‘Rainbow Village’ has a surprising history and a beautiful future all because of this grandpa

Around 10 years ago, Huang Yung-fu’s life turned upside down.  Huang Yung-fu spent more than 40 of his years in a village that was built for former soldiers. He had hoped to live the rest in a small village in Taichung. 

However, many of the homes began to decay over the years as residents left their homes.  Considered prime real estate, the government planned to demolish Huang’s village to make way for high-rise condominiums.

Huang Yungfu, an elderly painter | Rainbow Village

Huang, despite being a senior citizen, decided to do something else when he was faced with the prospect losing his home.  He grabbed a paintbrush and painted a bird in the bedroom. 

People, cats, and planes all followed.  Huang then moved on to the streets and buildings of the abandoned village after he had painted his home.

Huang would paint for hours. Then, one night, a student of nearby Ling Tung University saw Huang and heard his story. 

A photo of the colorful village
Credit: Rainbow Village

After taking pictures of Huang’s work, the student raised funds to buy paint for Huang, and started a petition against the settlement’s demolition.

With thousands of emails pouring into the office of Taichung’s mayor, the government relented and in October 2010, the mayor decreed that the remaining 11 buildings, streets, and surrounding areas of the village be preserved as a public park. 

The government has promised me that they will keep this house, and this village.,” Huang said.  “I was so happy and grateful.”

street view of the rainbow village
Street view | Rainbow Village

Huang was born in China outside Guangzhou. At the age of 15, he left his home to fight the Japanese in Second Sino-Japanese War. 

After World War II, Huang joined Chiang Kai-shek in the fight against Mao Zedong and fled to Taiwan following the defeat of the Nationalist Party. 

Huang was stationed in various airbases, then retired in 1978 with a gold medal for ‘Defending Taiwan’.

Huang’s was one of 879 villages built for military families that fled China.  These temporary homes were built to serve as temporary shelters, but they soon became permanent as the Nationalists never had the chance to retake mainland China.  Only 30 of these villages survive.

Typical wall at the Rainbow Village
The Rainbow Village’s typical wall

Huang was offered money to move out, but he couldn’t bear to leave the only home he had ever known in Taiwan.

When I came here, the village had 1,200 households and we’d all sit and talk like one big family.  Everyone moved on or died and I became alone..” 

Only 11 settlements remained in 2008, while developers had already acquired the rest.  Huang was unmarried, had never had a family, and had no place to go.  He stayed until he was the last resident.

Colorful street at the rainbow village
Street view | Rainbow Village

Today, the village of rainbow-painted buildings has evolved into a kaleidoscope full of cartoons, abstracts and surrealist art. 

Huang, affectionately called Grandpa Rainbow and the Rainbow Village, is now affectionately known to be Huang. His childhood memories and imagination inspired the art, which includes images of a puppy, his favorite teachers, and happier times with his family in rural areas.

There are many things that I can’t do anymore, but I can still paint,” Huang said. “It keeps my health and makes things beautiful..”

Rainbow Village

The colorful settlement has been a tourist attraction for more than a million people each year. It also receives a lot of media attention from groups like the BBC. 

Huang’s work is illustrated and postcards are sold by volunteers who help to pay for paint and living expenses.  Local organizations that support the elderly also receive a portion of the income.

To add to the happy ending, Huang’s story shows that it’s never to late for love.   After a severe bout with pneumonia in 2013, Huang found his Grandma Rainbow. She was an elderly nurse who took care of him. 

painted house at the rainbow village
Rainbow Village

They married, and now share Huang’s whimsical world.  “Since I met her, my lungs have been hurting since then.,” he said.  “My heart is more beautiful.”

Because of Huang’s age, there have been talks of expanding Rainbow Village into an arts school for children or turning Huang’s bungalow into a museum. 

Huang is taking it one step at a time.  “If I can get up to paint tomorrow, then I will.,” he said.  “If I can’t, I will feel good knowing that this place will stay and make others happy.”