Dance of light at Taiwan Lantern Festival

ENGIN TATLIBAL

I was hanging around the large area, a few miles out of Chiayi City. Technicians preparing for the night and dancers making their rehearsals.

I was looking for some coffee.

For the second time in my life, I felt asleep probably because of fresh air coming down from Alishan Mountain and hardly caught the couch that is to drive me to the press conference of Taiwan Lantern Festival. After getting the information from Ms. Chang, the magistrate and mayor of Chiayi and Mr. Yung-Hui Chou during the conference, the director general of Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Sanlih TV made a short interview with me. Then I went out to take a look at the extremely large venue of the festival that will get started in the evening.

Chiayi City stands right on the Tropic of Cancer and with the warming effect of spring’s bright light, I felt that I strongly need a coffee.

There I see Alison Lee, a kind friend from Chiayi City’s press office. She obtained me a cup of coffee and saved my day.

Light had always been a symbol for wisdom and virtue all over the globe for centuries. This also applies for Chinese culture. People used to celebrate the new year with lighting lanterns and wishing the coming days to bring all the good things to their lives in Chinese cultural circle for centuries. That’s the point that the Lantern Festival takes its roots. The tradition dates back to two millenias from present day and thought to be started by Buddhists. These were the things Alison told me while I was having my coffee.

By early 1990s, Taiwanese Government decided to institutionalize the festival and to adapt it to the conditions of present day by using new sound and light technologies. That seems to be a perfect decision. Taiwan Lantern Festival is being held in a different city annually and it’s Chiayi’s turn this year. And there I was.

The Lantern Festival’s date is precisely the first full moon evening after the Chinese new year. A main lantern is built showing the theme of the festival and usually the animal sign of the new year according to Chinese Zodiac is being used. 2018 is the year of dog and a child with a dog standing on the Ali Mountain (Alishan) was used as the composition of the main lantern in this year’s festival in Chiayi. The main lantern was really huge and was representing the hopes of millions of people for a better future, health and happiness.

The main lantern was standing in front of a dazzling and colorful area where hundreds of other lanterns were showing off. I was able to see all elements of Taiwanese culture under wonderful light shows. As Mayor Chang says, the name of the festival actually should be “Lantern and Light” Festival.

Besides this approach, Mayor Chang also gave some other details during her speech at wonderfully organized opening ceremony: This year’s festival venue spanned over 50 hectares of open space, the largest in the event’s history. At the same time, a 360-degree interactive view of the display area was able to be experienced through virtual reality (VR) technology available at the site for the first time.

Opening ceremony’s honour guest was Ms. Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan). President Tsai lit the 21-meter-tall main lantern with the cheersand ovations of tens of thousands of visitors. As I said, the main lantern’s theme was a smiling child with a dog companion standing on top of Alishan.

The 21-meter-tall lantern was called the “loyal auspiciousness” and was symbolizing the past, standing firmly in the present, and looking forward to the future. The lantern was designed by JFA Artworks. More than 20,000 circuits enabled LED lights in the lantern to show images made up of at least 12 million pixels. No matter from where spectators were viewing the lantern, they were able to enjoy a magical optical scene. The smiling child had a moving hand that waved to visitors and say “Hello” when the lantern was operating, conveying love and good wishes.

 

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