When moving to a new country, you tend to try and squeeze as much activity as you could in the first month. I was no exception, and since it is definitely better to be pro-active in familiarising myself in my new home, I had a whirlwind of a month – what with making time for the flower season, more bright lights and chaotic atmospheres, squeezing in more festivities, and making new friends. The next few posts will be a photo-blog collection of what I’ve been up to so far (apart from studying of course).
Following the Sky Lanterns of Pingxi, I attended the Taipei Lantern Festival, which also coincided shortly after the Lunar New Year celebrations. Held at the Taipei Expo Park, it is an impressive display of paper lanterns, but unlike the ones in Pingxi there is nothing modest about these ones here. More like giant complex constructions blazing with light, they lit up the entire area and I am sure if anyone flew over Taipei during that time, would’ve gazed down and wondered what all the fuss was all about.
Starting our tour of lights was a selection of lanterns crafted by primary and highschool students for the National Student Small Lantern Making Competition. Though smaller in stature than the others, they were nothing short of intricate and complicated work, and I honestly think some of these kids could grow up to be professional lantern makers, if there was such a job. Taking a gentle stroll towards the Main Lantern Area where the crowds seem to double (careful of small dogs and children) you will find yourself amused, and maybe frightened by the Go Go Golden Goat Sound and Light Show (yes that’s really the name of this year’s featured lantern, since 2015 is the Year of the Goat according to the Lunar Calendar). The featured light show will change every year as so happens when we welcome another animal patron for the new year. But I have no doubt that it will be just as big and also ever slightly alarming for the next year.
Apart from having to constantly adjust your eyes and camera lens when faced with a gigantic lantern, the event also provides a stage for Lantern Riddles (元宵猜燈謎), a tradition which dates back to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1270 AD). The crowd participates in solving riddles usually written in prose or as poetry. I was told they’re quite difficult to solve, so whoever can guess the correct answer, of course wins a prize.
If getting competitive over intellectual riddles is not your cup of tea, then head over to the Mood of Tang Poems Lantern Area. The name refers to a style of poetry written during the Tang Dynasty (about 618 – 907 AD) in which the arts and linguistics were allowed to flourish. Poetry became an important part of society during this era – so much so that it was regarded the Golden Age of Chinese poetry. But no need to look through dusty old books, you could have a taste of Chinese poetic romanticism here in the modern surrounds of the Taipei Expo Park.
The Taipei Lantern Festival doesn’t just end here. For the mega lantern fans out there, the festival also includes a Lantern Sea of Lights for a couple of sections of Zhongshan North Road (中山北路), Taipei. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, but further information should be available here.
Overall, we spent a good hour or so gallivanting around the park, gazing at lights and admiring the formidable constructions of the lanterns. It is quite a spectacle, and there is something about a bright night that lifts my spirits. I would definitely head back there if I am fortunate enough to stay in Taipei for another new year. And hopefully this time, I won’t get too startled by a giant fake goat, or some other animal blinking at me.
When: The event starts soon after the Lunar New Year and remains open for 10 days. A similar website to this year’s Festival would be available so keep checking in!
Getting There: Easiest way to get to the Expo Park Entrance is to take the Red MRT line to Yuanshan Station (捷運圓山站). For Zhongshan North Road, also take the Red MRT line but to Shuanglian Station (雙連站).