Monday, 1 October 2012

Elephant No. 365: Door Hanger

Technically, today marks the end of a calendar year's worth of this blog, but since 2012 is a leap year, I ended up with 366 days.

But because it's almost the last day, when I saw a plain wooden door hanger in a discount store, I thought it might be perfect for today's elephant.

A door hanger is generally rectangular in shape, with a cut-out to allow it to slip over a doorknob. The most common form of door hanger is a "Do Not Disturb" sign, hung over the outer handle in hotel rooms, classrooms, bedrooms, and so forth. They are also often used as a form of advertising, or as a means of leaving delivery notices.

Some people use do-not-disturb signs on their hotel rooms to make thieves think that the room is occupied. In other instances, do-not-disturb signs have been blamed for concealing evidence of a homicide or other crime. In some hotels, instead of a do-not-disturb sign, a privacy button can now be triggered from inside the room, lighting up an indicator on the outside of the door.

For today's elephant, I thought I'd make my own do-not-disturb sign, since the minute I finish tomorrow's blog, I'm taking a few days away from anything remotely like blogging.

This was the wooden door hanger I bought. It came in a package of two for a dollar, which I thought was a pretty good deal.

I started by painting the whole thing red on both sides with acrylic paint.

Once both sides were dry, I sketched an elephant on paper. I didn't really want to sketch too much on the painted piece, because an eraser might leave marks.

I began by painting right on the door hanger, using my sketch as inspiration. I did do a bit of sketching once I'd painted the head, just to keep me on track. I roughed in the head first, then the yellow pyjamas, then the bits of arms and legs peeking out. I then added a little stuffed bunny, rather than the pull toy from my original sketch.

It took about six coats of yellow in total to give me a surface I liked, which probably distracted me a bit, because I forgot to photograph any of the other stages in between. To give you an idea of how I proceeded, however, I added pink to the ears, trunk and toenails, as well as the bunny's nose. Then I added all the blue dots on the pyjamas, followed by eyes and tusks. To finish up, I wrote "DO NOT DISTURB" in gold paint, added dots of gold for the crown, and picked out the edge of the entire thing in gold dots.

It took me about an hour in actual working time to paint this, along with about half an hour to let the red dry, and about half an hour to build up enough layers of yellow. It wasn't particularly difficult, however, and the final piece is quite nice in real life.

I think it will also look very nice on my study door at the end of the day tomorrow.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Lin Wang is thought to be the oldest elephant who ever lived. Born in 1917, Lin Wang was an Asian elephant who also served with the Chinese Expeditionary Force during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), and later with the Kuomintang in Taiwan.

During the war, when the Japanese began attacking British colonies in Burma, Chiang Kai-Shek formed the Chinese Expeditionary Force, under General Sun Li-jen. After a 1943 battle near a Japanese camp in Burma, Lin Wang and twelve other elephants were captured by the Chinese. The elephants had been used by the Japanese to haul large guns and other supplies, and were pressed into action by the Allies for similar purposes.

In 1945, the Expeditionary Force was recalled to China. The elephants and their handlers marched out along the Burma Road, but six elephants died on the difficult journey. By the time they arrived in Guangdong, the war was over. The elephants' wartime service was not over, however. They were used to haul building materials for war monuments, and in 1946 also performed in a circus to help raise money for famine relief in Hunan province. Four of the elephants were sent to four separate zoos, while Lin Wang and the two others were sent to a park in Guangzhou.

In 1947, General Sun was sent to Taiwan to train new troops, and took the three elephants with him. One died while crossing the Taiwan Strait; the two others were used to haul logs and perform other labour near a military base. In 1951, another elephant died. The zoo elephants had also died over the years, leaving only Lin Wang of the thirteen original elephants.

Lin Wang and General Sun, 1947.

In 1952, Lin Wang was sent to the Taipei Zoo, where he joined the female elephant Malan. Lin Wang soon became the most popular and famous animal in Taiwan. In 1983, the zoo threw a birthday party for his sixty-sixth birthday, and continued throwing parties for him every year until his death.

In early 2003, Lin Wang developed arthritis in one of his hind legs. Lacking the companionship of Malan, who had died some months earlier, Lin Wang stopped eating. He declined rapidly, and died on February 26. His memorial at the zoo lasted several weeks, and was visited by tens of thousands of people, many of whom left cards and flowers. He was also posthumously made an Honorary Taipei Citizen by the Mayor of Taipei. Taiwan's President even sent a wreath with a card to "our forever friend, Lin Wang."

Today, Lin Wang has become part of Taiwan's national identity, and children and adults alike remember him as "Grandpa Lin Wang". In 2004, the Taipei Zoo erected a life-sized monument to him, and an animated film about his life is currently in the works.

Monument to Lin Wang at the Taipei Zoo.

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 
The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee)


  1. I agree that do not disturb signs have been misunderstood in the past. But I absolutely loves yours, super easy and fun!

    1. Thanks so much! I wish I had more time for elephants these days, but it sure was fun. :)