Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lantern Festival Taipei 2012

This colossal main lantern is several stories high.

Now is the time for Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Chinese new year. Figural lanterns are made by stretching colored paper or fabric over wire frames, and lit from within. Spectacular displays are set up in public areas, and in the evenings, huge crowds go strolling to watch them.

Since this is the Year of the Dragon, many lanterns are dragon-themed, although even in other years dragons are always a popular subject.

The above dragon is made from recycled bottles and drink-cup lids. Recycled materials are very popular for making the lanterns.

To give a better idea of the variety and effect of the lanterns, I am including a lot of illustrations, and very little explanation, so please just scroll through and enjoy—let me know which one is your favorite.

 Lantern Festival was set up this year in the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Plaza. The Taipei 101 Building forms a dramatic backdrop for the display.

I don’t know whether this is supposed to be a dinosaur or an alligator, or what happened to its snout—there seems to be an epidemic.

     (All above photos by the author.)

There is another type of lantern known as sky lanterns, which are like little hot air balloons.  Prayers or lucky wishes are written in red on the sides, then the fire is lit and the lanterns go soaring up to heaven. It is a dramatic and beautiful sight to watch them rise into the sky. 

Pingxi sky lanterns, Photo by Rick Yi, Taiwan News from 
The small reserve of fuel is supposed to be exhausted quickly, but often the wind tips the lanterns as they are rising, and the paper shells burst into flame and come plummeting back to earth. If I were a property owner I would worry about the fire hazard, but I guess people figure that if buildings can survive the Taiwan electrical and building codes, not to mention the fireworks from the first part of Chinese new year, then the mere application of direct flames isn't going to cause any additional harm.


  1. Hello:
    What a marvellous sight it must be to see all these lanterns gathered together. We have been amazed at the range and variety of lanterns and the skill which must be required to construct them. Do any go up in flames?

    It was extremely difficult to choose a favourite but we were greatly taken with the cheeky monkeys and the Loch Ness Monster lookalike!!

  2. Gorgeous! What a fun outing.(I'm trying a different browser, hopefully it will allow comments!)

  3. Hello Jane and Lance, Nessie had a lot of appeal for me, too. I took pictures from several angles to capture its charm.

    I've never seen a fire starting from a figural lantern, although those tinder-like materials and jerry-rigged wiring do seem to pose a threat. There is another kind of lantern lit with actual flame, that has its own festivals, usually out in the countryside where damage can be minimized. I added a picture and description at the end of the above post--thanks for reminding me about this.

  4. Hello Ann, I'm glad you finally got through. Many people have been complaining that their comments were not appearing--I hope they don't think that I eliminated them; it is just a problem with the blogging system.

    Yes, it's really fun to take a walk around the Lantern Festival. It is very crowded, and (in true Asian style) there are vendors of food and toy lanterns for children.

  5. Hello. Parnassus - I would have to say that the green dragon in the fourth photograph is my favorite, perhaps because it strikes me as a traditional design. But they're all great. I'm guessing that designs often reflect current culture, not unlike the balloons at the Macy Parade.

    I would love to see the sky lanterns as they rise; I imagine it would strike me on an emotional level.

  6. Hello Mark, The green dragon was one of the happiest ones. It was huge--you can see a photographer silhouetted against it. Your guess is right on--the lanterns are a fun mixture of traditional and contemporary. A Taipei 101 lantern appears in the second photo, and there are many cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, and Totoro.

    The sky lanterns do have an emotional impact, especially when you have written your own, and follow your rising lantern as long as you can.

  7. These are marvelous photographs, and the subject is fantastical! Thank you for sharing this with us, your fortunate readers.

  8. Hello Reggie, Because the lanterns are glowing against a dark background, the photos all come out beautiful. The rest of the time, I am envious of the beautiful photographs that grace your own blog.

  9. floating, stained glass, they are really beautiful

    1. You have described them perfectly. I'm glad you liked this post.


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