Taipei Children’s Recreation Centre 臺北市立兒童育樂中心 in the relatively central Zhongshan District 中山區 of Taipei City, was the first public amusement park in the entire country and occupies a huge swath of land atop a small hill next to the Keelung River 基隆河 – an unusually prominent location, for the site of such a large dereliction.

The iconic Ferris Wheel protuding from the overgrowth of the Taipei Children's Recreation Center
The iconic Ferris Wheel protuding from the overgrowth of the Taipei Children's Recreation Center
The Children's Playground has rejected the outside world and will now brave the sands of time alone.
The Children's Playground has rejected the outside world and will now brave the sands of time alone.
Nothing interesting inside the Visitor Center, everything's been emptied out.
Nothing interesting inside the Visitor Center, everything's been emptied out.
The old booth where tickets could be bought for the various rides.
The old booth where tickets could be bought for the various rides.

It first opened in 1934 during the Dōka 同化 period of colonial Japanese rule, when the Taipei Department of Education purchased land adjoining what was then Yuanshan Zoo 圓山動物園

under the name ‘Children’s Playground 兒童遊園地’. After the war, in 1946, ownership was transferred to the new ROC government, and the zoo was split from the amusement park to become it’s own separate entity.

The sun begins to set on what's left of the Taipei Children's Recreation Center.
The sun begins to set on what's left of the Taipei Children's Recreation Center.
Do you want to ride the t̵̡̨̍̓͘ͅȩ̸̺̓a̴̻͆͊̆ Cups?
Do you want to ride the t̵̡̨̍̓͘ͅȩ̸̺̓a̴̻͆͊̆ Cups?
Underneath the Flying Chairs. You can see the entire world from here.
Underneath the Flying Chairs. You can see the entire world from here.

In 1958, the first mechanical rides were installed and ownership was transferred to a private entity (the park would ping-pong between private/state ownership a few more times throughout it’s history). Due to the presence of the park, zoo, and a public swimming pool – 再春游泳池 which was completed in 1966, the Yuanshan area gained something of a reputation as a recreational hotspot and tourist numbers reportedly increased.

Outside the toilet block at the Taipei Children's Recreation Center 臺北市立兒童新樂園.
Outside the toilet block at the Taipei Children's Recreation Center 臺北市立兒童新樂園.
Guānyīn 觀音 and Bùdài 布袋 keeping watch over the employee sink.
Guānyīn 觀音 and Bùdài 布袋 keeping watch over the employee sink.
This is where the 'Happy Bumper Cars 幸福碰碰車' once were.
This is where the 'Happy Bumper Cars 幸福碰碰車' once were.

The park was re-merged with the zoo in 1970, a state of affairs that would last until 1986, when Taipei Zoo relocated to Muzha District 木柵 (which would itself later merge with neighbouring Jingmei 景美 to form Wenshan District 文山區). This shift resulted in the land the zoo had occupied being appropriated by the Recreation Center, more than tripling it’s total area from 3 hectares to 9.8.

Around this time, the Department of Education were planning a redesign of the park to make effective use of the extra space and it seems they held a competition of sorts between a number of schools in Taipei asking children to draw their own ideas for what they wanted the park to look like. This blogger claims to have been the winner with his vision of a futuristic, robot driven theme park, and his work perhaps even had some influence on the final decision, as it was decided to split the park into 3 ‘Worlds’: The ‘World of Yesterday’, ‘World of Tomorrow’, and ‘World of Pleasure’. The redevelopment and expansion took place over the course of 6 years and was finally completed in 1992, with the opening of the 3D theatre and Science Hall that formed the centrepiece of the ‘World of Tomorrow’.

Probably the most famous sight in the park - the rainbow coloured ferris wheel.
Probably the most famous sight in the park - the rainbow coloured ferris wheel.
All of the controls are still present.
All of the controls are still present.
Looking up at the ferris wheel from ground level.
Looking up at the ferris wheel from ground level.
Trying to get the entire carousel in-shot including the immense protective shell to shield it from the elements.
Trying to get the entire carousel in-shot including the immense protective shell to shield it from the elements.
The glitzy staircase leading to the upper deck of the Carousel.
The glitzy staircase leading to the upper deck of the Carousel.
A horse in need of some facial reconstruction.
A horse in need of some facial reconstruction.
In my new role as Carousel Controller.
In my new role as Carousel Controller.

In 2006, after a lengthy process dating all the way back to 1988, Yuanshan was designated as a National Archeological Site 國定遺址 of historical and cultural importance, one of only 8 in the whole of Taiwan, due to the discovery of large numbers of prehistoric artefacts in the area. This afforded the site protection under Cultural Heritage laws, to add on to existing height restrictions as a result of the park’s close proximity to Songshan Airport. The following year, citing these constraints as a hindrance to further development, the government planned for it’s relocation to Shilin District 士林區, a process that would take another 7 years to realise.

A crashed 747 in the children's playground.
A crashed 747 in the children's playground.
Out of the tunnel and into the playground.
Out of the tunnel and into the playground.

I explored the Park with a friend in August 2017, nearly 3 years after it’s closure, so things are decidedly more ‘intact’ than I’m used to, but even so, it’s remarkable how little time nature needs to strike back, as evidenced by the density of foliage overtaking the footpaths and enveloping the buildings. The odd piece of graffiti dispelled any notion that we were the first to visit the place post-closure, although surprisingly, I’d seen very little online in the way of photos or discussion of any exploration of the place, which I thought was odd given it’s visibility (you get a great view of it on the Red Line of the MRT between Yuanshan and Jiantan stations) and popularity throughout it’s extensive history.

Disintegrating signage for the Children's Science Exhibition Hall.
Disintegrating signage for the Children's Science Exhibition Hall.
Outside the Science Exhibition Hall & 3D Theatre in Yuanshan.
Outside the Science Exhibition Hall & 3D Theatre in Yuanshan.

From the ‘World of Pleasure’ which occupies the lower ground to the North-West of the Hill itself, you gradually ascend, past a rather sorry looking children’s adventure playground to the ‘World of Tomorrow’, which is contained entirely within a single building and comprises both the 3D Theatre, and science exhibition space. In 2009, the Recreation Center was closed for over a year to accommodate the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo, during which, this theatre complex was designated the ‘Hall of Truth 真相館’ and was used to showcase 3D movies and exhibitions highlighting environmental awareness. The building’s design puts me in mind of a Horseshoe Crab with it’s shell-like structure and I’ll admit that there’s a certain novelty in coming across such a modern looking building that’s suffering from severe lack of use, although unfortunately I wasn’t able to go inside due to the presence of an active security system.

No-one's lining up for entry these days.
No-one's lining up for entry these days.
Looking downstairs to the huge, derelict Science Hall.
Looking downstairs to the huge, derelict Science Hall.

The final zone, which stands on the South side of the hill, the ‘World of Yesterday’, focussed on Taiwanese cultural heritage, incorporating traditional architecture – most notably the Fujian style buildings that once exhibited handicrafts, instruments, board games and the like, alongside ‘workshops’ in which children could participate in activities such as stilt walking and calligraphy. These are all now shuttered and padlocked, not that I saw anything worthwhile left in any of the ones I happened to peep into. A large open plaza nearby offers some really stunning views over the city and it’s a shame it’s only available to those of us willing to sneak in – I imagine it would be a popular spot if it were more accessible.

An enclosed area leading towards the zone of Traditional culture. The design is based on the Great Wall of China 萬里長城.
An enclosed area leading towards the zone of Traditional culture. The design is based on the Great Wall of China 萬里長城.
Announcements in all directions.
Announcements in all directions.
Grafitti adorning the walls of the 'World of Yesterday 昨日世界' at the Taipei Children's Recreation Center 臺北市立兒童新樂園.
Grafitti adorning the walls of the 'World of Yesterday 昨日世界' at the Taipei Children's Recreation Center 臺北市立兒童新樂園.
A 'Cheng Lu Disc 仙人承露' Statue - A Taoist Immortal catching dewdrops from heaven on the plate above his head.
A 'Cheng Lu Disc 仙人承露' Statue - A Taoist Immortal catching dewdrops from heaven on the plate above his head.
An endless tea ceremony as nature surrounds the participants.
An endless tea ceremony as nature surrounds the participants.
Tortoise statues signifying longevity and endurance, bearing steles most likely commemorating significant historical events. The Taipei MRT Red
Tortoise statues signifying longevity and endurance, bearing steles most likely commemorating significant historical events. The Taipei MRT Red "Tamsui-Xinyi 淡水信義線" line is visible in the background.
A Fibreglass cave containing deities and mythological figures.
A Fibreglass cave containing deities and mythological figures.
The interior of the 'Water Curtain Cave 水濂洞'. It's not seen water in some time though.
The interior of the 'Water Curtain Cave 水濂洞'. It's not seen water in some time though.
A statue of the Buddhist Goddess of compassion: Guān Yīn 觀音.
A statue of the Buddhist Goddess of compassion: Guān Yīn 觀音.
I believe this is a depiction of Sūn Wùkōng 孫悟空, the mythological Monkey King featured in many historic Chinese literary works.
I believe this is a depiction of Sūn Wùkōng 孫悟空, the mythological Monkey King featured in many historic Chinese literary works.
I believe this is a depiction of a run-of-the-mill, regular monkey. He looks pretty worried.
I believe this is a depiction of a run-of-the-mill, regular monkey. He looks pretty worried.
City viewing area, and playground surface peeling away.
City viewing area, and playground surface peeling away.
Looking out over Expo Park towards Sōngshān 松山 and Xìnyì 信義 Districts. The odd shaped building with patterned roof on the bottom right is Expo Hall 花博舞蝶館.
Looking out over Expo Park towards Sōngshān 松山 and Xìnyì 信義 Districts. The odd shaped building with patterned roof on the bottom right is Expo Hall 花博舞蝶館.

The current status of the Park is… complicated. From what I gather, the initial goal was to have a museum in the area, but, due to a mayoral election in 2014, the new mayor Ko Wen-je 柯文哲, scrapped that idea and instead opted to expand the Yuanshan Historical Park which occupies a tiny section of the hill, to cover the entire thing as a result of it’s new culturally important status, however progress in this area has been extremely slow. This is especially evident in the development (or lack thereof) of the ‘Yuanshan Tunnel 圓山坑道’ – a 200m long bunker built by the Japanese towards the end of the Second World War, containing 10 small rooms mostly likely used for military strategy and planning purposes; that has it’s entrance within the Recreation Center grounds. This was to be repurposed into a small, historic exhibition space as part of the proposed ‘Taipei City Museum‘, and due to open to the public in October of 2014, yet this change in direction appears to have halted those plans and the entrance was still shuttered by construction fencing during my visit.

Cordoned off section of the park. Behind is the entrance to the Yuanshan Tunnel - 200m long and built around the time of WWII.
Cordoned off section of the park. Behind is the entrance to the Yuanshan Tunnel - 200m long and built around the time of WWII.

Another large reason for the delay appears to be down to disgreements with contractors over budget after the site was assessed, with spiralling demolition and renovation costs alongside license fees looking set to burn through public funds as of May 2017. There does seem to be some slight progress being made as the ‘Folk Culture Area’ of the ‘World of Yesterday’ were re-opened to the public in late 2016 (although the buildings remain closed) and it seems as if many of the existing structures will be incorporated into the design of the new park, rather than be simply demolished – even the Ferris Wheel and Carousel look set to stay for some nostalgic value, although many aspects of the site are still reportedly in the ‘planning phase’, so a full opening still looks to be a long way off.

Descending into the 'Amusement World 遊樂世界' section of the park. The MRT runs immediately outside the perimeter as you can see.
Descending into the 'Amusement World 遊樂世界' section of the park. The MRT runs immediately outside the perimeter as you can see.
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