Chiayi City hosts Taiwan Lantern Festival
By Jamie Wang, Supplement writer
February 28, 2010, 2:52 pm TWN
The southwestern city of Chiayi (嘉義市) is expecting huge crowds today for the Chinese calendar's second most important festival: the Lantern Festival (元宵節).
The popular event traditionally begins on the 15th day after the Lunar New Year (農曆新年) in the lunisolar calendar, which this year falls on Feb. 28.
According to Chiayi City Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠), who has mobilized the whole city for the joyous event, which runs until Mar. 7, this year's festival is poised to be the city's biggest event in more than 300 years.
Lanterns will be lit everyday next to the century-old Chiayi Park (嘉義公園) between 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., with celebrations continuing until 10 p.m. on Mar 7.
"This is big for Chiayi! We hold it as if we are holding a wedding for our family, that kind of joy!" said Huang.
The nation's Tourism Bureau (觀光局) under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (交通部), organized the first "Taiwan Lantern Festival" (台灣燈會) celebrations in 1990. Over the last two decades, the bureau has endeavored to stage the festival in cities and counties across the island, highlighting its deep significance in local cultures and growing importance on the international stage.
During a press event held at Taipei's Grand Hotel (圓山飯店) in January, Huang and Tourism Bureau director, Lai Se-chen (賴瑟珍), jointly lit a miniature version of this year's centerpiece. The actual piece will remain a surprise until the grand opening on Feb. 28.
This year's main lantern, "Blessing Arrives in the Treasure Island" (福臨寶島), carries the meaning that good fortune will arrive on Taiwan. The huge Chinese lantern features a tiger leaping over a rainbow-like bridge. The tiger is considered to be an auspicious animal which brings blessings and prosperity to the island.
The 19.3-meter-high centerpiece which weighs a staggering 36 tons, features cutting edge technology provided by the Electronics and Optoelectronics Research Laboratories (電子與光電研究所) of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (工業技術研究院).
The giant lantern will light up for the first time at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 (Sun.) and every 30 minutes afterwards, to the strains of beautiful melodies integrating classical Chinese music, orchestra, and Taiwanese folk music, fused by renowned National Taiwan University of Arts (國立台灣藝術大學) Professor Huang Hsin-tsai (黃新財).
In addition, Chiayi authorities have scheduled nightly concerts and stage performances, a huge parade taking place at 2 p.m. on Feb. 28 — featuring Japanese performers and teams from local universities — and a host of international acts including Mexican performers, Latino bands, and Indian dancers.