92-year-old veteran builds kingdom of colors

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By Joy Lee, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — It is hard to ignore the village that wears vivid colored paintings and speaks in heart-warming blessing words. People call it the rainbow village, where the world is made out of bright color blocks and unique figures. These paintings seem to brighten the otherwise drab military dependents’ village in Taichung, where one of the remaining residents is the 92-year-old veteran who doubles as the creator of the colorful world, Huang Yung-fu (黃永阜).

Huang, who was born in Hong Kong, has a story that many elderly veterans share. He joined the military and followed the Kuomintang government in their move to Taiwan in 1949. He was then a 27-year-old married man with one daughter, but he couldn’t bring his family with him to Taiwan.

“I remained single in Taiwan, just like many of my friends from the military here,” said Huang.

After spending 60 years in Taiwan, Huang started to succumb to a humdrum retired life, especially after most of his best friends, who were also his neighbors, had passed away.

Huang started to paint his room with images of his choice. If he was not satisfied with his work, he just covered it with posters.

“I didn’t go to art school or spend money learning how to paint, but my father taught me how to draw when I was little,” said Huang. “He was a really strict teacher.”

After he filled up the walls of his room with paintings, he started to draw on the outer walls and window frames of his residence. Several village residents noticed the bright colors covering Huang’s house, so they volunteered their own houses for him to paint on. Grandpa Huang does not own a TV, so he copied figures from newspapers and magazines and painted the walls and floors of the village as he saw fit. From movie stars of his time to famous celebrities nowadays, they all live on the walls in rainbow village, including Bruce Lee and Jeremy Lin.

When people discovered the wonder village of vivid colors, they posted photos of it online, which drew more and more visitors to the village. The once quiet and drab village has now become a hot spot for tourists from all over the world.

“When I see visitors from Japan, I paint women in kimono,” said Huang. “I like to transform what I see in life, (incorporating them) into my paintings.”

He also writes words like “happiness,” “gratitude” and “healthy” on the walls to wish all visitors good health and happiness. Grandpa Huang also painted warning signs on the tops of stairs and low-hanging roofs to remind visitors to be careful.

Huang’s paintings not only saved him from a humdrum retiree life, but they also rescued the village from being torn down in 2000.