After living in the same village for 40 years Huang Yung-fu, 86 and the last remaining resident at the time, had big problem. The Taiwanese government wanted to knock down the village to build an apartment complex and even offered him money to move elsewhere. The village was the only home he had ever known in Taiwan and he could not even bear the thought of leaving… so he started painting.
Born in China, Huang, now known as ‘Rainbow Grandpa’, came to Taiwan after fighting in several wars: the Sino-Japanese War, World War II and with the Nationalist Party against Mao Zedong’s Communist government. The Nationalists lost and Huang and two million others fled to Taiwan, where the government put together a temporary village to provide housing for the military members and their family. The village ended up being their permanent home.
It was a big shock for Huang when the government wanted to demolish his home 40 years later. “When I came here, the village had 1,200 households and we’d all sit and talk like one big family,” Huang told the BBC. “But then everyone moved away or passed away and I became lonely.” He had nowhere to go and started painting to avoid thinking of the problem.
His first painting was of a small bird on his bungalow, then he continued by painting cats, birds and people. He didn’t stop, painting the empty houses, inside and out, walkways and remaining buildings in the village paintings. In 2010, a student at a local university came upon the village and on hearing Huang’s story, decided to help him save the village. He took photos of the village, then started a fundraising campaign and petition to save it from destruction.
The campaign went viral and ‘Rainbow Grandpa’ and his village captured the heart of the nation. Huang and the village became a huge tourist attraction, with over a million visitors each year.
“The government has promised me they will keep this house and this village,” he said. “I was so happy and thankful.”
Most importantly, Huang got to keep his home and his village. Now 97, Huang still gets up before dawn every day to paint and has no plans to stop anytime soon.