“In a blaze of luminous glory that marks the new Lunar New Year, 100,000 to 200,000 sky lanterns emblazon a full moonlit sky.”
While Chinese New Year tends to get all the attention, one of the more subtle and beguiling celebratory days in the Chinese calendar is the annual Sky Lantern Festival. In a blaze of luminous glory, 100,000 to 200,000 hot air balloons emblazon a full moonlit sky. Although the holiday is celebrated all across Asia, nowhere in the world is it more recognized than Pingxi, a remote mountain town an hour-long drive from Taipei.
History of Lantern Festival
Tradition has it that the “sky lantern” was invented during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265) by Zhuge Liang. At that time, bands of outlaws frequently raided the lowland villages, forcing residents to seek refuge in the lush, verdant mountains. Village watchmen used “fire balloons” as signals to inform the refugees that their houses were safe once again. When those hiding in the hills saw the celestial flares, they knew it was time to go home.
Celebration of Lantern Festival
The main activity is to buy a lantern, scribble your desires and ambitions on it, then send it into the heavens. The lanterns are made out of oiled rice paper, sheepskin, bamboo filaments, silk, or satin outfitted with a large candle at the bottom. As the lamps heat up, they take flight and linger in the air for as long as the flame still flickers. The base for individual launches is at the risky location of the railroad tracks on Old Street. Trains pull through every 15 minutes, forcing people to scatter to the sides.
After ambling a half-mile down Old Street, you’ll arrive at the main stage. In contrast to the down-home feel of the town’s principle road, you can tell that a major production has been bustling on this side of town: big screens, television cameras, celebrities and musicians are everywhere. The scene requires enormous crowd control, the ushering people in and out of prime viewing spots. Don’t be surprised if you get jostled or elbowed in the gut.
In 2017, Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is being celebrated from 11th February to 19th February in Taipei, Taiwan.