorm became heavier and the darker sections were quite eerie. Particularly the moment I opened a creaky door into this incredibly stale room, just a lone chair in the center as thunder pealed.

The white section is a particular mystery. This section has been restored fairly recently but then abandoned. Google streetview shows it was renovated after 2012 but was already deteriorating by 2015. The damage looks typhoon related.  

The very flooded roof

My suspicion is that it acted as a showroom for the luxury building almost opposite. It’s in that same futuristic all-white style as almost all the other showrooms I’ve seen. One half-restored room was accessible; the others were locked or sealed off by plywood walls. It seems builders got halfway through this room and then gave up. Tools have been left; the light switch even has a plastic wrapper on it.

On the way back to the town I stopped at the large temple on top of the hill. There were a few people sat around drinking tea so they invited me to join them. Later the daughter of the temple’s founder showed me around the halls. Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, occupies a lower hall. I asked if there was a reason why she’s sometimes white, and sometimes gold, but apparently there is not. Shangdi, who is one of the most revered Taoist gods, occupies the highest hall.

One of Shangdi's generals

I was told we are all children of Shangdi. My birth certificate suggests I’m a child of a Kevin and a Tracey, but maybe Shangdi’s there in invisible ink.    

Whiteout in a downpour at the temple

I headed back into the village to the second mine. There’s a small mine cart bridge lost in the forest near Zhonghe Road that I found on my second visit.

The main pit is surrounded by pretty red brick houses and an angry but chained up dog.

Shanjia No 1. Mine

It’s also completely flooded even on dry days and the surrounding mine buildings are now houses.

Grouchiest dog in Shanjia, though it has strong competition.

Above the mine, a factory has taken over the other few mine buildings. On my second visit I was driving so I headed up the mountain roads around the town but failed to find anything especially interesting.   

A few old houses and an earth god shrine above the town

The main stream running through Shanjia on each visit.

The second visit a few months later was to try and find the tunnels shown in this blog on Minhe Street. I found the arched cart railway bridge from 1952 opposite a small waterfall pool.

It’s quite scenic although there was a lot of garbage around. Apparently there are three mines in this valley, all established in the 1940’s and 50’s. However I’m not totally sure where any of them are. Each time I tried a route I was confronted by territorial dogs and a bemused resident. They each told me the mines are destroyed and can’t be seen. One indicated they were further up the mountain but my impression was they were just trying to get rid of me. Anyway, I think tracing the stream one day when it’s warm enough will work and get me past the houses so I’ll update then.