There is a popular saying that there are “Sky lanterns up north, beehive rockets down south.” The former refers to New Taipei City’s Pingsi Sky Lantern Festival, and the latter refers to Greater Tainan’s Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival. Both events are celebrated on the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. According to folk custom, sky lanterns and firecrackers are ways of praying for peace and prosperity, so the more there are, the better.
The 13th Pingsi Sky Lantern Festival this year, which is based on the theme of “Hope for Taiwan, Vitality in New Taipei City,” celebrates Taiwan’s centennial and New Taipei City’s promotion to special municipality status. To mark these events, renowned calligrapher Chang Ping-huang has been invited to write auspicious Chinese characters on lanterns.
When watching sky lanterns carrying prayers slowly flying heavenward, it is hard not to feel impressed and touched by the visual splendor. At a total of three major events — on Feb. 6, Feb. 12, and Feb. 17 — thousands of lanterns are given away for free to visitors with other freebies for visitors arriving by train or shuttle bus. If you miss the first two events, you have one last chance to brighten up the night sky free of charge on the day of the annual Lantern Festival this coming Thursday. The event, held at Shihfen Lantern Square, on Thursday will also feature singers Hsu Chia-ying, Jing Huang, Crowd Lu, and others to make the event more exciting.
The History and Attractions
Pingsi, in a rural district in the eastern part of New Taipei City, was an important coal mining town in the early 20th century. The coal mine museum is located near Shihfen Station on the narrow-gauge Pingsi train line, and the Jingtong Mining Industry Museum is near the Jingtong station. In addition to sky lanterns, there are also other tourist attractions along the Pingsi branch line, near Jingtong, Pingsi, Lingjiao, Wanggu, Shihfen, Dahua, and other stations. Also, one of sources of the Keelung River originates in Jingtong.
坊間流傳「北天燈、南蜂炮」順口溜，指的就是農曆正月十五元宵節兩大民俗慶典 ─ 新北市平溪天燈節與台南市鹽水蜂炮。習俗上，天燈與蜂炮皆可祈福，放愈多象徵福氣愈旺。
A large crowd is expected to flock to Pingsi during the Lantern Festival; therefore, visitors are advised to take the train,
a shuttle bus or other public transportation. In addition to being a cheap way to get there, it is also a novel way which will allow you to appreciate things from a different angle, not to mention reduce your carbon footprint. Visitors can take the shuttle bus from the Taipei Zoo near the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Muzha Station between 10am and 7pm. The bus will take you all the way to the Jingan suspension bridge near Shihfen Station. The shuttle bus returning from Pingsi to Taipei City runs until midnight.