Hosting the festival inauguration for the first time in its 28-year history, the south-western county of Yunlin displayed 3,000 lanterns on a plot of land spread over more than 50 hectares. “It is the biggest Lantern Festival ever in the history of Taiwan. This year, the theme celebrates the diverse cultures and beliefs of the island,” said Jin, one of the organisers of the festival, working for the Taiwan ministry of communication. “It has been a tough organisation that took us almost eight months, but the result is amazing. We also had about a dozen of private investors who funded the festival,” she added.
The island, located off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland, has an interesting mix of cultures from mainland China as well as Japan, and is home to 16 different tribes. Lanterns in the shape of Christian churches, Buddhist temples and even Hindu temples with the gods Brahma, Krishna, Lakshmi and Durga were displayed, attracting the curious Taiwanese people screaming “hindu, hindu” and taking selfies with the exotic Indians gods. “The lanterns were made by local artisans who have been doing this over generations and we also teach the kids in school to create their own lanterns; we then conduct a contest and the best ones are selected for display in the exhibition area. The colours we choose for the lanterns have significance, for example red is good luck, blue is for a successful career and yellow for those who want to become rich!” added Lin.
During the countdown – that was particularly exciting and impressive, with gigantic installations, a huge stage and Taiwanese musicians playing traditional songs – thousands of mobile phones lit up the area while drones flew over the crowd. “The festival is very colorful and beautiful; it reminds me of home when we celebrate Diwali! And, the unique aspect of it is its blend of modern technologies and traditions,” said Asmita Aggarwal, Journalist at Patriot, on a tour of the island, warming her hands in the cold weather that goes down to five degrees at night in this period of the year.
The festival is indeed celebrated in a modern way – the country being known for its high-tech innovations – with electric lanterns, artistic installations, light & sound shows, laser lights etc.
The inauguration came to an end with a magnificent fireworks show. The majestic rooster, king of the night, was illuminated. Locals asked for benediction, murmuring prayers to their beloved God for protection and well-being.