Each year since 1990, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau has worked to make
the Taiwan Lantern Festival an international event and this year
was no exception.
The festival coincides with the Chinese New Year and is held on
the 15th day of the first lunar month (the time of the first full
moon of the New Year). This year’s festivities took place from Feb.
12-26, and while events were held throughout the country, the main
events took place at the Historic Park in Anping Harbor in the
ancient capital of Tainan.
To boost the popular Chinese folk festival, locals and visitors
alike could check out all-things lantern, including about 30
lantern floats, the 700 entries from the national lantern-making
contest, religious lanterns, those created out of recycled material
and others made by prisoners. Travelers could also wander the “sea
of lanterns” on the roads around the harbor and the “wishing
lantern” area where hundreds of orange lanterns were strung up near
the water’s edge. So that kids could join in the festivities, small
hand lantern were passed out free of charge.
But all eyes were on the theme lantern this year focused on the
Dog, the Chinese zodiacal animal for 2006 dubbed “Pan Hu Re-creates
the Heavens” (Pan Hu is a divine hound of Chinese mythology). The
lantern stood more than 70 feet, weighing in at about 20 tons.
The lantern included two adult dogs made of stainless steel and
their pup, fashioned by traditional lantern-making techniques. The
lantern rotated as it put on a computerized sound-and-light display
using 45,000 white lamps and colored LEDs while fireworks exploded
in the night sky. In addition, a specially composed score that
integrated traditional Chinese music and Taiwan folk tunes played
in the background.
Clients could also sample local dishes in a Tainan snack street
beside Anyi Park and check out entertainment from Taiwan and
overseas. Adding another layer of international culture to the
festival, dance groups and music troupes performed, including those
from the Chinese Culture University, the Taipei Hwa Kang Arts
School, Ju Percussion Group, Ten Drum Art Percussion Group and
Naruwan Dance Troupe of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, along
with five Yosakoi Soran Street dance groups from Japan and a
traditional dance group from Malaysia.
Clients seeking more of a thrill could drive about an hour
outside of Tainan, where locals celebrate the festival with the
Yanshui fireworks display Taiwan’s version of the running of the
bulls. Locals don helmets and protective gear and get in the line
of fire of Beehive Rockets to feel the rush of the pyrotechnics
whizzing by. It seems that each year clothes are singed and a few
suffer burns, but this doesn’t deter participants.
After being staged twice in the southern Taiwan city of Tainan,
the annual Taiwan Lantern Festival will be moved a bit to the north
in 2007. The location of the festival grounds will be in Taibao
City, Chiayi County, close to where the county-government seat is
Taiwan Tourism Bureau