Millions of lanterns in the shape of Christian churches, Buddhist temples, and Hindu temples with Brahma, Krishna, Lakshmi and Durga lit up the night sky of Taiwan to celebrate the Lantern Festival, marking the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
The Lantern Festival was inaugurated on Saturday in Yunlin county in the southwestern part of the island country and will go on till February 19. Thousands of people coming from all over the country as well as tourists participated in the inauguration.
The Taiwan Lantern Festival is a Buddhist tradition coming from mainland China and is celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year.
“It is a popular festival highlighting our friendly approach and love for the people,” said Eric Lin, Director of International Affairs Division at Taiwan Tourism.
Hosting the festival inauguration for the first time, the Yunlin displayed 3,000 lanterns on a plot of land spread over more than 50 hectares.
“It is the biggest Lantern Festival ever in the history of Taiwan. This year, the theme celebrates the diverse cultures and beliefs of the island,” said Jin, one of the organisers of the festival, working for the Taiwan Ministry of Communication.
“It has been a tough organisation that took us almost eight months, but the result is amazing. We also had about a dozen of private investors who funded the festival,” she added.
The island, located off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland, has an interesting mix of cultures from mainland China as well as Japan, and is home to 16 different tribes.
The origin of the festival is not clear, but it is said that it was started by an emperor of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), who was a devout Buddhist and who ordered his people to display lights on the 15th night of the first month of the lunar year to pay respects to Buddha.
Nowadays, in Taiwan the festival is celebrated in a modern way — the country being known for its high-tech innovations — with electric lanterns, artistic installations, light and sound shows, laser lights etc.