The Pingxi Lantern festival is a part of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, an annual event hosted by the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar with a series of activities throughout the Country. It also marks the end of the Chinese New Year festival. The Pingxi Lantern Festival is held in Pingxi, a remote hillside town in Taiwan. However, in the early 20th century, Pingxi was an important coal mining town of the Country.
Legend says that the sky lantern was invented during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265) by Zhuge Liang, and initially it was used to transmit military information. However, others say that, in earlier days, those who worked or farmed in the mountains faced the risk of being robbed or even killed by the miscreants, and they used the lanterns as symbols, to inform their families about their safety. Today, the lanterns are not used as safety signals anymore, it has become a national festival, as a symbol to ward off evil and disease, and to bring peace, happiness, harmony and welfare for all.
During the festival the dark sky over Pingxi beams with thousands of intricately designed lighted lanterns. The main lantern at the festival have theme of Chinese zodiac sign of the respective year. The large lantern installations are carefully designed to show resemblance with animals like dragons and dinosaurs and huge birds or butterflies. On the other hand, the smaller lanterns often symbolize some important historical events. The celebrations of this festival also include the process of lantern making, riddle games relating to the lanterns and display of fantastic fireworks.
It is interesting to note that the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival was selected by the Discovery Channel as the second biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world. Apart from the folk dance and music performances, lantern riddle contests, and street folk carnivals, the sky lanterns carrying prayers from the earth below to the ancestors above remain the central attraction of the festival. As the lighted lanterns start to rise up, the whole atmosphere magically changes to a wonderland. The twinkling lanterns gliding through the endless sky, make the ambience almost surreal to the eyes of the beholders.