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Taiwan’s Rainbow Village artworks lost amid renovation

Gladys Tsai, CNN

Taiwan is finally opening to visitors this month, but travelers hoping to head to one colorful landmark might find themselves disappointed.

Rainbow Village” in the central city of Taichung has emerged as an Instagram favorite in recent years when the veteran soldiers’ accommodation was spared demolition after an elderly artist covered its walls with bright murals.

But now many murals have vanished, apparently after an attempt to preserve the artworks resulted in many being destroyed, sparking a dispute that continues to blight the tourist attraction.

Rainbow Village gained its reputation after Guangdong-born former soldier Huang Yong-fu, now 98, began daubing on its walls after he learned it was going to be pulled down to make way for a new development.

In 2010, the army veteran’s cheerful creations went viral, pulling in visitors from around the world and leading to the buildings being declared a public park under the Taichung city government.

But while global tourists were locked out of Taiwan because of the pandemic, the Taichung government announced it would close the village for about six months from August 1 to strengthen the walls, which were made of earth bricks and straw and needed updating.

Although the work was supposed to be structural, it appears to have resulted in the loss of artworks — and an argument about who is to blame.

Life’s work

Wei Pi-Jen, who took over management of the village after Huang became too frail a decade ago, has been accused along with 13 employees of covering up wall illustrations with plain paint a day before the renovation work was due to start.

The incident was caught on camera and all 14 people were taken to a police station.

Wei, however, claimed that all Huang’s original paintings were untouched. He says his team only painted over their own artwork to protest being left out of the renovation work.

Nevertheless, “Grandpa Rainbow,” as Huang is known, has called Wei “a big, bad guy” and said the younger man “destroyed the works of my lifetime.”

The local government says it plans to reopen Rainbow Village after the strengthening project is completed at the end of January 2023, but a question mark remains over the covered up walls.

Chung Kuo-yi, an officer from Taichung’s Cultural Affairs Bureau, told CNN that there’s no clear answer yet.

“We plan to restore them, but not necessarily to their original looks,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out the best way to do it.”

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Top image of a painted-over house in Rainbow Village courtesy the Taichung City Government

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