Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 13 News List

The bright lights of Taiwan

Though the Lunar New Year break is a slightly sedate affair, the real fun and games begin during the Lantern Festival

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

For the less adventurous, there's plenty of appropriate activities during this year's Lantern Festival activities.

PHOTO: TAIPEI CITY GOVERNMENT

The actual Lunar New Year holiday is a time for families, and it is not until the Lantern Festival that the truly celebratory aspect of the festival becomes apparent. Local governments have gone all out to put on a show, and the events taking place in Taipei and Kaohsiung this weekend are likely to be spectacular. If that's not enough, the "Taiwan" lantern festival, sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, will be stirring up a storm in Tainan next weekend. Apart from displays of lanterns, for those looking for greater excitement, there is the delightful spectacle presented by the Pingsi International Lantern Festival (台北縣平溪國祭天燈節), as well as the more energetic celebrations of Taitung's Bombing of Master Han Dan (炸寒單) and Yenshui's Beehive Firecracker Festival (鹽水蜂炮).

Each city and organizing body has tried to put its own special stamp on its lantern festival.

This year, in a departure from the aggressively modern designs that have characterized Taipei's previous lantern festival, designer Liu Kuo-chang (劉國滄) has sought to integrate tradition into a playfully modern design built out of 1,000 mouse-shaped balloons. The whole thing is based on the traditional New Year's tale of the Wedding of the Mice. For those unfamiliar with the story, it will be presented by the Taiyuan Puppet Theater Company (台原偶戲團) before the steps of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. The lantern itself stands four-stories high, and its appearance of a Chinese paper-cut ball has a nicely festive feel. Inside, it is packed with LED lights, which the city government says will conserve electricity.

With a focus on sport and the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kaohsiung has forgotten about the mice altogether. The enormous torch that has sprung up in the middle of the Ai River (愛河), though it's supposed to look like a bunch of flowers during the day, cannot really be mistaken for anything other than the Olympic flame. It stands 18m high and weighs 18 tonnes. Kaohsiung will be aiming to impress with its high altitude fireworks, a first this year, and the light and water show with music specially composed by Grammy award-winning artist Jamii Szmadzinski. Whatever one might think of this Olympic mania, it seems somewhat preferable to Taichung's Micky Mouse affair. The city government will be giving away 300,000 Micky Mouse lanterns for the event.

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