The Pingxi Lantern festival, rated as one of the most popular festivals of Taiwan, is a part of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, hosted by the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan, and celebrated with a series of activities throughout the country. The festival is held in the village of Pingxi in New Taipei City, which was an important coal mining town of the country in the early 20th century. The annual spectacular event is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when hundreds of floating lanterns lit and released into the sky, along with stationary lantern displays and aptly complemented with musical performances.
According to local legend, the sky lantern was invented by Zhuge Liang, during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265). In those early days it was used to transmit military information. However, with time it became the green signal of safety. In fact, in those days, the villagers, who worked or farmed in the remote mountains often, had to face the risk of being attacked by the robbers, who did not hesitate even to kill. Those isolated and courageous people used the lanterns as a signal, to inform their families about their safety. Today, the sky lantern symbolizes a silent prayer into the sky, a prayer to the ancestors to bring peace, happiness, harmony and welfare for all and to ward off evil and diseases.
During the festival night the deep dark sky over Pingxi gleams and winks with thousands of gracefully designed lighted lanterns. Each year, the main lantern at the festival is designed according to the theme of the Chinese zodiac sign of the particular year. The installations of the giant lantern are carefully designed to exhibit the resemblance with the respective zodiac animals like dragons or rats, dinosaurs or snakes. However, the smaller lanterns do not follow the giants, instead they often symbolize to represent some important historical events. Apart from releasing the lanterns into the sky to follow the wind, the Pingxi lantern festival also includes the process of lantern making, riddle games relating to the lanterns and super display of fantastic and astounding fireworks.
Selected by the Discovery Channel as the second biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is considered by many as something more than a festival. It has an ethereal effect on those, who follow it. Apart from the fun and frolic, folk dance and music performances, lantern riddle contests and street folk carnivals, the sky lanterns also serve the spiritual purpose of carrying prayers from the earth below to the ancestors above, which is the central attraction of the festival. As the lighted lanterns slowly rise up into the dark sky to follow the wind, the whole ambience suddenly changes to an incredibly surreal or magical wonderland. The twinkling and winking lanterns gliding through the vast expanse of the unknown sky, make the situation almost mystical and enigmatic to the eyes of the beholders.