Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 15 News List

`Lighting masters' wave their wands to brighten up the city

By Chris Pechstedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei City's government has hired "lighting masters" to turn Renai Road (仁愛路) into a 4km-long "Tunnel of Lights" (點燈河) in an effort to get people moving during the dullest, laziest time of the year: the Lunar Near Year vacation.

"Taiwanese have a habit during the long vacation of staying inside and watching TV and DVDs and eating," said Jason Yeh (葉傑生), the deputy commissioner of Taipei's department of civil affairs, laughing. "We want Taipei to get out and be healthy."

The tunnel, which will be up from Feb. 11 until the end of the month, "will express the concept of a "river of time," Yeh said.

The "river" will comprise five sections of colored Christmas lights wound into shapes suggestive of each section's theme: the history of Taipei, characters from Chinese legends, the modern economic process, environmentalism, and a light sculpture called Sunshine Dancers (陽光舞者).

Yeh chuckled as he explained why the third section was especially appropriate this year. "We called it `golden chicken' in Chinese, because the words for economy (經濟) and for golden chicken (金雞) sound the same."

Yeh hopes the decorations will inspire Taipei citizens (and maybe some foreigner visitors as well) to make the 4km walk from Jing Fu Men (景福門), the old East Gate (東門) of Taipei, to the city hall (市政府), but he's got less didactic motives as well.

During Chinese New Year, he said, huge numbers of people leave to spend the holiday with their families in other cities. Married daughters return to visit their natal families on the second day (初二) of the Lunar New Year, when families celebrate their daughters' return by stuffing themselves silly on New Year's delicacies, then spend the third day (初三) of the Lunar New Year sleeping in and sitting around the house.

"Taipei is an empty city (during the New Year). We want to light up a tunnel of lights to make Taipei bright and cheery," Yeh said. And then, of course, "We want to make a romantic atmosphere for Valentine's Day."

To get to Jing Fu Men, take the Red Line to Tai Da Hospital (台大醫院). Exit onto Renai Road.

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