Every year in Taiwan, the first full moon of the Chinese New Year is celebrated with the extraordinary Lantern Festival.
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau held the first Lantern Festival in 1990; it was designed to be an event to celebrate local folklore, and planned to coincide with the Ping Xi Sky Lantern festival and the Yanshuei Beehive Fireworks Festival.
The Lantern Festival has grown into an amazing national event in Taiwan. Originally held in the Chiang Chai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, it now moves to a different part of the country each year. Counties all over Taiwan compete for the honor to host the Lantern Festival.
In 2018, the Year of the Dog, the Taiwan Lantern Festival will be celebrated from March 2 through March 11 in Chiayi County. Ten days of scheduled events will bring tourism, culture, art, and technology together in a series of shows that rival some of the most magnificent anywhere in the world.
The Lantern Festival shows in Chiayi will be divided into “water,” “land,” and “air” zones.
The famous Sea of Clouds, along with sunrise, forest railways, and the Alishan cherry blossoms will be just of few of the themes depicted in the water zone. For those unfamiliar with Alishan and the Sea of Clouds this time lapse video below will give you a little glimpse into the extraordinary beauty of this phenomenon.
Each night, lantern shows focused on the “land” will be accompanied by professional dance performances, showcasing the history of Chiayi County while displaying traditional crafts created by local artists. Additionally, the “air” lantern shows will feature high-tech lanterns — made in innovative ways, showing new materials and techniques — creating something never before seen. This year’s Lantern Festival will be the very first technology inspired lantern festival. The combination of traditional culture and the artful incorporation of new technology will be central to the buzz about the 2018 Lantern Festival in Taiwan.
Other Places to Celebrate the Lantern Festival
Ping Xi Sky Lantern Festival
Visitors can celebrate the Lantern Festival all over Taiwan, but about one hour’s drive from Taipei, there is a very special small village called Ping Xi that is famous for its sky lanterns.
Ping Xi stages a very special Sky Lantern Festival that coincides with the Lantern Festival. Sky lanterns were first used to send military information during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265) and are considered to be the ancient precursor to hot air balloons.
On this special night during the Lantern Festival, thousands of sky lanterns are released, dotting the night sky with the glowing wishes for family and friends. It’s no wonder that National Geographic’s editors selected a visit to see Ping Xi’s sky lanterns as one of their Top Ten Winter Trips.
Tainan Yanshuei (Yanshui) Beehive Fireworks Festival
In 1885, at the height of a disastrous cholera epidemic, the panic-stricken citizens of Yanshuei prayed to Guan Di, the god of war to bring an end to the pestilence that was killing so many. And it was on the Lantern Evening General Zhou Cang paraded through the city, with Guan Di’s palanquin at the end of the entourage. The people of Yanshuei followed the palanquin, setting off firecrackers all along the way, continuing to wind their way through the city until dawn to show their devotion. The cholera broke, and the plague ended.
The tradition continues to this day, with palanquins parading around the city, symbolically armed. Thousands of citizens and visitors encircle the palanquins, walking with them, following them as they snake through the streets. There are small “gun walls” set up all over Yanshuei — they each hold thousands of rockets that are ignited at one time as a palanquin passes by — a massive bee-like sound that draws the crowds in excitement to “rush the beehive barricades.” The people of Yanshuei believe that this massive cleansing by fireworks washes away bad luck and helps improve fortune at the beginning of the new year.
Bombing of Master Han Dan in Taitung City
On the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese New Year, Taitung City celebrates with the annual inspection tour of Master Han Dan, a God of Wealth and guardian of the celestial treasury. It is believed that in life, Han Dan was an actual person called Zhao Gong-ming. His annual inspection tour of the human world is an occasion for throngs of people to celebrate as they pray for the god’s blessing and for good fortune in the New Year.
On the day of Han Dan’s inspection tour, gods from many temples in Taitung and surrounding towns join the God of Wealth in a great procession. All along the parade’s route, people make offerings of fruit and fresh flowers, and light strings of firecrackers to welcome Master Han Dan. The actual person who plays Han Dan wears only a mask, a scarf, and a pair of red shorts. He must stand calmly in the middle of an ongoing blaze of firecrackers all around him, protected by a single leafy tree branch.
Why to the people throw firecrackers at Han Dan? The most commonly accepted tale is that Master Han Dan is the god of hooligans — and as people throw firecrackers, Han Dan’s power grows and grows from the loudness of all of the explosions. A second, less popular story says that Han Dan dislikes the cold, so people who throw firecrackers keep the god warm, thus winning his blessing.
The 2018 Lantern Festival in Taiwan — an extraordinary time to visit this exciting country
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This post was sponsored by Taiwan: the Heart of Asia.
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