The top 3 Taiwan Lantern Festival events you SHOULD NOT miss

Posted by FRNCi | | Chinese New Year in Taiwan

Have you ever dreamed of being a part of a Disney fairytale?
Or maybe you wanted to do something insane to get that adrenaline rush?
Or maybe you felt like throwing some “bombs”?
Whichever is it, Taiwan Lantern Festival has got you covered.

Being half way through Lunar Year New, it is now time to think of the Lantern Festival. While there is a growing number of festivities and celebrations kicking off across the island worth to take a look, some of them can give you an opportunity to unravel the cultural side of Taiwan that you yet are not aware of.

As most of the events are happening around the same time and are spread all over Taiwan, you will need to make up your mind and choose one or two tops, depending on your transportability.

Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey via / CC BY-NC

Magical scene straight out of a Disney movie

1 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival – February 10th -11th

If you haven’t yet decided on how to spend the Lantern Festival, Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is a place to be. Taking place in a small picturesque hillside town in New Taipei City, the festival has been increasingly popular over the years, and so for one night in February it becomes a must be destination not only for Taiwanese people. In fact, the Taiwanese government has very much succeeded in popularizing this cultural event overseas either by various tourism campaigns or word of mouth, hence numbers of foreign travelers are being attracted to it every year.

Just as in the past, rising lanterns are reflecting people’s hopes and prayers. With their hearts and minds filled with hope, they lit their lantern and set it free. And just like that, within few minutes thousands of lanterns are gently rising to the sky creating almost fairytale-like magical scenery that could easily compete with any Disney movie. In fact, Disney had drawn its share of inspiration from alike festivals and you can observe results in the Tangled scene, where Rapunzel and Flynn are afloat surrounded with nothing but romance and millions of flickering lantern lights.

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You would think of sky lanterns as a quite recent invention. Nothing more misleading. There are many traditions and myths revolving around the history of sky lanterns, most historians agree however, that the origin of lanterns can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). During war times, lanterns have been used as a strategic tool, signaling brief messages for the troops. Think of it as an ancient version of a phone. On the other hand, the myth has it that the inventor of sky lantern is in reality Zhuge Liang, a sage and military strategist living in the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280) known by his courtesy name- Kongming. So the same reason, in China up to this day, sky lanterns have been referred to as kongming deng, meaning kongming lantern. Although you can still find stories claiming that the name actually comes from the hat that the sage was always pictured wearing.

Regardless of which story is true, sky lanterns are here for us to revel in. And there is no better place to lose yourself in the beauty of a floating sea of lanterns, than during the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. You have to trust me on this one.

Photo credit: Jirka Matousek via / CC BY

Absolute insanity: adrenaline junkie’s paradise

2 Yanshui Beehive Firecrackers Festival – February 10th -11th

You think you have seen the world most dangerous celebrations? In that case you haven’t been to this Taiwan’s festival yet.

Probably most popular among young Taiwanese and foreigners, the Yanshui Beehive Firecrackers Festival is only for those with strong nerves. If you are one of those people who cannot imagine a single day without an adrenaline boost, that’s the exact place for you.

This event, happening in Yanshui Distict, in Tainan, got its name from the sound of bazillions of firecrackers setting out from the beehive towers densely at the same time resembling the one of a beehive once released striking brave participants one by one. Originated from a local folk festival, these days, especially on the second day of celebrations, it become a destination for those craving for some serious excitement.

Photo credit: bravesheng via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Tradition has it, the ritual dates back to the 19th century when Tainan, once one of the most important trading ports on the island, was suffering from continuous plagues and diseases spreading over the town. Haven’t been supplied with any cure and not knowing where to look for help, local monks turned their prayers to gods. Guan Gong, a martial god was summoned and instructed locals to welcome him by carrying a palanquin holding his resemblance across the town while simultaneously setting off rocket fireworks along the way.

Fireworks were set and kept the rats, responsible for the spread of disease, away what put an end to the suffering. Both as a sign of gratitude and precaution, this event gave a beginning to the local custom and is now one the most popular Lunar Festival celebrations in Taiwan.

If you want to be part of the mobbing hob being stricken by hundreds of exploding rockets, put the helmet on and make sure to equip yourself with a bunch of old clothes and rags to keep the flaming hot fireworks away. While it is considered lucky to be struck by a rocket at the festival, do remember that being a part of adventure is one thing, being reckless is another. Be safe!

Photo credit: Wilson Sun via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

You think being struck by rocket fireworks is dangerous? Now try being thrown “bombs” at without wearing much of a protection layer

3 The bombing of Master Handan Festival – February 10th

The bombing of Master Handan Festival with its religious ritual being the focal point, has become a signature event in Taitung, on the eastern side of Taiwan. It’s probably the most folk and culture oriented among the three mentioned festivities.

And just as with the myths surrounding the origin of sky lanterns, there is not one but few legends behind the Taitung’s ritual. As one of the local legend claims, Master Handan was in fact known by the name Zhao Gongming and was a Shang Dynasty’ general. After his death, in reward for his past achievements, he was given the honor to lead a group of five gods and become a god of wealth and war. People believe that Handan was not very cold-resistant during his past life and so warming him with firecracker ”bombs” would protect him from getting cold, hence win his favor. In return he would bless them with wealth every time he comes with visit.

On the day of the event, a procession strides through the streets of the city with few volunteers, which by the way are also subjected to the “warming practice”, carrying a sedan chair with a man impersonating Master Handan. The daredevil wears nothing except for a pair of red shorts with head covered with some towels and goggles for basic protection only, no helmet. Now, try to beat that.

Photo credit: apriltangboy via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

So, have you picked up your favorite one already? It’s a tough choice, undoubtedly. Even if you won’t make it to all of them, think of it as an opportunity. There will always be a reason for you to pay another visit to our beautiful island. And that can never be bad.

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