This Year's Taiwan Lantern Festival Will Light up the County of Miaoli
By Kurt Weidner
Each year, the official Taiwan Lantern Festival is staged by a chosen county or city government. This year the honors go, for the first time, to the county of Miaoli in northwestern Taiwan.
THIS YEAR'S FESTIVAL will be extra-special, as it will not only be a welcoming celebration for the Year of the Rabbit's entry but will also be a centennial celebration for the Republic of China, founded after the Chinese Revolution that started near the end of 1911. As in previous editions of the festival, the giant main lantern and the smaller-sized side lanterns will be in the shape of the zodiac animal for the year. There will also be a large number of other rabbit-shaped lanterns, bringing the total number of rabbit lanterns to 100, the number of years the ROC has been in existence. Furthermore, centenarians and those born in any Year of the Rabbit will be invited to attend the lighting of the lanterns ceremony. Another highlight of the festival will be an attempt to break the Guinness world record for most traditional Chinese lanterns assembled in one place, which currently stands at 47,759 and was set during the Taiwan Lantern Festival in 2008 staged in Tainan County.
The Miaoli organizers have also come up with a slew of great new ideas to make this festival even more attractive and memorable than its predecessors. There will be a "Bombing the Dragon" ritual, long a part of Miaoli's annual Lantern Festival celebrations organized by the local Hakka communities. A rich entertainment program will include stage performances featuring theater, music, and dance, and there will be a street parade a la Disneyland with floats decorated with rabbit lanterns.
During the 12 days of the festival there will be many options for visitors to tour the countryside and scenic areas of Miaoli, as there will be shuttle-bus connections to all 18 townships and a wide range of package tours for domestic and international travelers on offer.
How to Get There:
Railway: Take a conventional train to Zhunan Railway Station (about 1.5 hrs from Taipei, 3.5 hrs from Kaohsiung). During the event there will be shuttle buses running between the station and the festival grounds.
By Car: Take National Freeway No. 1 (Sun Yat-sen Freeway) to the Toufen Exit; follow Prov. Hwy No. 1 south; turn right onto Yongzhen Rd., Sec. 2 and follow the signs to the festival grounds.
Taiwan Lantern Festival in Miaoli
Date: Feb. 17~28, 2011
Venue: Zhunan Sports Park, Zhunan Township, Miaoli County
Organizer: Miaoli County Government
Other Lantern Festival Activities around Taiwan
Taipei Lantern Festival (台北燈節)
Staged for the first time in 1990, the annual Taipei Lantern Festival is mother of the many major Lantern Festival celebrations now staged in many cities around Taiwan each year. Due to the event's huge popularity, the festival has been expanded with each addition; it features a huge main lantern in the shape of the zodiac animal of the year and many lantern-exhibition areas with lantern in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Date: Feb.11~20, 2011
Venue: Area around Taipei City Hall and grounds of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Organizer: Taipei City Government (台北市政府)
Kaohsiung Lantern Festival (高雄燈會藝術節)
In response to the great success of the Taipei Lantern Festival, the city of Kaohsiung first staged its own large-scale version in 2001 when it was chosen to organize the Taiwan Lantern Festival. From that year on the banks of Love River, and more recently the area around Glory Pier as well, have been the venues for memorable lantern displays. Incorporating the city's river and harbor waters, the festival attracts visitors with mesmerizing shows of lights and reflections.
Date: Feb.12~28, 2011
Venue: Area around Glory Pier and Love River, Kaohsiung (高雄市光榮碼頭及愛河週邊)
Organizer: Kaohsiung City Government
Taichung Lantern Festival (中台灣元宵燈會)
Since 2006, Taiwan's third-largest city has delighted lantern-lovers (especially the little ones) with its own version of the Lantern Festival celebrations. Using famous cartoon characters such as Snoopy (2006), Piglet (2007), Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse (2008), Baseball Bulls (2009), and Tigger (2010) for the main lantern designs, the organizers have added a playful note to the festival. Will it be Bugs Bunny in 2011, the Year of the Rabbit?
Date: Feb.10~20, 2011
Venue: Wenxin Forest Park, Taichung City (台中市文心森林公園)
Organizer: Taichung City Government (台中市政府)
Taipei County Pingxi International Sky Lantern Festival (平溪國際天燈節)
The old mining town of Pingxi in Taipei County is an excellent destination for day-trips from the capital offering beautiful landscape, historic sights, and a fun train ride on a branch railway line. Usually a quiet town, once a year huge crowds gather here for an unforgettable sight, the releasing of thousands of paper lanterns into the night sky. Definitely a festival not to be missed!
Venue: Pingxi Township, Taipei County (平溪鄉台北縣)
Organizer: Taipei County Government (新北市)未知英文名
Tainan Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival (台南鹽水蜂炮)
Visiting the small town of Yanshui in Tainan County and taking part in the annual Beehive Rockets Festival is probably the most adrenalin-inducing experience you will ever have on this island, and likely anywhere else. Multiple mobile launch platforms will fire hundreds of thousands of tiny rockets into the sky – and into the crowds of revelers. Proper protection (full-face motorcycle helmet, thick scarf, and thick winter coat) is essential if you want to leave the festival exactly as you arrived.
Date: Feb.17, 2011
Venue: Wu Temple, Yanshui Junior High School and other locations in Yanshui Township (鹽水鎮、武廟、鹽水國中等地)
Organizer: Tainan City Government
Taitung Bombing of Master Han Dan (台東炸寒單)
As in Yanshui, there is no lack of explosives in Taitung during this festival celebration, but the firing is not aimed at the crowds. The target of the "bombing" (or better "firecrackering") are volunteers representing the god Han Dan who are carried through the streets on sedan chairs wearing only shorts and protecting themselves only with banyan branches. Firecrackers are thrown at them at random, and without proper protection their bodies will be covered with bruises and burn marks at the end of their ordeal. This religious ritual is said to help ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune to the community.
Date: Feb.16~20, 2011
Venue: Tianhou Temple, Nanjing Road Plaza, Baoding Art Center, National
Taitung Living Art Center, Haibin Park (台東天后宮，南京路廣場，?町藝文中心，國立台東生活美學?，海濱公園)
Organizer: Taitung County Government
Miaoli Bombing the Dragon Festival (苗栗火旁龍)
The Taiwan Lantern Festival will not be the only Lantern Festival event in Miaoli this year. "Bombing the Dragon" is a traditional custom of the Hakka people, and is one of the twelve official Hakka festivities listed by the Council of Hakka Affairs. Firecrackers are thrown at dancing dragons in an attempt to bring good luck and as part of prayers for prosperity in the coming year. The climax of the festival is the "Burning of the Dragon" at Wu Wenchang Temple.
Date: Feb.11~19, 2011
Venue: Plaza in front of Yuqing Temple, Miaoli City (苗栗市玉清宮前廣場)
Organizer: Miaoli City Office (苗栗市公所)
Yeliu Harbor Purification Festival (野柳神明淨港)
Once a year the coastal town of Yeliu ritually purifies its fishing harbor. Icons of deities from the local Baoan Temple will be carried in palanquins to the harbor on "inspection tours." The bearers carry the palanquins through the streets, walk with them across hot coals, and jump with them into the water, all in an attempt to ensure prosperity, safety and a good catch for the local fishermen in the coming year.
Date: February 17
Venue: Baoan Temple, Wanli Township, Taipei County (台北縣萬里鄉保安宮)
Organizer: Taipei County Government (臺中縣政府), Wanli Township Office (萬里鄉公所)
JAN - MAR
Penghu Lantern Festival
Organizer: Penghu County Government (澎湖縣政府)
Tel: (06) 927-4400 ext. 224
Turtles are a central theme of the Lantern Festival celebrations on Penghu. Enormous auspicious turtles made from rice (or gold), which can weigh hundreds of tons (!), are displayed at temples around the island in a traditional ritual expressing the wish for peace and prosperity in the coming year. There is also a rather unusual street parade where icons of deities are carried around to the sound of modern hip-hop tunes and techno beats.