You might even meet the talented ‘Rainbow Grandpa’ himself there
Every morning, at the crack of dawn, while the rest of Taiwan’s Taichung City around him is still sound asleep, a 97-year-old man gets up and starts to paint the walls and streets outside his house. The man is Huang Yung-fu, and he has been painting his small village for just over 10 years. Transforming dull grey concrete into colourful murals of people and animals, Huang has single-handedly created what is now popularly known as Taiwan’s Rainbow Village. After his paintings went viral in 2010, it became a huge tourist hotspot, attracting more than a million visitors a year.
The Rainbow Village grew out of not mere hobby, but a rather urgent preservation project. Although Huang (who is now affectionately called the “Rainbow Grandpa”) has loved drawing since he was a child, he only taught himself to paint with a brush at 86, when he learned that his village was going to be demolished by the government.
Located in the Nantun district of Taichung City, the village used to be a huge veterans’ settlement where 1,200 households of former soldiers and their families lived. Huang, who fought the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War and later the Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War, fled to Taiwan with millions of other soldiers after the Nationalists lost, and settled down in the village. As developers began to gradually knocked down the settlement’s homes to make way for modern housing projects, his neighbours had to move away, leaving him the last remaining resident at the village today. Having lived there happily with a loving community for about 40 years, Huang is understandably attached to the place.
So when the Taiwanese government wanted to demolish what’s left of his village, Huang did not go easy. He decided to save it. “I didn’t want to move,” he told BBC. “This is the only real home I’ve ever known in Taiwan, so I started painting.”
What first began as a little bird inside his own bungalow grew into cats and dogs and people and aeroplanes covering whole walls, until practically his entire small village is decorated in colourful murals. After gaining media attention and becoming a popular tourist attraction, the government has decided to preserve the village instead of destroying it, even planning to make Rainbow Village a designated cultural area! The paintbrush has defeated the bulldozer.
Now, you can visit the Rainbow Village to be inspired by a man’s quiet protest to preserve not only his home, but also memories that are important to Taiwan’s history and culture.
Huang loves painting animals, both land and marine creatures. For people, many of them are actually real celebrities – keep your eyes peeled for a mural of famous kung fu master Bruce Lee! On top of using lots of bright eye-catching colours, Huang’s works have a very child-like and whimsical style, also thanks to the cute little dots that are everywhere in his murals. Don’t forget to look up and down as you explore the village – many of the floors and rooftops are covered in artworks too!
The Rainbow Village is open to visitors daily from 9am to 6pm, but it’s best to arrive early to beat the crowds. If you are lucky, you could meet Rainbow Grandpa himself when you are there and even catch him painting new works during the non-peak hours! The village has a small shop where you can purchase souvenirs and paintings – you could get them signed by Huang if you happen to meet him. There’s also a small cafe offering drinks and snacks to fuel you up after walking around the place.
Huang is still painting every day, determined to do everything he can to make sure the government does not change their minds and resume demolition plans again one day. If you are visiting, you can help him and the rest of the city preserve the little cultural village with a small donation or by getting something at the gift shop or cafe.