With “fireworks in the south” and “sky lanterns in the north”, the Taiwan Lantern Festival, an annual event held in Taiwan, is a spectacular festival, held in the period coinciding with that of the Chinese Lantern Festival, attracting tourists to the country in large numbers during the festival period. The Taiwan Lantern Festival is hosted each year by the Tourism Bureau of the Taiwanese Ministry of Transportation and Communications, with the aim to boost tourism in the country. During the festival, two primary events are hosted in the country, the lighting of thousands of sky lanterns in the Pingxi District of the country, and the firecracker ceremony in the Yanshui District. Both these events are major crowd pullers and thus aid the regional economy by income earned from tourist activities.
Origins Of The Chinese Lantern Festival
The Taiwan Lantern Festival traces its roots to the Chinese Lantern Festival which has been celebrated in China for ages. The festival corresponds to the first full moon day in the Chinese New Year and is associated with a 2,000-year-old history, linked to the Han Dynasty of China and Buddhism. As per legend, the Han Dynasty ruler, Emperor Hangmindi, introduced the sky lantern lighting event as part of the festivities at the royal palace after observing Buddhist monks performing a similar ceremony in the middle of the first month of the Chinese calendar. Since then, the lantern lighting ceremony has served as a symbol of good fortune and optimism in the country. This was also the time when unmarried women were allowed to step outdoors and enjoy complete freedom on their own. This allowed the interaction of young men and women and gave birth to many love stories. Hence, the festival is also regarded as the “Chinese Valentine Day”.
History of the Lantern Festival in Taiwan
The massive scale now seen in the celebrations of the Lantern Festival in Taiwan have only came about as recently as 1990, when the Tourism Bureau of the Government integrated the necessary resources and funding to host the festival all over the country in order to draw international media attention to the celebrations, in turn boosting the country’s tourism sector. Prior to 2001, the Taiwan Lantern Festival was exclusively celebrated at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in the Taipei City. However, since then the event has been celebrated in various parts of Taiwan. The festival has also been documented by a number of media channels including the Discovery Channel, which highly praised the Taiwan Lantern Festival as one of the best festivals in the world.
Lanterns and Fireworks
The sky lanterns used at the Taiwan Lantern Festival comes in various designs and are often customized according to the needs of the person handling them. The lanterns are decorated with wishes and images as per personal choice. One of the lanterns lit at the main venue of the festival is known as the main lantern which is decorated on a particular theme each year and is around 10 meters tall. Themes usually revolve around the Chinese astrology’s zodiac signs. The other smaller lanterns that are released into the sky also carry colorful images of animals, birds, and important religious or historical figures. Often, children are allowed to handle and release such small lanterns associating the ceremony with the innocence and purity of children. Besides the lantern lighting, the fireworks ceremony at the Yanshui District is also a famous attraction of the Taiwan Lantern Festival. According to legend, a deadly epidemic struck the region in 1875. To ward off the evil spirits responsible for such catastrophe, the people of the region sought the help of a massive fireworks show to please the Chinese God of War, Kuan Kung. An interesting and unique feature of this fireworks show is the beehive structure. It refers to a layered arrangement of bottle rockets within an iron and wooden framework. Inhabitants of the region then dress up in layers of protective clothing and homemade fire protecting gear and stand with their backs to the rockets. Once lit, the rockets whoosh out of the bottles in a haphazard fashion in all directions possible, often hitting the backs of people standing in their way. It is considered that greater the number of rockets hitting a person, the luckier the person will get.