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Losheng Sanatorium, Taipei, Taiwan (PIC HEAVY), August 2018

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HughieD

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1. The History
The sanatorium of Losheng (or to give it its full name, Rakusei Sanatorium for Lepers of Governor-General of Taiwan) nestles on a hillside on the west of New Taipei, near the Xinzhuang district. Meaning ‘happy life’, Losheng opened in the 1930s during Taiwan’s period of Japanese occupation. It was specifically built to house Taiwan’s leprosy sufferers (also known by its more formal name, Hansen’s disease). The hospital was to act as quarantine space to prevent the perceived infectious disease from spreading to the general public. Construction began three years prior to opening in 1927. The design resembled a village rather than a hospital and included wide walk-ways, fauna, and social spaces.

A copy of the Japanese 1930’s blueprint for the hospital:

29639014727_078307079f_z.jpgLosheng plan 1930 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The intake was just 5 patients, however, within a year of opening this had swelled to over 100. In 1934 the Japanese introduced a policy of Mandatory Isolation for Leprosy sufferers, the floodgates opened taking the population far in excess of the hospital’s intended capacity, resulting in cramped living standards and leading to food shortages. As containment became more critical, barbed-wire was added around the perimeter along with an armed guard stationed at the hospital entrance. Additionally, disinfection areas were set up across the hospital so that staff and the visitors could be ‘decontaminated’. With the scarcity of food during World War II a number of inmates tried their luck at escaping. The majority were captured by
Japanese police, beaten, returned and confined to a small cell on the edge of the hospital.

With the exit of the Japanese from Taiwan after the war, the newly-installed KMT government took over. Things changed little however, with food remaining scarce and treatments basic (ineffective drugs like penicillin and traditional Chinese medicine). In 1956 the first effective treatment for leprosy was implemented. Dapsone (DDS) had been found to be effective against the Leprosy bacterium, although the initial introduction in Losheng didn’t go too well. Quantities were limited and distributed by a ‘lottery’ system leading to tensions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the staff. Even when stocks of DDS increased the lack of patient guidance only exacerbated the numerous and painful side-effects. What resulted in many cases were overdoses and even poorer health of many who took it, leading to the drug being feared rather than it being seen as a saviour.

The 1958 International Leprosy Conference in Tokyo significantly concluded that Hansen’s disease was not as contagious as originally thought. This led to the recommendation of the withdrawal of isolation measures for those suffering from it. Taiwan lagged behind, finally embracing the recommendations in 1962. This, along with adjustments of DDS dosages to lower and safer levels and the majority of patients in recovery, saw life in Losheng improve markedly as former patients were free to go into the outside. The majority chose to stay in Losheng, seeing it as a safe haven and perhaps daunted by the prospects of having to adjust to the outside world and face the stigmas still surrounding the disease. With this reinforced sense of collectiveness, new buildings were constructed including a cooperative store and Buddhist temple and (more recently) a Catholic church.

This new-found harmony in Losheng saw a new threat raise its head in 1993. The Taipei Metro selected the land Losheng stood on to construct a new depot for the MRT’s proposed Orange Line, which would terminate in nearby Huilong. The initial plan required the demolition of the majority of the sanatorium along with a scheme to relocate the residents to a newly proposed hospital nearby. It took a few years before Taipei Metro finally acquired the Losheng site from the government in 2002. Two years later, after a lot on negotiations and the demolition of some of Losheng’s outer buildings, the new hospital was completed in 2004. Much to the chagrin of the residents, the hospital’s actual design was fundamentally different from the ones seen during the consultancy period; its large tower being a far cry from ‘house-like’ accommodation proposed.

Line drawing of Losheng: copyright Tom Rook, 2017
Losheng Sanatorium ? Over the city

The buildings south-west of the red line have been demolished:

29639004437_1b8f45fb11_o.jpglosheng+lost+scrn by HughieDW, on Flickr

The on-going conflict between Losheng resident’s and the MRT company has led to the formation of a number of action groups including the Losheng Youth League. Over the last few years they have organised protests and drawn significant media attention to Losheng’s plight. This has led Taipei Metro to propose a 41% [demolition] plan, guarantying the preservation of only a fraction of the remaining buildings. Critically though it involved the demolition of the cooperative store and the hospital’s remaining two wings (on the western and southern sides of the site respectively). Predictably this was rejected by residents and the Ministry of Culture put forward a ’90%’ plan which allowed for the completion of the depot, while retaining the vast majority of Losheng’s buildings. This was in turn rejected by Taipei Metro as being unworkable, citing safety concerns as the issue.

A key moment arrived in 2009 when Losheng was given protection under the ‘Cultural Assets’ Act and designated as a cultural monument. Additionally, the opening of the Fu Jen University section of the Orange Line track in 2013 helped head-off claims that the line’s operation would be impossible without more demolition. However, issues around access to the sanatorium across the railway line rumbled on. In 2016, the construction company brought the two sides of the conflict together, and agreement reached that a large sloped platform was required. Mid-way through 2017 supporters watching the progress of construction became unhappy due to no evidence of the sloped platform and construction of the original land bridge plan looked to be underway. A petition to the government resulted in a lengthy, official response. Apparently, the hospital supporters’ proposal was rejected due to a number of concerns including cost, passenger transfer delays and, most laughably, the potential for the steep gradient to result in runaway mobility scooters rolling down onto the main road! By early 2018, the construction of the land bridge was well under way, much to the annoyance of the hospital’s supporters who fear further betrayals of trust before the depot’s projected completion date of December 2018.

2. The Explore
It was a bit of a last-minute decision to come to Taiwan, so I arrived in the capital city, Taipei, without having done any research or a to-do list. There isn’t a big scene out here but there are plenty of places to explore. Last year when I was here I checked out the pretty well-know UFO village on the coast at Wanli (report HERE). After a bit of digging and having discovered a few excellent blogs, places began to reveal themselves. And, to my amazement, Losheng Sanatorium came up. It looked too good to be true. Having located it, I set off on the bus early one morning. After a change of bus and just under an hour’s journey time I found myself at the bridge over the railway that leads into the complex. It’s a big site and there are still quite a number of people living in the commune. I soon found the main hospital complex and it was just the matter of hopping over the railings and in through the open door. And wow. What a place. It didn’t disappoint. Despite some of the things being removed recently and the MTR depot encroaching on the southern side, there was still loads to see. The place was completely clean; no trashing and no graffiti. Despite part of the hospital being demo’ed previously there is still a lot to explore and I spent a couple of peaceful hours pottering around the place. It’s hard to believe a place like this exists. In the UK it would have been trashed by the idiots years ago. Here’s hoping this gem of a place gets saved and restored to its former glory.

3. The Pictures

42693347690_00da32a1cc_b.jpgimg8979 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30632626238_cc4d1e5ef3_b.jpgimg8978 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44502128521_f2a0dea883_b.jpgimg8980 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44452329042_025440aec9_b.jpgimg8976 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42693389560_c55de274d9_b.jpgimg8977 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44502095771_e82ce0cfc0_b.jpgimg8981 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42693214340_afc45c194b_b.jpgimg8982 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42693183760_54a50b757f_b.jpgimg8983 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42693149570_50ca567d7e_b.jpgimg8985 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43784138574_957c9d11ff_b.jpgimg8988 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29564291947_d5982a78a4_b.jpgimg8992 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29564242897_e6b2333315_b.jpgimg8995 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42692930480_1a1acde6a6_b.jpgimg8997 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43783958694_8e9ee7e84b_b.jpgimg8999 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43783892544_42580393c2_b.jpgimg9002 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30632035238_9a16b186ec_b.jpgimg9004 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30631929628_301611225e_b.jpgimg9008 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44451621692_95d5d1981e_b.jpgimg9011 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44501466111_0560f3ccb5_b.jpgimg9016 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43591801345_72e1691ebc_b.jpgimg9018 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29563812457_6586c51f62_b.jpgimg9023 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29563826417_958a58e6ee_b.jpgimg9020 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44501338681_cb3c50c254_b.jpgimg9025 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30631547848_abd84afb5e_b.jpgimg9026 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44501279261_34feb698cd_b.jpgimg9027 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43591671185_f48416e757_b.jpgimg9028 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44501204701_60aaf3c3d3_b.jpgimg9029 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42692219820_d4c77907cf_b.jpgimg9031 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42692110500_313b56876d_b.jpgimg9033 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44501054001_c30d4a0220_b.jpgimg9035 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650768958_03ee2a0381_b.jpgimg9036 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43611421105_2c17da52f1_b.jpgimg9037 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43611396365_dca412d258_b.jpgimg9038 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650718988_ecbcfb1cd9_b.jpgimg9039 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650695478_7dab6b311d_b.jpgimg9040 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29583070287_7f4fdff96e_b.jpgimg9041 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42711788620_0ffdc1e417_b.jpgimg9043 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650607958_659cfa51c3_b.jpgimg9046 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44520308421_8e7bf9d726_b.jpgimg9049 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29582942447_e014696d84_b.jpgimg9051 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43802653324_2be7c18101_b.jpgimg9053 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29582904447_9c5a205d4f_b.jpgimg9055 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650452238_a13b0551be_b.jpgimg9056 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650362808_595440ae84_b.jpgimg9057 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44470119342_b81f1ff08f_b.jpgimg9058 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42711490480_f045556535_b.jpgimg9059 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44470042202_b3358dd879_b.jpgimg9061 by HughieDW, on Flickr

42711394310_94482a70bc_b.jpgimg9063 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43610920035_e1315ddab0_b.jpgimg9064 by HughieDW, on Flickr

43802354474_a8170c30c6_b.jpgimg9066 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44519862991_a79cb9f883_b.jpgimg9067 by HughieDW, on Flickr

30650025638_61f5474591_b.jpgimg9071 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 
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BikinGlynn

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Thats really cool! agree with your last statement, "if it was in the UK it would of been trashed by now". sais something about the mentality of our youth!
Excellent report as always!
 

Mikeymutt

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Ha ha I say the fun fair was my favourite.this is just as good.so much old equipment left and not a boring shiny hospital
 

oldscrote

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I don't usually look at the hospital posts due to spending so much time in them during my "yoof" but this was a lot different,a fascinating place,thank you......would love,however,to know what a miniature Statue of Liberty was doing there.
 

HughieD

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Quality as always.

Thats really cool! agree with your last statement, "if it was in the UK it would of been trashed by now". sais something about the mentality of our youth!
Excellent report as always!
Cheers both! Much appreciated.

Ha ha I say the fun fair was my favourite.this is just as good.so much old equipment left and not a boring shiny hospital

So very true Mikey. The third place from Taiwan (coming soon) is different still...
 

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