96-Year-Old Man Saves Village From Demolition By Painting It
A former soldier in Taiwan learned that his village was going to be demolished, so he picked up a brush and started painting. He is ninety-six years old, and his village is now, without a doubt, one of the most colorful neighborhoods in Taiwan. It is called the Rainbow Village and is one of Taiwan's quirkiest and most meaningful attractions. The village is out of the way, but so worth a visit. Millions visit Rainbow Village every year.
Huang Yung-Fu was born in 1924, just outside of Guangzhou, China. He is the eldest of four brothers and sisters, and he showed signs from an early age of artistic talent.
When he was young, his family moved around a lot. He stated that he remembers from a very young age, drawing with his father, as young as five-years-old.
Huang wakes up at four a.m. every morning while it is still dark. He slowly begins painting alone in the darkness. He crouches on a stool for three hours, and then quietly decorates the walls, windows, and pavement.
Huang started painting inside his home, and since, it has grown into tens of thousands of illustrations. He is the lone permanent resident of the village, and millions of visitors travel to the village just to meet him and see his work.
Painting To Preserve
Huang has transformed his Taiwanese village into a real-life storybook and saved it from demolition in the process. He said, "Ten years ago, the government threatened to knock this village down. But I didn't want to move.
This is the only real home I've ever known in Taiwan, so I started painting." You can't help but smile when you see the tiny tigers leaping from the walls; a cheery parade of wide-eyed pandas, peacocks, and people, and whiskered kittens hiding in alleyways.
Fleeing To Taiwan
Huang was born outside Guangzhou, but his family fled to Taiwan after the Nationalist Party was defeated and Zedong created the People's Republic of China.
They fled and were housed in hundreds of military dependents' villages throughout the island. They were meant to be a makeshift place for soldiers to lay low until the Nationalists could retake the mainland. However, over time, the dwelling became permanent.
From Soldier To Street Artist
Many military dependents abandoned their home as the Nationalists' dreams of recapturing mainland China faded over time. The dwellings began to deteriorate and as a result, the government wanted to demolish the entire village.
There were just eleven of the original settlements left and Huang slowly saw all of his friends leave one by one. He remained until he was the last one living there and when they threatened to take away his home, he decided to become a street artist.
Huang's colorful village gained the attention of many people outside of the village. "People were amazed at this artist's passion and touched by students trying to help an old man.
As news of Rainbow Grandpa spread, it soon became a national issue. He had our entire society's attention and compassion." ----- Andrea Yi-Shan Yang, chief secretary of Taichung's Cultural Affairs Bureau.
Huang continues to wake up before dawn, grabs his paintbrush, and starts painting. He stated that it keeps him young and that he will continue to paint as long as he can. He is always changing the paintings and adding new ones.
"People who come here sometimes compare his art to Spanish painter Joan Miro or Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki. He just paints what he feels and what he remembers." ------ Lin Young Kai.
As images of Huang's village spread, the number of camera-toting visitors to the park has grown. It has become a major tourist location, and you can often see Huang out greeting visitors.
However, when the mass of visitors starts to become too much, he sneaks back inside his bungalow or over to a nearby stream to close his eyes, rest, and listen to the burbling water.
Sadly, in recent years, Huang's health has deteriorated, and he has spent a good amount of time in the intensive care unit. He never married and didn't have any children of his own. However, in 2013, he found love while in the hospital.
He was there for pneumonia and ended up falling in love with an elderly nurse tending to him, and they got married soon after. So, now you can visit with both Grandma and Rainbow Grandpa. Huang said, "Ever since I met her, only my lungs hurt. My heart is better."
Artist In Residence
Huang isn't as young and energetic as he was when he started painting the village. He is still painting but is a lot slower and takes several naps throughout the day.
He has said, "If I can get up and paint tomorrow, I will. If I can't, I will feel good knowing that this place will stay and make others happy." Whenever he takes a picture with a visitor, he flashes the military 'V' for a victory sign and then asks them to come back soon.
Taichung's Rainbow Village Is One Of The Many Veteran Villages That Were Built In The 1940s And 1950s
Taichung's Rainbow Village is just one of the many veteran villages that the government built for its veterans between the 1940s and 1950s. They had to find homes for all of the soldiers coming back home; housing was a major concern then.
Some villages were built to house the millions of veterans coming back from war who had been granted an education by the GI Bill.
The Village Was Once Referred To As Caihongjuan Village
After Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang Nationalist Army lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949, he and about two million Chinese, mostly soldiers, fled to Taiwan.
Most of them were placed in military dependents' villages in cities throughout Taiwan. The villages were the government's property, and many of the villages fell into decay as the years went on. As a result, the government started to demolish the villages.
It Became One Of The Most Visited Tourist Attractions In Taichung
Huang's paintings and artwork receive so much attention that they draw tourists from not just other parts of China, but all around the world. They love his cartoon-like people, abstract animals, and other surrealistic arts.
The village, now known as Rainbow Village, has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Taichung and a popular destination for wedding photoshoots and really any kind of photoshoot.
Taiwanese Military Settlement
The Taiwanese military settlement is a community in Taiwan built in the 1940s and 1950s. Their original purpose was to serve as temporary housing for sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen of the Republic of China Armed Forces and their families.
However, most of them became permanent settlements. The houses were very poorly built because they were built fast and with limited funding. In addition, the residents didn't own any of it as the government did.
He Left Home As A 15-Year-Old Boy In 1937
Huang left home at just fifteen years old in 1937 to fight against the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War. However, after the Communists won, they all fled to Taiwan.
Huang fought in the Second Sino-Japanese War, lived in Hong Kong, and then he joined the Nationalist Army on Hainan Island to fight the Chinese Civil War. Later, he retreated to Taiwan in 1949 and has stayed there ever since.
He Retired From The Military In 1978
Huang was stationed at various Taiwanese airbases. He was shot twice and critically wounded and went on to serve at an airbase in Southern Taiwan. In 1978, he retired as a clerk at a recruit training center in Taichung.
In 1978, he received a gold medal for 'Defending Taiwan.' After retirement, he gathered his savings, moved into the village, and has lived there happily for the past forty years.
Students Set Up A Fundraising Campaign To Purchase Paint For Huang
Huang ended up catching the attention of some students at the nearby Ling Tung University. Some students were moved by his solitary fight to keep the government's bulldozers away from his village.
The students were so touched that they set up a fundraising campaign to purchase paint for Huang. In addition, there is now a place that you can donate when you visit the village, and all of the proceeds go to the supplies needed for the Rainbow Village.
They Launched A Petition To Protest The Settlement's Demolition
Along with setting up fundraising, the students also launched a petition to protest the settlement's demolition. "People were amazed at this artist's passion and touched by students trying to help an old man. As news of Rainbow Grandpa spread, it soon became a national issue.
He had our entire society's attention and compassion."------ Andrea Yi-Shan Yang. The city mayor received eighty thousand emails urging him to preserve the settlement. Thankfully, the movement worked, and the mayor ordered the remaining buildings, streets, and surrounding areas to be preserved as a public park.
Huang Had No Previous Experience As A Painter
An interesting fact is that Huang had no previous experience as a painter. He never received professional lessons or education other than being taught how to draw by his father when he was five years old.
When asked why he still paints, he said, "There are many things that I can't do anymore, but I can still paint. It keeps me healthy, and adding a little color can turn something old into something beautiful." ----- Huang.
His Art Is Mostly Inspired By His Childhood Memories And Imaginations
Huang's paintings consist of whiskered kittens, tiny tigers, peacocks, wide-eyed pandas, dancing samurais, kissing sweethearts, and floating astronauts. Every inch of Rainbow Village is a vivid dreamscape that was inspired by Huang's childhood memories and imagination.
An example is that he painted the puppy he loved as a young boy, his favorite teachers, and scenes of him and his brothers playing together when they were young.
The Servicemen's Readjustment Act Of 1944
The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill, was a promise to returning soldiers of service that would aid them in returning to civilian life. Taiwan also had a GI Bill for its veterans, including Huang.
Some of the things the act included were healthcare, access to subsidized mortgages, and money for college tuition. It basically guaranteed millions of vets that their college tuition would be paid. The original GI Bill expired in 1956.
Oxford Veteran Villages
Another well-known veteran village is the Oxford Village in Miami in the United States. In 1946, there were one hundred and ninety-six double units built for married veterans and their spouses and children. The village because known as the 'fertile valley.'
In addition, there were dormitories and two-story frame buildings. It was also a university, which meant that those who wished to have a college education would have their way paid for by the government. This village is similar to the village Huang lived in, as they were both poorly built and eventually started falling apart.
Hamilton Veteran Villages
Another veteran village in the United States was Hamilton Village. In the village, housing units increased by more than twenty percent from 1940 to 1950. This is just another example of a veteran village back when Huang lived in one, after the war.
There were more than three thousand new units built to deal with the housing crisis. The Hamilton Emergency Housing Commission was formed in 1946 to assist those needing housing. The rent was roughly thirty-five dollars per month.
Rodger Young Village
The Rodger Young Village was a housing project in Los Angeles. Like the other villages, it was established to provide temporary housing for veterans returning from the war. It was named after Rodger Wilton Young, who was killed on the island of New Georgia while helping his platoon withdraw under enemy fire.
He received the Medal of Honor after his death. The village consisted of seven hundred and fifty huts, and at its peak, there were more than five thousand people that lived in the village. Each family's living space included two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a den. The village was built in just two months and was closed in the mid-1950s. A village similar to Huang's after the war, although located in the U.S.
There Are 233 WWII Veterans Still Living In The Villages
The Daily Sun conducted an analysis through census data, military club rosters, voter rolls, and exhaustive door-to-door canvassing. Their findings confirmed that two hundred and thirty-three World War II veterans were still living in the villages.
However, twenty-five percent of them have died. In 2021, there were fewer than three thousand World War II survivors still alive. There are roughly two hundred and forty thousand WWII veterans still alive globally, including Taiwan's Huang.
The National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army, or the NRA, was the military arm of the Chinese Nationalist Party in China. It became the regular army of the Republican era, beginning in 1928.
After 1947, it was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces. Huang took part in the Second Sino-Japanese War. The majority of its forces retreated to the island of Taiwan in 1949, including Huang.
People's Liberation Army
The NRA was later renamed the People's Liberation Army, and it was the principal military force. It consists of five service branches: the Navy, Ground Force, Rocket Force, Air Force, and Strategic Support Force.
The mission of the PLA was the insurance of CCP leadership and the protection of the sovereignty, internal security, territorial integrity, and national development of the People's Republic of China. In addition, the mission was to safeguard the country's interests and maintain and safeguard world peace.
The Chinese Civil War
Huang fought in the Chinese Civil War, which was fought between the Republic of China and the forces of the Chinese Communist Party. The first phase of the war was from 1937 until 1945, and the second phase was from 1945 until 1949.
It was the Communists gaining control of mainland China that caused the retreat to Taiwan. It ended in 1979, but no armistice or peace treaty has ever been signed.
Residents Were Offered Compensation Or New Housing To Move
The veteran villages were built so fast that they weren't built properly and soon started to basically fall apart. The government has demolished several of them, and when they did, they offered the residents still living there compensation for having to move.
In addition, they offered the residents the chance to live in the new apartments that were built. However, that didn't work for Huang because he wasn't leaving his home.
Nantun District, Taichung, Taiwan
The Rainbow Village is located in Nantun District, Taichung, Taiwan. The district is an urban district that was part of Taichung before the city and county were amalgamated in 2010.
Other tourist attractions located in the Nantun District are Fulfillment Amphitheater, Fengle Sculpture Park, Taichung Mosque, and Ling Tung Numismatic Museum. The area is also home to the Liming New Village.
There Are Painted Objects That Are Propped Up Against The Trippy Buildings
In Rainbow Village, there is so much to admire, including objects that are propped up against the trippy buildings. It also features floor-to-ceiling paintings that give it the appearance of a three-dimensional alternative version of the kid's board game Candy Land.
Some of the objects that are featured are a series of helmets that look like they belong to the Power Rangers. Many things change from day to day because Huang continues to paint, so it's not always the same.
Vegan Food At Rainbow Village
Taiwan is known as one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world. In addition, Taichung is full of amazing vegan restaurants. However, Rainbow Village does not offer vegan food, as it's not really a food place.
The park does have a snack area, which offers rainbow popsicles, tea eggs, and a plethora of drinks. What it doesn't offer are vegan options.
Best Time To Visit Rainbow Village
Rainbow Village has become a very popular tourist location and the best time to go is as early as possible. If you don't mind crowds of people, then you can go any time of the day. It's also best to visit the park on weekdays because it is small and can become very crowded. The good news is that it is free to enter the park, but you should consider donating because it allows updates to the park and lets Huang continue painting.
"Very unique and Beautiful small colorful village with a lovely history! You can buy souvenirs at the shops, and eat a dessert while you're visiting the hidden paths. This is a very special place in Taichung, totally recommended! You can see the whole area in one or two hours." ------ Adriana Garcera Garces, Review.
Rainbow Village Tours
Rainbow Village has become popular enough that a few Taiwan tours include the park. It is part of the Taichung Tour and can actually be included in a fully customized tour of Taichung. The tour is led by an English, Spanish, or French-speaking local, or a private tour led by a driver. By taking a tour, you learn all of the history and details. In addition, if you are getting to the park on your own, the best way is to catch a local bus. On-site is a gift shop and snack bar where you can get Taiwan's famous bubble tea.
"We came here using a bus from around the Taichung station; it took around forty minutes to come here. When we came here, it was so colorful! All of it was made as an art canvas even to the ground; they made it as a doodle too! It was a creative way to make a place like this. But I was a little bit disappointed because when I came here, there was building construction, so the sounds seem a bit disturbing. Overall, you should come here when you visit Taichung." ----- Septia Riadhotussolihah, Review.
What You Can Expect To See
When you visit Rainbow Village, you will see that it consists of only a few houses and a half-dozen small, interconnected buildings. The park is small and can be seen in ten to fifteen minutes.
However, if you really want to take in the art, you could be there for a while. In addition, there are a couple of food stalls near the entrance and in the back, a café, and two souvenir shops where you can purchase some of Huang's artwork.
You Can Expect To Meet Rainbow Grandpa
Rainbow Grandpa, or Huang, still lives in Rainbow Village with his wife. In addition, he does come out and visit with people when he feels up to it. He also will sometimes be in the gift shop to take selfies with visitors.
Surprisingly, Huang still gets up at four in the morning every day and spends a few hours touching up or creating new paintings. Of course, he is in his late nineties, so there are days when he doesn't paint.
There Is Open Space For Children To Play
Rainbow Village isn't really a village because there are only a handful of buildings and only two residents living there. The park also includes spaces for children, such as a sand-filled playground and hopscotch.
In addition, there is an open-space public car park in the village, where children can run and play. However, Huang asks that you keep a close eye on your children.
Taichung's National Taiwan Museum Of Fine Arts
Another popular tourist attraction in Taichung is the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. It was established in 1988 as the first and only national-grade fine arts museum in Taiwan. The collections are the work of Taiwanese artists and cover modern and contemporary art.
In addition, there is a Public Outdoor Sculpture Park, which is one of the largest museums in Asia. There is also a digital art exhibition, and a series of biennial exhibitions have also been established since 2007.
Crafty Vibes Abound In Taichung
Taichung offers so much art, and neighborhoods once zoned for industrial use have been re-purposed into hipster hideaways. Shen Ji New Village, with its collection of renovated buildings, is one such spot where there are high-end restaurants situated next to pet-themed ice cream shops.
In addition, there are unique stores that sell artisan soaps and homemade knick-knacks. There are also many neighborhood flea markets with stands that are run by local artists.
Natural Way Six Arts Center
Another big tourist location in Taichung is the Natural Way Six Arts Center. It is a historical building with traditional Japanese architecture, and it offers arts & culture classes. The center was built in 1937 during the Japanese Colonial Period and was originally a place for Japanese wardens and police officers to practice martial arts.
The architectural structure is designed based on a typical Japanese martial arts hall with an elevated base, hip-and-gable roof design, imitation wood structures, and large Japanese gargoyles and bargeboards.
Animation Alley is a really neat area in Taichung. It is a small street in central Taichung that is lined with scenes based on nostalgic cartoon and anime characters. The art was drawn by some very talented local artists. The art includes Super Mario, Daffy Duck, and One Piece.
It is a trip down memory lane as you come across some of your childhood favorites. Some of them are still in progress, so you might be able to catch the artist working. It is definitely an area that you will want to add to your agenda.
Wei Pi-Ren has been supporting Huang since 2010 and has been working to preserve the culture of military dependents' villages, and he assists veterans like Huang with hospital visits. Huang's younger brother actually asked Wei to look after Huang and his art. He rented a warehouse and ordered customized stone boards for Huang to paint, which could later be screwed onto the walls and displayed any time in the future.
"We want this place to be fun, healing, and romantic. Huang was painting new things every day, and we eventually ran out of wall space. Rainbow Grandpa and our art team have created numerous new paintings on the boards." ------ Wei Pi-Ren.
Lin Yang-Kai, the company's art director, has been painting and studying with Huang for the last nine years. He helps the veteran spread positive energy through his art. Love and family are repeating themes in the village, which Lin believes reflects what Huang has longed for. Lin said, "His wish is simple. He wants people to enjoy their time here.
They can take photos with illustrations and Chinese blessing phrases and take the happy memories home with them. The murals are mainly about family, love, success, friendship, and health. Simple happiness we take for granted and have never fought hard to get. He finds comfort in painting them."
Wei Pi-Ren founded the Rainbow Creative Company, which is meant to manage and maintain the environment and develop the diverse souvenirs of Rainbow Village. Wei decided to support Huang and focus on the artistic spirit and core values.
He stated that they are committed to giving back to the community by involving charity and donations. The company states, "We believe that caring about the elderly is the key to a loving world."
Rainbow Village has become so popular and well-known that Wei has more ambitions for it. His company wants and plans to bring Huang's art to more people by building seven more Rainbow Villages across Taiwan.
The new villages would represent the seven colors of the rainbow. Wei stated, "The villages will feature stories and food of military dependents' villages. And of course, Rainbow Grandpa's murals."
The True Tale Of "Rainbow Grandpa"
Ditto Kids Magazine was created by Dr. Beverly Tatum, who wanted to create a resource for parents. She wanted a resource that parents could hold in their hands as they guide their children. The magazine is something that will empower them and encourage their love for themselves and others around them while still giving them real history in an appropriate way.
The magazine partners with amazingly talented artists, authors, and changemakers. Issue three is all about Rainbow Village and its creator, Huang. The issue is full of gorgeous artwork and meaningful conversation starters.
Act For Rebuilding Old Quarters For Military Dependents
In order to speed up the renovation of old military dependents' villages, upgrade the benefits of the land, and build residences to accommodate the resident military households, the Act for Rebuilding Old Quarters for Military Dependents was enacted in 1996.
The goal is to renovate the old villages but still offer housing for the residents. The villages were literally falling apart and weren't adding much appeal to the area.
Core Values And Future Prospects
Rainbow Village has developed its own life, and it continues to evolve as the murals are repaired and renewed. The Rainbow Creative Team's core values are to always promote the creative spirits of Rainbow Grandpa, Huang Yung-Fu.
They want to make sure that all of the visitors who come to the park have the feeling of joy, positivity, nostalgia, and inspiration. The team is also dedicated to the development and promotion of animation and to taking Rainbow Village to even greater heights.
Rainbow Village Maintenance
The Rainbow Creative Team helps preserve the quality of Huang's artwork. Unfortunately, because of exposure to sunlight and rain and millions of tourists rambling around the village, the paintings can fade quickly.
They fix the paintings with Huang's assistance by keeping the vibrant colors alive. They also make sure that the park stays fresh with new paintings and artwork for visitors to enjoy.