Transporting Wishes at Pingxi Lantern Festival

As the name suggests, Pingxi Lantern Festival happens to be one of the most colorful Chinese New Year celebrations in Taiwan. Since the year 1999, it is annually held to celebrate the New Year by releasing a mass amount of sky lanterns. Pingxi Lantern Festival has been named as one of the world’s top festivals which a person must attend in their lifetime. Today, it has become a major tourist attraction in Taiwan, drawing people from both Taiwan and abroad.

Hosted by the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of Taiwan, Pingxi Lantern Festival is celebrated usually on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar. Also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival, the purpose of the festival is to spread the traditional folklore festival. Earlier this year, over 4,600 lanterns were launched into the sky to welcome the Chinese New Year.

The history of the Pingxi Lantern Festival is interesting. Long ago, the remote villages of Pingxi were prone to attacks from bandits. Sky lanterns were used as signal so that residents who took refuge elsewhere, watching them in the sky would know it was safe to return home. As a result, sky lanterns are also known as “safety lanterns” or “prayer lanterns.”

According to another source, the sky lantern was invented during the Three Kingdoms period to serve signaling purposes in warfare. The sky lanterns used in the festival were invented by Zhuge Liang (Kongming). Also known as the Kongming Lantern, their name comes from the lantern’s resemblance to the hat of Kongming.

Once used as an ancient communications tool for warfare, today, people believe that the lanterns are a way to pass on your wishes to the gods above as they fly into the sky. So it is common to see people in Pingxi writing their wishes on the lanterns. The sky lanterns have come to symbolise peace and good tidings for the New Year.

As far as accessing Pingxi to participate in the Lantern Festival is concerned, firstly, visitors should take a flight to Taipei, which is the national capital of Taiwan. Pingxi is a small mountain village east of Taipei, which is situated at a distance of 48 km. By car, it is approximately an hour’s drive. There is also the option of taking a train to Pingxi. Thus, there are a lot of options for visitors to reach Pingxi.

The Pingxi Lantern Festival is usually held in the month of February every year. Pingxi is a small township nestled among the mountains in northeastern Taipei County. Generally, Taipei has a semi-tropical climate characterized by humid weather. There is significant rainfall throughout the year in Pingxi. However, February is a rather damp month with little sunlight. The maximum temperature usually does not cross the 12 degree mark. So visitors are advised to pack woolens accordingly, to deal with the chilly winters of Pingxi.

For the upcoming year, these are the details of Pingxi Lantern Festival:
• Place: Chung-hsing New Village
• Duration: Feb. 7 – Feb. 23, 2014
• Feb. 07 Trial operation
• Feb. 13 Pre-opening
• Feb. 14 Opening

For a touching beginning to your new year, plan trip to Pingxi Lantern Festival as soon as possible!