Town transforms itself with cartoon murals
Who needs street numbers when you've got the Little Mermaid, SpongeBob or the Transformers?
In the village of Huija, in southern Taiwan's Shanhua district, each house stands out from its neighbor thanks to different cartoon murals.
Huija has seen an increase in property prices and the arrival of busloads of tourists since it underwent its unusual facelift over the last year.
The village's animation-style reinvention was inspired, according to locals, by three sisters who picked up their brushes during a visit their grandmother’s house in April, 2014.
Bored and wanting to keep their grandmother company, the women covered the exterior of her home with pixelated cartoon characters and portraits of Daruma dolls, a traditional Japanese lucky charm.
On one of the windows is a sign that reads: “This is where grandmother lives.”
Painted house trend
“People here in the community started to copy them and style their own homes,” says one neighbor, who gives her name as Mrs. Liao.
Today, the neighborhood is home to dozens of murals. New illustrations pop up frequently, and on any given day, artists (or villagers) can be spotted at work on a painting.
“Kids will paint, some art schools will come in and offer their services, or people will hire professionals to paint their blank walls,” Liao explains.
“And now we have a lot of tourists -- mostly from Hong Kong and China.”
Villagers welcome the extra foot traffic. Several homeowners have put up notices urging tourists to post their mural photos on Facebook.
New tourist attraction
The spontaneous art movement has also brought in money to the area.
“Housing in the Shanhua District in general has risen up astronomically,” Mei Chun, a resident of Shanhua says. “It’s partially due to a better education system but also because there are now more visitors to the area.”
Some homes have signs advertising dried fruit and drinks for sale.
Near the city temple, convenience store owner Su King Min says his business has boomed within the last year.
“There are a lot of people during the weekends and vendors will set up stalls all around the temple.” says Su, who beams proudly at the mural covering his store.
His facade features a cartoon sketch of a Taiwanese policeman that was painted by students from the Far East University in nearby Tainan City.
“Before, the only liveliness we encountered was during the temple festivities,” says Su. “Those are only held three times a year. Now, we have people every day.”
Art village trend in Taiwan
Taiwan has seen a number of painted villages springing up in recent years..
Nanlun Village in Chiangyi County in the west of Taiwan is famous for its adorable "My Neighbor Totoro" theme.
The most popular attractions in Haifeng Village in Chiangyi's neighboring county, Changhua, are the Slam Dunk murals.
Tourists' cars are banned in the Hujia community during holidays -- there's a parking lot outside the village.
It takes about two hours to tour through the village on foot.
Hujia painted village, Shanhua District, Tainan City, Taiwan