February 16 Taipei Lantern Festival

The Taipei Lantern Festival has become one of the city’s most important annual celebrations. Since its 1997 debut, this 17-year-old festival has become a treasure trove of folk arts. It is visited by both local people celebrating Chinese New Year and foreigners touring Taipei. And over the years, the lantern displays keep getting larger and more numerous.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 243

Life size horse lantern from the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival

The lantern festival has its origins in the activities of an agricultural society celebrating the lengthening of daylight hours and the coming of spring after the lunar New Year. Other legends have it that the festival was actually started by an emperor of the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.), who was a devout Buddhist and who ordered his people to display lights on the fifteenth night of the first month of the lunar year to pay respects to Buddha. According to the same legend, holding torches or lanterns on this night makes it easier to see deities descending from heaven to give blessings to the earth.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 253

Life size horse lantern from the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival

Yet another legend has it that in the Tang dynasty, the emperors would celebrate the festival by ordering hundreds of beautiful women to sing and dance with lanterns in the brightly lit plaza.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 248

Life size horse lantern from the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival

These festive activities gradually spread to the common people and developed into the most popular festival in the yearly calendar. The lantern festival is also called the Little New Year.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 250

Life size horse lantern from the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival

In the old days, these festivities, together with the celebrations for the Chinese New Year, would last for as long as forty-five days. Nowadays the festival lasts for about a week. This year, the Taipei City lantern festival ran from 2/7/2014 until 2/16/2014.

iph4s 092

Life size horse lanterns from the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival

As you have probably figured out by looking at the photos in this blog entry, 2014 is the “Year of Horse” in the Chinese zodiac. I was  incredibly happy to see all of the beautiful, life size horse lanterns that were on display for the Taipei lantern festival. Many of the lanterns looked just as good during the daylight when we first arrived at the festival grounds.

2014-02-16 wx80 077

Life size Mongol holding onto a horse lantern display at the Taipei lantern festival, as seen during the daylight

The Taipei lantern festival was on its last day when Jeff and I finally went to see it. This was because there had been a string of cold, rainy days in Taipei. It had rained from 2/6/2014, when we returned to Taipei from Sumatra, until 2/15/2014, for nine straight days of typical cold, rainy Taipei winter weather.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 203

Lantern and sign for the Taipei 2014 Lantern Festival

The Taipei lantern festival had outgrown its old grounds in front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial, and been moved to the Flower Festival grounds in Taipei. So we knew that we would be doing a lot of walking in this more spread out area, and thus we tried to wait for a non rainy day to see the lanterns.

Lots of people walking around the festival grounds to see the lanterns

The Taipei City lantern festival reminded me of when I went to see the International Flower Show on these grounds during one of its final days. I think that there were about 100,000 people looking at the lanterns on the nice Sunday evening when we saw them. It was a good thing that the lantern festival had been moved to a larger location, because it seemed like half of the people in Taipei were also waiting for the rain to end in order to see the lanterns! The festival was very, very, very crowded when we went on Sunday night.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 194

Crowds of people crossing the street to get to the entrance of the festival grounds

I am still wearing my panda vest, because we went directly to the lantern festival from Yangmingshan National Park, where we were looking at the flower blossoms to the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 175

Ann is standing in front of a lantern display at the entrance to the 2014 Taipei Lantern Festival

The bus that goes back to NeiHu makes a stop on the way at the subway station next the the flower festival grounds. So it was on our way home, and it made more sense to see it before we went home. It also gave us a chance to see the lanterns in the daylight

2014-02-16 wx80 071

Two stuffed “My Little Pony” animals sitting in a carriage as part of a lantern display

The main centerpiece lantern was a giant horse this year. It clanged colors during a light show every hour, but did not do anything more amazing than that.

2014-02-16 wx80 074

Giant horse lantern at the center of the Taipei Lantern Festival grounds

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 285

Giant horse lantern at the center of the Taipei Lantern Festival grounds at night

But what was interesting was the interactive display on the base pedestal of this horse lantern. There was a camera that took real time video of the people watching the screen, and then displayed that video with computer animated horses interacting with the people watching them. It was a alot of fun, and we both stood and tried to interact with the horses on the screen!

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 278

Ann and Jeff are among the audience members on the screen watching the computer animated horse in the arena.

There were many different lantern areas set up around the festival grounds. Some lantern displays were about historical events

Lanterns showing a famous Chinese explorer greeting natives

Some lantern displays were about Chinese legends.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 271

Lanterns showing Chinese musicians playing for a legendary emperor

Some lanterns displays showed traditional Chinese toys and games.

Lanterns showing kids playing with traditional Chinese toys

Some displays showed traditional culture and lifestyles.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 209

Lanterns showing a couple making symbolic offerings for the safe birth of a baby

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 264

Lanterns showing a raditional rural scene

Some displays showed Taiwan’s history.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 235

Lanterns showing missionaries bringing Christianity and science to Taiwan

Some lantern displays showed Taiwan’s natural beauty

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 214

Lanterns symbolizing the mountain peaks of Taiwan

The street alongside the Lantern Festival was decorated to be a “Sea of Blissful Lights”:Light displays were in the center of the the traffic islands and the trees were decorated with lights between Civic Blvd. and Zhongshan Bridge..

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 200

Ann is standing under some of the lights hanging from the trees alongside of the street

The lights along the street were very pretty, and they were just starting to show up in the dusk light when we were there.

A light display in the traffic island in the center of the street

There was also a tunnel of lights in a section of the festival grounds.

DSC_0129

People walking through a ight tunnel on the Lantern Festival grounds

There was an area of lantern displays featuring fairy tales. I loved the chickens!

iph4s 060

Chicken lanterns!

And, of course, there were panda lanterns!

DSC_0152

A lantern display with pandas at the Taipei Lantern Festival

And there was a “National Student Lantern-Design Competition” Area: The lantern display pictured below was designed and put together by college students. It was titled “The Evolution of the Horse”.

A lantern display designed and put together by college students

Many of the trees in the flower festival grounds were also decorated with lights.

DSC_0161

A tree decorated with lights on the festival grounds of the Taipei Lantern Festival

It was a very beautiful and enchanting way to spend an evening! Next year, I hope that we can go on an earlier day of the lantern festival, and perhaps avoid some of the crowds.

2014-02-16 Cherry blossom, Lantan Festival 257

A sculpture decorated with lights on the Taipei Lantern Festival grounds

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “February 16 Taipei Lantern Festival

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s