Folk art of Taiwan

 

 

Generally, the Taiwanese are a delightful and simple people, who love simple things, which is obvious in the everyday picture through the rich and flourishing folk art, which adorns house gables, embankments along roads, and innumerable other places.

Other examples of Taiwanese folk art may be seen in the ubiquitous Daoist temples, which are adorned with countless sculptures, carvings, reliefs, wall paintings, and paper lanterns, depicting Chinese mythology, gods, dragons, Feng-Huang (often erroneously called ‘Chinese Phoenix’), tigers, lions etc. This artwork can be studied on the pages Religion: Daoism in Taiwan, and Culture: Lamps and lights.

 

 

During the Taiwanese Lantern Festival, which is celebrated during the Chinese New Year, elaborate lanterns are produced in the thousands. These pictures from Tainan were taken during Chinese New Year 2005 (Year of the Rooster).

 

 

Naturally, a large number of lanterns at this festival depicted roosters, as it was celebrating the start of the Year of the Rooster. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2003-05
This lantern depicts a tiger. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lantern, depicting a weight-lifting hippo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These lanterns depict penguins. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2003-05
“Old MacDonald had a farm!” – Lanterns, showing a farmer with a buffalo cart, geese, and a goat. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lanterns, depicting two cats, which resemble Disney’s Aristocats. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

These ducks, constructed of cement, function as eye catchers at the ‘Duck Café’, near Guoxing. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

This sculpture in Taichung, resembling a Christmas tree, consists of an iron scaffold, ‘adorned’ with old safety helmets, golf balls, wires with gleaming bulbs, etc. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Painted sculptures, depicting cyclists, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

In Taiwan, electricity meter boxes are often decorated with paintings, most of which are rather kitschy.

 

 

Taiwan 2015
This picture from Taichung shows a painting of coconut palms, which must be an unknown hybrid, as the nuts are clustered on the trunk, and not, as is usually the case, just below the fronds. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016
A perfect, cone-shaped volcano and a fancy flower park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Another painting from Taichung, depicting a perfectly shaped mountain, with a gorgeous tree in front of it. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
This picture shows meter boxes in the city of Huwei, Yunlin Province, adorned with tigers, painted by children. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

In Chinese mythology, the dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. You may read about its important role in Daoism on the page Religion: Daoism in Taiwan.

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Dragon, made from metal wires and woven grass. – Read about the important role of the dragon in Daoism elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Daoism in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016
This hedge near Sanyi is trimmed to form a dragon’s head. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2018c
Kitschy mural in the city of Taichung, depicting a farmer with a water buffalo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
Sculpture, made from old cameras etc., Xingang. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Taiwan 2010
Lobster (top) and beetle, made from bamboo branches, Dongshih, near Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Local art on a river levee at Linbei Chukou, near Linnei, depicting village life, and also the butterfly migration, which takes place in this area every spring. Nets have been erected along the highway in the background to reduce the number of butterflies killed by cars. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus, previously called Selenarctos thibetanus), is also known by two other names, moon bear and white-chested bear, both due to the crescent-shaped white patch on the chest. In former times, this bear was widely distributed in Asia, found from south-eastern Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, eastwards along the Himalaya to Southeast Asia, China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and south-eastern Russia (Ussuriland).

However, due to illegal hunting to supply the insatiable Chinese market with parts for traditional medicine, and for bear paw soup, this bear has disappeared, or become very rare, in many areas. In South Korea, for instance, only around ten of these bears live in the wild, whereas no less than c. 1600 are kept in captivity, often under horrible conditions. These captive bears are often killed in the most cruel and horrendous ways, and that this practice is illegal does not seem to deter consumers.

Formerly, the Asian black bear was a totem animal to various indigenous tribes in Taiwan (see elsewhere on this page), and it was a sign of courage to kill one. Today, the bear is extremely rare in the island. It is strictly protected, but is only very slowly recovering, presumably due to being vulnerable to diseases, caused by inbreeding.

 

 

Taiwan 2018c
Kitschy mural in the city of Taichung, depicting a waterfall and an Asian black bear. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Three examples of kindergarten children’s artwork, Taichung.

 

 

Taiwan 2018c
Smiling cat, wearing a cap. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018c
Chicken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018c
Kingfisher. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

This dead tree in the village of Chingliao, near Tainan, has been ‘adorned’ with rusted metal parts. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Decorated wall, Wushe Fishing Harbour. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

These figures, made from joined pieces of wood, were exhibited near the town of Shenghsing.

 

 

Taiwan 2009
Taiwan 2009
Musicians. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2009
Spiderman. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2009
Gigantic bee. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2009
Water buffalo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Crash barriers along Taiwanese roads are often adorned with children’s art. The following 14 pictures show examples of this art.

 

 

Taiwan 2017a
Taiwan 2017a
These two paintings in the city of Taichung were made to promote traffic safety. The text in the upper picture says: “Fasten your seat-belt”, while the one in the lower picture says: “Don’t cross, when there is a red light, so that you can get home safely.” (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018a
Long-necked giraffe with a monkey, a teddy bear, a cat, and birds, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018e
A very feminine unicorn, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
School bus with happy passengers, near the town of Rueilli. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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Longish lion, wearing a red cloth, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Smiling cat and dragonfly, near Rueilli. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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Fairies, living in mushrooms, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018a
Rabbit, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Sad dragon, emitting smoke from its nostrils, near Rueilli. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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Artsy cat, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
This monster on a wall in Jhuolan resembles a cross between a shark and a whale. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018a
Marine life: Octopus, whale, dolphin, fish, and starfish, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018e
Children, performing a lion dance, Taichung. During Daoist festivals, this dance is a common feature at Taiwanese temples. A picture, depicting this dance, is shown on the page Religion: Daoism in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
During the Daoist festival Tzuoh Jiaw, held in the village of Dalinpo near Kaohshiung, during which local gods are worshipped to prevent bad events, four men perform a ‘bullfight’, while two other men are ‘fighting’. – Other Daoist festivals are dealt with in detail on the page Religion: Daoism in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

The gorgeous Taiwan blue magpie (Urocissa caerulea) was first collected by British biologist Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877) who, in 1860, became the first European consular representative to Taiwan. He discovered many new species, and four mammals and 15 birds are named after him. He called the Taiwan blue magpie ‘long-tailed mountain nymph’, from its old Chinese name 長尾山娘 (‘long-tailed mountain lady’). This bird is endemic to Taiwan, living in broad-leaved forests at medium elevations, between 300 and 1,200 m.

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Kitschy murals, depicting Taiwan blue magpie, in the city of Taichung (top), and in the village of Chingliao, near Tainan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Sculpture outside an elementary school in Taichung, depicting a cat with a Taiwan barbet (Psilopogon nuchalis) on its head. This bird is described on the page Animals: Birds in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Three examples of folk art near Dongshih, south-western Taiwan.

 

 

Taiwan 2016
Bird, made from bits of wood. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016
Taiwan 2016
This owl is made from old flip-flops, tennis balls, and rope. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016
Oyster shells, glued onto a wall to form a heron. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Taiwan 2018
This iron fence, surrounding a park in Taichung, is adorned with images of a frog (top) and an eagle. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwanese marionette puppet show is a type of opera, in which the performance is done through cloth puppets. These puppets originated in the 17th Century in the Chinese Fujian Province. From this province, many people emigrated to Taiwan, where marionette puppet show soon became a popular art form.

Head, hands, and feet are made of carved wood, while the body and limbs consist of cloth. During the performance, a person makes the puppet move, using his gloved hand inside the puppet. In the old days, the puppets resembled sacks, hence the name 布袋戲 (bu dai xi), which literally means ‘cloth bag opera’. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glove_puppetry)

 

 

During the Hsin Shing-Kuo Puppet Show, a marionette performance, which took place in the town of Huwei, western Taiwan, Judy’s niece Guo-chin and I won these fine puppets in a lottery. In the lower picture, we are posing together with the 86-year-old grandson of the founder of this troupe. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The Pilgrimage to the West is a mythological novel by Wu Cheng-en (1500-1582), in which a monk, Xuan-zang, travels to western China with his three disciples, Sun Wu-kong (‘Monkey’), who is armed with a magic stick, Zhu Ba-jie (‘Pig’), who is armed with a rake-like weapon, and Sha Wu-jing, who is responsible for the luggage, transported on a horse.

 

 

This scene from the Hsin Shing-Kuo Puppet Show relates an episode from The Pilgrimage to the West, in which Monkey, with the help of a Heavenly Goddess, kills a demon, who has abducted the monk. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
Taiwan 2017b
From a distance, this painting in Sanyi gives the impression of being a huge wall painting, but on closer inspection it turns out to be a decorated staircase. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

In a suburban area in Taichung, a retired soldier has adorned an entire neighbourhood – walls, streets, doors – with colourful paintings. For this reason, the area has been dubbed Tsai Hung Tsun (‘Rainbow Village’). The pictures below show examples of his art.

 

 

Taiwan 2013
The artist in front of one of his paintings. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013
Taiwan 2013

 

 

Taiwan 2013
Water buffalo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2013
Astronaut (?). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2013
Dressed up for a carnival (?). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2013
Monkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
Wall painting, depicting a giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), resting on a bench, Sanyi. You may read about this species on the page Sleep. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

The red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), also called Japanese or Manchurian crane, breeds in large reedbeds in Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and south-eastern Siberia, and a small population is also found on the island of Hokkaido, Japan. Despite the fact that this crane is a very rare visitor to Taiwan, it is commonly depicted as ornamentation in Daoist temples.

 

 

Taiwan 2003-05
Red-naped crane, made from bamboo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Artsy food: Dog made from sticky rice, Puli. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Five tiles in a city park in Taichung, made by school children.

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
Happy horse. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
Frog on a waterlily leaf. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
It seems that this man is eager to have a boxing match with a creature, which resembles a guinea pig, but maybe it is a black-and-white cow? (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
Hen on eggs. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
Smiling rabbits. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
Painting in an underground walkway, depicting a clown and a monkey, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
”Marry me!” – This rather dilapidated ‘wedding coach’ in Taichung has been reduced to storage place for firewood and a homemade ladder. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

The threatened black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor) breeds on islets off the west coast of Korea, on offshore islets in Liaoning Province in China, and since 2006 also a few pairs in the Tumen Estuary in Russia. (Source: Birdlife International)

From an estimated number as high as 10,000, the population plummeted to a low of 288 individuals in 1988. Since then, conservation efforts have caused the population to increase to c. 4,000 individuals in 2017. With a total of c. 2,500 birds, southern Taiwan is the most important wintering area for this species.

 

 

Taiwan 2017
Taiwan 2016
Taiwan 2018c
Naturally, this iconic bird is also represented in Taiwanese folk art, as seen in these two examples from Cigu Black-faced Spoonbill Refuge near Tainan, and a drawing, made by a school child. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
A tiny garden, established around a tree at the edge of a city street in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Many areas, especially in central Taiwan, are adorned with wonderful art, created by a multitude of peoples of Malayan origin, who live here. Formerly, the wild boar (Sus scrofa) was of huge importance to these tribal peoples as a food source, which is evident from their artwork. The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) also played an important role as a totem animal. This animal is described elsewhere on this page, and a picture of it may be seen on the page Traditional medicine.

Below is a collection of photographs, depicting the artwork of various Taiwanese tribes.

 

 

Near Wufong, Hsinchu, Maopu tribals have created these mosaics from broken tiles

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Pipe-smoking woman, fishing. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Mosaic, depicting the endemic Taiwan macaque (Macaca cyclopis), which is fairly common in most parts of Taiwan. This species is presented in detail on the page Animals: Monkeys and apes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Wild boar sow with piglets. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Goat. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Asian black bear. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Art work, produced by Hsia-yeh tribals, Taitung.

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
Men, carved on a pole. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014
Wooden sculpture, depicting a woman with pestle and mortar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
Wooden sculpture, depicting a hunter, carrying a bagged wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
Engraving on a slate slab, depicting women with pestles and a mortar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Song Lin tribal artwork, Wanda, near Puli.

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Mosaic, depicting a hunter, smoking a pipe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Mosaic, depicting a woman with tattooed face, likewise smoking a pipe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Mosaic, depicting a happy child with tattooed face. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Burial stone for a deceased man, carved out of a slate slab. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

A collection of artwork of the Atayal tribe Da An (‘Great Peace’), Dongshih, near Taichung.

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Mosaic, depicting men and a dog, hunting an Asian black bear. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Mosaic, depicting hunters, carrying a killed wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Taiwan 2008
These mosaics depict women, weaving clothes and baskets. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Sculpture, depicting a hunter, carrying a shot wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Bird-like creature, made from an upside-down tree trunk. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Taiwan 2011
This mosaic at Wufong, near Hsinchu, made by Taiping (Xi Sha) tribals, depicts people, celebrating during a festival. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Various artwork of the Bunung tribe.

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Mural in Dilih, depicting a woman, sowing crops. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Decorated stone from Dilih, depicting a sharp-nosed pit viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus), which is venerated as a totem animal by various Taiwanese tribes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Painted stone, depicting women, who pound cereals in a mortar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Slate slab from Wushe, near Puli, with an engraving, depicting women harvesting millet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Another slate slab from Wushe, depicting extraction of facial hair with a string. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Mosaic, also from Wushe, depicting a Swinhoe’s pheasant (Lophura swinhoii), which is endemic to Taiwan. Pictures of this species are shown on the page Animals: Birds of Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Another mosaic from Wushe, depicting a Taiwan serow (Capricornis swinhoei) with two kids. This animal, which is also endemic to Taiwan, was formerly hunted for food by various tribes, but is protected today. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

A collection of artwork of the Atayal tribe Tian Gou (‘Heavenly Dog’), Dongshih, near Taichung.

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Taiwan 2010
Wall painting and sculpture, depicting the following legend: Once upon a time there were two suns in the sky, making the climate unbearably hot. A mighty hunter took his bow and arrow and shot down one of the suns, which became the Moon. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Wall painting, depicting a hunter, who has bagged a wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Mosaic, depicting hunters, killing a wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Mosaic, depicting men, catching fish with trap and leister. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Mosaic, depicting an old woman with tattooed upper lip, smoking a pipe while weaving a carrying-basket. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Bei tribal art at Erbensung, Shei-pa National Park. Wooden sculpture, depicting a woman with tattooed face, who is carrying a basket, using a headband. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Mosaics at Wufong, near Hsinchu, created by Lin tribals

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Happy farmer with his buffalo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Fighting goats. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Crab and fish. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2017a
Drawing on a road, depicting a dolphin, Bagua Shan, near Changhua. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Mural in Taichung, depicting a boy, herding Beijing ducks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Mosaic in a wall, consisting of broken tile stumps, depicting fireflies, crabs, and other creatures, Yuantan Natural Ecological Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
These paintings on a house wall in Taichung depict shops, a farm, and men, performing tai chi. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pork is a very popular food item in Taiwan, so, naturally, pigs abound in Taiwanese folk art. Three examples are shown below.

 

 

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Pigs, made from a tree trunk and branches, Puli. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Happy pig, made of clay. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016
Pig’s face, made from concrete, pebbles, and a small flower pot, near Sanyi. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
This roller shutter in a kindergarten in Taichung is decorated with a painting of Snow White and the seven dwarves. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
This signpost in Sheding Nature Park, Kenting National Park, is shaped as a sika deer (Cervus nippon) – a species which was exterminated in this area, but now has been re-introduced. The text says: “Keep walking! Approaching to exit!” (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

(Uploaded February 2018)

 

(Latest update July 2019)