critique: is taichung soulless?

Can we really say that Taichung is a soulless city? Well, I kinda think yes.

A recent article is doing the rounds of all the English language newspapers in Taiwan. It discusses the possibility that Taichung is a soulless city, a city searching for it’s identity. After having lived here for a year, I must say that I think it is. It seems that there was once potential for it to become a culturally active city, but I feel that it has let those opportunities pass, or hasn’t promoted what it already has.

Stock 20

Being an inland, centrally positioned city often has its disadvantages and Taichung is not quite near the coast and not quite near the mountains. While the Dakeng Scenic Area is only a short scooter drive from Taichung’s Beitun District and is a really nice hiking trail area, the coastal areas near Taichung Port are underdeveloped and lacking promotion. In the same regard, central Taichung (the area around Taichung Train Station) has fallen into disrepair: “it would take at least five to six years to complete urban regeneration of the downtown area, the city’s earliest developed region which has lost its luster after business activities had moved elsewhere as Taichung developed into a multi-core city.”

Art Street

The article in the China Post goes into more detail regarding the past, present and future-planned developments of Taichung so I’ll let you read it for yourself here.

There are really only a handful of great places to eat, drink, view art and listen to music but overall, I feel there is a slim picking of cultural events, particularly public cultural events, to choose from each year. Perhaps I feel this way because I can’t access information in Chinese but I feel that after living here for a year and a bit I would know about at least the big events.

Sunday movies at Cat Lair

Of course, I don’t think the city is completely without soul. Here’s a quick list of my cultural, soul-growing spots and events:

Cat Lair (I just discovered that on Sundays they play movies outdoors just after the sun sets)
Stock 20
National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts
Art Street – particularly the shop Hukurou
Taiyuan Flea Market
Taichung Jazz Festival
Taichung International Food and Music Festival

Let me know if you know of any other eateries, bars, galleries or events by leaving a comment. I’d LOVE to learn more about the city. Prove Taichung’s soul to me!

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14 Responses to “critique: is taichung soulless?”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Taichung is fantastic. If you’re not looking to be entertained by facsimile Orientalism then it is really great. We are near both the mountains and the sea. The weather is nice and Taichung is a great launching point to the rest of the country.

    The history is amazing too.

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Thanks for this. It’s great to hear some passion voiced about Taiwan. I think it has many things to offer but just wish their was a little bit more of an accessible contemporary art scene here. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.

  2. Thoth Harris Says:

    Does Taichung have more “soul” than Taipei? I don’t think so. Perhaps Taipei is more convenient. Taichung has really bad pollution problems. This would be resolved if an MRT were built (and not just mentioned and talked about for decades, like we Canadians do with our perpetual committees and commissions, but no action). An MRT is actually MORE necessary in Taichung than in Taipei. Taipei could have gone a lot longer without an MRT (or at least the extensive one they have), I suspect.
    An MRT in Taichung with a line stretching West to East, from Wuchi (Taichung Harbour) to Dakeng (part of the Beitun District); from Fengyuan in the North (including stops on Wenxin Road and Chengde Road among many others) to Wurih in the South joining the HSR station; from the University district in the Situn district to the Main Station merging with the Taichung TRA station (ideally with underground tunnels joining exits to Carrefour Taichung Central, as well as a radically revamped bus circle that eliminates the unbelievable traffic jam that just seems completely unnecessary if a lot of people leave their cars at home and take the LRT); and finally, a Downtowns Express, which would have extra-wide cars to allow for an exponentially higher number of passengers, frequent arrivals and departures, and a slightly higher fare, to encourage people to take the Downtown Express as a fast way to get to key, highly populated locations, rather than just to cut the number of train lines they have to take. I doubt that my suggestions will ever be taken into account, but I wish they were. I even have an imaginary subway plan for Hsinchu City, which includes Nanliao, Zhuzhong, Zhubei, the East District, the North District, and Siangshan. I have lived in and visited a number of cities with subway systems, including bad subway systems (like Montreal, a great city, but the system my formerly-fellow-citizens there laud is a complete, utter, and ridiculous joke!), Toronoto (okay), San Francisco (fantastic, but needs a lot of tweaking), Hong Kong (one of the best), Vancouver (kind of a joke in the 80s, but I’ve heard it is really excellent since the preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics), Kaohsiung (fantastic), and Taipei (also quite good).

  3. Keith Says:

    Thanks for the comments, I don’t know that I can formulate an opinion one way or the other. I really like FengChia N.M. and the Art Museum. I just read that there are two big urban bike paths opening up next year in Taichung city. I get the feeling that the greater Taichung area is known around Taiwan for it’s outstanding bicycle paths. From the little that I’ve explored of this, I’d agree with that. But, sometimes I’ve gone exploring in Taichung city, and I’ve thought, IS THIS IT??? Anyway, take care.

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Yes, I’d totally agree. I think the area around Taichung (including Taichung county) is interesting. But I really do think that the city has a long way to go before it’s anywhere near Taipei or even Kaohsiung culturally.

  4. uberVU - social comments Says:

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  5. Joe Says:

    I think that if Taichung has -or ever had- a soul……..the name of that soul would be ‘sleaze’.

    Ten odd years ago, Taichung was denoted by the degree to which it was regarded as a more loose, smutty and sleazy city than its Northern (and Southern) counterparts.

    Love hotels, Bing-Lang ‘aquariums’, Massage Parlors, KTV’s (Not the family kind) and some out-and-out brothels used to be everywhere here.

    The fact that Taichung is (and was) basically RUN by the ‘Black Hand’ is something that most of us who live here have come to accept and probably accounted for some of the hidden ‘mystery’ of the city.

    Taichung has cleaned itself up though in recent years.

    Call it a crackdown on organized crime, municipal power politics or just plain urban evolution, Taichung just ‘feels’ different than it did at the beginning of the last decade.

    There’s gentrification now and more parks and even the ‘sleazy’ foreigner district down by Wa Mai Street has been scrubbed down and re-sod with a walking path along the canal and the park that was once the site of many a late night Apres Napoli booze-fest or drug deal is now laid bare …and empty.

    Taichung is definitely a better place to live now than it was but sometimes……..I get a little nostalgic and wish I had some of that sleaze back.

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Thanks for this Joe. It’s good to hear a little about where Taichung has come from. Helps to put into perspective what it’s like today. I haven’t really noticed the sleaze so far but I think that’s because I’ve only been here for a year and I speak very little Chinese (something I’m currently fixing at university!).

  6. Bad Andy Says:

    While I haven’t been here 10 years, it seems pretty obvious to me that the Mafia still is very present in Taichung and this unlikely to change anytime soon.

    We just had a man shot dead in a private home in the city by gangsters not even 2 months ago and the 3 police officers that were also present there as guests not only didn’t attempt to stop the shooting or pursue the murderers but in fact just went home afterward like nothing unusual had happened.

    It took almost 24 hours for the chief of police to inform the mayor that it had happened. The mayor pretended to be outraged but I haven’t heard anything about real legal consequence to any of the parties involved.

    Business as usual for the mafia in Taichung.

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Yes, I occasionally come across some shocking shooting incidents in English language news here. Sometimes it’s unbelievable to me because being new to Taichung and unable to speak much Chinese, I’m oblivious to it. I agree that it seems Taichung has a long way to go in ridding itself of this problem.

  7. roy mor Says:

    Hallo, i just run in to your blog and its intresting for me because i was invited to show my works in Taichung for the 15th Da Dun Exhibition…i also won a prize and the city invited me to arrive for the opening at the 16th of October.
    My works are in the context of contemporary art, but i must say i realy don’t know any thing about this event…but you can check it out. also if you know something about it, i would like to hear.
    thanks, roy

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Roy, I actually have had a lot of trouble finding out anything about this event in English. You probably know more than I do! They didn’t give you any information about the event when they contacted you? Are you planning to visit Taichung? I’ll have a dig around and see what I can find out.

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Congrats on the win, too!

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