TAIPEI (The China Post) – Entering Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village seems like entering a time tunnel, making you seem to quickly forget about all the troubles and vexations in life.
The fast pace of urban life seems also to slow down as you step into this world, peppered by colorful and childlike graffiti.
The walls of the military dependents’ village are adorned with cute animals, like rabbits, small birds, buffaloes and monkeys, which all seem to leap out from the walls, welcoming the tourists to the village.
The vibrant colored totems seem to come to life and each character seems to be imbued with its own soul and vitality.
Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village was voted as one of the world’s most visited attractions by the “Secret Marvels of the World,” a new book launched by Lonely Planet in 2017.
It was also chosen by the UK’s travel website, Culture Trip as the “10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Taiwan.” It was also voted by the Japanese travel website, H.I.S. as “one of Taiwan’s most visited destinations for photo-taking.”
Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village is a very popular tourist attraction among domestic and foreign travelers alike, with the number of visits reaching more than 2 million every year.
Many people may be familiar with the story of Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village. Due of the passage of the ” Act for Rebuilding Old Quarters for Military Dependents ” in 1996, the village was set to be demolished in August 2008.
However, Grandpa Huang Yongzhen was suddenly inspired with doing something to commemorate the place where he had lived for nearly 30 years. As such, he picked up his brushes and paint and started drawing on the ground and walls of the military dependents’ village.
Later, professors and students from nearby Ling Tung and Hungkuang Universities found that Grandpa’s paintings were very interesting. The teachers and students of the two institutions then decided to come together.
They filed an application with the Taichung City Government to preserve this unexpected but amazing cultural asset. Hu Zhiqiang, who was then the Taichung mayor, promised that with the successful re-planning of the land, Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village will be preserved in the form of a “Rainbow Art Park.”
The village, quickly, became very popular on the Internet and initiated a wave of painting craze all over Taiwan. The story of Tainan Shanhua Hu Community was, even, reported on CNN.
At the end of the Sino-Japanese war, Grandpa Rainbow came with the Nationalist Government to Taiwan, in 1950. After serving in several places in Taiwan, he settled down in Taichung.
Grandpa Rainbow shared with us his initial contact with painting when he was still a child. “My father was a scholar when I was still a child. He was an extremely talented writer and a painter. When I was about six or seven years old, he taught me to draw on the ground with chalk. I even received an award for my work in elementary school, but I stopped painting when I reached junior high school.”
When he first started painting in Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village, he began with his own home and later on, gradually painted his neighbor’s house and the scope continuously expanded.
At the beginning, since painting materials were not that cheap, he would put up a donation box and relied on people’s donations to buy paint. Later on, when donations kept on growing, he donated the excess money to other organizations or used it for other purposes.
Grandpa Huang told us, “I just paint what comes to my mind! Tuantuan and Yuanyuan from the zoo and also monsters, well, basically anything that makes me happy. Many who come to visit here are also lovers and I think they are all very charming so, I want them to have a happy union and I draw them a “May you have a blessed union, now and forever.” 」
I hope that people who come to see my paintings will also feel joy! Then, I would be very happy!”
Grandpa’s paintings contain many concepts from traditional Chinese culture such as “mutual help and protection,” “great fortune and great favor,” “gaining title after successfully passing the exam,” “nothing is more important than a well-cared body,” “no pain no gain,” etc.
He also draws a lot of rainbows, sunflowers and geometric elements, more specifically murals found from ancient civilizations. It was said that his murals were very much similar to the murals excavated recently in Australia.
Grandpa Rainbow had already drawn characters similar to the famous cartoon, Teletubbies, even before the show started airing in Taiwan.
Grandpa Rainbow is probably the only painter in the world, who uses paintbrush to paint on walls at this age. He gets up at four or five in the morning and often runs around the village, painting, or doing restorative work.
The only time he puts down the brush is when he has to take his meals. His entire mind is focused on the paintings.
Now, the walls are all filled with his artworks so whenever a new idea strikes him, he would put it on paper. He hopes that he would have a bigger venue to continue creating.
For the maintenance, preservation and restoration of Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village, the Taichung City Cultural Bureau has signed a contract handing over the property rights of the village to Grandpa Rainbow.
However, the government will be responsible for taking care of the infrastructure and the protection of the environment. It will also improve the traffic flow so that tourists and visitors will have a better experience during their visits.
The scope of Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village is actually too small and I asked the city government if they have plans to expand the village in the future. The city government explained that because the surrounding land still belongs to the Ministry of National Defense, it is necessary to obtain land ownership rights first, if they want to expand the land and later manage it.
In addition to preserving the history, culture and educational significance of Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village, the Cultural Affairs Bureau had also proposed to include Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village in the 2022 “Design Capital of the World” project.
It also held a “2018 Taichung Design Lab” at the Taichung Culture and Creative Industries Park in September this year. The Lab showcased the results from the improvement in the signage system design in Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village.
In the future, it also plans to provide internship opportunities for students from Ling Tung University’s Tourism and Leisure Management Department to promote industry-university cooperation and student participation.
If you come to Taiwan or Taichung, remember to visit Rainbow Military Dependents’ Village with its colorful buildings, the peripheral cultural and creative goods and its delicious popsicles and “marbled eggs”.
The “marbled eggs” are eggs cooked with special Chinese medicinal herbs and are different from those sold in convenience stores.
You can also take a photo with Grandpa Rainbow, who is very kind, approachable and who will strike his signature pose for you. His fervent wish is that each person who visits the village will be influenced by his innocence and joy.
Address: No. 25, Lane 56, Chun’an Road, Nanxun District, Taichung City
Opening hours: 8.00 AM – 6.00 PM every day
Tel: 0920-162888, 0912-076787
Transportation: Take any public transportation to Taichung Railway Station or Taichung High Speed Rail Station, then transfer to the local bus.