A Glimpse Inside the Rainbow Village

Rainbow Village Christmas
Grandpa Rainbow’s home at Christmas time.

Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村 is a small roadside attraction in Taichung 台中. It has enjoyed a fair amount of international exposure through blogs like Atlas Obscura, Oddity Central, and Street Art Utopia, which is understandable given how tremendously photogenic the place is. It’s almost too photogenic, actually—when I dropped by there were swarms of tourists taking photos and I hardly managed more than a single clean shot of my own (hence only having one decent picture to share).

To call this place a “village” is a bit of a misnomer—it is merely the remnants of one of nearly a thousand military dependents’ villages1 built in Taiwan to house soldiers and their families after the Kuomintang retreated from mainland China during the Chinese Civil War. These villages were meant to be temporary—after all, the delusional KMT planned to retake the mainland at some point! But time slipped away, the years metastasized into decades, and these provisional settlements became permanent homes for their residents despite their structural problems and poor sanitation.

In the 1990s, flush with cash from the Taiwan Miracle, the government finally got around to building new homes for residents of the military dependents’ villages. Entire villages were evicted in a wave of urban renewal—but not everyone wanted to leave the ramshackle homes they had lived in for so long.

Grandpa Rainbow, as he is now known, is one such hold-out, and his creative means of protest spared one small part of his community from the march of progress. The story, as I understand it, is that he picked up a paintbrush to save his home, decorating it with vibrant splashes of colour that soon earned him the attention of national media. Eventually the government relented, allowing for a small corner of the village to be preserved. Nowadays the rest of the village is gone—replaced by open parkland—and Grandpa Rainbow continues to pursue his art (as well as a little side business in postcards and other souvenirs).

  1. A few more example of military dependents’ villages in Taipei 台北: Treasure Hill 寶藏巖 (now transformed into an artist’s village; I previously wrote about it here), Toad Mountain 蟾蜍山 (formally Huànmín New Village 煥民新村; long threatened, now spared), and Huáguāng Community 華光社區 (already demolished).